Our last post asking if there should be an international sizing standard.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.
All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.
Lend a hand to the #KnitPetiteProject and answer this brief survey!
We’re wrapping up March and the first section of the #KnitPetiteProject with a comparison of some sizing charts. Now that we’ve looked in depth at the history of sizing and why we may encounter petite fit issues, we can take those numbers from our measurements taken in February and have a practical look at a few examples of sizing charts.
Let’s look at how to look at charts.
Decoding the Chart
You’ll find sizing charts in many places: the back of a changing room door, in an online retailer’s pop up window, maybe even on the clothing tag itself. Sadly, though, the information included on those tags and in those charts isn’t always super thorough. You may only get one or two measurements listed; you may have no idea what cross-back numbers they’re working from, or what the shape of their fit model may be.
But sometimes you can find more detailed information.
The rise of online shopping has motivated retailers to include more info for consumers; retailers don’t want you to return their product! So, they prep you with more detailed sizing charts than you might otherwise have encountered in a brick-and-mortar store.
One of the key questions to ask when you’re faced with these sizing charts is “what do these numbers mean?”
#1. Make sure you know that these numbers are either body measurements OR garment measurements
This makes quite a difference. The chart below from CYC (which many knitwear designers and publications1 rely on for their sizing) gives body measurement numbers.
You can tell this because when you visit the CYC website here, they actually have written in all caps, “THESE ARE ACTUAL BODY MEASUREMENTS FOR BABIES, CHILDREN, WOMEN, and MEN in both inches and centimeters.”
The body measurements vs garment measurements is very easy to mix up!
And if you’re interested, the CYC has also listed on this page a wee chart that has general guidelines about our NEXT important chart-decoding point.
The CYC chart illustrated above is ACTUAL body measurements, but unless you’re a designer, you’ll likely encounter measurements listed on a pattern that are the garment’s finished measurements.
The reason there’s a difference is EASE.
Ease is the amount of extra (or less!) space designed into a garment for considerations such as the wearer’s comfort, style, function of the garment, etc. For example, a sock generally has to be snug to stay up on your leg, so because of this function, it’s usually a bit smaller than your actual foot measurements. This is negative ease.
Sometime style may dictate that a sweater be oversized. This means that the numbers listed for the finished sweater should be larger than your actual body measurements. This is positive ease.
For some visual examples of ease, you can read over my detailed post from 2012 here, that uses a single sweater design in a variety of eases on a variety of people.
Designers generally include notes about how much ease is designed into the sweater, and more recently, patterns have also begun to note the size of the photographed model vs the size of the sweater she’s modelling. This is extremely valuable information for YOU as the knitter to make a choice about how you want your garment to fit your body.
We’ll be having a more nuanced conversation about ease in the next 3 months; it’s a topic that a number of you pointed out as important in the first #KnitPetiteProject survey, and it’s a rich and significant topic when it comes to making informed decisions about how you want your clothes to fit YOU!
#3. Who is this Chart For?
Sizing charts, whether large or small, have any number of different intended audiences. Like we mentioned above, sometimes in-store retailers give consumers only a small amount of information on the tag, presuming you can easily go in to the change room and try it on.
Sometimes the information included is intended for designers; this usually means there’s a lot more info on the chart.
And sometimes you can find charts that have a more specific target than just “adult women”. Sometimes you can find detailed charts with information especially for petite women, plus-size women, tall women, older women, etc…
For each of the charts we’ll look at below, have your numbers ready and ask yourself these questions:
- Who do I think this chart is for/who does it represent?
- What are the differences in my numbers and the chart numbers?
Knitwear Designer Charts
Now that you know the CYC chart above is actual body measurements, let’s take a look at what it tells us. The good thing about CYC is that it includes nine different points of measurement, and has a large size range for adult women. Significantly, it has some key length numbers such as armhole depth and back-waist length.
And of note, this chart is intended for knitwear designers, and is a popular source of information. If you encounter consistent fit issues in your knitted sweaters, it may be worthwhile taking note of the differences between your numbers and CYC’s numbers. We’ll be going in to more detail about this over the next 3 months.
Ysolda’s New Chart: As you probably already know, I’m pretty excited about Ysolda’s new chart.2 This is another sizing chart used by many knitwear designers, so looking at this and becoming familiar with its content is knowledge you can apply when you are selecting and/or modifying your next knitting pattern.
Take out your numbers again and have a peek at Ysolda’s charts. Any differences? How does it measure up against CYC for you?
Ysolda takes sizing very seriously, and has included some important background information on how she created these charts. She says “[e]ssentially this is a compilation of sizing charts from a range of sources, including the ASTM standard charts for misses and plus-size women and several patternmaking manuals. It’s specifically intended for grading hand knitting patterns rather than sewn garments and follows knitting industry conventions …” (emphasis my own). She also makes it very clear that these are body measurements. Now, we know that Ysolda looked at some of the charts and background info we’ve looked at, including ASTM.
Ysolda goes on to talk a bit about CYC; “Many publications require designers to follow the sizing charts published by the Craft Yarn Council. These lack measurements and, I suspect, cause some confusion around shoulder widths and armhole depth. I’ve tried to make a chart that follows the sizes set up in that chart but with a wider range of measurements.” (emphasis my own)
Significant! Because Ysolda’s let us in on her thought process and research, we can see the differences and some motivation behind her charts, and perhaps find that those differences are significant enough for us to prefer one chart over the other.
And, if you read nothing else about Ysolda’s charts, I hope you check out what she has to say about LENGTHS:
“You’ll notice that some lengths are consistent across the size range. This is because the sizing chart is based on women of the same average height across the size range. Whether larger bust sizes should also be proportionally taller is a matter of some debate, and you may wish to make slight adjustments to these measurements.
The length of the underarm to neck area *will* increase between sizes, some designers handle this by reducing the sleeve and body lengths as the sizes increase.
Personally I prefer to keep sleeve and body lengths close to the same across the size range allowing knitters to make adjustments as required for height independent of bust size. The exception is for very close fitting garments where a little extra length is required to follow the curves of the body in larger sizes.”
So folks, as you see, while two of the most popular knitwear sizing charts don’t specifically include petite measurements Ysolda has at least addressed lengths, with guiding thoughts for the designer (and all of us, as knitters!)
One of the questions that came up in the first #KnitPetiteProject survey was:
Why do the designers think that if my bust is larger, my arms and shoulders have also grown immensely?
You can find at least part of the answer in Ysolda’s discussion on lengths.
Let’s take a wee peek at some charts from history: vintage sewing charts that are based on those PS42-70 (PDF) standards we looked at a few weeks ago.
Those standards were readily embraced and applied by home sewing companies, but many large retailers eschewed them. And as we mentioned earlier this month, sewing companies themselves aren’t using all these charts any longer. You can’t find just petite sewing patterns from the big companies.
But hey, let’s take a look anyhow and see what we’d have been faced with in the 1970s.
The lovely retro sewing book I’ve taken these charts from is The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing from 1978.
Here you can see how, back in the 70s, sewing patterns were broken down into a greater variety of body types, including height and weight differences. As we’ve seen, ultimately these numbers are flawed and represent an out-dated, limited set of individuals.
Knowing this history is valuable for moving forward!
And, for some more recent sewing charts, below you can see Simplicity’s chart, (one of the Big Four sewing companies). This is taken from their free Sewing Pattern Fit Guide PDF
And why is this chart the way it is?
Last year, Seamwork Magazine published a fantastic article about the history of clothing sizes. In it, the author interviewed the Design Development Director for Simplicity, Deborah Kreiling. She said, “Our patterns size standard measurements have been the same since the mid-1960s…In the mid-1980s the four big brands regrouped and felt that there was no need to reinvent pattern sizing. As long as we were still using the same standard body measurements to create the patterns, the sewing customer, at least, had something that remained true.”
So THESE numbers are the same, but why is it so difficult to find all those varied Junior, Junior Petite, Petite, etc sizes?
In their chapter on Sizing for the Home Sewing Industry, S. P. Ashdown, L. M. Lyman-Clarke, P. Palmer note that “…many of the categories that were experimented with in the past did not sell well enough to produce and have been eliminated. One such category is a miss petite size defined as approximately 5 feet 2 inches, and average bust, short in the torso (short waisted) and slightly larger than misses’ sizes in the waist.”3
And, just one more!
I haven’t found it easy to locate any good information out there about petite plus sizing. Pretty much the only source I did find was from Kathleen Cheetham of Petite Plus Patterns. Her patterns are designed, “…especially for the woman with narrow shoulders, D cup bra, rounded tummy…”.
Cheetham has stated outright the specialized group her charts are for. Do you fall into this group? Do you find these body measurements are closer to your own than some of the other charts we’ve seen so far?
Still hungry for more charts? I’ve collected a few on my #KnitPetiteProject Pinterest board.
Finally, let’s look at a couple of retailer’s charts.
Old Navy has a full-on petite section on their website.
They’re working to convince you that they’ve taken petite proportions and numbers into account in their clothing. I personally have never bought Old Navy petite clothes, so can’t comment on how accurate a fit they may give. But below, YOU can see the charts Old Navy uses. Note, these appear to be charts with only limited info, and appear to be just for lower body measurements:
Another retailer we can take a peek at is Reitman’s. They have sections in their online shop for petites, and even “ultra petites”, but I’m sorry to say that their sizing charts are an example of some of the LEAST amount of information you as a consumer can get. See them for yourself here: petite and ultra petite. Disappointing, yes?!
This is particularly annoying, as I found a chart (likely old!) that included a petite plus section for Reitman’s – a size chart that’s not easy to find!
#KnitPetiteProject Wants to Know…
In May, we’re going to start looking at the nitty-gritty of different petite mods for knitwear. The first post of the month is going to give some real-life examples of knits that have been modified for petite bodies.
Want to help out? Please let me know your experience with making petite mods to your knits. What modification did you make? Which pattern did you choose? Are you happy with the results? Contact me by replying to this post, or email me at canaryknitsdesigns at gmail dot com.
Thanks for your help!
The Second #KnitPetiteProject Survey!
In February and March we’ve laid a foundation for WHY we may encounter petite fit issues. Stay tuned in April, when we’ll be looking in depth at what those petite fit issues are. I’ll be asking for YOUR HELP, and sharing the results of the survey at the end of the month.
Please lend a hand to the #KnitPetiteProject and answer this brief survey!
Look at the sizing information available from your favourite store. Is it thorough? Is it close to your own measurements?
Please share any petite and petite plus retailer’s charts!
- Craft Yarn Council. Standard Body Measurements/Sizing. Accessed March 26, 2017.
- Canary Knits. How To: Deal with Negative Ease. Accessed March 26, 2017.
- Knitty. Submission Guidelines. Accessed March 26, 2017.
- The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. 1978.
- Ysolda’s Sizing Charts for Knitwear Designers, 2017. Accessed March 26, 2017.
- PS 42-70 PDF, accessed March 26, 2017.
- Pinterest. Teresa G’s #KnitPetiteProject Board. Accessed March 26, 2017.
- Simplicity. Sewing Pattern Fit Guide. Accessed March 26, 2017.
- Katrina Robinson. The Origins of Clothing Sizes. Seamwork Magazine, January 2016. Accessed March 26, 2017.
- S. P. Ashdown, L. M. Lyman-Clarke, P. Palmer. “Sizing for the home sewing industry” Sizing in clothing: developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. S. P. Ashdown, Textile Institute (Manchester, England) pg 340.
Woodhead Publishing in association with The Textile Institute, Apr 20, 2007.
- Old Navy. Sizing Charts. Accessed March 26, 2017.
- Reitman’s. Petite and Ultra Petite. Accessed March 26, 2017.
- Kathleen Cheetham. Petite Plus Patterns: Sizing Information. Accessed March 26, 2017.
1 Knitty is an example of a popular published that uses the CYC standards.
2 Ysolda’s old chart isn’t super easy to find online anymore, and I’m sure that’s intentional. She withdrew that chart a few years ago. If you’re curious about how her new chart differs from the old one, you can do a bit of internet searching and check it out.
3 S. P. Ashdown, L. M. Lyman-Clarke, P. Palmer. “Sizing for the home sewing industry” Sizing in clothing: developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. S. P. Ashdown, Textile Institute (Manchester, England) pg 340.
Woodhead Publishing in association with The Textile Institute, Apr 20, 2007.