Understanding Those Pesky Measurements (And More Galleries!)

Getting to know you…

Hi there…Sandi here again! There were quite a few questions regarding schematics and measuring, so I thought we’d take a little stroll into Measurement Land today. We have a few more galleries to share with you, but I think the galleries will be more helpful if we are all speaking the same language. So let’s start with some critical measurements which correspond to those either found directly on the schematic, or those which can easily be figured out from what is given in the schematic.

Finished Bust Size: This is used as the benchmark measurement for most knitting patterns. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT YOUR BRA BAND SIZE. Mixing up the two measurements is the single most common mistake knitters make. (The bra band size is a formula used by the lingerie industry, not an actual body measurement.) To find your finished bust size: Take a flexible tape measure and measure around the fullest part of your bust.

Waist: This is often described as “the narrowest part of your torso,” a phrase which isn’t much help for the voluptuous goddesses and the very petite pixies amongst us. Find your hip bones, then wiggle your fingers up your sides until you find the natural indentation just above the bones. That’s your natural waist.

Tricia finding her full bust measurement

Center Back Length: This is a measurement that is sometimes mentioned in sewing books, but beware: there are several different measurements with similar names! Here on Knitting Daily, Center Back Length refers to the distance between your most prominent neckbone and your tailbone. Why this dimension? Because your tailbone often is at the same level of your hip measurement, so it can provide a useful guide to determining garment length vis-a-vis your torso length. Although Center Back Length is often not shown directly on a schematic, you can usually add together some of the schematic numbers to come up with a neck-to-hem number which you can compare to your own measurements.

Don't forget to include L'Belly!

Hips: Find your leg joint, and your tailbone. Wrap the tape measure around yourself at that level, and look down. Is this the widest part of your lower half? Wiggle the tape measure around until it is around your widest bits. That’s your hip measurement. NOTE: Many sweaters are designed to fall at your high-hip point, which is about halfway between your waist and your hips. Where you want your garment to fall is YOUR choice, so measure yourself carefully, compare to the schematic measurements, and adjust accordingly.

If you are gifted with Bellyliciousness: Realize that the widest part of you may be a bit above your actual hips, closer to the widest part of Lady Belly. Since the point is to determine how the bottom of your sweater will fit, you need the widest part of you nearest your hips, curvy belly included.

You'll get the best knit-to-fit results if you swatch carefully, measure yourself accurately (and often!), and study the schematics provided. (A willingness to rip back and re-knit when something isn't turning out right helps, too.)

Be a fearless knitter.

Knit for the real you, not for the model in the magazine or for some distorted image of the woman you think you are.

More Galleries!

We have four more galleries for you, some of them with customization suggestions by Katie Himmelberg, everyone's favorite assistant editor of Interweave Knits magazine! By popular demand, Katie has reviewed the Refined Aran Jacket, and you can read her comments on the gallery page itself. You can also find a listing of all the Interweave Sweater Galleries by clicking our new Galleries button!

NEW! The Galleries Index Page

The Refined Aran Jacket Gallery

The El Sol Pullover Gallery

The Sweater Girl Gallery

The Rosemary's Swing Jacket Gallery

Those are all the galleries we have left for the Winter 2007 issue, at least until my Gathered Pullover is done. (The sample sweaters are no longer available, as they are winging their way across the U.S. for their starring roles in the Interweave Knits Trunk Shows.) I hope you enjoyed them—let us know what you think!

Nominate your favorite patterns!

Don’t forget to nominate your favorites! Next Saturday, December 15, is the LAST DAY we are accepting nominations for the Interweave Knits Reader’s Choice Awards. We’ll announce the top ten finalists right here on Knitting Daily in January, after which you’ll all get to vote for your all-time top five favorite patterns, which will be released together as a free ebook in Spring 2008.

The CPH returns!

Next week, join me in welcoming back Lisa Shroyer, editor of Knitscene magazine, for a week-long adventure in modifiying the Central Park Hoodie for larger sizes. An extended, enhanced version of the original pattern—including an extended range of sizing—will be available for sale on Knitting Daily starting Monday. As if that weren't enough, Lisa and I are cooking up a little surprise along the CPH theme for y'all.

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? Seven inches of the Gathered Pullover; a pair of socks on two circulars with partial heel flaps, and eight inches of the hood of my husband's cabled hoodie.

Other Things You May Like to Check Out:


Fitting & Measuring, Knitting Daily Blog

42 thoughts on “Understanding Those Pesky Measurements (And More Galleries!)

  1. Sandi, this is brilliant. I LOVE knowing the center back and neck to waist measurements of the models. Turns out my own body is closest to those of Katie and Erin – EXCEPT THAT I AM 6″ SHORTER THAN THEY ARE.

    Gee – guess I’ve got stumpy little legs after all. Must be deluding myself about my 32 inch inseam…

    Oh well. Very helpful, very informative. And being sick of knitting sweaters to gift up or down sizewise, I’m really looking forward to perfecting my own schematics and making flattering things that FIT ME!!!

    Thank you for all your hard work, every one of you at Interweave!

  2. Thank you very much for:
    1. Having the gallery. It helps in so many ways
    2. Using different models to for the gallery. Again, so helpful!
    3. For being so brave to post your measurements.
    4. Perhaps the most important thank you, for celebrating that women come in all shapes and sizes and that there’s no shame in that.

  3. Thank you so much! These galleries are so helpful! I’ve learned so much from this series, particularly about negative ease. It seems I like sweaters better when they have negative ease, I hadn’t realized that before!

    I’m also seriously impressed with how good the swing jacket looks on *everyone*! I hadn’t given that pattern much attention before, but now I may have to consider making one for myself.

  4. I would still like to see a gallery of full figured women, who wear sizes with more than one “x” after the size letter/number. As a service to my fellow BBWKer’s, I am donating my body to knit science. If someone from IK wants to contact me for my measurements, please feel free. I had to snort, snicker, and giggle at the term “Lady Belly”. And here I’ve been calling it a gut all this time!

  5. I would still like to see a gallery of full figured women, who wear sizes with more than one “x” after the size letter/number. As a service to my fellow BBWKer’s, I am donating my body to knit science. If someone from IK wants to contact me for my measurements, please feel free. I had to snort, snicker, and giggle at the term “Lady Belly”. And here I’ve been calling it a gut all this time!


    The paragraph about bellyiciousness was the best help I’ve had in my long search for tips on knitting for the ample woman.


  7. Sandi, I think the galleries are a great idea. As a large woman, well, very large, I’ve always assumed that sweaters should have positive ease in the bust, so that they don’t hug the curves too tightly. Surprise, surprise, often the sweaters look best with some serious positive ease! I never would have believed it had I not seen it in the galleries.
    I think it’s worth repeating often that for people with large shall we say protuberances (bust, belly or butt) that often what’s needed is extra length. So, for example, while the Sweater Girl looks really good on you, Sandi, it pulls up a little in the front because there’s just not enough front length. Which brings us to the dart issue — extra length means we need to add short rows across the front so that the center front matches out personal neck to waist or neck to hip measured out and over whatever is sticking out.

    I think it’s that the closer fitting the sweater is, the more important the front length issue becomes.

  8. Hi friends, I agree with all of the “thank you” expressions everyone has said! Thank you! I want to make a point about how the knits are positioned on the bodies, and what a difference that can make as well as body size. The most common thing is the “pulled open at the neck” look, which pulls the garment off the shoulders, and (to me) makes it look sloppy or too small or too big, but not helpful. An example is in the Henley Perfected gallery, where on little Debbie, it looks almost too small at the center front, but the shoulders and sleeves look sort of too big and long. I know everybody likes to wear stuff differently, but if you look closely at how the sweater is draped on the body, it makes a difference in how it looks. Another example is the collar on the Swing Jacket: on some models it is allowed to sit closely to the neck and looks crumpled and takes away from the asymmetrical charm as seen when it is set out on the mid-shoulder. I’m not saying at all that this needs to be changed, just that as we all look at the galleries, we need to factor in how the sweater lies as well as how it looks.

  9. OK, you’ve told us how to take our own measurements. How much ease needs to be added for a classic fit, a fitted fit, a relaxed fit, etc.? This I’d love to know!

  10. Thank you for this gallery idea and the clear, complete guide to proper measurement and schematics! I have gotten things to fit purely by accident, serious revamping and often just giving up on lovely patterns. I am getting the hang of getting things to fit. Now I just have to figure out what really looks good on me, which is more of an internal thing than what’s actually worn. Thank you for leading us towards seeing our body image with acceptance and even enjoyment.

  11. Wow Sandi – I love the Swing Cardigan on you! The Galleries are the best thing ever. I’m always surprised at how much more I like some of the garments when I see them on different people – I’ve got several on my list to make that I never would have made if I’d only seen the photos in the magazine.

  12. I love the galleries! It is so interesting to see how different a garmet can look on different figures and how maybe for one figure, positive ease looks best, while on others they need a bit of negative ease. And the amount isn’t always the sane, either. The garmet’s style and the person’s figure have to really come together! I think the galleries really help me to figure out if something would be flattering on me or not, and what ease would be best.

  13. The galleries are just wonderful. Thank-you so much to all the brave women who tried the garments and told us their measurements. I am truly grateful.
    Sarah in Whitehorse

  14. I would like you to know how helpful the sweater gallery is to me. I understand ease more clearly and I can visualize what the sweater would look like on me. Will you be doing this gallery in crochet??wow that would be great. Sincerely a loyal knittingdaily and a interweave magazine enthusiast.Dale Henry

  15. Sandi and crew. I am so happy you are showing pictures of different sweaters on different folks. This is so much help to my knitting abilities! I love your articles. Thanks Jane Buckthal

  16. The measurements that give me the most difficulty and that I can never find ‘how’ to do are: 1. back width [shoulder to shoulder…where do you measure from/to?]
    2. back neck size…how is this accurately determined?

  17. Good Morning Sandi,

    Love what your doing, I’ve been a “member” from the begining. As a beginner knitter (2 years) you have been sooo much help understanding the mysteries of knitting.
    FYI about bra measurments. The bra band is an actual measurement; around the rib cage just under the bust (where the band should rest). The “formula” is used to calculate cup size (difference between rib cage and the fullest part of bust). If the bra fits right sweaters look so much better on.

    Thanks for all you do!


  18. Thank you Sandi and all your cohorts in trying on all the great sweaters! I will say the additional info of neck to hem measurement really has helped me. It gives me a better mental picture as to what the sweater might do if I were to have the chance to wear it. (grin) And it was great to see all the different woman trying on the same sweater – I now know which one I will not even put on my contemplate list. But the red cardigan…wasn’t even on my list and now it is! Thank you for giving us more reasons to enhance our stash. Happy Knitting…er Holidays!

  19. Ok, so now what I want to know is not what size the sweater in the picture (in the magazine) is, but how does the size differ from the model’s size? Is she wearing that cardigan with -3″ ease or +3″?
    And, while I’m commenting, I’d really really like that page with all the yarns and their wpi etc, to be at 100%, not smaller than the yarns really are.

  20. Sandi, I rarely comment, but today I just must. I followed all the links to the galleries (excellent feature, it really helps me chooses sizes) and You. Look. Fabulous.

    Keep off the good work! 🙂

    Yay, Sandi!!!

  21. In response to ME above_____More about bra band size: the bra band size is what works for you–it is the BRA BAND THAT HOLDS UP THE BRA, not the straps . When I learned this, my girls got a new lease on life, even if I am 68! I don’t find that my actual measurement under my bust is any help at all–just learned this as a dressmaker, in the Association for Sewing and Design Professionals, from our bra lady expert.

  22. Thank you for all the helpful information. I’ve yet to knit a sweater, but all the info will come in handy when I do. I love the galleries, too, it’s great to see one sweater on all the different women.

  23. Sandi, I love the galleries! It’s really remarkable what you’re doing to demystify fashion and sizing here. One thought (perhaps a fantasy): In cases where the sample sweater is really wrong for the model, I can’t help wondering what the “right” size would look like on her. Do you ever get more than one sample size in a style? Or if someone in-house were to knit the sweater for herself, after appearing in a gallery in the sample, might it be possible to see a comparison shot of the two? This might be a thought for the future; in the meantime, keep ’em coming! They are wonderful!!!

  24. Thank you for clarifying what the “finished bust measurement” means in a knitting pattern. I had always thought this measurement was the finished width of the GARMENT at the bust line, so I would add some ease to my actual bust measurement and select the pattern size from that. No wonder I was always knitting sweaters that were too large for me!!!

    I love the galleries. It is soooo very helpful to see how the same sweater looks on different body types. Knowing the neck to waist length helps me determine if I need to lengthen or shorten the pattern to work with my body.

  25. Hi Sandi,
    I’ve been a seamstress all of my life. Sewing and designing custom fashions. Fitting the human form has alwasy, and always will be the most difficult area. I’ve now become a knitter and am facing the same issues. What a surprise! Hahaha, not! This fitting gallery is beyond compare, the sewing industry would be well served if they would implement such a fitting tool. Keep up the good work!

  26. ! have learned so much! Thank you to everybody posting on this! I am still confused about “finished bust size”, and what appears on the printed pattern info—–does the schematic show the sweater’s finished bust size, i.e. what your finished garment will measure if everything else is correct? Or, does it mean that the sweater is made TO FIT such and such a finished bust size, and therefore will also contain positive or negative ease? I really think the designer’s concept of ease is crucial, and should show up on the model, and be noted in the intro. Thanks, Sandi, you are wonderful!

  27. I’ve always hated seeing skinny boobless models (apologies for you skinny boobless models, you look fabulous, but I don’t look like you and no sweater’s gonna change that!) looking fabulous in an outfit that would look good on a) skinny boobless models and b) prepubescent boys, and I’ve taken a solemn oath NEVER to knit anything that is shown merely on a hanger and not on a human being, but it was total news to me that the two same bust measurement sweaters could have one look adorable and ‘must have’ on ‘my’ model but the other look…well, not the way I want to look (dumpy, lumpy, stuffed-in).

    The waist and hip measurements of the models have helped immensely. I’m realizing that my ‘potato sack’ sweaters could use a bit of negative ease, but also a good bit of waist shaping! Please please PLEASE keep the galleries idea for future issues of IK?! Sweaters I wrote off from the pictures in the issue I am now seriously considering adding to my must knit list (yeah, like that isn’t long enough yet…)

  28. Thanks for showing the sweaters on women who actually have breasts! I thought I was cursed because I was a 40 inch chest, but I can see from the pictures, that alot of women have breasts too! I never would have guessed from the pics that show sweaters on breastless women! After reading all the positive input from women who have viewed the sweaters on real women, it would seem that magazine editors would use more real women to model their sweaters! I always thought I was too large to look good on any sweater in magazines because the models were so nice and skinny. I thought that I would look horrible in the sweaters if I didn’t look breastless also! Thankyou for the boast in my selfesteem, that I am OK, and for renewing my interest in knitting for myself! We can take control of our knitting!

  29. That swing jacket is another sweater that looked terrific on every one. It goes into my mental musings on just what is so universal about it. I am really amassing a ton of information through Knitting Daily.

  30. Thank you so much for the galleries and the info on measurements! I’ve been dissatisfied with many of my sweaters because I’ve been making them too big! Being rather “voluptuous,” I’ve been cautious about not wanting things to be too tight and so I’ve gone too far the other way, which has led me to knit mostly socks, hats, bags, and shawls for myself, since with them I don’t have to worry about fit. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways and giving me the courage to try again, a size smaller! Sandi, you look wonderful! It’s such a revelation to realize that negative ease can be a good thing!

  31. Thanks for this you have cleared up the wear to measure hips, it’s what I was doing anyway but it’s nice to confirm. I always wondered about the Bra sizes in America, here in Australia bra’s are sold by clothing and cup size here. I do find all these little hints you send out very useful as I’m a small busted plus size lady. The negative ease thing especially thanks for explaining ease.

  32. Sandi: As usual, delighted with your charts and with the galleries. I am going to add a suggestion though. Looking at many of the galleries, I would say that shoulder width is clearly a critical fit issue. Looking at the galleries, the shoulder fit looks like a bigger deal than waist and length measurement in the overall feel of most of the garments (depending on arm construction). Can we add that next?

  33. Thanks for this WONDERFUL post. It’s so helpful to learn how to make the patterns fit YOU.

    I would like more info on arm lengths ( since I am 5’9″ I always have to lengthen) and back widths too.

    I, too, am confused about finished width. I understand what you say to mean that IF YOU ARE KNITTING A SWEATER WITH NO EASE (the same width as your measured bust size), the finished width and the measured bust width would be the same. I have always thought the finished bust width was the finished width of the finished ITEM. I then begin wondering how much ease to allow when I knit it. I agree with the others who wish to see designer’s recommended ease in the pattern. Sally Melville does this with her patterns and it is such a help.

    Thanks for the gallery. Fit is the hardest thing to learn about knitting!

  34. Aha… the light dawns on finished bust size. I assumed it referred to the garment because, hey, my bust was “finished” about 25 years ago! Thanks for clearing that up. BTW, before the more svelte of our sisters out there get upset–yes, you’re “real women” too! Just please understand that for most of us who are not slender or flat-chested, it’s as if we didn’t exist to the fashion world. The galleries are wonderfully helpful in letting us know that funky styles can look good us on us too! Thank you Sandi and everyone else on the list for helping me take my measuring tape out of hiding. Happy knitting all! 🙂

  35. I was one of the many who wrote you at the start of Knitting Daily, about the impossibility of determining which size to make and what would look good on me. When Sandi first told us that you all at IK thought you had been giving us sizing info, I just laughed. So, now I’d like to say, thank you so much for taking these comments seriously. I am really impressed with the effort made to show us the model sweater on different people. One thing I think is clear from the pics is that Debbie looks fantastic no matter what she wears! And, that I’m still in a quandry over what I should wear, but you measurments info, should start to help me figure it out.

    Thanks so much for listening to your readers.

    Oh, and if you could cut down of the “posts” that are just a big ad for Interweave Press, that would be nice too. Com’on folks, if we are reading IK and reading KD, we KNOW about your books, too. Please don’t try to be sly about it and pretend that you are giving us info when you’re just giving us an ad.

    Happy Holidays!

  36. I really enjoyed this newsletter. I’ve been struggling with patterns. I’m not always sure which size to make. I feel better now after viewing the galleries. I am a visual person and seeing the same outfit on differnt people helped me understand better what will work for me. ALthough I do not kint the schematics and sizing is the same for Crochet. Thank you! for the lesson. Keep them coming!!