Knit a Sweater That Fits You Perfectly!

Knitting a sweater that fits is a challenge, one daunting enough to keep some from moving up to knitted garments. Even hardcore swatchers can end up with too-long sleeves, oddly sized bodies, or other unforeseen problems with size that didn’t arise during the swatching process. What happens afterward is that the intended wearer ignores the sweater because it doesn’t fit quite right, which is a tragic ending for something that requires so much time and care.

I’ve knitted a number of sweaters that I had to give away because—despite having swatched to get proper gauge—they ended up being too small, too large, too something. What really is the best method to getting a sweater that fits the way you want it to?

Knitting expert Karen Frisa has the answers. In an article Karen wrote for knitscene Fall 2017, she fully explains the steps you should take and the math you should do in order to get a perfect-fitting garment every time you knit one. I decided to put her instructions to the test on my own with the Madame George Pullover from Interweave Knits Fall 2017.

The original Madame George sample by Annie Lupton, knit in Brooklyn Tweed Loft in the Homemade Jam colorway. Photography for Interweave Knits Fall 2017 by Nathan Rega

Karen’s instructions call for extra attention to detail, and measuring and calculating multiple times for accuracy. Doing a little bit of “extra” work and spending more time than I normally would was totally worth it, because my sweater turned out GREAT! I would like to live in it, please.

My version of the Madame George Pullover, knit in the Button Jar colorway. Photography by George Boe.

To start knitting the perfect-sized sweater, do what you would normally do and knit a sizeable swatch as the pattern calls for, in the prescribed needle size. The Madame George pattern calls for a size 3 needle, and gives a gauge for both stitch patterns used in the project.

I already know I am a tight knitter, so I swatched with a size 4 needle. I incorporated both stitch patterns the gauge calls for in the same swatch to save time and for extra preciseness. Here’s my first swatch:

I measured my swatch in three different places (on both stitch patterns) and found the average, both before and after I blocked the swatched. It’s important to do this because you want to know exactly how much your garment will grow (or shrink) after you block it. Additionally, pattern instructions are written in final measurements, so you want to adjust accordingly so the blocked garment matches the measurements in the instructions.

My first swatch, after blocking, was still smaller than the pattern gauge. So, I made another swatch with size 5 needles. Once again, I measured both stitch patterns in three different places and took the averages to find my gauge. It was still a little small, but not by much, and I had already decided I’d be knitting a size up so I would have more positive ease than normal, so I planned on knitting the sweater with size 5s. I’d just have to make sure and watch my knitting closely so I wouldn’t knit those too-long sleeves I mentioned earlier.

Following Karen’s instructions, I did all the required math so I would know how many rows exactly I’d need to knit to get the right size once the sweater was finished and blocked. I did a lot of double- and triple-checking, but it was totally worth it! The sweater fits me perfectly and I love to wear it. It’s probably my favorite sweater I have ever knit, and not just because it’s in my favorite color.

Look at it grow!

For Karen’s full instructions on how to get a perfect-fitting garment every time, check out her article, and let us know if you put her advice to use and how it worked for you!

Happy sweater-knitting!
Hannah


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One Comment

  1. Doreen M at 2:41 pm January 5, 2018

    You also need to look hard at the schematic. The latest fad is too narrow armholes. I knitted a Berroco pattern that had a tiny armhole (7 inches, when it is 11 inches in my sweater software for “average” fit) for a size 48 sweater. When I checked the comments on Ravelry, one of the knitters said she did it exactly as written in the pattern and found she could not move her arms once she got the sweater on, others said they had to give the sweater away to a child because they could not get their hands in the arms. And it’s not just the larger patterns, a size 2 friend had to rip out the arms in a cardigan she knitted according to the pattern for her size – because the armhole stitches were so tight they left a rash under her arm. If you do not know your measurements, measure your clothes! Do you have an old high school or college T-shirt you just can’t part with even if it’s too small? If you can get it on at all, that should be your minimum. Then measure a blouse that fits well (average).Then a sweat shirt (large-lots of ease). Now look at the schematic again.

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