Focus on Fit: Measuring for Accuracy

The most important step you can take to have better-fitting sweaters is to have accurate measurements. I know, I know—it’s a pain to get someone to help, and many people aren’t comfortable knowing their exact measurements. However, it’s worth the time and effort so that you can choose an appropriate sweater size. Have a friend take your measurements, partly because it’s hard to measure yourself and partly to keep yourself honest.

I know when I measure myself, I sometimes pull the tape measure a little snugger than I should, which doesn’t do me any favors when my sweater ends up too tight! There are six key measurements that everyone should have, and two additional measurements that can be useful as well. We’ll show you how to take these measurements accurately.

1. Bust circumference. (If you’re a gentleman, please substitute “chest” for “bust” in this section.) Measure around the fullest part of the bust, being sure to keep the tape measure even and parallel to the floor. If you wear a bra, wear it when taking this measurement—it makes a significant difference!
measuring for fit
2. Waist circumference. Bend slightly to the side and note where your side creases in a little; this is your waist. Measure around this section of your torso, again being sure the keep the tape measure even and parallel to the floor.
measuring for fit
3. Hip circumference. “Hip” is a misleading term; it really means the widest part below your waist. Depending on your figure, this can be around your anatomical hips or a bit lower if you’re more bootylicious.measuring for fit
4. Sleeve length. Measure in a straight line from your wrist to your shoulder; if you’re wearing a t-shirt, this lines up nicely with your sleeve seam. You can actually do this measurement without a helper: just hold one end of the tape measure to your shoulder and grab the end in your other hand.
measuring for fit
5. Upper arm circumference. Measure your upper arm just below your armpit.
measuring for fit
6. Wrist circumference. Measure your wrist.
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These are the key measurements you’ll need for nearly all sweaters. In addition, there are two other measurements that can be useful from time to time.

7. High bust circumference. (Gentlemen, you need not worry about this one.) This is just like the bust circumference, only higher. Again, if you normally wear a bra, do so for this measurement too. Measure with the tape measure just under your armpits and above your bust; the tape measures doesn’t need to stay parallel to the floor for this measurement. For many women, your high bust measurement won’t be notably different from your bust circumference. If it is, it may affect how you choose which size to make.
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8. Crossback. Measure from one shoulder to the other. Again, if you’re wearing a t-shirt, measure between the sleeve seams. This is a useful measurement particularly for shrugs and open-front cardigans, where fitting across the back is more important than fit in the front.
measuring for fit
There you have it: six (plus two) measurements everyone should have before starting a sweater. We’ll show you how to use these measurements in a future installment.