A question which comes up a lot in My Crochet Wardrobe Facebook group is “How can I adjust crochet sweater patterns to fit better?”. It seems that ‘fit’ is one of the biggest bug bears when it comes to crocheting clothes.
I generally add notes within my crochet clothing and accessory patterns giving advice on how to adjust that specific item to fit, but these tend to be fairly pattern specific.
When writing these notes on my most recent top-down sweater (the Cheeky Rainbows Kids Jumper Pattern), I got to thinking that a lot of the adjustments could be applied to to almost any top down garment pattern.
That is what this post aims to achieve!
What do you class as a top down sweater?
This post summaries the main approaches to making adjustments to top-down seamless yoke sweaters. It applies to round yoke (sometimes called Icelandic) sweaters and top-down raglan designs.
The principles can be applied to cardigans as well as pullovers and even dresses or tunics if they use the top down construction,
I’ve made an assumption that you have an understanding of the top-down design method. If you want a refresh, then you might want to read this post explaining how top-down crochet sweaters are made, which goes over it in more detail.
Why just top-down garments?
Top-down sweaters are easier to adjust as you work, because you can try them on as you go.
Often adjustments will just require a redistribution of the yoke stitches, maybe adding a few chains here or there. You can easily tweak and modify just by reworking a few rounds.
Top-down raglan sweaters can be a bit tricker to adjust than round yoke sweaters because you have to make changes which accommodate the corners whereas round yokes are completely fluid.
Sweaters made in the drop shoulder, modified drop or dolman styles (click here to read about Sweater construction styles) are much harder to adjust as you go because they are made in pieces and can only be tried on once these pieces are (partially) complete and pinned or seamed together.
This is just another reason I love the top-down method so much (along with the no-sew construction).
For all the adjustments suggestions given below, you will need to take into account the specific pattern you’re working with. Make sure you know the stitch multiples in your pattern repeat and whether there are any row multiples you need to consider.
We’ll start by looking at bust / chest fit then move onto yoke length, sleeve fit and finally total body length. Each subheading describes a problem with the fit and the text suggests ways to address it.
I use the terms rounds and rows interchangeably in this post!
If you are making a sweater for someone else and can’t try the sweater on them as you go, then I would recommend finding out their chest, height and arm measurements to help with fit.
How to adjust the bust
The sweater does not fit around chest after the yoke split
This assumes that the length of the yoke to the underarm is a good fit.
The first, simplest thing to try is to change the number of chains at the underarm when you split the yoke;
- Add chains at the under arm to increase the chest size
- Remove chains to decrease the size
- Make sure you make the same adjustments on each side
I don’t recommend changing the number of underarm chains by huge numbers as this will also impact the fit of the sleeves on the bicep.
If you aren’t getting results from altering the underarm chain and need something a bit more dramatic (for a fuller bust adjustment perhaps) then you can frog the yoke back to before the split and change the placing of the increase rounds (taking the stitch pattern into account).
This can be a bit more challenging for raglan than round yoke designs, but you might want to try the following;
- For a sweater that’s too big, replace increase rounds with non-increase rounds
- If it’s too small, replace non-increase rounds with increase rounds
- Try to keep the distribution of the increase rounds even if possible
This method does require a bit more trial and error, but when you split the yoke, the sleeve circumference will not be impacted.
If you’re working with a round yoke, then another thing you could try at this stage (instead of ripping back) is to redistribute the way the yoke is split. So you could work fewer stitches at the back vs the front, skip fewer stitches for the sleeves and play with the proportions to achieve what you need.
If the length of the yoke is off as well as the bust, you may want to consider changing the size you’re making.
The body is too big or small after the yoke split
Once again you can change the number of underarm chains to obtain a better fit around the tummy (remembering this will impact the sleeve size too).
If the fit across the shoulders, bust and underarms is good, I would recommend introducing increases or decreases into the body of the sweater.
Depending on where the size is off, you could;
- Introduce increases or decreases at the under arm (where you would have side seams on a seamed garment), making sure you do the same on both sides
- Work increase or decreases in the front or back to account for curves (a bit like darts) – this would be a great way to adjust for maternity wear
- Make gentle increases or decreases evenly all the way around (careful with this one though, I’ve had some disasters decreasing too rapidly!)
Work a few rows and try your sweater on. You can get really specific at adjusting the body to fit and keep trying on as you go.
Once again, remember to accommodate your stitch multiples!
Hopefully, by this stage of the pattern you will have seen how increases work with your stitch so you can implement more or reverse them if you want to decrease.
How to adjust the yoke fit around the arm hole
The bust fits but the yoke doesn’t fit at the arms
If your yoke is too long or short, it could be a simple case of changing the number of rounds your work – adding or removing non-increase rounds to lengthen or shorten it.
If the chest is a good fit, you want to be careful not to remove any increase rounds as this will impact the fit around the chest too.
Changing the length of the underarm chain may help with offering a bit more movement or removing excess fabric if the garment is too big, but this will only offer marginal changes as well as impacting the bust measurement, so alter with care!
Again with a round yoke you can try redistributing the armhole to bust ratio when splitting the yoke, taking a few stitches from the bust and giving to the arms for example.
How to adjust the fit of the sleeves
Sleeves are to tight or loose
Normally if you have a good fit at the underarm, the sleeves should fit well too. However there are cases where you need to tackle these issues separately.
When you start working the sleeves in a top-down sweater, the first round usually involves working into the underarm chain.
A tip I always give here is that when working into the first and last stitch of underarm chain, work your stitch into the chain and the side of the first stitch on the first round of the body. So I might use a dc2tog to work into both places in one stitch, instead of just working a dc into the chain for example. This helps to make sure that you don’t have any holes at the underarm.
In the picture below, you can see that in the second green round (the first body row) there is a little lip where the sweater widens at the underarm. This is the stitch you will work into the side of.
The first round of the sleeve is also an opportunity to change the fit.
- You could choose to work decrease stitches at this underarm point to reduce the circumference of the sleeve
- You could add stitches at the underarm to make the sleeve bigger (so you might work an extra stitch into the side of the stitch on the first body row instead of a 2tog stitch)
- If you need to change the circumference all around the sleeve then take your inspiration on how the increases were worked in the yoke.
These adjustments also depend on the style of sleeve you’re working so you’ll need to consider that too!
When working the rest of the sleeve, the common approach is to make decreases towards the wrist so that the sleeve tapers. If you want a different style sleeve then you can change the frequency and distribution of these decreases, or even make increases for a balloon or puff sleeve.
How to adjust the length of a top down sweater
The main body of the sweater is too long or short
I’m going to finish with the more straight forward adjustments!
- If your sweater is too long, work fewer rows
- If it’s too short then work more!
Remember to take into account any row repeats and allow for the hem if one is present in the pattern.
The sweater’s sleeves are too long or short
Once again, work fewer or more rows.
With the sleeves you may also need to think about decreases if you are working with a tapered sleeve design. But to be honest, if you have got this far then I’m sure you won’t have a problem working this one out!
I hope you have found this guide useful and will go forth embracing the amazing customisability (is that a word?) of top down crochet sweater design!
If you have any other questions about top down adjustments or know a trick I have missed, I would love it if you shared it in the comments!
And if you enjoyed the learning, process, please help others find this guide by sharing on your socials or saving to Pinterest (it really helps me to keep most of what I do free!)