Guest Blogger: Dora Ohrenstein

Making that Perfect Fit Sweater

Dora Ohrenstein is a leading crochet designer, author and teacher who we know as a multi-talented friend and colleague in the fiber and design world. Her specific focus is on the art of crochet, and her recently published "Top Down Crochet" book has earned 5 stars on Amazon. Her previous books include: The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Workbook, The New Tunisian Crochet, and Custom Crocheted Sweaters. Dora's chic and innovative designs appear regularly in print and online magazines. She teaches at national events and in yarn shops around the country. Dora is an avid student of crochet history and has published numerous articles on the topic. Her website,, is a great resource for articles and patterns. 

With all these credentials, we knew that Dora would be a gifted writer, so we asked her to be our guest blogger for this edition of the Knitty City Blog. We confidently turn the subject of creating beautiful crochet sweaters (that fit) over to her. 

Writing my new book, Top Down Crochet Sweaters, has been such a thrill, and a learning experience for me, as well. I developed a better understanding about sweater fit that I will share with you, but first, let’s talk about why working a sweater from the top down is such a great method. Firstly, with this technique you don’t have to work any seams. Instead you make the entire sweater in one piece. Another thing to love about top down sweaters is how easy it is to try the sweater on as you go.  

With this method we start at the neckline, then proceed to make increases to shape a yoke that fits around the upper torso and shoulders. It’s easy to put the partially made yoke around your neck and see whether you like how it fits. Right from the start, for example, you can check whether the neckline is laying nicely. Then, as you proceed with the pattern, you can stop at the end of any row or round and put it on again to see if it’s growing sufficiently to suit your dimensions. Once you’re yoke is done and it fits well, adding body and sleeves is a breeze.

Top Down Crochet Sweaters has 7 garment pairs, 14 garments in all. The pairs share the same yoke but each has different details. For example, one is a jacket, the other a pullover, one has short sleeves, the other long, etc. Each uses a different yarn, and the models are made in different sizes. All this gives readers lots of options when deciding which garment to make, how to style it, and what kind of fit they wish to create.

I learned something interesting from making the garments in this book. Let me give you the back story: I’m rather petite, and I find that some people worry that my sweaters won’t work for larger people. I like to think I can design for various bodies, and to prove it, I asked Storey to have models of different sizes for the photos in this book. This way any doubters have visual proof of the versatility of these designs. Naturally when I finished these sweaters I tried them on - all of them, whether small, medium or large, and guess what? Even the large ones looked good!

The conclusion I drew from this is that it’s not necessary to nail the dimensions of a garment to the exact inch. While I’ve usually favored close-fitting sweaters for myself, I was amazed at how well these garments looked with 2, 3, 4 inches and even more ease over my actual body dimensions. The crucial factor is not the precise dimensions, but whether the garment’s fabric has good drape. Drape is that quality of fabric that makes it fall fluidly around the body in attractive folds. The opposite of drape is fabric that is stiff and unyielding. Unfortunately, with crochet, which is inherently thick, we see way too many sweaters with poor drape. To avoid this, I always choose thinner yarns and soft, flexible fibers for my crochet garments.  

Excerpted from Top-Down Crochet Sweaters © Dora Ohrenstein.
Photography by © Melinda DiMauro.

I hope this book will inspire you to give this marvelous method a try! You’re welcome to join my Ravelry group, where we are doing a CAL of garments from the book. It will continue for the months ahead. My Ravelry friends and I will offer plenty of guidance to help you get that perfect sweater with great fit. 

Dora Ohrenstein