Knitting A Summer Top: Determining The Right Size

As you can see from the photo, I have worked several inches of the Tattoo Tank by Marlaina Bird from Knitscene Winter/Spring 2010. This is a very loose fitting sleeveless tee shirt that flares out at the hem for a bit of swingy, drapey, floaty fun.

It can be a challenge to choose the right size for a top like this, where a good bit of positive ease is part of its natural charm. Choose a size too large, and you look like you're wearing your camping tent all summer. Choose a size too small, and the hem will fit, but the bust will be too tight.

Rule of thumb for choosing a size: Always select according to your bust measurement, and alter the rest of the garment's measurements as needed. Why? Armhole shaping is proportional to the bust measurement, and all those increases and decreases and bind-offs needed to get a non-gaping armhole are very tricky to adjust. If you choose a size based on the bust measurement, you won't have to fiddle with the armhole shaping. Simple as that.

Problem: What if you choose a size based on the pattern's finished bust measurement, but the corresponding hip measurement (or waist measurement) in the pattern is too small? Hip and waist shaping are easy to alter. A few moments of math, and you can add inches to either waist or hip as required.

Example: My full bust measurement is 41". Thus, I have a choice of sizing between the 46.5", the 42.5", and the 38.5". This tank is supposed to be worn with positive ease, so the 38.5" will be too small. The 42.5" gives me only 1" of positive ease, which isn't really very much. the 46.5" gives me 5" of positive ease (wow!). That's too much, methinks.

I know I'd like more ease than one inch; but 5" is a LOT of ease! When you wear something too loose, it becomes a visual illusion: Other people, when they see you wearing an oversized, loose sweater, will mentally "fill in the space" between you and the sweater. In other words: A flowing tee shirt with tons of positive ease may make you feel as though no one can see your love handles, but in reality, that flowing shirt makes you look as though you are many pounds heavier than you actually are!

I'm going to make the size closest to my full bust measurement–the 42.5"–as this will give me the best fit in the armhole area. I think the 46.5" will have an armhole with Gaping Possibilities, if you see what I mean.(NOTE: However, if my cup size were a D or above, I would have chosen the size larger.)

The garment begins at the hip, where the finished measurement is 56". Yikes! My hips are 46", which means that I would have 10" of positive ease Down There. My hips are my widest point. I'm worried about that much swing around my widest point, especially as this is a worsted weight yarn–the thicker the yarn, the more visual bulk is added to one's silhouette.

All that makes me a bit nervous. The summer tanks I have made previously were done out of sock weight or, at the most, DK, yarn. I pull those tops out of my closet to compare them…and I notice that my two favourite tops have lace detail at the hem. Every time I wear those tops, I get compliments. (I rather like compliments.)


What if I added a bit of lace at the hem of the Tattoo Tank? An hour or so after I have that little idea, I've swatched and I like the way the lace looks. So I cast on, and knit a simple lace edging I adapted from the top of the tattoo heart chart in the pattern, carrying out the rhythm and feel of the heart on the back of the tank.

All should be well. My new top-to-be is purple. It's a lovely cotton/tencel blend. It's silky and shiny and it's got lace at the hem.

All right then–why is something niggling at me about the few inches I have already knit? I can't put my finger on it, but something isn't right here.

I take the tank off the needles and measure, just for the sake of curiosity…only to find that the hem circumference is (ready?) seventy-two inches. 72. Three score, plus ten-and-two.

That's…that's…that's Gi-gant-o-nor-mous. HUGE.

Well. Let's look at the bright side. At least now I have a really good-sized swatch.

Leave a comment and console me. Or laugh with me. Distract me with yarn photos. Something. Anything.

Other than that: It's raining. The giant irises are in bloom. I'm going to clear my mind by working on a sock for a little while.

May your knitting help ease whatever stresses weigh on your mind this rainy day.

– Sandi

Sandi Wiseheart
is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.



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