How To Choose Your Sweater Size

- Mar 22, 2019-

One of the most common questions we get from knitters is ‘which size should I knit?’. Knitters often aren’t certain how to choose the size that is right for them. We’ll share with you how we do it.


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Basic Method: Measure a sweater you love to wear

First of all, when knitting for yourself, the most useful and quick method for choosing a size is to begin with a sweater that you already love, and measure it up. Lay the sweater flat on the floor, and measure 3 key dimensions:

  1. 1. Chest measurement (measure across, then multiply that number by 

  2. 2. Body length measured from underarm to hem

  3. 3. Sleeve length from underarm to hem

sweater size

Armed with these key dimensions, look at the pattern sizing table. Find the size with a finished chest measurement that most closely matches the dimension your beloved sweater, this is the size you will knit.

size table

For example, I would usually choose to knit the adult M (37″), because I have a bust of about 38″, and I like to wear my sweaters with a bit of negative ease at the bust.

Adjusting Body Length

The body length in Strange Brew is easy to adjust. If you are making a non-shaped body, you can simply knit more or less inches in the body section. If you are working waist shaping (an option which is included in this recipe pattern) then you should add or subtract length from the hem. This means when knitting top down, you will complete the waist shaping section, then knit a shorter or longer distance before working your hem ribbing. When knitting from the bottom up, you will work either more (or less) distance BEFORE beginning the waist shaping, so the length is adjusted in that section of the body, and the waist shaping will still sit in a suitable place relative to the underarm join.

Adjusting Sleeve Length

You can adjust sleeve length in much the same way as you would body length. Working from the top down, you will work more (or less) inches before beginning sleeve shaping decreases. Working from the bottom up, you’ll work the sleeve shaping increases to full sleeve stitch count, then simply knit to the total desired length. If you’re working a larger size, you may find it’s necessary to work sleeve increases or decreases more often than stated in the pattern if you’re shortening the sleeves. For example, you might increase every 4th round rather than every 5th round, so you reach the total stitch count sooner.

Understanding Ease

Ease describes how tightly or loosely a garment will fit on the body. It’s the difference, in inches (or cm), between actual body measurements and the finished garment measurement. If the garment measurement is smaller than your body measurement, it has negative ease. If the garment measurement is larger than your body measurement, it has positive ease. Generally, the body measurement is most critical when sizing a sweater. It is the largest point of your torso; whatever that may be, belly, chest, or bust. Tin Can Knits patterns generally include a ‘sizing notes’ section that details the size of the model wearing the sweater in the pictures, and how the sweater sample fits that person. An example from the Almanac pattern: “John is wearing Men’s M (42.5″) with 3″ positive ease. Nina is wearing the same sweater with 5.5″ of positive ease.”