The Knitter’s Dictionary: Sweater Silhouettes & Types

The letter S is by far one of the most popular letters in knitting. Schematic, Seaming, Self-striping, Set-in Sleeve, Sewn Bind-off, Short-rows, Size, Skein, Slip-stitch, Slubby, Sock, to Swift (affiliate link); the list of entries for S go on and on in The Knitter’s Dictionary.

Not surprisingly, within these S-entries, one of the most expansive is SWEATER. Today we looking inside The Knitter’s Dictionary for Kate Atherley’s insights into Sweater Silhouettes and Sweater Types.


Silhouette is defined by how a garment hangs from the underarm—the body shape.

Sweater Silhouettes, graphic ©F+W Media, Inc.

Sweater Silhouettes, graphic ©F+W Media, Inc.

A-line Silhouette

The garment shape is narrow at the bust and widens toward the hem, giving the appearance of the letter A.

Straight Silhouette

Garments knit without any waist shaping are said to have a “straight” silhouette. These measure the same circumference at the bust and at the hem.

V-line Silhouette

Made to accentuate the shoulders, V-line garments start very wide at the top—usually with a deep V-neckline—and taper in at the waist.

X-line/Hourglass Silhouette

The hourglass silhouette features a wide bust and hem with a tapered, narrow waist.


When knitting sweaters, the “type” of sweater you are knitting is often referenced by a particular feature the garment has when compared to others.

Sweater Types, graphic ©F+W Media, Inc.

Sweater Types, graphic ©F+W Media, Inc.

Circular Yoke

Worked seamlessly in the round, sometimes from the neck down, sometimes from the hem up. Many types of stranded-colorwork sweaters are worked this way.

The design was very popular in the 1980s and is often worn oversized. It’s actually more flattering—and on a surprising range of body types—when worn close-fitting.


A loose and drapey sleeve style. The more exaggerated the dolman—the lower the sleeve/body seam—the more ease is required. Modern dolmans are less exaggerated, with slim-fitted sleeves that start around the elbow. Can be worked seamless or in pieces and seamed. Batwings are a more exaggerated version of a dolman sleeve.

Drop Shoulder, Modified Drop Shoulder

A simply constructed garment, with little or no shaping for armholes, sleeve tops, and shoulders. It is worn loose, and the look is relaxed and casual. Most often worked in pieces.


A popular sweater type that denotes four diagonal lines dividing the arms from the body. Most raglans are worked seamlessly in the round, sometimes from the neck down, sometimes from the hem up. Some patterns for raglans involve working in pieces separately and seaming.

The raglan works on all body types as a relaxed, casual garment. When worn more fitted, it’s flattering to significantly fewer.

Saddle Shoulder

A saddle shoulder is a variant of a set-in sleeve or raglan. The sleeve has a narrow extension from the top of the cap that fits between the front and back along the shoulder seam. The front and backs are a little shorter to compensate for this extra piece.

Set-in Sleeve

A classic, tailored style of garment. Most often worked in pieces and seamed. Patterns for seamless versions do exists, but these are generally more complicated to work.

Of all the styles, it looks best when worn close-fitting, since it mimics the lines of the body—but it doesn’t need to be worn fitted. Although, if the garment is to be worn with significant positive ease, a less-shaped style such as a drop shoulder would work just as well!

-Kerry Bogert
Editorial Director, Books

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