Knitting Measurements: How to Measure Waist, Hips, and More

To knit sweaters that fit, measuring yourself accurately is one of the most important things to understand.

Many of us assume we know our measurements, but in reality, we all need to measure ourselves carefully every year, or if anything about our bodies has changed (weight loss or gain, illness, pregnancy, change in height, and so on). Most patterns are based on bust size, which is a good place to start, but there are up to 25 (or more!) measurements that are very useful to have on hand.

Learn how to measure hips and waist, bust and more with this guide.Designers Laura Bryant and Barry Klein put together a measurement worksheet (a snapshot of the worksheet is shown at right), and it's a good thing to fill out and keep in your knitting bag or a handy notebook.

It's important to take your measurements in the right places, and this worksheet is great in helping you know where to measure hips and where to measure waist and bust, too.

But measurements for bust, waist, hips aren't the only measurements you'll need to take. Arm, wrist, and chest measurements are also important.

It makes it much easier to have a buddy to help you take all of these measurements. You can also host a measuring party with your knitting group. I did this and it was lots of fun!

After you take your body measurements, you'll need to take some measurements of garments that you like the fit of. Choose a couple of different garments to take measurements of, a snug-fitting garment and a loose-fitting garment.


Ready to get started learning how to find your knitting measurements?

We've gathered lots of information for you so you can learn how to measure waist, how to measure hips, and how to measure bust including:

So the next time you're getting ready to knit a sweater, or just want to know how to measure bust, waist, hips (aka find your bwh measurements) to help find the perfect fit, turn to the expert instruction in this guide. Keep reading to dive in!


Find your bwh measurements  with your comfy garments.
(click image for larger size)

#1: "Comfort" Garment Measurements

Your body measurements alone will be of little use since a garment made to those measurements would be tight and uncomfortable if you could, in fact, get into it.

Therefore, you'll want to also take measurements from various garments that you feel comfortable wearing to determine the amount of ease that's comfortable for you.

For the best results, measure a knitted garment that's made of a similar weight to the fabric you plan to knit and that fits the way you like.

Be aware that a garment made with bulky or hairy yarn will have both an inside and an outside measurement. The outside of the garment will be puffier, thus wider. If you use the outside measurement of a bulky garment for a garment that you plan to knit out of fine yarn, your garment may end up a little looser than you expected. In this case, it would be better to use the inside measurement.


How to measure a curve to get your knitting measurements.

#2: Measuring a Curve

For accurate length and width measurements on an armhole or neck opening, always measure straight along a vertical line of rows and a horizontal row of stitches near the part of your garment that is curved.

Do not measure around a curved area that has been shaped unless specifically instructed to do so.


#3: Understanding Ease

In order to move comfortably in a garment, there has to be some ease, or extra width. Most designers allow about 2" (5 cm) of ease for a garment that will be worn over undergarments. This means that the garment measures about 2" (5 cm) more in circumference than the actual body measurements, or 1" (2.5 cm) wider across the front and back. Usually, and additional 1" (2.5 cm) to 2" (5 cm) are added to the standard ease amount for outerwear that is worn over clothing, for a total of 3" to 4" (7.5 to 10 cm) of ease.

Keep in mind that these are standards, and they may not correspond to the way you like your clothing to fit. The amount of ease is a personal choice. Compare your body measurements to a garment that fits well to get an idea of the amount of ease that's comfortable for you. Try on and measure several garments to determine your ease preferences. You may like the way one garment fits in the bust, the way another fits in the sleeve and armhole, and the way a third fits at the neck. In each case, lay the garment out flat on a hard surface (a table or measuring board), measure the parts that you like, and then compare those measurements to your recorded body measurements to determine the desired amount of ease.

—excerpted from Knitwear Design Workshop by Shirley Paden


The CYCA standard measurements for bust, waist, hips and more.
(click image for larger size)
#4: Sweater and Body Measurements, Standard and Otherwise

Beyond bust circumference, there are many measurable expanses in a sweater, and there are accepted standards for most of them—for example, the length of a woman's set-in sleeve to the underarm is generally between 16" and 18" (40.5 and 45.5 cm). Having these standards at your fingertips can eliminate frustrating trial-and-error; why reinvent the wheel? While it is true that few women's bodies are "standard," these standards provide a starting point on which to base your own custom measurements.

And we do have a standards list available in our sizes—the Craft Yarn Council of America (CYCA) has devised a table of standard measurements that range from a woman's 28" (71 cm) bust to a 62" (157.5 cm) bust.

—excerpted from Knitwear Design Workshop by Shirley Paden


How to read a knitting schematic using bust measurement and other measurements.
(click image for larger size)
#5: What Is a Schematic and How Do I Read It?

Understanding how to read a pattern schematic is really helpful. You'll be able to compare your measurements to the pattern schematics and pick the perfect size to knit. Here's some wisdom from Interweave Knits editor Lisa Shroyer, excerpted from her book Knitting Plus:

A schematic is a blueprint of a sweater design. The schematic reflects the garment as it would look if laid flat; either in one piece or in separate pieces, depending on the construction. It shows all the finite measurements based on the gauge(s), stitch counts, and the step-by-step instructions. Note that if the individual sweater pieces (front or fronts, back, and sleeves) will be seamed during the finishing process, some fabric—and therefore width—will be lost in the seams. In these cases, the measurements in the schematic may differ slightly from the finished garment measurements. In general, pattern writers try to keep schematics as minimal as possible for space reasons, so a schematic will likely include only one sleeve and only one front of a cardigan.

A schematic will show measurements for all sizes in the pattern, but the drawing itself is usually rendered based on the proportions of the smallest size. If the larger sizes replicate the design identically, then the provided schematic should be sufficient for an understanding of the design and construction. It can be a useful practice (and a fun one) to draw your own schematic based on the proportions of your chosen size. You'll get a visual of the elements and how they interact, and you'll be best able to tweak the pattern for your particular body shape. Using graph paper and a scale of 1 square = 1" (2.5 cm) of knitting, copy the provided schematic but draw the elements to the scale of the measurements for your size.


What Size Do I Knit?

Most knitting patterns list sizes by bust measurement. If you know your bust circumference and how much ease you want at the bust, choosing a size is fairly straightforward. But if your belly protrudes further than your bust, should you pick a size based on belly circumference? If you don't want the sweater to stretch over the bulge of your abdomen and emphasize its protrusion, then, yes, you should pick a size based on your belly. If you have one major problem area and don't want to customize your knitting, pick a size based on that particular part. Keep in mind that most patterns don't list sizes by elements other than bust circumference, so you'll need to review the schematics, gauge, and stitch counts in the pattern to figure out the size of the sweater at your problem area.

To determine your problem area(s), or if you have any, compare your measurements to the CYCA standards. Are your other measurements in proportion to your bust? Or, do you have outliers that skew far from the CYCA standards for your bust size? If so, garments that follow your bust size won't fit these other areas because the pattern writer based the measurements on proportions that don't match yours. In general, not all pattern writers base sizing on CYCA standards, and some designs don't lend themselves to that type of exactitude in all areas. Always review all of the measurements on the schematic before choosing a size.

—from Knitting Plus by Lisa Shroyer


Now you know where to measure waist, hips, bust, and more, explore these additional helpful resources + some of our favorite patterns to try your skills on:

Laura and Barry demonstrate taking measurements
Measuring Yourself: Bust, Waist, Hips
How to Use the Knitting Daily Waist Shaping Calculator
The Ultimate Knitting Measurements Resource: Knitting Daily Waist Shaping Calculator


Great Easy/Beginner Pattern for using your measurements including bust measurement.

Recommended Easy/Beginner Pattern

Green Tea Raglan by Cathy Payson

This pattern is designed to introduce you to sweater knitting, and is perfect for even the most beginner knitter to tackle. Use the knowledge of your measurements from the instructions above to find the right fit for you.

This is one of seven patterns found in the easy knitting eBook you can download for free today.

  Yes I want my free eBook!

For the knitter who's done a sweater or two and has learned how to measure hips and waist, bust and more for customizing.

For the Knitter Who's Knit a Sweater or Two

Farrington Sweater by Lisa Shroyer

This luscious sweater is worked in flat pieces then seamed, and includes a flattering slouch collar. The body is plain stockinette which allows for easier custom body shaping based on your measurements.

This is one of seven patterns found in the sweater pattern eBook you can download for free today.

  Yes I want my free eBook!

After learning how to measure waist, bust and more, you can customize this stunning pattern.

For the Adventurous Knitter

Ivy League Vest by Eunny Jang

This truly stunning vest combines traditional Fair Isle with a peerie pattern for a body-conscious silhouette. Intended to be a close but comfortable fit, this design will be well worth the effort to customize.

This is one of seven patterns found in the color knitting eBook you can download for free today.

  Yes I want my free eBook!

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Learn how to measure hips, waist, bust and more with this free guide.