Positive and negative ease

I am starting on Chapel Hill Vest for my husband -
the pattern says as follows :
“Choose a size with upto 5” negative ease and 1-2" positive ease".
The Finished measurements Chest are 34.5(37, 42, 44.5, 49.25, 54.25)"

I am confused about why the pattern indicates both positive and negative ease in one pattern.

My husband measures 36.5 inches chest and he likes a bit of ease, but not too baggy (especially in a vest sweater) - I am therefore thinking of doing 37 inch pattern. Am I choosing right ?

I am rationalising it with math which may be outrageously incorrect thing to do here -
36.5 - 1.5 inches (negative ease) = 35 + 2 inch positive ease = 37

Whilst I can’t actually answer your question I looked at the pattern on ravelry and in the notes it says

Shown in Medium size modeled with 3” negative ease

My understanding of this is that the model has a 40" chest and is wearing the medium, 37" vest which would be 3" negative ease. It doesn’t look too small or skin tight on the model, there’s some movement there.
Based on this I think I’d go for the small size 34.5" chest which would give 2" negative ease for a 36.5" chest.
Unless your husband wants it to fit more loosely than the fit on the model.

It’s a shame there are not more complete projects with photos to give an idea of the fit.


Really stunning vest with gorgeous cables!
I would go for the 37” just because it allows just a bit of positive ease. Negative ease with all the intricate stitch work seems uncomfortable to me, especially over a shirt.
You really need to be careful of yarn choice here and be sure to knit a good sized swatch in pattern. It’s going to be too beautiful to err with either.
Can’t wait to see it.

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Thank you so much @Creations, @salmonmac

A big dilemma to choose between 34.5 (which I considered) and 37 (which I feel may be a safer choice).

One of the factors that would determine the ease is the yarn stretchability - the yarn I plan to use is the Valley Yarns Northampton (as against the Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted that the pattern suggests).
I am also a tight knitter …

@salmonmac, I know this is sacrilege - but I havent done a swatch for any of my projects so far -
Have no clue how to scale up or down the pattern if the swatch proves different from the pattern :worried:

What if I have my husband wear a vest he has and see how that fits - and what that measurement looks like.

Will revert …

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I don’t think we helped any as we both gave different answers!
I too often pick a size to fit, then whilst I’m knitting I am anxious it will be too small, then more often than not the finished thing is too big - and I DO swatch!
I’ve worked the same size sweater for my son on 2 different patterns, got gauge with yarn on both, and one was ready to wear, the other has been basically unworn for 2 years waiting for him to grow into it, I eventually made the same sweater in a size smaller.

I do think swatching is helpful. Some stitch patterns look quite small when knitting them but stretch out when washed or when worn. The point being that you might knit 10 cm square and when washed it is 11cm square - each additional 1cm every 10cm ends up adding rather a lot of extra cm onto the width, or length, or both, of a sweater. If I made a sweater with 50cm width on the schematic (100cm around) but due to the stitch pattern or yarn it stretched when washed or blocked, I would end up with an additional 10cm around which is about 4 inches more. If I was making a big slouchy sweater I might not care about another 4 inches but if it was a more fitted design it would be too baggy.

If the swatch turns out different to the gauge on the pattern it can be a simple change of needle size, you don’t necessarily have to rewrite a pattern or make big changes

Depending how cold it gets where you live, if this vest ends up on the bigger size maybe your husband could layer it with a thinner sweater under?

I do think measuring a vest he already has and likes the size of is a good idea, although your knitting tension, the pattern and yarn will still add to the dilemma of which size to make.


Not really sacrilege (and who’s counting anyway) but you have been one lucky knitter! In this case a swatch will certainly be a time saver. It will take your yarn tension and the yarn qualities like drape and stretch into account. And it will help ensure that the size you want is the size you get. Not a guarantee but close.
Here’s a helpful video on swatches and how to adjust.


Thank you @Creations, @salmonmac

I will do a swatch (AND measure the vest he has) -
The explanations in your notes and the video are both very helpful and gives me confidence that the right choice of size can be made working first with a swatch. Thank you !

@Creations - we live in Chennai in India where it is summer 12 months of the year :-)))
When we travel to Toronto or London, where the children are, depending on the weather, my husband does layer up - so a bit of positive ease would be helpful.

Shall update in a couple of days on the swatch -


@salmonmac, @Creations,

I did a swatch, blocked it - and it measured 3.9 inches one side and 4 inches the other. My husband wore the vest he has and I measured that as well.
All dimensions evaluated, I think it is best to go with size 37. The yarn is a bit stretchy too and I think this is a safe bet.
I just started on the back portion of the sweater with the ribbing.
The pattern is a nice challenge to read - different parts of the pattern are first laid out and the sweater itself is a combination of these parts and have to be read in conjunction. Havent done one like this, and am looking forward to knitting this.

It is a free pattern, and I am happy to post it here.

Its good to hear you’ve made a decision.
This vest is so nice. I’m building up to making myself a ‘very cabled’ sweater but I spend too long looking at patterns and not deciding which to make!

Enjoy your knit, it would be lovely to see progress photos.
Did you go for the Sam colour as the pattern pic or a different colour?

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Jinnu, thanks for the thought. Just the link to the pattern is fine. We can’t post large portions of patterns even free ones here due to designer copyright.
It’s a lovely pattern which I have saved in favorites, hoping to knit it in the near future.
Let us know how it is going and of course, please do post a photo when you finish!

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Apologies, @salmonmac. Will watch out in future.
Let me remove the pattern from here.

Will definitely post - will be a while :-))

I knitted a few lines of the rib with 4.5 mm needle, and it appears it turns out longer than the 18.5 inches in the pattern (despite the swatch being the same guage as suggested by pattern). I am not sure whether it will “tighten up” as I proceed with the knits, particularly the cables.
Dont think I had the same experience with my earlier projects.
So, I did another rib with 4 mm needle and that looks more “compact”, but the length still longer than 18.5 inches by almost an inch to 1.5 inches, depending on how it is spread out.

I am so glad I swatched, I atleast have a reference now. Thanks for the trigger !

I kow how that feels @Creations - I make a shortlist and then the final selection, with heavy dialogues and consultations with the end users :-))

I am doing this color


(Valley Yarns Northampton’s Denim Heather

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No apologies needed. It’s easy to correct and all done with generous intentions. Have fun knitting the swatch and this vest.


18.5 inches is really long, do you mean 18.5cm perhaps?
And 1.5cm longer than expected?
Did you measure your swatch before and after washing it? The gauge can change during washing/blocking and if it changed a hit for you then you need to keep this in mind as you work.

I also go down a needle size for rib if I can, I have seen some tips on this in knitting tutorials to make the rib stitches nice and firm as rib does tend to be a bit loose. If you like the fabric with the tighter rib but feel the width is not enough you could add some stitches, it takes a little maths.
If the rib is longer than you want though can you just do fewer rows?
Has the pattern given you both the number of rows to work and the length of the rib?

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The length of 18.5 inches for the rib (1/2 of 37 inches) is likely the width of the rib possibly when slightly stretched (1/2 of 37 inches). In the photo the rib appears to be approximately the same width as the vest. Are there increases as you change from the rib pattern to the cables? I would expect that as the cables will certainly alter the width of the vest.
Women’s patterns tend to have the rib pull in more than men’s patterns. Gauge is rib always seems loosey-goosey to me anyway. I can usually slightly stretch the rib to accommodate a range of gauges.

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@Creations, I meant the width ( as @salmonmac has clarified, Thanks) of the sweater rib is 18.5 inches and the rib needs to be 2.5 inches long (sorry, I mixed up the length and width earlier). Yes, I did block the swatch. The needle for the rib is indeed a size smaller (4.5 mm) than for the rest of the sweater (5 mm)

@salmonmac, There doesnt seem to be increases in the transition from rib to cables.
Do you think the cables will contain the width of the sweater or make it loosey-goosey :slight_smile: like you said.

Anyways, I decided to do the rib with also a 4 mm needle (keeping the 4.5 mm aside) - just to see how that feels and looks, before finalising the needle with which I will go ahead for the rib and for the sweater( which will be a size higher 5 mm)

Keep you posted

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I assume then that the designer has figured out the the increase in needle size is going to be enough to compensate for the cables.
I was really referring to the fact that gauge in rib slightly stretched always seems vague to me. I can compensate for a half stitch or whole stitch just in how I interpret “slightly.” Ah well, that’s the fun of knitting.


@salmonmac, here is the ribbing with 4.5 mm (on the right) and the narrower 4 mm rib (on the left - not many rows done).
While the 4 mm rib does appear a little tighter, somehow with this yarn, on both ribs, one has to look quite carefully to recognise the normally beautiful rib pattern. They do both come across loosey-goosey. And the 4mm rib is only 0.5 inch lesser width than the 4.5mm rib - that could also be attributed to the way the stitches sit at this juncture etc.

All said - sticking to 37 and hopefully once I start the lattice cables, it will feel and look better(tighter)

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Beautiful color. Probably too early to tell about the ribbing but either size needle will work. A swatch of some of the pattern stitch will give you a better idea of the knit fabric. Let us know how it goes.

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Hi @salmonmac, so far going well - completed the ribbing. Width seems perfect at 18.5 inches.
Am back with a request for help on how to read the pattern. You did clarify the same question to me in the earlier pattern I was working with, please help me again with this one.

The pattern reads as follows :

Lattice :
(Multiples of 4 st + 5) - I don’t understand this

Row 1 : P1, (K1,P1) till end
Row 2 : (K1, P1) to last st, K1
And so on for
8 rows in total

Cable column
(Multiples of 6 st)

Row 1 : (P1, K4, P1) till end
Row 2 : (K1, P4, K1) till end
And so on for
4 rows in total

Establish pattern :
Row 1 (RS) :
work row 1 lattice over 13 st, place marker
Work row 1 of cable column over 12 st, place marker
Work row 1 of lattice over 17 st, place marker
Work row 1 of cable column over 6 st, place marker
Work row 1 of lattice over 29 st, place marker
Work row 1 of cable column over 6 st, place marker
Work row 1 of lattice over 17 st, place marker
Work row 1 of cable column over 12 st, place marker
Work row 1 of lattice over 13 st,

I was able to do this without issues

Row 2 (WS) :
Work row 2 of lattice pattern until marker.

Until the marker, there are 14 st.
I am confused on how I should do the row 2 lattice with 14 st.

Do I do (K1,P1) 7 times OR
Do (K1,P1) until the last st and do a K1 - in this case it would be (K1,P1)6 times, K1, and then the last st K1.

The same question for many other rows, where I encounter the marker before all the stitches of the lattice or cable column can be done.

Thank you in advance !