Where I write about knitting, crocheting and lace, and, on occasion general comments on other topics

Part 2: Freeing Yourself from a Pattern – Step 1, Take Good Measurements

Written by: Lindy

In my last post, I outlined how to use EZ’s Percentage System to design a sweater. Today, I will spend some time answering a question from Amanda, who asked, “What do you do when the pattern does not have instructions for YOUR size?”

This is very frustrating for those of us who are either smaller or larger than the range of sizes given by the pattern designer. I have never fully understood why some designer’s only develop their patterns for “Small, Medium, & Large”, though the trend seems to be to at least go up to “Extra Large” in current knitting publications. But, if your measurements do not correspond to the designer’s definition of “medium”, you may still find yourself with a sweater that is not well-fitting.

Isn’t that the goal for all of us? To knit a well-fitting garment? So, once again, the answer is to use the pattern as a general guideline and develop your own sweater according to your own measurements. Your measurements are your starting point.

There are two ways to take your measurements:
#1: Take measurements from a sweater that fits you the way you like/love.
Lay the sweater out flat on a table or other flat surface and take the following measurements:

The Chest Measurement [CM] – this is the widest point of the sweater, usually right below the underarm. Measure from side seam to side seam. Remember that since you are measuring with the garment laying flat, that the actual chest measurement is twice this amount. (Important if you will be knitting in the round).

Shoulder Width[ShW] – this is the measurement across the shoulders from the seams or the point where the arm meets the body. This measurement is important for a proper fitting sweater.

The Neck Measurment [NM] – measure this for both the front and the back and note if the garment has shaping that creates depth – due to a difference in the front neckline from the back.

Armhole Depth [AD] – measure from the top of the sleeve at the shoulder seam down to the underarm.

Sleeve Length [SL] – measure from the top of the sleeve at the shoulder seam to the beginning of the sleeve.

Wrist Measurement [WM] – measure the width of the wrist at the bottom of the sleeve.

Sleeve Width [SW] – measure the widest part of the sleeve.

Side Seam Length [SSL] – measure from the bottom of the sweater to the point where the sleeve meets the body at the underarm.

Back Length [BL] – at the center of the back – measure from the center of the back neck edge to the bottom of the sweater.

Front Length [FL] – at the center of the front (or front edge if a cardigan) – measure from the front neck edge to the bottom of the sweater.

Other measurements that you may want –
width of sleeve at the elbow
width at waist (if sweater tapers in at the waist)

I am including a diagram that you can use to record these measurements – click here: Measurements Diagram.

#2 – Take your measurements using your body.
Note – this is best accomplished with the help of a good friend. Measurements to be taken are the same as above, only taken directly from your body. You will need to figure in “ease” when calculating your pattern changes.

Now a few words about “Ease”. Ease is an extra amount of fabric that provides a garment with movement and shaping. When you take your measurements from your sweater – they will include the ease of that sweater. When you take actual body measurements, you will need to add in an appropriate amount of ease.

Close fitting garments have less ease and in some cases have negative ease, while loose fitting garments may have a significant amount of ease. Generally, the guidelines are that a classic fit has 7-10% ease, a close-fit will have a negative 7-10% ease and a very loose fit may have up to 20% ease.

So, now you have all the measurements you need. Take a look at the pattern you are wanting to use – hopefully, there is a diagram in the pattern that gives the finished measurements for each size. If not, you may want to use my diagram to write them down. Make note of the differences between your measurements and those in the pattern.

Also, make note of any textured stitch patterns or colorwork patterns used in the pattern. You need to know what the base number of stitches is for the pattern repeats. This is usually something like: “7 stitches over 9 rows” or “7 stitches, plus 1 over 9 rows”. Write this down – you will need it later.

That’s enough for today. Next post: Step 2 – Analyze the pattern.

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