Finding the fit for your knits

Have you ever knitted something that looked lovely but didn’t fit the way you wanted? It could have been something for you or for someone else but it just wasn’t right.

This is such a pity, the stitches are beautiful but unless you can find some one who love the fit, it is likely to languish in a drawer for evermore.

There are two main influences on the fit of the garment – tension and how you choose the size.


Knitting patterns are worked out using a particular tension. If your tension is loose than the one given in the pattern your item will be looser and if your tension is tighter, your garment will be smaller (and tighter).

We have a post all about getting your tension right.

Pattern sizing

Assuming you get the same tension as the pattern, finding the right size is based on the measurements given.

Most patterns will have a “to fit size” which could be given as a chest measurement, an age range in children’s patterns or for women a dress size.

It is important to remember that this isn’t the actual measurement of the finished garment.

Some patterns will also give an “actual” or “finished” size measurement for the chest which is helpful in choosing the size to make. For example, a sweater with a chest to fit measurement of 95cm might have an actual chest measurement of 110cm because it is intended to be a loose fit or is to be worn over another layer or two.

Other patterns may give one chest measurement and say the item has a positive or negative “ease” of a certain amount.

“Ease” refers to the difference between the to fit size and the actual size. Negative ease is when the actual size is smaller than the to fit size – you want the item to be stretched when worn, for example a sock. With positive ease, the actual garment is larger than the to fit size – the sweater described above would have a positive ease of 15cm.

If a pattern mentions ease, you need to double check whether the measurements in the pattern are to fit or finished sizes (in other words, including ease). If something has a negative ease of 10cm, this could make a massive difference to whether your garment fits or not!

Your pattern will also give other useful measurements. For garments you will usually have a neck to hem length and the length of the sleeve from the cuff to where it joins the body.

You may also have a schematic or plan of your garment that gives more measurements such as the width of the neck, the waist size and the upper arm. All of these can be useful in deciding which sizes to make.

Choosing your size

Now you know the size of your finished garment, you need to think about two other things: the actual size of the person who will wear the item and the sort of fit they are happiest with.

Use a flexible measuring tape to take measurement to match all those given in the pattern. A cardigan that fits at the chest but has sleeves that are too short or tight isn’t that useful.

When measuring with a tape, don’t pull it too right – it isn’t a tourniquet – or let it flap about. You want a goldilocks measurement where the tape sits comfortably on the body.

Now look at the to fit size that most closely matches you or the person you are making something for – sometimes you will be between sizes. How do the other measurements compare to your measurements? Would they be a good fit?

Also think about how you are going to wear your garment. Is it going to be close to your skin or worn over other layers? If a sweater has a 15cm positive ease but think you might want a tighter fit you may want to go down a size in the pattern for example. A good idea here is to look at garments you already own and like the fit of. Are they loose or tight. It may be worth measuring them to see what fit you really prefer.

Thinking about size and fit before you start knitting is really worth the time, it makes it more likely you’ll end up with an item that will be worn.

2 thoughts on “Finding the fit for your knits”

  1. Thank you so much for the article about finding the right fit. Although I always check the tension before starting the garment, I invariably get the size wrong (usually too small), so this article has really helped me. I really love your newsletter and look forward to it arriving. Thank you!


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