Free EBooks



Knitting for Plus Sizes: How does proportion change from one size to the next?

Sep 9, 2010

If you’re a plus-sized knitter, you know that the size you need, in a sweater pattern, comes listed toward the end of the offered size range. I’m used to scanning to the end of the size listing, to see which measurements could work for me.

What we don’t always think about is how those sizes are larger than the others.

If we look at the Hawthorn Pullover by Kathy Zimmerman from the Fall issue of Interweave Knits, we see the offered sizes are as follows:

31 (36, 41, 46, 51)”

The only photo you see, however, is the sample we photographed on the model. This sample measured 36”. So how does the size 51” differ, in proportion, from the sample, and from the smallest size (31”) for that matter? What changes?

One of my favorite ways to get acquainted with a design and how it will relate to my own body is by drawing my own schematic. Get out some graph paper and a ruler and, following the measurements and general shape shown on the pattern schematic, draw a schematic to the scale of your chosen size. Below I show the schematic drawn to the scale of the size 31”, and then the size 51”. I used a scale of 2 graph-paper boxes = 1”, but you can use 1 box to 1” as well.

The pattern editor for a publication (that’s me for Interweave Knits) almost always draws the pattern schematic to the scale of the smallest size. The reason is fairly obvious—space is at a premium in print, so we provide a schematic that will take up the least space. But the proportions from one size to the next change, so drawing your own schematic is really helpful to see how your size will be different from the sample size. All the measurements for all sizes are listed on the pattern schematic, so you shouldn’t have to do any math.

I especially like to use this technique in designs with deep necklines, set-in sleeves, waist shaping, et cetera, to see where those elements will fall and how they measure up to the proportions of my body. Neckline placement can change drastically as a pattern is graded. For instance, in a deep V-neck pullover, it would help to read through the pattern—if the neck will be split at the underarm level for the sample size, where is split for a size 50”? At the same point, or below, or above the underarm? Where do you generally like to split the neck on your sweaters?

Drawing your own schematic, based on the pattern’s measurements and instructions for your chosen size, can tell you at a glance if the proportions are what you thought they would be (or not).

~ Lisa

Related Posts
+ Add a comment


on Mar 9, 2011 1:33 PM

I find it very frustrating that often the instructions for the larger sizes (in women's only patterns) result in the body and sleeves coming out way too long. I could see the rationale in unisex patterns but I'm bigger around, not tall with long arms.

LisaShroyer wrote
on Oct 17, 2010 9:26 AM

Hi Zoe,

for this practice, you actually wouldn't want to use knitter's graph paper. Since you're drawing based on inches, not stitches and rows, the units should be equal in both directions--up and side to side. Perhaps I'll post a tutorial on drawing schematics next...there are some tricks to it.


Paula J wrote
on Sep 30, 2010 9:26 AM

This is a terrific article.  I think two key measurements to check on the schematic are armhole depth and shoulder width.  I have uploaded youtube videos on taking measurements ( and shaping armholes (

CarolL wrote
on Sep 12, 2010 1:27 AM

Thank you!  A simple solution that will cut down on my trial & error...... I have training in pattern grading but never transfered it to my knitting.

TammyT wrote
on Sep 10, 2010 7:01 AM

This is an excellent idea.  I am not quite plus sized but I am tall and large busted so I have to wear a larger size than you would ever see on a model in a magazine (unless it's a plus sized pattern).  I often find that the larger sizes have wonky proportions but it never occurred to me to draw them out and look at them before casting on.  This will be a big help to me!

Zoe wrote
on Sep 9, 2010 4:30 PM

This is excellent to know.  I have just one other thing, there is free knitting graph paper on the following web site.  Since the knitting graph "squares" are slightly elongated rather than graph paper square, the knitting graph paper would be more true to the dimensions.  All you need is a printer to print off the knitting graph.  If you needed a sweater larger than the 51", you could also draw out that as well.