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What Size Do I Make?

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What Size Do I Make?

Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiterauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.

What Size Do I Make? | Lion Brand Notebook

You’ve found the perfect sweater pattern. It’s just challenging enough to keep your interest. You think you’ll be able to wear it a good part of the year for many occasions. The yarn is something you can afford.

But before you can begin, you need to answer one question: What size do I make?

Studying the size information, you note there are 4 sizes: small, medium, large, and extra large. Usually you wear a medium. But wait. The pattern states for the medium size, the finished chest measurement is 50″. That does not seem right at all, you think. In fact, it seems like the sweater will be way too large!

Before deciding the pattern is wrong or what size you’ll make, there are a number of considerations to take into account. Ask yourself how you like your sweaters to fit. Do you like them tight? If you do, perhaps you will want to choose a smaller size. Do you like them loose? Do you layer them with lots of other pieces or with just a camisole underneath? Do you wear your cardigans more like jackets or buttoned up as a top? Keep all of your preferences in mind as you consider the size.

Generally a sweater is not worn skintight. The difference between your bust measurement and the finished chest measurement of a sweater is referred to as “ease.” Some garments have more ease than others, depending upon a number of factors.

The overall design of the garment dictates the amount of ease. Some are intended to be more form fitting, such as a shell. Others are meant to be roomier or “slouchy” in style.

Also, keep in mind that cardigans are worn over other clothing. They were designed to accommodate the extra bulk that is taken up by the clothing worn under the cardigan. Therefore, you will likely see a larger finished chest measurement for cardigans than pullovers.

Finally, sweaters that use very bulky yarns have more ease. The yarn itself literally takes up some of the allotted ease of the garment.

If in doubt, measure a sweater that fits you well which is similar in style and weight to the one you plan to make if at all possible. You might be surprised to find the finished chest measurement of that sweater is larger than you think!

[Pattern pictured: Knit & Crochet Winged Jacket]

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  • I’m making a jacket from a pattern I designed. Patchwork, done in Tunisian crochet.

    I wear a 42 sweater, or extra large shirts. Could use advice on width of fronts of jacket.

  • I wish patterns would include the amount of ease in the fit. This would make it much easier to decide on the right size to make.

    • Interesting point, Pat. I think that while sometimes modern patterns will tell you how much ease the garment is being worn with by the model in the photograph, since all of us have different preferences for how tight or loose our clothing is, it’s difficult for a designer to give a recommendation for ease. Garment patterns and schematics will give you the actual measurements of the finished piece, and we always recommend to look in your own closet and measure a similar piece to see how much ease you tend to naturally gravitate towards.

      • Zontee – If the pattern designer put down how much “ease” she **designed** the pattern with, it would be easier to see what size I want to knit. Say I am knitting for someone with a 42″ chest who likes their sweaters not too sloppy but has never had a hand knit sweater before. If the designer says that she designed the sweater with 8″ of ease, and the yarn used is worsted weight, not bulky or super bulky, then I know that to get a standard fit rather than the intended oversize fit, I need to make the sweater in a size for a 38″ chest and to get a tight fit I need to make the size for a 36″ chest, and I have to think whether the sweater will look good in this much tighter of a fit? Does the charm of this sweater come in part from the oversize fit? Will I have to make other adjustments to compensate for altering the fit from the intended fit? For example, do I need the larger neck opening on the larger size to make it adequately easy to get the sweater on and off? Do I know enough about modifying sweaters to make those changes? Or should I look for a pattern where the intended ease is closer to what the wearer will want? Maybe I should look for a pattern where I only need to go up or down one size or less to get the fit I want.

        Also, what about someone who had not that big a chest but muscular arms? Can you use the sleeves in one size and attach them successfully to a body of a sweater one size smaller? Would you need to modify the body pattern to make bigger arm holes? I think I could modify the pattern on paper to show how to do this and then knit from my rewritten pattern. I would just need to figure out whether this is what I need to do. Have you ever heard of anyone trying this, and did it work? Are there styles of sleeves where this is easier or harder? I would imagine that a drop shoulder sweater where the armhole is straighter would be relatively easy and a raglan would be relatively hard, with an ordinary style shoulder in between. But I am just guessing on that. Has anyone done that?

        • Hi Kit, yes, if you want to adjust the arms, you will also need to adjust the armholes. One way is to look at the armhole directions for a larger size and use them as a guide for the height and depth of the armhole you’ll want to make. Then make the matching larger sleeves to fit them in. There are many people who modify their sweaters, and there are a lot of good books out there with lots of useful tips. I’d recommend that you check out books like Knits that Flatter by Amy Herzog, Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel, and Blueprint Crochet Sweaters by Robyn Chachula for more on modifying sweater designs.

  • my mom recently purchased silver Lexus IS 250 Sedan only from working online…
    find out

  • I am making a sweater for someone and am using an existing one that she likes the fit of as a guide. She is an XL but I find with my knitting gauge I need to use the M for width and the XL for height. It matches the existing sweater so I hope I’m doing it right!
    I love the sweater in the photo – is there a pattern you can link us to?

  • After reading the comments below, my heart broke for everyone who was hurt or disappointed after working so hard on a hand made gift for someone who really didn’t have a clue of how unique it was.
    I also have limited my knitting and crochet talents for those who really appreciate the gifts.
    That has worked out beautifully for me and them.
    While you are weeding out people on your list, it may help to make things for people in nursing homes etc. for the holidays. My church collects these and delivers them to those in need.
    I usually put a card in my wrapped gift signed by “Mrs. Santa Claus” telling the person that this lap blanket, scarf, etc. was made especially for them.
    By indicating what is in the wrapped gift also helps those distributing the gifts to give the most useful item to the person in need of it.

    Doing this makes my heart happy. And hopefully theirs as well.
    I’ve also made scarfs for children that participate in the Special Olympics.
    If you contact that organization they will tell you what colors should be used and when I did it Red Heart sold the yarn at discounted prices. A win win all around.
    I even received thank you notes from the boys and girls.
    So keep those hooks and needles going and create happiness.

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