I discovered recently that I had an almost complete post about choosing a sweater size and related issues that was still in draft format (written in August, if you care). Since much of what is in here was involved in my process of cobbling together a pattern to use with that Koigu special merino, I thought maybe it was worth posting now. Hope it is helpful.
In my post on when to use short rows, I suggested that short rows won’t solve all your fitting problems. And even if you do have a good sense of your own body shape, you might still have an issue with choosing an appropriate size. This is because sizes are standardized and real bodies are not. If you are one of those lucky people whose measurements fit the standardized measurements perfectly, you can save time because this post doesn’t really apply to you. For the rest of you, here are my thoughts on how to pick the best size to work.
If the pattern only gives one measurement it will usually be the bust. This is less than helpful. What you really need are at least the bust, waist and hips. Check out Carol’ s post on schematics to work out what’s going on. Standard women’s sizes usually have an almost equal bust and hip measurement. But many of us do not. As with the discussion of short rows, this will mostly be a problem for fitted and semi-fitted designs. Designs with a lot of ease can usually accomodate variations within the ease allowance. Again, Carol has a great post explaining ease and how it works.
I advocate starting by going for 2 out of those 3 measurements to pick a size and then adjusting the area of the 3rd measurement.
In my case, my bust and waist measurements match up with one size but my hips are bigger. So in my case, the bust measurement is a good one to use in choosing a size, but I have to make some adjustments to the bottom of a top that goes down to the hips to make sure that the sweater isn’t too tight (which could lead to it riding up).
But if it is your waist and hips that match a size and your bust is much larger, choosing a size based on the bust measurement will result in a garment that is baggy at the bottom, perhaps not showing off the waist as much as it should. In this case, you might want to make a smaller size (one based on your hip measurement) and add extra increases between the waist and bust as well as short rows to increase the length. The best place to put these extra increases is not at the side but at the dart line (which is basically on a line below your nipples — measure the distance between the pointiest bit of your breasts and place those increases half that distance from the centre front). You may then need to check how your shoulder width is going to work with this. If you only need this extra width in the front (get a friend to help you measure to determine this), you’ll probably have to decrease those away again so the shoulders match.
Some folks will not have as pronounced a waist as others so then you pick a size based on your bust/hip measurement but adjust the decrease and increase schedule to make the waist fit properly. You might also want to take this into consideration when choosing styles as something very fitted with a defined waist might not be as suitable. On the other hand, this sort of design, especially if it will cope with being loose and flary around the hips could create the illusion of having more of a waist than you do. Steph’s Mermaid jacket is an example.
Of course, all of this assumes that you are not knitting a different size to compensate for a guage change necessitated by your choice of yarn. I’ve done this. And I know others have, too. But having a good sense of which size you wanted to knit if you did get the specified guage should help.
And even if your bust, waist and hips match up, you might having a longer or shorter torso or some other thing that makes your body what it is (and let’s face it, standardized bodies would be just plain boring). So if you are getting frustrated with sweaters that don’t seem to come out right get a friend to come over and take lots of measurements of each other. Then you have something to work with when you look at those schematics. It means a bit of fussing before you start knitting but that might be worth it to save all kinds of frustration later.
I’m glad I found this and reread it, because it led me to Carol’s post about ease which gave me some sense of how tightly this particular sweater I am working on is going to fit. I am still wondering whether I need to put short rows in at the bust (probably, since I only have about 3″ of ease and Carol suggests this is on the minimal side, particularly in a larger size). One concern is what the variegation with do. I am not fabulously keen on having some big slashes of pooled colour right across my breasts. In fact, I am seriously considering steeking the armholes to prevent too much change in the way the colour distributes itself. All thoughts on this (particularly from those who routinely add short rows, steek, knit with handpainted yarn or any combination of those things) are welcome.