Achieving the Perfect Fit by Accepting Your Perfect Self
If you are reading this, you are likely a maker. A maker of knitted or crocheted sweaters or shawls or socks or blankets. Maybe you make because you just like the process, maybe you do it because you like to make things for others, or maybe you do it because you like to make things for yourself. Whatever the reason or whatever your craft, you make things.
I am a sweater-maker, mostly. Blankets are great too, but I usually tend towards garments for myself because I'm selfish like that. Some of the sweaters I make for myself fit me really well and some of them really don't. If I assess them honestly, the ones that look the best on me are the ones for which I took a little extra time and care both in selecting the pattern and choosing which size to make, and then tweaking the measurements in more detail if I needed to. It takes a little brainpower to do that, but mostly it just takes honesty. AND A GAUGE SWATCH! Sorry, didn't mean to be shouty but please please please make a gauge swatch (or six) if you are making a sweater.
So, let's talk more about this honesty thing. I don't mean the kind where you decide if you should record what you spent on yarn as "groceries" in the check register so your significant other doesn't freak out. I do mean the kind where you see your perfect self just as it is and learn how to find sweater designs which complement and fit you perfectly. This doesn't really involve looking in the mirror or critiquing yourself. We get enough of that from the world around us; why do it to yourself?
Almost every day in the shop, we have folks coming in wanting to make a sweater. We get to help them choose a design they like, find the right yarn for it and show color choices. So much fun for us! The hard part can come when we help decide which size to make. So many people have an image of themselves size-wise which seems discordant to us seeing them from our perspective; they perceive themselves much larger or smaller than they really are. Others struggle with the standardized S, M, L labels they are used to in purchased clothing or on many knitting patterns. (Side note on those labels......would it REALLY kill clothing manufacturers to make these labels even slightly consistent throughout the industry?) All of these things can make it just plain hard to choose your sweater size. After years of dealing with fit issues in the shop and on our own bodies, we do have a few ways to help.
Step One: Go through your current sweater wardrobe and pick out your favorites. The ones that make you feel fabulous and comfortable and good about yourself every time you wear them. They can be made by you or come from Target or Eileen Fisher or Goodwill; it doesn't matter. Think about why you like these favorites. Are they a little oversized and cozy? Are they more fitted to show off your curves? Is it the fabric or fiber you like? Does the garment drape like silk or is it wooly and firm?
Step Two: Measure the favorite sweaters. Measure the chest circumference, the overall body and sleeve lengths, the waist and hip dimensions if those are different than the chest.....any measurement you think you might need.
Step Three: Measure yourself. Without judgement or S, M, L labels; just the numbers please. The sweater you are going to make is going to make these numbers look amazing, no matter what they are. Your sweater will be perfectly you-sized.
Step Four: This one is optional, but if you really like to make sweaters and are also a notebook/journal nerd it will serve you well (we have a few copies of My Knitting Notes from Laine....check that out if you are one of those nerds).
Write down all of the information you have just harvested and carry it with you. Bring it in to the shop so you know what sizes your favorite sweaters are and what your measurements are. Keep a little journal of the sweaters you make so you can reference all of that information later....what worked well with the design, what didn't, would you make it again with different yarn, etc etc.
Now, let's combine and compare all of this information. Many people are surprised to find that while they measure, for example, 44" around the chest, their favorite sweater measures 40". The reverse is frequently true as well.....sometimes a 32" person loves a 46" sweater the most. So you see, it's really easy to get lost in all the numbers and labels on a sweater pattern without having a little context to apply to them. When looking at the available sizes on a pattern, pay less attention to the part that says "to fit bust XXXX", and more to the "Finished sizes" part of the pattern. You'll want to choose the finished size that is closest to your favorite sweater.
We always try to encourage makers to ignore the labels and just go with what their wardrobial (I know, that's not really a word) evidence proves to them. Times change, our shapes may change, and styles definitely change, but taking your measurements and being willing to embrace them will never fail you. This is one of the best reasons I can think of to make my own clothing....I can invest in quality materials and spend quality time making things that I know I will love and wear because they look great on me. It took me a really long time to to accept my shape (as much as any of us can ever do that), and now that I have I make things to fit it. You can too. How lucky are we??!!
Below you will see some fun photos of the same sweaters on Cameron and I: two very different body shapes/sizes. Some look great on both, some really don't. However, with some measuring and gauge swatches and a little knitting I think any of these designs could work for either of us! Another good thing to know: there are currently 168, 394 sweater patterns listed on Ravelry! I'm sure we can help you find at least one that will fit you perfectly.
We are here for you anytime you want to get started on your next perfect sweater project!