#KnitPetiteProject: Bust, waist, and hip circumferences; what are the fit issues, and how do they line up against sizing charts?

Our last post where we looked at torso length 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.

Of course, it’s unlikely that you’ll find every single one of your measurements is the same as the pattern, focus on the key measurements of shoulders, waist (for this purpose use the narrowest part of your torso not necessarily your natural waist line) and hip. Vertical measurements are generally easiest to adapt so don’t use those to determine the size you make but note any changes you’ll need to make, such as lengthening the body, moving the waist shaping higher, etc.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.

Bust, waist and hip circumferences; what are the issues, and how do they line up against sizing charts?

What Are the Issues?

You might be surprised to see this topic addressed in the #KnitPetiteProject, as I think I’ve been quite chatty about how we’re focusing on vertical measurements and modifications. But, as we’ve seen over the past few months (and the last couple of posts in particular) the collection of shapes and lengths and circumference of our body affect each other, so it’s important to touch on these circumference measurements as well.


It’s also important to reflect on these numbers because, as we read in March’s #KnitPetiteProject posts, circumferences, particularly bust measurements, are how sizes are selected, systems are structured, and are the number that you’ll likely find listed in the “sizes” section of your knitting pattern.

This has use, and any sizing system needs certain primary numbers to structure the rest of its sizing around. But for us, it’s important to remember that the bust number is only a starting point, and doesn’t have to be the ultimate signifier of your size.3

Some evidence that basing your size on your bust measurement gives you a knit that’s too large for your frame:

  • you may have excess fabric around your neck and shoulders
  • vertical measurements are too long
  • any shoulder and sleeve cap seams dip down off your shoulders
  • necklines are deeper than the pattern style demonstrates

Some evidence that basing your size on your bust measurement gives you a knit that’s too small for your frame:

  • your knit may stretch and look and feel tight, particularly around your shoulders

This is another important circumference number, and within sizing systems is tied to the other numbers proportionally in that a hourglass or curvy shape is usually presumed. You may need more or less waist shaping for your garment, and determining this is fairly straightforward.

Locating one’s waist for measuring may not be as straightforward; you can check out the tips in this post from February for more info.

That said, seeing the waist circumference through a petite lens means that the shaping you may have to add or subtract may have to be done over fewer rows than a “regular” size.

Also of note: the studies we’ve looked at in earlier #KnitPetiteProject posts4 have research that shows the petite person may be more likely to have a smaller bust:waist ratio than “regular” sizes.  If this is the case, you may encounter fit issues in your sweaters where the bust fits, but the waist is too small.


Same goes for the hip circumference. Research has found that the difference in ratio between these three circumferences is smaller than in “regular” sizing, resulting in a straighter body shape for petite people than for “regulars”.

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 bust, waist, and hips circumference.

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.


Look at this chart: if you selected your size based on your bust measurement, how close are the other numbers to your own?

Now, take you upper torso (or high bust) measurement. Pretend that this number is actually your bust measurement. Does that set of numbers come closer to your own measurements?

This piece of advice comes from a variety of sources including Ysolda and Amy Herzog; picking size based on upper torso instead of bust will let you know more about your actual frame, and may provide you with a set of numbers that is closer to your actual numbers.

Waist and Hips

Check out the ratios of waist to hips. They hover around a 10″ – 12″ difference. Is this an accurate ratio for you? Perhaps your own petite body supports the evidence of the study noted below. Personally, my waist:hips difference is about 10″ (BUT, selecting a size based on my upper bust measurement at least brings some of the vertical measurements down and closer to my actual size).

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?


Does your high bust (or upper torso) measurement give you numbers that more accurately reflect your size in the CYC charts?


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 Ysolda Teague. Little Red in the City. April, 2011, pg 37.

3 Ysolda Teague. Little Red in the City. April, 2011. Ysolda’s book Little Red in the City goes into great detail about different sizes and shapes, selecting a size, and includes many designs that are created to be easy for you to modify to your own numbers.

4 Youngsook Kim , Hwa Kyung Song , Susan P. Ashdown , (2016) “Women’s petite and regular body measurements compared to current retail sizing conventions“, International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology, Vol. 28 Iss: 1, pg 56.

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.



#KnitPetiteProject: Bust, waist, and hip circumferences; what are the fit issues, and how do they line up against sizing charts?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s