#KnitPetiteProject: Torso length measurements; what are the issues, and how do they line up against standard sizing?

Our last post where we looked at shoulder, back, and arm measurements and shapes.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

The #KnitPetiteProject now has a Ravelry group. Join us!

The rest of May and June will be filled with very practical posts that will focus on:

  • comparing petite measurements to “regular” CYC charts
  • “diagnosing” fit issues
  • helping us decide how we feel about fit
  • determining tools to alter fit to our liking
  • learning to identify patterns that work for our taste and/or are easily modifiable
  • and very importantly, considering how we differ from a general sizing chart so we have a set of general rules to consider before we begin knitting a pattern1

For some of you this information may be old news, and for others, it may be brand new. If you read this and believe something should be added or changed, please let me know in the comments! It’s important that we make the #KnitPetiteProject as comprehensive, accurate, and inclusive as possible.

…patterns are designed for a height of 5’5″ – 5’6″. If you are 5’2″ and very long-waisted in proportion to your height, the pattern waist length may be fine. It won’t be, however, if your waist length is proportionally average or less than average for your height.2

A few things before we jump in to this week’s topic:

I know if something doesn’t fit me! Why should we look at “diagnosing” fit?!

Please head to May 9th’s post to read my personal story of discovering the value in diagnosing fit.

Please consider joining the #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry group so we can enable this knowledge sharing and help each other to diagnose fit issues!

Remember, Fit is a moving target!

We’ve already touched on this in previous posts, but fit is incredibly complex, and is made more so by the fact that it is both subjective to your own tastes, and dependent on the style of the garment. In the examples below, please keep that in mind (particularly style considerations).

Over the next four posts, you may see a bunch of repetition

I hope that these posts will be able to stand on their own AND fit together, so that readers can take as comprehensive an amount of information from each post as possible. Please excuse the repetition!

Body Positivity

This is worth repeating: looking at the shape of your body and measuring it is not a contest, and it’s not a judgement on your worth as a human being. This is intended to empower you to get what YOU want out of your knits.

In May we’re looking at diagnosing fit, and seeing how our numbers and general “petite” numbers compare to the “regular” numbers of the much-used CYC charts.

Let’s get started.

Torso Length measurements; what are the issues, and how do they line up against sizing charts?

What Are the Issues?

In her article “Petite Pizzaz” in Vogue Knitting Winter ’92 – ’93, Anne Marie Soto notes three separate zones in which a petite person may want to proportionately alter their knitted sweater to fit them better, particularly if that sweater is one that is intended to fit close to the body.

These three zones correspond with the torso roughly with the upper chest, the midriff, and the hipline. For the purposes of this post, let’s divide up the torso in roughly the same way the CYC numbers do: armhole depth, back waist length, and (an addendum to CYC) the choices you can make for the total length of your sweater.

Armhole Depth

This area can be long or short depending on a variety of factors; if you read the post from May 9 it will show you just how many different ways your shoulders and back can be shaped.

Those factors affect your fit as well as the ultimate depth of your armhole. How can you tell if you are shorter in the armhole depth than the pattern assumes you are?3

Comparing an imaginary pattern’s yoke depth with how that pattern might look on someone with a short armhole depth
  • necklines dip lower on your upper torso than the pattern image demonstrates it was designed to
  • you may have gaping in the neckline; this is often seen in women who have a full bust and select their size based on the bust number, with the consequence being there is an excess of fabric at the upper chest and neckline (depending on neckline style)
  • if yoke details extend down onto your bust, and/or the armpit of the sleeve is significantly lower on your body than the modeled images, you may have a shorter armhole depth than the pattern assumes
Back Waist Length

This is another area that many respondents to the #KnitPetiteProject fit survey noted they need to alter. As we’ve been over earlier this year, there are many different ways a person can be petite, and just because you’re shorter than 5’4″ doesn’t mean you also have a shorter-than-sizing-charted back waist length.

But, here’s some ways to determine if this is an issue for you:

  • on a shaped sweater, where does the waist shaping hit you? How about the bust shaping? If the waist shaping is sitting down closer to your hips, you may have a short back waist
  • as with any measurement, this is affected by all your other shapes, including bust circumference; while that is a horizontal measurement, it’s important to keep in mind that a larger surface like a bust takes up more length as well as width. This could cascade in altering where a sweater’s back waist lands on your body4
Hipline Length

This is not a measurement you’ll find on the CYC chart, but it is a number that’s quite important for the look of your garment. This is also likely something you’ve encountered before, with a hip length sweater ending up looking like a tunic, for example.

You might have a hipline length that is shorter than the pattern assumes if:

  • a sweater picture in a pattern photo appear to end at the top of the wearer’s hip bone, but extends further down your body to create a more “tunic” length

How do the issues line up against sizing charts?

CYC Sizing Charts

We’ve talked a bit about the CYC sizing charts here on the #KnitPetiteProject before, and I’d like to use them again here to illustrate some differences and act as a bit of a base level from which to operate.

We can’t assume EVERY knitting pattern we come across uses CYC! But many do, and if you find that you experience similar fit issues across knitting pattern designs then looking at the CYC charts may be helpful.5

CYC Woman Size Charts

As Palmer and Alto point out in their book Fit for Real People, going solely by measurement numbers can misrepresent fit; they note that you could pick a size that has the same measurements as your body, but you may still experience excess fabric, tight pull lines, or other fit issues because of the complexity of our body’s shape. For our learning exercise here, let’s take these numbers as a starting point as we put together the puzzle of fit and trying to determine what general fit alterations we can consider for knitting patterns before we start knitting them!

You’ll notice that these CYC charts have nine different points of measurement, including armhole depth and back waist length. You’ll also notice, however, that they do not have information on total length, or length from waist to hipline.

All these numbers can help you in estimating the shape of your body and the shape of the body in patterns designed using these charts. Remember: not ALL patterns use these charts, but many do.

Armhole Depth

How does your armhole depth measure against these numbers? We went over taking measurements back in February, but there is no shortage of places where you can find good, reliable information on taking measurements including the incredibly comprehensive Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt, especially in Chapter 24, Measurements and Schematics.

Is there a difference between your numbers, and can you see evidence of this in your FOs? Do you feel confident in “diagnosing” this fit?

Back Waist Length

In her “Petite Pizzaz” article for Vogue Knitting, Anne Marie Soto notes the back waist length as one of the ways in which petite sizes differ from Misses sizes (remember, Soto is basing her numbers and advice on the long established sizing charts for the home sewing industry). She states:

For petites, the back waist length (from the neck base to the waist in back) is 1″ (2.5cm) shorter.6

Hipline Length

Soto also notes that the hipline length is different for petites. Here, she writes:

The hipline (at the fullest part of the hip) is 2″ (5cm) higher – it’s 7″ (18cm) below the waist for Petites, compared to 9″ (23cm) below the waist for Misses. As a result, the length of a finished Petite sweater (measured from the waistline to the hemline at the center back) is 2″ (5cm) shorter.7

While 2″ may not sound like much, it really can make quite a difference, even if all else is equal. Those extra inches in length may make a sweater go from hip length to tunic, or nearly tunic.

And don’t forget if that waistline-to-hipline length is compounded by other short lengths in your sweater. If you are overall shorter in armhole depth, back waist, and hipline, length issues can cascade down and lower that hemline even further.

In June we’ll be going over the details of tactics to petite your knits. For now, let’s all look at those numbers and pull those FOs out and see what evidence of fit we have. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What information do my numbers compared to the CYC numbers tell me?
  2. Is that information supported in the fit of my handknits?
  3. Is that information supported in the fit of my store-bought clothes?


Do you have expertise in fitting? Or maybe you have questions about determining your fit issues? If so, please hop over to the this #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry Group thread where you can share your questions, and provide answers!


1 Amy Herzog refers to this as well in her excellent Craftsy class, Knit to Flatter. She clarifies and defines “Miss Average”, and states that while you will differ from Miss Average, you’ll “always differ in the same way”, so getting your numbers is a big and important first step.

2 Patti Palmer and Marta Alto. Fit for Real People: Sew great clothes using ANY pattern. Palmer/Pletsch Publishing, 2006, pg 115.

3 Info for this section from Patti Palmer and Marta Alto. Fit for Real People: Sew great clothes using ANY pattern. Palmer/Pletsch Publishing, 2006, pgs 129 – 132.

4 Ysolda Teague. Little Red in the City. April, 2011, pg 53. As Ysolda writes in Little Red in the City, “In my experience, it’s actually more common for busty women to need … extra length, rather than any extra width, in order to achieve a good fit.”

5 I take that this is a good piece of advice because author Anne Marie Soto gives very similar instruction in her article “Petite Pizzaz” from Vogue Knitting Winter 92-93: “In patterns for home sewing…both Miss and Miss Petite sizes have been standardized. Thus, the measurements in home-sewing patterns can serve as useful guidelines for altering Misses knitting instructions to suit your smaller frame.” pg 16.

6 Anne Marie Soto. Petite Pizzaz. Vogue Knitting. Winter 92-93, pg 16.

7 Ibid.



#KnitPetiteProject: Torso length measurements; what are the issues, and how do they line up against standard sizing?

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