Making it Fit: Adapting Crochet Patterns for Plus Sizes – Part 2

Three Plans to Convert a Pattern to a Custom Size

Be sure to check out my article on how to choose the right pattern to modify over in the February 2018 issue. There’s even a handy printable to help you gather your measurements.

Plan 1: Adjust Your Gauge

If the extra you need is all over and proportional to the garment’s original shape, consider making the largest size as written, but manipulating your gauge so you get fewer stitches and rows to 4”/10cm than the gauge section tells you you need. Remember the gauge tells you what the designer got at the time the designer made the piece. If you want the exact measurements suggested, you’d need to match the gauge exactly. But you want something a little bit bigger, so manipulating gauge is the quickest way to go. Here’s an example:

The sweater you wish to make comes written in a 48” bust as its largest size but you need 52”. The stitch gauge the designer got was 20 sts to 4” or 5 stitches to the inch. You’d likely have in the neighborhood of 240 stitches around at the bust (maybe a few more or less depending on stitch repeat, and half or 120 plus a couple of extra stitches to accommodate seams if you are doing a seamed piece, but I am trying to keep the math simple here!) I got to 240 by taking the number of inches in the piece (48) divided by the width of my gauge measurement (4):

48/4=12 x the number of stitches in 4” (20) = 240.

I want to keep the 240 stitches so I don’t have to rewrite the pattern, but I want them to equal 52” not 48”.

I need to find the number of stitches I need in 4”, so let’s call that X (and you thought you’d never use high school algebra!) Using the same equation I get:

52 (desired number of inches in the piece) divided by the width of my gauge measurement (4): 52/4 = 13 times X (number of stitches in 4”) = 240.

To solve for X I calculate 240/13 = 18.46 which I am going to round up to 18.5. To check? 13 (4” swatches) x 18.5 (New number of stitches in 4”) = 240.5, which means my 240 stitch pattern will be close enough.

Now I will adjust either my yarn weight, my hook size, or both, until I get a pleasing fabric that works out to 18.5 sts to 4”. I will let the row height be whatever it comes out to be, because since I have selected a pattern that writes length in inches, I can make the row gauge work out no matter what it turns out to be.

Plan 2: Add Some Stitches in Pattern

If upsizing via gauge swatch doesn’t work out for your project, either because the different gauge didn’t result in a fabric you liked, or because you need to adjust some areas but not others so the proportional upsize didn’t work for you, you will have to add some stitches.

Remember when I talked about figuring out the stitch repeat when you were scoping out the pattern? That number comes into play here too. You will want to add stitches in the same multiple as the stitch pattern.

Now if I am working on a pattern with a 5-stitch multiple does that necessarily mean I will have a multiple of 5 stitches in my row? No! There could be extra stitches at the beginning and end that will get taken up by seaming, or to make the stitch repeat centered in a pleasing way. But you will want to add stitches in a multiple of 5 (or whatever your particular repeat is) to the number the designer specified because you are adding stitches that will be worked into the center of a row, you don’t want to mess with the edge stitches!

To keep necklines or underarm seams centered, you want to add stitch repeat multiples in pairs. So in my 5-stitch example I am not going to add 5 or 15 or 25 stitches, but will add 10 or 20 or 30.This will keep things symmetrical.

How many stitches do I need to add? This comes back to the gauge swatch. If I am getting 20 sts = 4” as in my first example, and I need to add 8”, then I want to add 40 stitches – and I am going to want to add half to the front and half to the back for a seamed garment, or distribute them equally if I am working in the round.

It’s simple enough to add stitches to accommodate additional width around the waist, bust, or arm circumference, but you need to make sure that you put some thought into the armholes. The two rules of armholes are 1) you may need to adjust where your shaping begins and ends to make sure you don’t have a crazy wide cross back – just because I may have a big bust doesn’t mean my shoulder width has gone up in proportion and needs to be wider; and 2) whatever you do to the armholes on the front and back has to be reflected in what you do to the sleeves, or the top of the sleeve won’t fit the armhole neatly.

Generally speaking, you won’t want to add the full width you need added to the bottom of the sleeve or it may be too baggy at the wrist. You will add in those extra stitches (or decrease them if you are working top-down) by adding some extra shaping rows in the bottom half of the sleeve.

Plan 3: Add Some Plain Stitches

Let’s be honest, no one is staring at the underarm seam of your sweater, or the side seams of the body, and a lot of times we’d rather spend our limited free time stitching instead of doing calculations! Using the gauge you are getting as a base and following the tips in the Plan 2 section, you can often add some plain stitching at the beginning and end of each row to get the extra fabric you need. Pick the plain stitch that is the height of the tallest stitch in your stitch pattern and add them at the beginning and end of the pattern rows of the front and back, and at the beginning and end of the sleeve. It is very simple to work any increasing or decreasing you need done in plain stitches, and if anyone comments on the change in texture, let them know it’s a feature not a bug, or “I meant to do that – it’s a design modification!”

While I know that doing math and making gauge swatches is no one’s favorite part of planning out a crochet project, now that it’s done you can enjoy your time spent stitching, knowing that you will come out at the end with a garment that is attractive, fits well and is flattering, and is as unique as your own personal sense of style.

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