Right now, I’m having an email conversation with a knitter who’s purchased one of my patterns.
She’s between sizes and wants to know which size to knit. This question has come up several times with this sweater, so I thought I’d just create a post about it here that I can then share with anyone who asks about it later.
The pattern in question is the Camellia Sweater:
This sweater was designed to have a fair amount of ease. It’s a loose over-garment meant to be worn over a tee or cami or even over long sleeves, like my mom’s wearing hers here:
The garment is constructed by knitting a set of rectangles and seaming them together. You knit two fronts, one back, and then two body pieces that are then joined to create one long rectangle. The two fronts are seamed to the back (this makes the top half of the sweater) and then the long body piece is sewn to the top to finish the whole thing up.
First, you lay down the long rectangle that makes up the back of the sweater. Then, you lay the two front rectangles on top of that, and seam all along the top of the sleeve from cuff to neckline.
Then, you lay down the body rectangle and fold each end in until it meets up with the front edges created by front pieces.
Now you seam the join between top and bottom halves.
Finally, seam the bottom edge of the sleeve from cuff to body-join.
Now that you know how it’s constructed, you can see that you can really play with the sizing by just changing the lengths of the seams that join the top and bottom.
Since the sweater is knit using a ribbed lace, you also have a lot of freedom to change the dimensions of the pieces when blocking.
SO….back to the question of which size to knit.
Though I’m known for designing Fitted Knits, this sweater is loose-fitting in all of its proportions**, from armhole to sleeve length to body…it’s not meant to be something that you have to fuss over when wearing it, and it’s not supposed to so form-fitting that you need to try to pinpoint the exact measurements so closely.
When you look at a pattern, there are typically two sets of dimensions given: the “To Fit” and the “Actual Measurements.”
The “To Fit” measurements represent the knitter’s actual bust measurement. This is the measurement of your bustline (or chest / pecs) at fullest point.
The “Actual Measurements” are the actual size of the finished garment. Sometimes these measurements are given right along with the “to fit” measurements, but sometimes you have to check the schematic.
In the case of the Camellia sweater, you’re given the “To Fit” measurements in the pattern description, and the “Actual Measurements” on the schematic:
To Fit: 30(34, 38, 40, 42, 46, 50, 54)”
Actual Measurements: 33(36, 40, 43, 47, 50, 54, 57)”
So, each size is made to have several inches of ease at the bust. If the “actual measurements” were smaller than the “to fit” measurements, the garment would have what’s known as “negative ease” and would be meant to stretch to fit, rather than to be loose-fitting.
NOTE: There is such a range of ease here because the pieces are knit to contain whole repeats of the lace motifs.
Again, you can play with how much ease each size has in the blocking, since the stitch pattern is a ribbed lace. I’m assuming in the “actual measurements” that you’ve blocked each piece flat. If you decide not to block at all, your sweater would have a closer fit through the bust.
When you go to choose a size, you need to first find your bust measurement in the “To Fit” measurements, and then see how big the sweater will be in the “actual measurements.”
If the “actual measurement” is close to the way you like your sweaters to fit, you’d choose the pattern that was written with your size in mind (ie: if you’re a 38, and you like the way sweaters with 2″ of ease fit, knit the 38.) If you think that the actual measurement is too far from your desired fit, you’d pick a different size, either the next size up or down.
If you’re between sizes, you should check the size below yours and the one above yours. If you’re a 41, would you rather knit the 40 (actual measurement 43″) or the 42 (actual measurement 47″?)
In fact, I’d suggest that if you’re between sizes, you go a size down. It’s going to most likely still have more ease when fully blocked than your actual bust size. You can then try on the finished sweater and adjust the fit if you need to. If you want another inch or so at the bust, there’s plenty of give in the knit fabric to accommodate that.
If you choose a size with an actual measurement that is close to the way you’d like your sweaters to fit, knit the pieces, and seam it together, you can manipulate the fit a LOT in the blocking.
**(Maybe TMI but) I designed and knit this sweater for myself to wear just after moving back to the US from Germany and learning that I’d have to have an abdominal surgery. I wanted a pretty layer that would cover my tummy, but not be so tight that it would bother me. So, by closing it with the single button in front, it’s fitted at the bust but loose / open through the tummy. You could even add more buttons if you want it to close all the way.