(This is not MY closet, Mom!)
you know? Inside your closet are some great tools to help you knit to
fit. They're called "the clothes you already own." (Yes, I know, that's
a very technical term, but we'll muddle through together somehow.)
You already have a collection of tops, tanks, sweaters, cardigans,
and jackets, all of which can tell you a LOT about what size sweater to
knit for yourself. Some of these tops are ones you adore, some are OK,
and some you do not (or cannot) wear for some reason. The ones you love
are probably comfortable and fit you well; the ones you don't like to
wear probably do not fit or are uncomfortable. See: You are already an
expert in fit!
Using Your Clothing To Find Out What Fits You
You'll need a measuring tape, notebook, pen, scotch tape, and a full-length mirror.
Measure yourself. If you have not recently taken your actual
body measurements, now is a good time to do that, as we'll need your
full bust, waist, and hip stats. Here are some links which will help
you make sure you are not only measuring accurately, but measuring the
Understanding Those Pesky Measurements
How To Measure Yourself
Try stuff on.
Pull out a tee shirt, a blouse, or a sweater from your closet. (For
this exercise, it's best to use clothes made of knitted fabrics, such
as tees, rather than those made of woven (stiff) fabrics. Avoid
clothing made with lycra—you don't want anything that has to do an
extreme stretchy act to be worn.) Try it on, look in the mirror, and
ask yourself: How does it fit in the bust area? How does it fit at the
waist? How does it fit around the lower torso? Maybe you love how it
fits at the bust, but you think it is too baggy in the hips; maybe the
waist is too tight but it is fine everywhere else. Make an entry in
your notebook like this: "Blue cardi with yellow duckies on it:
Bust—too tight; waist—OK; hips—too tight, because I always wear the
last 2 buttons undone."
Mark the top while you're wearing it. Place a small bit of
scotch tape on the front of the top where it sits at the fullest part
of your bust, at your waist, and the widest part of your lower body
(hips, belly, backside—whatever is the biggest around overall).
Measure the top. Change clothes, and lay the top (or sweater)
out on a flat surface. Pat it smooth, making sure nothing is bunched-up
or stretched-out. Then, measure it in the three places you marked with
tape: across the bust, waist, and lower body. Double each flat measurement to get the full measurement around your body; then write the results down in your notebook.
Zoe makes sure I measure correctly
How do the measurements of the top compare to your actual body
measurements? If they are bigger than your actual measurements, then
that is positive ease. If the top's measurements are smaller than your
body measurements, then that is negative ease. If they are close
(half-inch or less) then that is zero or minimal ease. Which ones do you prefer?
Repeat this with as many tops as you have patience for, and you will begin to notice a pattern:
Perhaps your beloved party or dress-up tops all have 2 inches of
negative east at the bust; but your favorite sweatshirts have 5 inches
of positive ease at the bust. Different styles will give you different
information because sometimes we like to hang loose and sometimes we
like to show off what we've got! The same is true for the different
styles of sweater patterns: Some you will want to be loose-fitting
(positive ease) and some you will want to be close-fitting (minimal or
Be sure to double your laid-flat measurements!
Use your closet info to make informed knitting decisions. Get a knitting magazine (bonus points if it is from
of course), and open it to a sweater pattern that is a similar shape
and style to the top you have laid flat on your bed. Take a look at the
schematic; compare the measurements of your top to those of the
schematic for that sweater. Look for a set that are a close-enough
match to the ease-at-bust-measurements you prefer for that style of
top. Compare the waist and hip measurements of the schematic to what
you know you prefer for that style; see where you might have to make
Once you've learned how to do this little closet trick with the
basics of bust, waist, and hip, you'll quickly see that you can apply
it to other measurements as well: sleeve length, armhole depth,
neckline, and so on.
Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.
What's on Sandi's needles? Secret Project Sleeves...well, the first one, anyway.