How to Resize a Knitting Pattern

How to Make a Pattern Your Own

Working a swatch is key to easily resizing a garment
My swatch that I used in calculating the Ribbed Bodywarmer pattern. © Sarah E. White, licensed

There are many reasons why you might want to resize a knit garment. Maybe the sizes offered won't fit you, your yarn's gauge is different from the one in the pattern, or perhaps you want to make a much smaller version for a child. Fortunately, you can alter any pattern as long as you're willing to do some extra measuring and math.

To explain the basics of resizing, we're going to reference a simple pattern for a convertible knit bodywarmer. This example is a ribbed loop worked in the round, but the steps to make this project larger or smaller are the same steps you would use to change the size of any garment. Just remember that you have to do more adjusting when a pattern is complicated with additional dimensions, as in the case of a sweater or jacket.

Swatching

Many people don't like to make swatches. It can feel like a lot of extra work, and it doesn't necessarily guarantee that your garment is going to fit.

However, a swatch is the only way to know how the yarn will behave before you begin your project. And when you're combining fibers, you need to know how they're going to look and act together.

Ultimately swatching can save you a lot of effort, especially if it helps you avoid a time-consuming redo.

How to Make a Swatch

While the example bodywarmer is worked in the round, a square swatch is used as opposed to a circular swatch. The number of stitches per inch is more important than rows per inch on this project.

  1. With your selected yarn or yarns and a size 15 US needle, cast on 12 stitches. Work in k2, p2 ribbing for 12 rows, or until the swatch is about a square.
  2. Bind off your stitches.
  3. Soak your swatch for 10 minutes in lukewarm water.
  4. Gently squeeze out the water from the knit.
  5. Stretch your swatch just enough to make the sides straight.
  6. Measure the width from the cast-on side.

Resizing Calculations

First, you need to figure out how many stitches fit in 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) by dividing your width into your number of stitches. In the example, the swatch is 4.5 inches (11 centimeters) wide with 12 stitches per inch. Therefore, divide 12 by 4.5, which equals 2.6.

Then you need to measure how big around you'd like the finished project to be. Use a piece of yarn or a flexible measuring tape to circle your arms just below the shoulders. You can shrug or stretch a little bit, so there's a little give in your measurement—you don't want to make the knit too tight. If you measure 43 inches (109 centimeters), then you can add 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) for extra flexibility.

Then multiply your number of stitches per inch or 2.5 centimeters (2.6) by the number of inches around (44), which equals 114.4.

Now comes the most tricky part. The pattern used is a double rib, which requires a multiple of four stitches. So instead of 114 stitches, you need 116 stitches. Because it's knit in the round, that will allow you to knit straight, K2, P2 all the way around the project.

If you were resizing for a child, you'd need it to be about half the size at 20 inches (51 centimeters) around. Using the gauge measurement again, you'd get 52 stitches, which conveniently happens to divide evenly by 4.

Reviewing the Steps

Whether you're reshaping a simple garment like a scarf, cowl, shrug, poncho, or something more complicated, these same steps will help you work it out.

  1. Make and measure your gauge swatch.
  2. Determine the number of stitches per inch.
  3. Measure the person you're knitting for in the places the garment should fit.
  4. Multiply those measurements by your gauge to determine the number of stitches you need.
  5. Adjust for stitch pattern multiples as needed.

Watch Now: How to Rib Stitch