In preparation for releasing my latest sweater, a long over-sized comfy cardigan, I’ve given a lot of thought to sizing. Choosing the right pattern size to knit is a critical part of knitting an item that you are happy with. Over time, our thoughts on sizing have shifted rather radically, but as knitters, we tend to stick with what we know even after the patterns have moved on, to our own detriment. In the 80’s, sweaters were often over-sized, but the range in that sizing was pretty constrained. You generally accounted for about 4″ of ease in the bust and 2″ of ease in the sleeves and you were done. Similarly, in the 90’s and early 2000’s when so many of us picked up the needles again, sizing was pretty straightforward. A more fitted look was in style, but it was still fairly standardized – 2″ of ease in each the bust and the sleeves. In fact, I still think of those measurements as standard, and use them as a starting reference. I think most of us do. The important thing is to use them as a start, but not as an end. In the end, you want to find yourself with a sweater that fits as you intend it to, and that may or may not require “standard” ease.
These days, ease is all over the place, and varies from body part to body part. If you aren’t told otherwise and the sweater looks standard-fitting, it’s usually okay to assume you are aiming for about 2″ of ease everywhere. A well-written pattern will tell you how much ease to add in the bust, and give you a schematic so that you can determine how much ease you will have in other areas given your chosen size so that you can make adjustments as necessary. In my patterns I will always tell you how much bust ease is recommended and how much ease there is in the modeled size. If the sleeves are not standard, I will tell you the recommended ease for the upper sleeve, too. Always check this information before buying yarn and starting your project to ensure it is successful. (Want to know more about what to expect in my patterns? Take a look at the Anatomy of a Pattern.)
Okay…. I am going to tell you now that telling you everything is not on my agenda – think of this as a quick cheat for fitting this particular sweater. If you need help of a more serious and thorough type, I highly recommend anything that Amy Herzog has to offer you. She’s written a book that I reviewed on my old blog, teaches a craftsy class that is excellent (and teaches in person quite often), and has a wonderful ravelry group.
For now, we’ll just start with the basics needed for this sweater: your bust and upper arm measurements, because as you will notice under the “ease” heading in the pattern, I state the following:
The sweater is intended to be worn with 2-8” / 12.5-20 cm positive ease in the main body (2-4″ / 5-10 cm standard fit; 4-8″ / 10-20 cm over-sized fit) and 2-3” / 5-7.5 cm positive ease in the upper sleeve. Sample measures 39 ¼” / 99.5 cm and is modeled with 6 ¼” / 16 cm positive ease in the bust, 3” / 7.5 cm positive ease in the upper sleeve. Please consult schematic to ensure proper fit.
Let me just stray a bit to say that pattern instructions are so helpful – please read them before you start! Now back to the topic at hand: use your full bust measurement if you are a B-cup or below, and your upper bust measurement if you are a C-cup or above. Many busty gals fall into the trap of using their full bust measurement when choosing a size, but that is going to make everything below your bust look like it’s under a tent. Don’t do it. If anything, go for even less ease across the bust. You will thank me later.
For this particular design, you will want to know your upper arm circumference as well, because you do not want the sleeves to be too fitted. The Great Missowski (more on that silly name later) is a worsted weight sweater with a slipped-stitch pattern, so the circumferences given are going to end up being the circumferences as taken from the outside of the garment laid flat, but you will need to fit on the inside after it is seamed up, which could be about a 1/2″ smaller in the sleeve when you take into account the thickness of the fabric and the seams.
Looking at the pattern introduction information, you know the body circumferences available to you are:
33 (36 ½, 39 ¼, 42 ½, 45 ¼, 48 ¾, 51 ¼, 53 ¾, 57 ¼, 60)”
84 (92.5, 99.5, 108, 115, 124, 130, 136.5, 145.5, 152.5) cm
Comparing this to the schematic, the corresponding upper sleeve circumferences are:
13 ¼ (13 ¼, 14, 15, 15, 15 ¾, 16 ¾, 18 ½, 20, 21)”
33.5 (33.5, 35.5, 38, 38, 40, 42.5, 47, 51, 53.5) cm
So, if like me, you have an 11″ upper arm measurement, theoretically, you can choose any of the first three bust sizes, because both the 13 ¼ and 14″ upper sleeve measurements fall within the suggested ease of 2-3″. For me, of those three sizes, only two fall within the range of 2-8″ of ease at the bust, however, since I have a 33″ bust. The 36 ½ size would give me 3 ½” of ease, so at the high end of the standard range, and the 39 ¼ will give me 6 ¼” of ease – the middle of the over-sized range. When choosing between these two sizes you want to think about both your arms and your body. If you intend to wear the sweater as a coat or “serious” layering piece, go with the larger size, as I did. If you want to have a sleeker fit, go with the smaller one. If you can’t get the precise fit you want, go with the measurement that works best for your sleeves – that will matter more with this particular garment.
The final consideration is length – both for the sleeves and for the body. I worked extra-long sleeves for the sample. I envision myself wearing this on days when my husband refuses to turn on the heat, and I want to wrap up with only my fingertips showing and a warm cup of cocoa in my hands. These sleeves are super long – second knuckle. And that is simply not going to work for everyone. I knew it when I designed the sweater, so I included standard length sleeves as well. Read the entire pattern and the schematic (and schematic notes!) to make your decision, but as a rule of thumb, if you are petite, have short arms, or can’t be bothered to push your sleeves back, make the standard length sleeves. This is going to be just about everybody, so think about it and make a good, informed decision, despite how the sample looks on me. By the same token, think about the body length before you start. Fewer people will need to shorten the sweater, but if you are petite or vertically challenged, consider it. I am no giant – 5’5″ – but I have a tall soul. People always think I’m taller than I am and I wear heeled boots most of the time to back up this fallacy. If you don’t, keep that in mind. My instructions for shortening are more akin to general “guidance,” (because really, how many patterns can I afford to write you for $7?), but if you read through the sleeve section, you will understand what to do.
Remember these are the keys to fitting this sweater. My tips on bust and upper arm should hold for all sweaters, but for different sweater constructions other measurements may matter more. In particular, for sweaters with set-in sleeves, you will want to rely very heavily on your crossback measurement. But that is a topic for a different post. This post will get you going on the sweater at hand.
Curious for other details? There are more photos and information on The Great Missowski on its very own page right here on my website, and on the coordinating slouchy hat that will be released at the same time. I will be back very soon with some advice on picking color combinations, too.