I’m a sweater knitter, and I absolutely adore knitting a sweater that I’ll wear forever. I love planning the yarn and style and what I’ll wear with it when I’m done. In the last four years I’ve knit 30 adult garments. But life for a sweater knitter isn’t always glamorous. There was my husband’s sweater that he couldn’t fit his head through, the unflattering brown sweater (who chose that color?), and the gorgeous sweater that I never wear because it doesn’t fit quite right.
Just as knitting is an art you develop over time, so is choosing the right size to knit.
Mariposa Short-Sleeved Sweater by andrea_knits
Here are tips to keep in mind when choosing what sweater size to knit because the more you know, the more you can knit!
1. Choose the style
After knitting 30 adult sweaters in the last four years, I’ve learned what styles fit me well, and which do not. It’s easy to be wooed by the gorgeous pattern photography, but in order to end up with a piece you love, you need to have a cold hard look at whether or not the garment will be flattering.
For example, I’m short and have just a very slight waist. I’ve come to find that I prefer sweaters that will visually lengthen my torso and either don’t have dramatic waist shaping, or have waist shaping I can easily modify. I’ve also found I prefer a sweater that I can either button up, or wear open. I don’t like buttons on the bust only. I just feel like that style doesn’t suit me. So why waste time knitting something I won’t like in the end?
2. Yarn substitution
If you plan on using a different yarn than called for in the pattern, make sure to take a careful look at the yarn the designer used. What weight, fiber content, and other attributes does it have? You will want to find a substitution yarn that has similar attributes as the yarn called for in order to successfully make the switch. Check out our post on how to substitute yarn for even more tips.
Just do it. Don’t skip this step unless you want a sweater that doesn’t meet the schematic measurements and doesn’t fit correctly. Swatch big (at least 4” by 4”) and in the stitch pattern.
Knowing your own measurements is a crucial part of choosing the correct size to make. Have someone help you with this task and write it down so you can keep it for future reference.
You’ll want measurements like full bust circumference, high bust circumference, length from underarm to waist, shoulder width, upper arm width, and more.
I would also suggest measuring certain aspects of your favorite sweater to get those numbers as well. If you like the depth of a collar, body or sleeve length on a certain garment, measure that.
Casual Cardigan via Amanda Lilley
Read over your pattern to find out what the ease is on the model, and what the intended ease is. Also, keep in mind your personal preferences with how tight or loose you like your clothing.
6. Study the schematic
Once you know what the ease is on the garment, you can study the pattern schematic to find which size will suit you the best. Have your measurements handy to refer to. Again, look not only at the bust size, but keep track of areas you’ll need to make modifications (most likely in sleeve or body length).
Knitting an adult sweater can take a lot of time, money and effort, and you really do want to end up with something you’re proud to wear in public. My most annoying sweater disaster was the time I knit the size that was 4” smaller than my full bust size. I had finished the entire body, blocked and measured, and suddenly realized I had spent a month knitting the wrong size. It still haunts me.