About Natasha the Red Sweater.
Why did this take me so long?
Well, part of it is that I don’t have any formal training in
clothing design, although I’m pretty good at making things that
fit me, and my friends and neighbors.
But here’s what it
came down to. I thought this was a sweater that would could work
for many different body types, and began by working with the
body measurement standards from the Craft Yarn Council (
which lack, among other things, wrist and upper arm
measurements. These are body measurements, to which one
must add in whatever ease may be appropriate.
Then I bought Sweater Wizard 3.0,
This is excellent
(especially if you can find it on sale; it’s expensive, and
there’s a glitch in the V-front vest calculations that will soon
be corrected). You enter in your gauge, a basic size
measurement, gender selection, and an allowance for ease,
and—using the old U. S. Bureau of Standards measurements that
many of us are familiar with from purchasing commercially made
clothing—it calculates as-knit measurements and stitch and row
counts for as-knit measurements. You can customize from there.
With Sweater Wizard,
for reasons I do not understand, includes big armscyes and wide
sleeves, unless you tinker with the program. Which I did. I also
discussed this with people I thought would be able to help
resolve the problems I was having. And then, I’m afraid, I
estimated, or actually guessed, to come up with sizings from XS
Which is why this
pattern, for four weeks, to anyone who wants it and will report
back to me (with either praise or vociferous complaints) on the
sizing and fit.
I don’t think it’s
fair to charge for it until I know it is really worth buying.
Thoughts on custom fitting:
That leads me to
some thoughts on pattern directions and pattern fit, bearing in
mind that American industry as a whole no longer establishes
body measurements for sizes, either for garments or for bras.
The first is
gauge. You absolutely must swatch until you obtain the
specified gauge. If the instructions call for 20 inches on the
front, at a gauge of 19 stitches/4 inches or 10 cm, that would
be 95 stiches. If you are getting 18 stitches to 4 inches, those
95 stitches will make give you 21 inches—too large. If you are
getting 20 stitches/4 inches, your sweater will be 19 inches—too
small. An inch sounds small, but remember that the front and the
back together double the error, and make for a two-inch--or
obviously, no two figures are alike, and just as obviously, no
sweater pattern instructions—no matter how well written--will
produce a sweater that fits everyone who nominally wears the
Length of the body
and sleeves will differ by height and girth; shoulders will
differ in width; bust measurements vary considerably. Almost all
sweaters are designed to fit a bust with an A or B cup size;
beyond that, alterations are required if the sweater is to fit
and hang properly.
So to obtain
appropriate and becoming fit for a sweater, it is necessary to
measure the person for whom the sweater is being made, and to
decide whether it will be worn as a first layer, or over other
garments. With luck, that measurement will take place over
properly fitted undergarments, but one survey indicates that
only 15% of American women are wearing a properly fitted bra.
Remember that a bra
is a garment that has two sizes—band measurement and cup size.
And with luck, we won’t all hesitate to purchase a few
well-fitted ones, and then measure ourselves or have someone
help us do it, even though we all have issues with our bodies
(and don’t we wish that we could silence that voice in our heads
that tells us this is too large, that is too small, or the whole
thing is just wrong?).
If anything requires
a properly fitted bra, it’s a sweater. To make it fit, a sweater
needs the correct shoulder measurement, and it usually needs
the bust measurement to correspond with the band measurement of
the bra plus 2 inches. If the the cup size of your bra is
greater than B, you should plan for short-row increasing,
allowing 1 inch for each cup size above B, starting about 2 ½
inches below the armhole bind-off and one inch in from the side
seams. Two good articles on this subject, which I much
recommend, are at:
Otherwise the larger
bust will pull the armholes forward and/or raise the front hem
of the sweater. If the sweater is sleeveless, those armholes
will gap. If the sweater has sleeves, it will distort their
shaping, you may be able to decrease the depth of the armhole,
which will give you a longer and more graceful sleeve line, and
a better and more becoming fit generally. The reason that
commercial patterns often have very large armholes is a wishful
urge to make them sort-of fit everyone, by providing ample
fabric. That doesn’t quite work, but it is understandable.
So before you
undertake a sweater, whether from me or from anyone else, get
accurate measurements of yourself and write them down,
and--allowing for ease and the designer’s intentions--select
your size from the schematic with the pattern, if it has one;
read it carefully; and make notes in the margins about what you
may need to alter, and by how much; check the CYC measurements,
which most knitting patterns closely approximate, in the Tips &
Tricks, “Making It Fit.”
shoulders from the prominent
bone on one side to the prominent bone on the other (mine
are 16 inches, which CYC says go with a size that is a full
size larger that I need otherwise).
Length from the prominent
bone at the back of the neck to the length you want. CYC’s
standards are to the waist. My measurement here is 17.5,
which would make a sweater two sizes too large for me,
merely because I’m a little tall.
Arm length from the armhole
bind-off to your preferred length. (Mine, for cold weather
sweater sleeves, is just below the wristbone, which makes
for 19 inches on a closely fitted set-in sleeve, which would
make me a little too closely related to the great apes).
Bust measurement (depending
on the brand, mine is a 32 inch band and a C cup (35), and a
34 inch band and a B cup in others, and a 34 inch band with
a C cup in another, so variable are sizes).
Cup size (anything more than
a B cup, and you will need to provide for short rows
starting about two and a half inches below the armhole
Depth of armhole, which will
vary with the style, but is often anywhere from a half inch
to two inches too deep for a sweater that will be worn as a
first layer, and is usually particularly wrong for
sleeveless summer tank tops and the like.
Upper arm measurement at the
bicep (mine is 10 inches, and, again, many sleeves are too
wide for me, if they’re not meant to be worn over anything
more than a silk winter undershirt). I add an inch for each
layer I expect to wear under a given sweater.
I use a sweater size
determined by my band measurement—34—for which, to say the
least, I need no short-row shaping.
I often narrow the
arm, and shorten the armscye (from bind-off to shoulder
bind-off) by ½ the amount of that narrowing.
I also work fewer
armscye decreases to give myself the shoulder width I require,
and work the sleeve cap decreases to correspond.
Yes, it takes some
fussing, and plenty of notes, but I end up with a well-fitted
Let me know--by
firstname.lastname@example.org-- how this goes for
you. Believe me, I’ll take any and all comments into account,
and use them to help calculate future patterns.
So, if that’s not too confusing,
it applies to sweaters of all kinds, from all designers and all
yarn companies. I hope having this information helps you to get
the fit you need in the sweater you want.