#KnitPetiteProject: Your personal variety of modifications; what are they, and how do they differ from the sizing charts?

Our last post where we looked at petite plus fit issues.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

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

In May we touched on diagnosing fit issues, and comparing them to the often utilized CYC sizing charts.

In June, we’re getting focused on tactics to petite your knits, always keeping in mind:

  • comparing petite measurements to “regular” CYC charts
  • “diagnosing” fit issues
  • deciding 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

This week’s topic is big and unwieldy; we’re all different in so many ways, that sets of rules will never cover everyone entirely. In order to determine our personal variety of modifications and how we differ from sizing charts, each of us has to:

  1. look at our own shape and become familiar with it
  2. understand the fit we want to achieve
  3. look carefully at the constructs we are presented with (that is, understand in general what size and shape patterns are likely to assume we are)

As Marta Alto and Patti Palmer say in their book Fit for Real People,

Confusion guaranteed! 2

I insert this quote not to make you feel intimidated, but instead to emphasize that we’re all different, and that you always have to check the evidence your body gives you against any guidelines.

Look at your shape and become familiar with it

Our end goal is to be proactive in our choices and alterations of knitting patterns so that we can make informed decisions before purchase, and have an understanding of what we can and want to alter within any given pattern to deliver our desired fit.

To make that happen, a good first step is to be aware of our own body’s shape; this is not necessarily easy or simple to know! Just think about what we’ve already addressed in the #KnitPetiteProject, and the evidence given to us through the responses to the fit survey!

Because this is such a hugely variable topic, it’s useful to have an example to point to. And of course, I can always find a willing participant in… myself! So forgive me for splashing my face here again in order to illustrate a point.

One of the tools I’ve used to help gain some objective perspective on my own shape is creating a Body Graph through the methods outlined in Alto and Palmer’s book, Fit for Real People. I’ve referenced this book before; I know we’re all knitters here, and that this is a book for sewists, but I still want to recommend it to you all as a great source of information about fit and gaining an understanding of your shape and diagnosing fit issues.

You’ll find the information on creating the graph on pages 61 – 73. The value in getting this book and doing this for yourself is that you get:

  • step-by-step instructions on creating the graph
  • points on interpretation, allowing you to understand how your own shape compares to the sizing standard that the authors are referring to (in this case, the charts used throughout the home sewing industry)
  • and perhaps most importantly, the authors share a number of real life examples which serve to illustrate how everyone deviates from a sizing chart, and provides tips for sewists (and maybe even knitters, we’ll get to that in July!) on how to take control of fit

Plus, I think it would be a fantastic exercise for us to share about in the #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry group so we can all learn together!

So, here’s my experience creating the graph, interpreting it, and how I want to use this information moving forward.

Creating the Graph


From start to finish, the graph took about 45 minutes to set up and create. The tools I needed were:

  • a sharp pencil
  • a rigid ruler (I used a yardstick)
  • a chain necklace
  • a belt/piece of string
  • about 6.5′ of brown craft paper
  • tape
  • scissors
  • a contrasting colour pen
  • a bit of blank wall space
  • a willing friend!

I’m not giving away all the steps and charts, as that’s copyright material from the book. But I will say that they guide you very clearly through how to stand, how to get your friend to mark your shape at about 10 different points, and then how to subsequently fold up that paper into 8 equal chunks for interpretation.

You may wonder why we need a belt and a necklace? Wearing those two items helps to mark out a couple points on your body that would otherwise be a bit tricky to note (where your neck meets your shoulders, and your waistline).

Interpreting the Graph

As I mentioned earlier, the authors of Fit for Real People are using the home sewing sizing charts as their comparison. These aren’t exactly the same as every knitting pattern you’ll come across, but because they give you a firm set of numbers, you can compare this information against whatever information you find on a knitting pattern schematic.

There’s useful interpretive information sprinkled throughout the book, but the pages most directly connected to this are 67 – 71.

By creating this chart and reading the interpretation from the book, I’ve had some ideas about my own shape reinforced, and I’ve learned some new things as well, including:

  • the slope of my shoulders (shoulder shape is important to fitting a sweater!)
  • the proportion of my legs to my body (important for understanding more about torso length for your sweaters!)
  • the location of my waist compared to my underarms, and the depth from my shoulder to my underarm (important for getting yokes and sleeve cap depths correct!)
  • what my general shape objectively is (flatly, on paper!) (which can help in your understanding of aesthetics and proportion, a discussion we may have later on in the #KnitPetiteProject)
How I’ll use this information moving forward and why you should try it too

In the book there’s a full Body Graph worksheet where you can input all the interpretations of your shape (ie: short waist, sloping shoulder, etc). This is a tool I can return to in order to consider proportions, but also, and most applicably to us knitters, the Body Graph can be an incredible resource of the information needed to achieve fit goals in a very visual way.

The graph gives you a 2D visualization of your shape, but upon it you can also note the 3D measurements that are important to fit and sizing. As I listed above, it gives you an understanding of those vertical measurements and your proportion (ie: short waisted? broad shoulders?).

It’s also relatively easy, inexpensive, and low-tech to create. I’ve tried doing similar shape-interpretation exercises with photographs; these are interesting, but I’ve found them more time consuming and ultimately less accurate than an actual tracing of your own body.

I’ll be using this graph throughout the rest of the year in the #KnitPetiteProject to illustrate how we can take control of our knitting and get the fit we want. On a personal level, I’ll be using these charts to re-examine my choices and aesthetic preferences, along with deciding on my personal variety of modifications along with the information we touched on in May.

Understand the fit we want to achieve

We’ve already talked about how fit is both objective and subjective. We each have different tastes, style preferences, lifestyles, comfort-zones, emotions, occasions, etc…

To help us think a bit more deeply about the fit we want to achieve, I’ve created the small questionnaire below. By filling this out, you can gain a bit of perspective on what you like in your clothes, what you wear most, and subsequently what you feel may need to change (if anything at all!)

Fit Preferences PDF

Look carefully at the constructs we’re presented with

All this preference and shape examination is wonderful, but to get at the heart of our issues as petite knitters we need to know what and where the fit gaps are. In May we touch on diagnosing these issues; here, I want to encourage you to not only look at the CYC numbers, but also a specific pattern design.

Picking a specific design will act as a learning exercise for us over the next 3 weeks in June. This design can be something you have already knit for yourself, or it can be something new to you. With this design, we will:

  • take the information we’ve gathered about our shape and fit preferences and compare it to the pattern
  • identify any gaps in the body shape the pattern assumes and our own body, including how to determine the shape the pattern assumes
  • evaluate the pattern (what information does it include? what does it lack?)
  • learn to dissect pattern information in order to rework it to our liking

We’re getting very practical and hands-on this month! Come next week to the #KnitPetiteProject prepared with your chosen sweater pattern and your measurement, shape, and fit preference information! I’m looking forward to working and learning with you.

Please consider joining in these conversations on the #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry group so we can all learn and share together.


Interested in creating your own Body Graph? Join us in this #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry group thread and let’s get learning together!


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 Palmer, Pati and Marta Alto. Fit for Real People. Palmer/Pletsch Publishing; 2 edition. September 2006, pg 127.

#KnitPetiteProject: Your personal variety of modifications; what are they, and how do they differ from the sizing charts?

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