Over the last number of years, quality knitting magazines and books have occasionally dealt with the issue of fitting hand knits to the larger figure. Bigger people are proportioned differently; knits made to fit need to be designed to accommodate necklines, bust, shoulders, arms. The design has to be customized to flatter a round or curvy figure; these knits are not hanging from rake-thin shoulders draped over a flat board of a chest. As a biggish sort of person who is tall as well as large, I welcome "Big Girl Knits" as a great help to anyone who wants to knit something that fits a big girl.
So how well does "Big Girl Knits" fit the bill? There is an introduction by Wendy Shanker (author of "The Fat Girl's Guide to Life") about her own difficulties finding ponchos to fit her 18-20 size body. Then the first section deals with considerations when knitting for someone who is generously sized. For example, you are going to be using more yarn, in some cases, a lot of yarn. So, consider how heavy that yarn is because the weight of the garment may not be pleasing. Likewise, yarn is not inexpensive, so using extra amounts of a pricey yarn may be a bad idea for something you don't plan to wear for years. The section goes on to explain the "B3" system (boobs, belly and butt) and how to choose a design based on what is emphasized in your figure. The authors discuss hemlines, flattering lengths, good necklines and hiplines. There is a section of top ten list of things you might want to knit:
1. Sweaters that skim the body, flattering your curves
2. Wrap sweaters (again, they show off pretty curves)
3. Fine gauge yarns, reduce bulk, skim the body
4. V-necks--great vertical line to distract the eye and flaunt the cleavage if you choose,
5. Shaped sweaters (see 1 and 2)
6. Sweaters that end before or after the widest bits. (If you land ON the big bits, it makes them seem bigger.)
7. Vertical elements--again, draw the eye up and down not round and round.
8. Details that emphasize the "parts of you that are excellent."
9. Colors that make you happy. Black is good for chadoors. Black does not make you look thin--a myth. Choose a color that flatters you or that you love.
10. Knit what you love--if you want a corset sweater, knit it. If you hate cables, don't knit them!
The first chapter ends with a comprehensive measurement section on how to measure, what to measure and how to adjust patterns based on your measurements. Much space is given to short rows, partial rows of knitting that add shaping much the way darts on sewing do--and make a flat piece become three-dimensional to fit your shape.
Now to the patterns. The book is sectioned into:
Cardigans and Coats
Tanks and Tees
Bottoms (pants, skirts)
Accessories (bags, socks, gloves) and there is a reading list, abbreviation list and shopping guide to follow the patterns.
What ABOUT those patterns? There are 25 of them, and I am going to ding some of them--I didn't like them all, but don't despair; this book has incredible value whether or not you knit anything at all the way it's presented here. The colors were not ones I found exciting; in some cases, I think they were chosen to photograph the detail rather than to flatter the wearer. This made the picture clear to see detail of the garment, but the colors were not pleasing (ie, the wrap sweater, very lovely shape but in a dull, nasty gray.) You will have to imagine that sweater in YOUR favorite color (a ballerina pink? luscious grape?) The shapes are diagrammed well so you can design your own and not use the trim or other decorative elements if you don't like them. There were many things I didn't admire, but the shape diagram would let me design my own easily enough. Some of the styles were goofy to me (but they will please the fashion-adventuresome) and of course not all patterns suit all body types. The good thing about the "goofy" patterns is that this is not a boring vanilla book but will excite the young knitters that are revitalizing the craft.
I did really like a v-patterned cardigan with a striped chevron front. The colors were like Joseph's coat and the v-shape would flatter any wearer. I also adored a skirt (chevron patterned again to drag the eye away from the butt line) and there are YOGA PANTS. HELLO! Have you tried to find yoga gear in large sizes (except for big sweat pants?) These lovely loose pants could be knit in a light hemp or silk blend yarn and they look drapey and elegant as well as comfortable.
The shapes are varied; there is a top with a directionally-knitted v-neck that is very sexy, and a strange tee-shirt of hemp with a lot of Shar-pei folds and laced shoulders. The coats, even if not knit in yarns I loved, are useful for shape and proportion. These could be knit in a variety of yarns for a beautiful Spring or Autumn jacket.
What would I knit? The chevron cardigan, the wrap sweater for sure, the pants and maybe one of the tanks. Would I recommend this book to another Big Gal? Yes, I absolutely would. Despite the fact I didn't like some of the designs, there is SO MUCH in this book that is useful and adaptable for the ample figured knitter that I think this book will be flying off the shelves and staying put as a new classic of knitting. Thanks, Jillian and Amy, for putting together a valuable book for Big Girls.