When I open a garment knitting pattern, the first thing I do is scoot to the schematic or the table of finished measurements.
I may take a cursory glance to see if any suggested “ease” for the design is given, and consider how full or tight a garment looks on the model in the photo, but then I whip straight over to the nuts and bolts of the pattern. The finished measurements.
It means that I ignore any references to “small”, “medium”, and “large”, and I also ignore any suggestions to knit a particular size if I have a certain bust size.
It’s tempting to think that you’ll choose a size that’s right for you if you go by the designer’s suggestions. But, if you are like virtually every other knitter, and have a body that doesn’t fit exactly into any mythical “standard sizes”, then there’s no way of knowing if the designers suggested size will actually feel great when it’s on your body.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
Like my namesake Elizabeth (Zimmerman), I heartily encourage all knitters to be the boss of their knitting. My suggestion is to roll up your sleeves, grab a tape measure, and a calculator, and get to work being a detective inside your new pattern.
NOT JUST PRETTY PICTURES
A schematic can look pretty confusing at first glance. I love hand-drawn schematics (like the one above), some look more graphic with clean lines, and others can be quite painterly and artistic. As long as they include the measurements you need, when it comes to the image, nearly anything goes.
All you need is a rough idea of where on the garment the measurement relates and a corresponding measurement.
Sometimes, there’s no schematic, just a table of measurements, and in my patterns, you’ll find both.
Rather than referring to your body, the numbers on a schematic or in a table tell us the finished size of the garment at various points. They assume that your blocked gauge is the exactly same as the specified gauge in the pattern, and that you’ve worked the number of stitches and rows as directed.
All those things being equal, if you follow a particular size in the pattern, once it is finished and blocked, the measurements of your sweater will be the same as those in the schematic and the finished measurements.
And that’s where we start. We consider how baggy or tight we want our garment to be at various places on our body and look at the measurements to see which size gives us the finished size we’re after.
It’s not uncommon to find that you want the fit of one size at the bust, another across the shoulders, and a third at the hips or arms.
A knitter who is full in the bust with small shoulders and lovely rounded hips may find this is often the case, as will a knitter with broad straight shoulders, a proportionally smaller bust, and long, slender limbs.
Learning how to combine sizes and make adjustments is fun and so worthwhile, no matter your size and shape.
If there isn’t a schematic try drawing one. It doesn’ t have to be fancy or artistic, a simple sketch that gives you a rough idea of the garment shape (drop shoulder, raglan, set-in sleeve, etc) will do the trick.
If there are missing measurements have a go at working some out yourself. You’ll need a calculator and a quiet space to think :)
WORKING OUT MEASUREMENTS
The calculation that you need to glean a finished measurement from the pattern is this:
number of stitches/rows ÷ stitch/row gauge (per inch or cm) = finished measurement
Check that you’re on the right track by taking the stitch count at the full bust (for example, or another measurement already included) and dividing it by the stitch count per inch. Does this measure approximately the same as the finished measurement given in the pattern?
Excellent. You’re ready to get started.