Ah yes-making it fit WELL. I am a firm believer in a little shaping. It's not a matter of fooling the eye, it's helping the eye see less! Because I sewed for years before I started knitting, I grew familiar with darts and shaping. It's very, very easy to add a little shaping in a sweater to help define your waist.
This is my Katrina top that I started a week ago. I've been knitting a tube from the top down. I've added decreases under the arm and bustline to reduce extra fabric around my waist. Now, I am adding stitches after my waistline to accomodate the rest of me.
My gauge is 4 stitches to the inch-so just a few stitches REALLY improve this top's shape. I distributed my increases and decreases evenly on both the front and the back. I decreased 4 stitches under the arm on one round, knit for about 1 1/2 inches, and repeated my decreases. (In my case, my decreases and increases were placed 20 stitches from the side seam marker.) I knit for about 6" and added 4 stitches at the same points, then repeated the increases about 2" after that. Remember, my gauge was 4 stitches to the inch-so reducing 8 stitches trims 2" from my sweater. My waist will look smaller without the exta two inches of fabric.
It's important to use increases and decreases gradually-your aim is to create a gentle slope, not a stairstep. And keep in mind, if I had started from the bottom, I would decrease for the waist, then increase for the bust.
You won't always be knitting in plain stockinette. You can reduce your sweater's waistline easily in Fair Isle or lace, still maintain your pattern, and NOT make yourself crazy with increases and decreases. Just go down a needle size-it should trim your garment's waistline but not be a visible distraction. On a 36" sweater, knitted at 20 stitches to 4", you would normally have 180 stitches. If you use a needle one size smaller, and knit 20.5 stitches per 4", you will automatically shave almost an inch of your garment's waistline.
That's a lot easier than shaving an inch off your waist!
Keywords: Knitting, pattern alterations