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by Ysolda July 12, 2019 4 min read

On Monday my latest garment design, Inverleith, goes on sale as an individual pattern. Inverleith was initially launched as our first Ysolda Sweater Club pattern, and next week we’ll be launching a knitalong that’s open to everyone, whether you’re using the club yarn or substituting. Laura Chau, our wonderful tech editor, will be hosting the knitalong, and she’s making one for herself, but before she goes through the knitting step by step I thought I’d share a bit about my design process.


White woman wearing a dark blue inverleith standing in an abundant greenhouse

In some ways Inverleith is the simplest garment pattern I’ve ever designed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was easier to design. A simple design has to be just right to work, and it has to be written in a way that’s more accessible to newer knitters (the wording is always collaborative, between me, Bex, Laura and often other members of our team).

Inverleith is worked top-down, with wide shoulders that create a faux cap sleeve. It's basically a drop-shoulder construction with sloped shoulders, but a drop-shoulder presents some interesting grading challenges that I had to work around to create the size range I wanted Inverleith to have.

It’s been important to me, since I began designing, that the majority of people who wanted to make my garments could do so without having to re-grade the pattern for their size, even if they needed to make some alterations to fit their body shape. I’m always fine tuning how I grade sweaters so that the standard sizes are more likely to fit the majority of people who wear that size, and so that it’s easier for you to figure out which size to make and whether you need to make alterations.

How to grade a sweater is a subject for another post, but the basic principle boils down to:

measurements can’t be graded uniformly by the same amount across the size range.

For example, my basic sizing chart includes a 30” range of bust sizes, but the shoulders corresponding to those sizes vary by less than 4” (or 10cm).

Many simple, traditional, sweater construction types rely on the principle that one part of the body is proportional to another and therefore tend to work much better for some sizes than others.

In a traditional top-down raglan: The yoke depth, body circumference and sleeve circumference are proportional to each other. If the body needs to be wider then the yoke has to be deeper. The sleeves might end up too loose by the time enough increases have been worked for the body.

Specific grading challenges for drop shoulder garments:

I tend to design raglans with more complex shaping, often called a compound raglan, so that the fit isn’t constrained in this way.


Drop shoulder or dolman sleeve garments present a similar problem, and consequently I’ve tended to avoid them. A traditional drop shoulder sweater is essentially two rectangles, where the shoulder width is half of the chest circumference. In some sizes that results in a shoulder that gracefully drops to cover the rounded part of the shoulders, for either a faux cap sleeve, or so that a sleeve with a straight top edge can be joined.

In the very smallest sizes, and a significant proportion of the larger sizes the proportion of the shoulder width to the chest presents a problem:

At the smaller end the shoulder width ends up being too small, so that without sleeves the design becomes more of a tank top, and with sleeves there is uncomfortable pulling.

In the larger sizes the shoulder width ends up being too wide, and, at the same time, the lack of shaping around the underarm from front to back causes excess fabric to bunch uncomfortably.


How I dealt with those challenges in Inverleith:

For Inverleith I really wanted the garment to look like it was the same style across the size range: the solution I ended up with is that it looks quite different laid flat.

The smallest sizes have a shoulder width that’s more than half of the chest circumference. After joining the front and back at the underarm this is decreased with to create an underarm gusset.

The larger sizes have a shoulder width that’s less than half of the chest circumference. The additional width needed for the chest is added by increasing above the underarm and by casting on additional stitches between the front and back when joining.

illustration of two different sizes of inverleith laid flat

Both shaping options create shoulders proportional to the body, and a built in cap sleeve that’s comfortable to wear.

Inverleith also has the option of working additional shaping, in any of the 12 base sizes, for larger cup sizes. This shaping is worked in the same way as the increases above the underarm that the larger base sizes have so that the front chest is wider than the back. I went back and forth on whether to remove this additional width lower down, but finally concluded that it draped better left in.

two white women with brown hair wearing dark blue and bright pink versions of Inverleith in different sizes

In the pattern photos I’m wearing size 3 A–C and Rachel is wearing size 7 D+. We have similar amounts of ease at the full bust, and you can see that although we’re different shapes and sizes that the garment looks like the same style. The sleeve cuff falls at a similar angle and location on our arms, because the shoulder width is a proportional amount wider than our actual shoulders. The shaping around the underarm is more or less hidden when worn. 

If you want to knit Inverleith along with Laura the individual pattern will be available to purchase on Monday July 15th, and she’ll be posting here with more information on choosing your size, followed by a series of posts walking you through the project. If you haven’t ordered the club yarn and want to get a head start on choosing your yarn and swatching you can find all the info here.

Don’t forget to tag your projects on Ravelry and Instagram so we can see, and share them!


Ysolda designs knitting patterns, spent years teaching at events and loves to find new yarns and books to share.

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