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The High Country Knitwear Newsletter

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 ( http://www.highcountryknitwear.com/tips.shtml ), 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 to 2X.

   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 one-size--difference.

   Beyond gauge, 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 same size.

   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. Who knew?

   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 line.

   With short-row 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 bindoff)

  • 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 sweater.

   Let me know--by e-mail to pat@highcountryknitwear.com-- 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.

Knit on,


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