Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Designer Secrets - The Drop of the Fabric

Occasionally I read postings on Ravelry about garments that "grew" after completion. My next pattern is for a scarf that gets longer once it is worn as it is a lengthwise design. I've included a note to warn the knitter about the difference between the flat and the hanging gauge.

I have a shawl that I made from a novelty yarn a few years ago and I wear it as a scarf as well because just turning it and letting it hang... completely changes its gauge. During the last poncho craze I tied two edges together with black satin ribbons and wore it as a poncho. Take a look at the photo at the top of the posting and the one just below for comparison. You wouldn't think a piece of knitting could change that much would you?

Drop is often a problem for many Knitters and the first time they encounter this property of knitted fabric it is an unwelcome surprise. The knitting lengthens due to the hanging weight of the fabric. It also becomes much narrower. On a garment the body inhibits this property to some degree but it means that sleeves can become too long and hems end up in unintended places. Shoulders can narrow on sleeveless tops or pull down being dragged out of placement by the weight of the sleeve. The amount of drop can vary and is due to the stitch pattern, the yarn fiber, the density of the knitting, the size of the garment and the direction of the knitting construction. The drop is more pronounced at the top of a garment than it is at the bottom meaning that the designer may use more than one gauge for the various parts of the design. A cap sleeve could be based on a flat gauge while the body might be based an a hanging swatch with weight added to simulate the weight accumulating over the length of the garment body.

Yarn substitutions of different fibers can create this problem on a pattern that would have had no drop with its original yarn choice. Patterns normally adjust for drop but the specifics are hidden between the details of gauge, the knitting instructions and the finished measurements and can lead to Knitter dissatisfaction with the end product. Samples are rarely knit in every size and that is the only way to be sure how drop will affect each one. Most samples are knit for 34" bust sizes so the adjustments for the larger sizes are done mathematically on a percentage basis. It may mean that the drop will be much greater on larger sizes.

Has this happened to you?


  1. Oh yeah...LOL! I still have memories of the bathrobe that turned into a "bedspread with sleeves" and the cotton cardigan whose shoulder seams pulled open while I was wearing it for the first time.

  2. I made a drop shoulder mohair cardigan one year with garter trim, that grew at the shoulder once the sleeves were added. With the yarn I was using,I couldn't even frog, fortunately, the 3/4 sleeves looked good as full length ones.

    A tip I read in (I think) Threads back in the '90's was to measure the gauge of a large swatch when it was hanging from a pants hanger from one needle, weighted with a skein of yarn on the bottom, after it had been hanging up overnight. This pre-distortion made the FO fit better.