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Chic Knits = WARDROBE – Get Dressed

Lately, my knitting friends and I have been talking alot about fit and sizing – we’re planning to measure and discuss at a future KIP. This article was first published in 2003 ( and is a great starting point for your next sweater…

Give me your tired, your poor, your ill-fitting DESIGNS

Oh, how we all love make-overs. On any given afternoon around the globe, talk shows, TV shopping networks, cable access, you-name-it, are all jamming the air waves with stupendous before-and-after dramas…

Well, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy ain’t got nothin’ on us.

Just for grins, we’re going to stage a little reality show of our own. We’re going to make-over many of the ideas we hold about patterns and knitting. If your mail to me is any indication, you want to know EVERYTHING there is to know about SIZE. From re-sizing to my-sizing, the questions fill my inbox to overflowing.

In our show, no one wears ill-fitting clothes! (Especially ones that come off their own needles…) Sleeves are long enough and have the right amount of ease. Length and structure of the torso pieces flatter and enhance whatever Mother Nature blessed us with. Whether you’re a twig or an elegant oak, your clothes do not bind, gap, or ride up. If you have a bountiful bosom or a shapely long waist, your knitted garments can mold to your frame as if Da Vinci himself stroked you on a page.

RealityKnits Episode #1: Whose Size is It Anyway?

Fashion sizing seems to be the 4th dimension. Even Einstein would agree that off-the-rack sizes never actually match commercial knitting patterns with any kind of standards or regularity. Commercial sizes don’t even match between price points or manufacturers. It is unreal.

Many of us have totally trusted our regular size when choosing a pattern size for a garment we want to make but have found ourselves with an armful of awful after hours of knitting what we thought was going to be a masterpiece.

I have had fabulous disasters just blindly following a knitting pattern in *my* size according to the retail clothes I owned. My personal disaster *best* is a sweater I re-knit 3 times! (YES, I am STUBBORN!) AND it still isn’t right – the sleeves are too big and the body is tight. Ce la vie!

Solution? Grab the meauring tape and follow me…

Exercise #1:
Your personal size

You need:

  • fabric tape measure
  • pen
  • printout of this picture –> [right-click on the picture to open it in a new page, then print the page]
  • a knitting friend


Measure each of the indicated areas and write in the numbers next to the areas of the body on the drawing. Go HERE, a page masterminded by the Craft Yarn Council of America, to get information about how you should measure these areas. The info we want is on the right.

It is best if you have a friend help you with this! Not only is it fun, but they will most likely be able to keep the tape measure horizontally aligned better on the parts of you you can’t see. (And they won’t cheat on your hip measurement like I do when I measure myself.)

Exercise #2: Wardrobe Size

Look in your closet and you will see three basic kinds of knitted garments:

  • shells (or vests)
  • pullovers
  • cardigans

They look something like this:


If you look closely, you will see each is differently sized than the other. The Pullover is larger than the Shell. The Cardigan is bigger than both. They all function differently in your wardrobe and need to fit in slightly different ways.

In the design world, this is called *EASE*. It describes how tight the garment fits to your frame. Shells have the least ease or are “very close-fitting”. Cardigans have the most ease because they usually go over other clothing or are “standard to loose-fitting”. Pullovers are inbetween; usually we like them to be more “close-fitting”.

These great descriptions of general amounts of ease can be found on the same page we found How to Measure in the Fit Chart on the left. The CYCofA have gathered this information to try and standardize the knitting world’s idea of Ease to be more in line with Retail Clothes. I like it. I THANK THEM! Please print out this page for later. (Better yet, go to the bottom of that page and save their 16 page PDF booklet for your study and pleasure.)

So for this exercise, you need:

  • fabric tape measure
  • pen
  • printout of this picture
  • printout of the Sizing Chart
  • printout of the Fit Chart
  • AND, go get from YOUR closet a shell, a pullover, and a cardigan. Pick the ones you think fit you the best.

Measure the areas on these garments that are indicated by a double tipped arrow on the Picture Printout. Write your numbers into the little spaces provided to the nearest half-inch or whole inch. Be sure to multiply the width measurement by 2 so we can compare notes in the next step.

Do this for all 3 garments.

When you’re done, come back and we’ll talk…

NOW, place the two pages of measurements you’ve taken side-by-side. First of all, you’ll notice none of the garment measurements match your body measurements at all. Put the CYCofA Sizing Chart next to the garment measurements and see if they are close to any of the sizes they give. Are they the sizes you thought they would be?


TAKE A DEEP BREATH, and place your Body Measurement Page next to their Amount of Ease Page.

Add your chest measurement number
to the
number the CYCofA gives as the amount of ease for a pullover
and what do you get?

VOILA! The measurement of your favorite pullover!

Do the same thing with your shell and cardigan. Do we see a theme developing here?

As in, what’s the secret to choosing the SIZE you need to make to actually FIT you?

Your *SIZE* is the pattern size whose width measurement is closest to the width measurement of your similar, favorite garment!

Your favorite garments are templates for the new, hand-knitted garments that you intend to make! Place your garment-in-progress on top of your favorite garment to check for size accuracy throughout the knitting process and you’ll have more and more successes under your belt in no time at all!

12 responses to “Chic Knits = WARDROBE – Get Dressed”

  1. lorinda says:

    This is a wonderful tutorial. Thanks for sharing it (again).

  2. Gina says:

    Thank you! It is always so helpful to look over this sort of thing every now and again.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Wonderful write-up, Bonne Marie. As usual, very informative. Thank you.

  4. Lolly says:

    This is so incrediby helpful and informational, Bonne Marie! Thank you for taking the time to put this together – it is great!! :)

  5. Karen says:

    Wow, there is a lot of great information in this post. Thanks for posting this!

  6. Jennifer says:

    Excellent tutorial!

  7. kmkat says:

    Excellent — I’m saving the entire thing for (lots of) future reference. But did you know you came to the same conclusion as Elizabeth Zimmerman — measure a sweater you already have that fits the way you want the new one to? Great minds think alike!

  8. Leslie says:

    It’s always nice to familiarize yourself with the basics again. Those of us who only have one olive in our martinis tend to forget every once in a while!

  9. Robin says:

    Great post, Bonne Marie! I think a lot of people will find this helpful. I’m just glad that I was lucky enough to learn this stuff early on so I don’t have too many sizing mishaps!

  10. Debbie says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to present this material. It is so very useful and simply stated. I know you will save a lot of us a lot of frustration and disappointment. Your blog has been a great inspiration to me. thanks!

  11. Lisa says:

    Wow Bonne Marie – you are freaking fantastic. This information must have taken a while to compile and I for one totally appreciate it.

    Thanks again!

  12. liz says:

    I’m always telling my knitting students to also consider their body tyep vs the model and their personal style – the style of clothing they have in their closet – vs that lovely sweater in the magazine. The proposed knit may truly be fabulous, but if you don’t own any items that are all romantic and ruffly, you probably will be unhappy with the look of you wearing that ruffled sweater you want to knit. Similarly, if you are a total romantic bohemian dresser, you probably don’t own clothes that will look right with that tailored sweater vest.

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