November 10th, 2013

Are you a Standard Size?

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This is our last guest post by Dora Ohrenstein.

Let me start with a question: do you choose a sweater size based on your “standard size”? This is the number one reason people experience “sweater fail,” and those who have know how disappointing it is. Standard sizing is something that clothing manufacturers have developed, for obvious reasons of convenience, and that designers are required to follow when grading patterns. If your measurements are not standard — and let’s face it, whose are? — you will be so much happier with your garments if you learn to alter patterns.

Some women have a bust size that is large in relation to their overall size — they are really a small or medium according to standard sizing, but with a few extra inches in girth here or there. Others may have shoulders that are larger than standard, or a significant difference in circumference between bust and hips. Once you understand the key measurements and alteration points of a sweater, you can tweak patterns to fit you more precisely.

Schematics are included in most patterns to allow the knitter or crocheter to see what the actual finished measurements of individual pieces are, and to compare them to her own. Where there is a discrepancy of over an inch, it’s time to think about making an alteration. You’d figure out how many inches of difference at various crucial points, and how you would alter the stitch and row counts so that the sweater ends up at your measurements, not the mythical standard sized person. Alteration is just some tinkering with the numbers on your calculator, it is not rocket science, and it can be mastered if you are motivated.

Now is the time to bring up the sensitive subject of measuring one’s body. Nobody likes to do it, it’s hard to do yourself, and your husband won’t know how and all that. Nevertheless, I urge you to please find a way, because without it, it’s hard to make a sweater that fits, trust me. For very good instructions on how and where to measure, please visit: http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/sizing.html

Our main areas of concern are three width measurements on the body: bust circumference, high hip circumference, and shoulder width (sometimes called cross back width), and two length measurements on the body: shoulder to high hip, and armhole depth. If you like sweaters to hang at different lengths, then take circumference and length measurements at the low hip, waist, and mid thigh as well.

We also need at least one width measurement and one length measurement on the sleeve: your upper arm circumference, at the largest point, and sleeve length from the underarm to the wrist. I suggest you make a schematic and record these width and length measurements on it, then scan and save it in your computer.

Once you’ve done this, please visit this page: http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/womansize.html

to see how your measurements compare to standard sizes. You’ll see immediately which areas you will need to consider for alterations in sweaters. Keep in mind that this same alteration is likely to come up repeatedly, and that once you’ve done it on a couple of sweaters, it will be quite easy.

One more important concept to consider is the matter of ease, the bit of extra fabric we add to body measurements to make a garment more comfortable to wear. I’ve noticed a strong temptation to add generous amounts of ease, as if in terrible fear that the sweater will be too small. Please do not fall into this trap. A sweater that’s 4 – 6 inches larger than you everywhere will look like a big baggy sweater. Keep in mind that knot or crochet fabric is very stretchy, in all directions, and can be counted on to stretch more with wear. In most situations except outerwear, there’s no reason to add more than 2″ of ease over your full body circumference. In fact, bustline widths can be done with no ease, or with negative ease. No ease can be very comfortable and flattering and if you are very shapely, an inch of negative ease is not be scoffed at. It will simple make the sweater emphasize your curves. You can take a cue from your store bought sweaters by measuring them at the bust width to see how much ease they have over your actual body measurement — remember you are measuring half your circumference. You may be surprised to see the result!

Whether you’re making a sweater from the top down or bottom up, knowing your measurements ahead of time, and comparing them to the sweater pattern, will save you lots of time and energy. There is some math involved, but please don’t panic – the calculator does all the hard work!

If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, you might want to join me at VK Live, where I will be offering a class entitled: Altering Crochet Sweaters. To learn more, or register, go to http://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/66410/classes/. Or visit my website to learn more about online classes: CrochetInsider.com.

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Mary

Marketing Manager at WEBS - America's Yarn Store
Mary has worked at WEBS since 2005. She has been knitting since 2000 and also knows how to crochet, spin, and use a rigid heddle loom.
Her favorite color: bright pink
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