Back Neck Shaping

This topic came up on a list I belong to, and I thought it would be good to include here. The thread was regarding back neck shaping, if it is needed to keep the back neck from riding up, and there was a response talking about knitting straight across keeps the front neck from riding up. Below is my response.

Hmm. I started out as a machine knitter in high-school, but that was awhile ago and I don’t remember being taught not to shape the back neck due to front neck issues. ‘Course every teacher is going to have their own methods they like to teach and that is what is going to stick with us. Perhaps it originated because it is easier then to go straight across? That is true for hand-knitting, and why it is not done for some patterns (in my opinion). It is a lot easier pattern writing (and by extension reading and understanding) to knit straight across.

There are many good references out there that deal exclusively with pattern drafting and shaping knits, and almost all (I think it is each one) that I have recommends for a better fit at the neck, to add a little shaping. Not a lot, just a little. That little bit of shaping is similar to Ganseys with their gusset at the neck, although that type of neck is more close fitting than I like to wear myself.

I was taught the opposite – that if there is not a little shaping in the back neck (you don’t need more than an inch in depth unless you want it deeper) that the back of the garment sits up higher on the back of the neck.

Some of that could depend on how wide the back neck is, which makes sense. If your back neck is wide (the back neck of the garment), you will not notice this so much and knits are, after-all, fairly forgiving. If the back neck is narrow, you might notice it more. I have designs that have been done both ways, but then I tend to like a neck that is not close fitting to begin with.

An important thing to remember in any of our fitting issues, is that the anotomy of our bodies does not change with type of garment. While we do not have to be as “drafted” as a sewing pattern with our knitting, the structure that both types of garments cover remain unchanged.

The forgiving nature of knitting will affect greatly what we do with how we shape our pieces, but we cannot get away from the anatomy of our own bodies. If you stop and think about it, the neck is somewhat cone shaped, with a wider circumference at the base of the neck than at where it joins the head. If you were to take a piece of paper and a tumbler that is large (like what you get in a drive through when you get a large drink) you can see what I mean. Turn the cup so that the wider part is on your counter, so that it just comes even with the edge.  Essentially that is how your neck sits on your shoulders. Your neck is deeper than your shoulders are though, which is why it sits lower on the front than the back of your torso. Now, take that piece of paper and try and fit it around the base of the cup up to the middle of the cup and see what happens with the paper. Now, I know fabric drapes and paper does not, and knitting is accommodating, but with the paper it is easier to see where the “stresses” (for lack of a better word) are going to be. By having that shaping, the back neck fits around the base of the neck better. Cut a shallow arc out of the piece of paper (simulate back neck shaping) and hold it up to your cup again. See how it lays flat now? You have eliminated a bit of extra fabric and made your knits conform a bit better. Without the shaping that extra bit will still be there, at the back of your neck.

Is it necessary for you to do back neck shaping for your own body? Your own experience is the best answer for that.


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