Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Make it Fit - Designer Secrets and Why Sizing is so Difficult

Sizing is the biggest problem that most hand knitters face. When shopping for ready to wear clothing we have a plethora of size choices; juniors, misses, petites, plus petites, plus sizes and tall girls to name just a few.

When sewing the category names are different but to offer just one example Vogue patterns come in 5 different ranges. The following information is from their website.

"Misses’ patterns are designed for a well proportioned and developed figure; about 5'5" to 5'6" (1.65m to 1.68m) tall without shoes. Misses’ Petites patterns are designed for the shorter figure; about 5'2" to 5'4" (1.57m to 1.63m) tall without shoes." There are 11 sizes in these 2 ranges from a bust of 30 ½ inches to 48 inches.

"Women’s patterns are designed for the larger, fully mature figure, about 5'5" to 5'6" (1.65m to 1.68m) tall without shoes.Women’s Petites patterns are designed for the shorter woman's figure; about 5'2" to 5'4" (1.57m to 1.63m) tall without shoes." There are 10 sizes in these 2 ranges from a bust of 36 inches to 54 inches.

"Today's Fit patterns are designed for the changing proportions of today’s figure; about 5'5" without shoes. The waist and hips are slightly larger than Misses’ and the shoulders are narrower." There are 10 sizes in this range from a bust of 32 inches to 55 inches. This comes to a total of 52 different sizes.

Most hand knitting patterns come in from 3 to about 7 sizes with no variation in length or figure type. There are many reasons for this simplification several being due to cost, publication space, the difficulty of grading each size individually,the inability to have every size test knit as well as an industry that underpays designers. So what's a knitter to do? I'm still thinking about this. As a designer I'm considering doing patterns that would target these specific markets but the question is would you buy them? LMK what you think.


  1. Thank you Robin, for again very interesting topic!
    Well, I think that industrial sizing methods are very wrong approach for doing well-done sized knits for personal use. If you think in more international context: there are big differences in sizing methods in each country. In Europe we have for example at least 5 sizes on each cloth: German, English, Italian, Czech and this divided into “normal” and “short” –the fact is: there are no standards. Most of the cloths for European and US market are being produced in Asia. And they really have complete different sizing. So does Japan with its beautiful knitting patterns…. Maybe is this abundant sizing an expression of enormous silhouette differences between East and West? If I like a pattern in Vogue I would never knit after pattern just because being aware of different sizing which are not known in detail to me. (I found your explanation amazing!)
    I know very painful stories of all knitters known to me referring to that subject and they all said that finding a perfect fit in patterns is just impossible. They all gave up knitting exactly after patterns and are doing just customized knits for them, which requires a lot of mathematics and some basic skills. They use and buy pattern only if it promises some added value for them: good idea, its realisation, emotion, used technique and so on. So do I. Many of them knit like me with other yarns as in pattern suggested, so math is for this reason anyway essential. Finally we are all special, and everybody has an unique figure, which requires changes in pattern-silhouette to make knits fit well anyway. However, there are still many other knitters out there who are not well accustomed by those skills. I don’t really understand why all designers in the world still follow this wrong approach with making patterns on base of industrial sizes. If we have abbreviations in each book for “special stitches”, why not just name those simple basics right from the start of pattern how to make knit customized on very own measurements? Everybody would be happy.

  2. As sewing is a part of what I do for a living I deal with patterns and fitting every day. And being a larger size woman I deal with it more intimately as well.
    Having said that... the times a pattern fits the wearer straight from the pattern envelope are rare indeed, regardless of size. They may be in the ball park but shoulder widths and lengths of body or sleeve will vary, bust/waist/hip ratios will differ, and a personal ease preference will affect fit as much as any other fact. An experienced sewer knows that pattern alterations will have to be done.
    And so it is with knitting patterns. I narrow for my shoulders and widen for the rest of my body. I make sure the bottom edge of the item doesn't hit at that widest part of my hips. My larger cup size may require short row darts added. The issue of how much ease is preferred again comes into play. Or as the first poster mentioned we often substitute yarns and have to re-do math for that reason. So, again, an experienced knitter may expect to do pattern alterations.
    Now, having said all THAT... when I choose patterns I choose one that comes into the ballpark at least. If the sizes stop too far below my own... it's just too much more work for me. I can find something else that I like as much that offers a better shot at fitting.