How to Choose Your Sweater Size
Bellish raglan sweater WIP on mannequin

How to Choose Your Sweater Size

Would you love to knit yourself a sweater, but aren’t sure what size to choose? These helpful tips will take the guesswork out of sweater sizing so you can knit a sweater you’ll love to wear (instead of a sweater that sits in the closet).

Sweater sizes are based on your body measurements – generally your bust or chest circumference. To find these measurements, measure around the fullest part of your bust or chest area. You’ll want to measure over a lightweight shirt (which includes a bra, if applicable). For best results, don’t measure over thick clothing.

Once you know your measurement, it’s time to choose your size. Choosing your sweater size is based on the way the sweater pattern is designed, as well as what kind of fit you like.

  1. How much ease is the pattern designed for?
    (Check out our article “What is Sweater Ease?” to learn more.) You can find this information by comparing the range of sizes the pattern offers with the finished measurements. The difference between the size and the finished measurement is the ease.
  2. Compare your numbers. If your bust/chest measurement is 48 in/120 cm and the pattern size 48 has a finished measurement of 52 in/130 cm, then the pattern has 4 in/10 cm of extra room (called “ease”) already built in. This means your sweater will have a nice, comfortable fit without being too loose. It also means you don’t have to go up a size to get extra room.
  3. If the pattern doesn’t list bust/chest sizes by measurement and instead uses S, M, L, or 1, 2, 3, then you’ll need to decide on the amount of ease you want. Compare your bust/chest measurement to the measurements provided on the schematic in the pattern. The schematic is an illustration that provides the finished measurements for the sweater. Look for the finished size that gives you the amount of extra room you like (we recommend 2-4 in/5-10 cm for most sweaters unless they are designed for a very loose or tight fit).
  4. What if you want more room? Or less room? Going up a size will result in extra room in your sweater; if you like your sweaters really baggy, this might be the look you want. Going down a size will result in a closer fit. If you prefer a more tailored look without extra room, this might be the look you want.
  5. Make sure you knit a gauge swatch. Choosing your sweater size is one thing, but it’s only accurate if you knit a gauge swatch with the same yarn and needles you plan to use for the sweater. Measure your stitches and rows over a 4 inch/10 cm area and compare them to the pattern. If they aren’t an exact match, this means your sweater won’t exactly match the size listed on the finished measurements. In that case, you’ll want to knit another swatch with a needle larger or smaller until your gauge matches the pattern. Once you’ve identified the needle and yarn that work best to give you the gauge you need, it’s time to cast on.

The more sweaters you knit, the easier it will be to get your sizing just right. Until then, it’s okay to trust the pattern. At Bellish, our pattern generator includes just enough extra room for a comfortable fit, so we recommend choosing the size that matches your bust/chest measurement.

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What is Sweater Ease?

One of the most common questions for sweater knitters is how to figure out their ease. Whether you need the basics (What is ease?) or are just trying to figure out how much wiggle room you should have in your sweaters, we’ve got you covered.

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