Middle-aged woman modeling a relaxed fit open cardigan

On Sweater Sizing

Sweater sizing is a topic that has come up again recently on social media, and I thought it would be a good time to address the way I recommend choosing your sweater size for my designs. Generally in my sweater designs I recommend choosing the size with a certain amount of ease in the upper chest – this is measured around your chest just under the armpits and above the bust (if you have one). Because the armhole and shoulders of a sweater are the most difficult to alter, you want to choose a size that will fit best in that area and make any needed alterations elsewhere. And, since people with the same shoulder size will vary in the size of their full bust, it makes sense to fit the shoulder area according to the upper chest measurement.*

Now, you’re probably wondering how this will work if you, like me, have a small frame and a large bust. My measurements are as follows: upper chest – 34, underbust (this is the measurement generally taken for a bra band) – 30, full bust – 38. In the photo at the top of this post, I am wearing the Composure Cardigan in the 40 inch/ 113 cm size , which gives me 6 inches of positive ease in the upper chest, and just 2 inches of ease in the full bust. This gives me a nice relaxed, slightly oversized fit.

As a rule of thumb, the size you choose can have up to around 2 inches/ 5cm of negative ease in the full bust – knitted fabric will stretch to accommodate it without making any adjustments in the length or width of the fabric. With the oversized styles that are currently popular, most people will have enough room to fit their full bust. If you’re working with a more fitted style, you may need to add bust darts to get the best fit.

A schematic drawing for an open cardigan
Schematic for the Composure Cardigan.

There are a couple of other measurements you can use to help choose your size. One is the cross-back measurement, which on a drop-shoulder sweater like the Composure Cardigan or the Suora Tee, is simply half the chest circumference minus any stitches bound off at the underarm (for a modified drop-shoulder). This is measurement C on the example schematic above. You can measure across your shoulders where you want the shoulder seam to fall, and compare that to the measurements given on the pattern schematic. It’s also a good idea to check the neck width on your pattern to make sure it’s a comfortable width for the size you’re considering.

If you are working with a pattern that specifies ease in the full bust, or you’re not sure which it specifies, a good trick is to take your upper chest measurement plus 2 inches/ 5 cm. That’s because ‘average’ sizing in the women’s clothing industry has generally been based on a 2-inch difference between the upper chest and the full bust, or about a B-cup. In the example above, I would choose my size based on a 36 inch bust, so if I wanted 4-6 inches of ease for a relaxed fit, I would again choose the 40 inch size.

I hope this answers some questions you may have about choosing a size. Drop your other questions about sizing in the comments, and maybe I’ll answer them in a future post.

**Amy Herzog has some great resources on this topic. Here is a tutorial she wrote on choosing a size for her patterns: https://amyherzogdesigns.com/tutorials/choosing-a-size-set-in-sleeve/.


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