#KnitPetiteProject: Fit Survey Results

Our last post where we talked about taste and the subjectivity of what’s “flattering”.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

Survey results time!

As a refresher, this is the survey. Only 2 questions, short answer format:

  1. As a petite woman, what fit issues do you encounter in knitwear?
  2. What suggestions do you have for the #KnitPetiteProject?

As of the writing of this post, 85 people participated.  I’ll be keeping the survey up if people are still interested in participating.

Let’s go over the answers; I’ll do a wee recap, and then include all the responses below.

Of all the responses…

64% of people specifically said they have issues with the length of sleeves, yokes, and sleeve caps

46% of people specifically said the shoulders of sweaters are too big for them (there was a total of about 3 people who said shoulders were too narrow for them)

27% of people specifically mentioned bust size as an issue; of this percentage, 33% said it was too big, and 67% said it was too small

26% of people specifically said the necklines are too low/wide

42% of people said there’s issues with the backwaist length

a number of people particularly mentioned issues related to being petite plus, and other expressed concern with proportions of design elements

And there were a bunch of really great ideas for the #KnitPetiteProject that will absolutely influence what we do this year, including:

  • creating a Ravelry group so everyone can share ideas easily
  • tips for approaching pattern adjustments
  • How to compare pattern schematic measurements with actual measurements
  • suggestions for knitters to recognize the fit issues they have and how to correct the pattern for better fit
  • Identify and explain the sweater styles that can most easily be customized for varied body shape
  • Help knowing a good rate of decreases/increases on sweater bodies or sleeves; arithmetic!

What does this show us?

  1. the variety of bodies out there! It’s valuable, grounding, and refreshing to hear so many people are different in so many ways.
  2. people’s knowledge or lack of knowledge regarding diagnosing fit issues. This is a big issue with me; I find it tricky to figure out how some things do or don’t fit and why. Diagnosing fit is the first step to learning the tools and tactics to achieve the fit you want.
  3. we need to spread the word and let people know what the #KnitPetiteProject is all about! There were a few people who weren’t quite sure what we’re up to, but were keen on participating nonetheless. Let’s share this with as many people as possible so when we start talking about diagnosing fit issues next month, we have even more minds interested in helping out, sharing information, and learning together!
  4. there’s space and interest in working together to figure out our petite fit issues – our community is growing, and I think it’s time to launch a space for us to share with each other, pool resources as a group, and possibly, hopefully (!), hold a KAL in the near future! (more on that coming soon!)

And now, the RESULTS!

As a petite woman, what fit issues do you encounter in knitwear?

  • The biggest issue is that “petite” often means “small all over.” I am short but also plus-sized. I have a small bust for my size so petite tops are great for that, but I also like to wear my shirts long, which petite tops are not great for. Petite dresses are the right length but proportionally wrong for me just about everywhere else.
  • Length. Everywhere. Arms, body, often necklines are too low.
  • Proportions are never right. I’m broad shouldered and narrow waisted, so require considerable shaping to get the fit looking right instead of being baggy in places and stretched tight in others.
  • With an ample bosom, shoulders are always too large. The length between the full bust and waist are too long.
  • I’m ridiculously longwaisted, and some patterns think an XL is a size 14
  • Arms too long and wide
  • Sleeves are too long
  • Underarm to waist always needs to be shortened, sleeves are always just a little too long
  • Balancing height vs proportion – shorter in height but still full sized in bust, arm and hip circumference.
  • Sleeve length, placement of decreases with a smaller torsos
  • I am short-waisted, meaning there’s an incj (at most) between my ribs and hip bones. Few patterns help with accommodating that body type. Besides that, petite frames also come with ample busts. I’m a shrimp wearing a 32DD. Shaping in limited space limits knitting options.
  • Neckline too wide Shoulder width too wide Sleeve too long Length to waist too long
  • If I choose a sweater pattern by bust size, the shoulders are too big. I can adjust lengths fairly easily as I knit my sweaters top down.
  • Shoulders/arm holes…always too wide/long
  • Arms are usually way too long. 3/4 length sleeves look like I’ve made a mistake or run out of yarn because they look *almost* normal length. This is fairly easy to fix. At the same time, the body of a jumper is never long enough. Maybe because I’m quite wide? Thats harder to fix. I often knit different parts in different pattern sizes to get the right complete garment.
  • The waist shaping hits me at the wrong spot. I am almost finished with a new bottom-up sweater, and I modified the waist shaping so that I went directly from waist decreases to waist increases. Looking at myself in the mirror, it’s clear that my natural waist, which is my narrowest part, is directly under my rib cage and my body only takes that width very briefly. I think I should probably modify the armscye and sleeve depth as well, but I don’t really understand how to do that throughly. I am lucky to have a B or C cup bust and find that my bust/shoulder range is fairly accurately represented by standard patterns, but it could still be improved.
  • 1. shoulders and sleeves too wide, waist shaping in the wrong place 2. sock patterns are always too big
  • Not small enough in the bust.
  • Sleeve length and waist placement on shaped garmets
  • Everything has to be shortened and I use my upper bust measurement to select a size instead of bust size. That way the shoulders will fin.
  • Width between shoulders!!! So many adjustments to make.
  • Shoulders too wide in pattern is the most difficult to manage; sleeve, skirt and torso length are easier to adjust but all need consideration.
  • I’m petite size 4 bottom but I wear a size med to large top. Only 5 ft 1/2 inch tall!
  • Shoulder and back measurements on non-raglan sweaters don’t work for me. overall length is easy to customize, and there are a lot of tips for bust adjustments, but the yoke/shrug/set in caps on sweaters don’t seem to adjust for height, only width
  • Bust depth too deep. If I lift up the shoulders by about an inch or so the bust shaping is then in the right place. V necks too low. Sleeves too long.
  • I always have fit issues in the shoulders for both knitwear and ready-to-wear.
  • Arms and torso are always needing to be adjusted. Especially any waist shaping.
  • I am 5’3″with a fairly athletic body shape and broad shoulders. My biggest problem is my torso is of average length but my arms and legs are short. I guess technically even though I am short, that does not make me petite. If I fit my shoulders, the sleeves are at my fingertips. To have the sleeves the correct length, I need to go to a child’s pattern. I have found through trial and error, that a top-down, raglan pattern fits me the best because I can try it on and customize it as I knit. I have found a few knit designers whose patterns really fit me well with just sleeve length alterations so when I look for a pattern, I go check there first. I pretty much avoid the trendy designs because I know they won’t fit. I just grab my old raglan pattern and change pattern stitches, add lace or cables, etc, and come up with something that works for me.
  • I’m 5’1″ and VERY BUSTY – a G cup. Have always had to redraft a sewing pattern and frankly have stopped sewing fitted garments because I can’t get it just right. Working on my first cardigan and it’s a top down pattern that is not very fitted and hoping to adjust as I go along.
  • Fitting my large bust and small waist at the same time.
  • Back length; armhole depth; back width; sleeve length
  • Sleeves too long; waist shaping is too low; need to customize all sweater pattern that I knit for myself
  • Since I am some 4’10” tall and 91 pounds (in the same size range as an eleven year old girl, according to an old growth chart) many sweater patterns for adults are too long and wide. On the other hand sweater patterns intended for children are not shaped properly for my figure. Children’s sizes often have no waist or hip shaping, but I need such shaping.
  • armhole too deep, neck too large, sleeves and garments too long, waist shaping in wrong place.
  • I’m very short waisted & always struggle with adapting waist increases/decreases. Also between my petite-ness & my lack of buxom-ness, my V-necks always seem to dip down to my navel.
  • length! body length, sleeve length, armhole depth, waist shaping actually at the waist, and so on.
  • Obviously the length of garments, but more importantly, the shaping of most clothes is in the wrong place (ie waist shaping going in where my hips are starting to go out) and not enough room across the back shoulders. For more complex designs, often the pattern or detailing is too big across a smaller frame, or if the design element “travels” diagonally up and across, i run out of torso before the design element gets to where it’s supposed to be.
  • sleeves too long, body too long – which can generally be dealt with reasonably easily; shoulders too wide, necks too deep or wide or gaping – a bit more of a challenge; too much ease in sleeves and at underarms – can sometimes be simple to fix, sometimes not
  • None – I adjust based on measurements
  • I have avoided sweater knitting due to concerns over correct measurement taking. Fit issues concern mostly neck to waist measurement, sleeve and across shoulder and chest measurement. Other issues consist of proper placement of decreases and correct row adjustments to accommodate my smaller size. Of course then any pattern (color work, for example) must also be adjusted, a further major concern.
  • As a sweater knitter, waist shaping. It’s always in the wrong place. Straps, like on tank tops, are always too long.
  • Proper fit through the shoulders and arms. I have narrow shoulders so the neck line can be an issue too-either too low or shoulders too wide. I also don’t have the bust to support some tunic pieces.
  • I have to do the math for where and over how much length to do shaping, and for overall length of everything. But . . . I’d have to do it most of the time even I wasn’t short, because I rarely “get gauge.”
  • Shoulder depth is often too long, especially as I have a large bust and am usually knitting an XL size. I am 5’3″, but have a short torso and long legs proportionate to my height.
  • neckline too low/big, torso too long, sleeves too long
  • I always have to shorten the sleeves and have learned the hard way thst top down is ALWAYS going to be my best choice for a good fit + length I want
  • Always have trouble with shortening neck to armhole length.
  • sleeves too long, neck opening too large
  • The shoulder width is too wide in comparison to the torso (bust, waist, hip) measurements. This is difficult to modify since with a set in sleeve it will have knock-on effects on the armhole shape and the sleeve head. The waist is usually too low, and the sleeves are too long, but these are easier to modify. In some styles I find the neckline too wide and too low, but again these are relatively simple to modify. I really love it when a pattern contains a very comprehensive schematic so I can tell which bits I am going to have to alter.
  • Fit around the shoulders, sleeve length, and waist placement.
  • short waisted but relatively long arms, large bust
  • Waist length too long.
  • I am not only petite (5’0″) but also slim (30″ bust), so I go through this sequence of events a lot: 1. I discover a gorgeous sweater pattern on Ravelry, and I fall in love. 2. I discover that the pattern only goes down to a size 34″. The finished dimensions chart (if one exists or if you’re allowed to see it before purchasing the pattern) indicate that the size 34″ is 4 inches too long. My excitement plummets into disappointment. 3. I pull out Excel and try to recalculate sizing using a smaller gauge. Maybe I can knit the pattern using a smaller weight of yarn, and this will fix the width problem. Size 30″, here I come. Excitement increases. 4. I browse through all the projects on Ravelry and try to find somebody else who has made this in a size 30″. Nobody has, uh oh. 5. I read more comments and project notes. I realize that the sweater has bust darts, waist darts, hip darts, and darts halfway up one’s nose. How does one shorten darts or move darts up lengthwise on a pattern? Also, I have to shorten the arm holes too. And the arms. And the torso. Ugh, this has now become way too hard to modify. I might as well write a pattern from scratch at this point. Also, I have no idea if it’ll even look good on me anymore. Screw this pattern. 6. I give up and continue browsing patterns. 7. Rinse, repeat from 1-7.
  • Shoulders, neckline usually too big. Sleeves too long. Adjusting armholes and overall length for narrow shoulders and shorter torso while still allowing sufficient room for bust (D cup). I’m not only petite but also older, so bust is lower than it used to be.
  • The sleeves are too narrow at the top and too long
  • Sleeves too long and many designs are just overpowering on a smaller frame.
  • Sleeve length: Figuring out how to shorten sleeves proportionately while staying in pattern.
  • I’m petite but have boobs – 28FF bra size. I need very small chest size garments – say 30″ – to which I can add room for my bust via increases and darts. That’s a lot of increases/added volume in a very short vertical height, only 4″ or so between waist and largest bust circumference. This is quite challenging! Basically very difficult to achieve unless there is a plain panel at the side fronts where I can locate horizontal bust darts, which rules out a lot of patterns. I can’t blame designers but it is a frustration. Armholes are often too deep and sleeves, well, sleeves are always much too long. But I’m resigned to just redoing the arithmetic for the incs/decs.
  • Very few issues – I mainly knit loose fitting sweaters. However when I try to adjust sweaters to fit better they tend to be too small!!
  • There are no actual petite sizes for me in most patterns. I’m 5′. Usually sweaters are too long or not wide enough,bust isn’t right. Sleeves start at the wrist and I don’t know when to shorten them ? My grown daughters are the same height as myself, but much skinnier. Vogue never has petite sizes and those don’t fit well when I make items from that magazine for my daughters. My instructor tries to help, but she only knows so much.
  • The arm length is too long as well as length in skirts and dresses.
  • Waist placement is too low and I have to shorten the pattern by 1 1/2″
  • I do not like the sleeve width circumference to be too large. I do not need knit as many inches usually from underarm to hem.
  • Busts are always too big–there are very few patterns for bust measurements below 36″ and many patterns have a very small size around 31″ then 36″, 38″, 40″, etc., completely skipping smaller sizes between a tiny teen and a larger woman.
  • uhhhh….. all of them. I’m 5’0′ and 103 lb, and even if I make the smallest size in a pattern it is inevitably too big, sleeves are too long, hem hits in a weird place. These days I only knit top-down sweater patterns so I can adjust as I go
  • Sleeves too long, shoulders too wide for the bust measurement I need, neckline too low/long.
  • 1. Having to raise the lowest point of a neckline in scoop or V-neck styles. 2. Reducing vertical spacing between neckline and bustline/armholes.
  • These answers are based on my rather limited experience with knitting sweaters. The fit of the neckline/shoulder is too wide for my narrow shoulders (I am 5′ 1 1/2″, 100 lb.). The length can be an issue as well, not always sure how to shorten if there are increase/decreases involved. (I prefer top to mid hip length)
  • The torso is too long and shoulders too wide
  • I’m a large but short woman. Plus sized garment patterns are entirely too long in the arms, too deep in the arm-scye, and often too wide or low in the neck. I don’t mind the extra length on the body because I like to wear tops that are long, and I can adjust that length very easily. Patterns designed for shorter women usually do not accommodate heavier women. I also have a tiny head, and adult hat patterns are usually too large on me.
  • Picking the right size to knit because my bust is a bit larger, but my frame is still small and my shoulders are narrow. V-necks can be too deep. Sleeves are usually easy to modify, although sometimes decreases can be challenging.
  • Oh, where to begin? Sweater patterns where the only thing altered for different sizes is the width. Before I knew better, I once knit a sweater that had the same size neck opening for every size – it had a 11″ boat neck for the 32″ bust size and the 48″ bust size. Drop sleeved pullovers and cardigans can be very difficult to alter for a shorter sleeve and body length. Sweaters with waist shaping but no indication how many inches up waist shaping begins and ends so as to make appropriate modifications (with a lot of work you can sometimes figure it out, but it is a complete hassle). That’s probably enough for now
  • The difference between smaller sizes is too big/not proportional
  • Sleeves and body are generally too long by the time it fits me in the bust
  • Having to modify the shaping on the body and sleeves; shoulders not being narrow enough for the bust.
  • redesigning sleeves for proper length and decreases. shortening body and re designing shaping
  • Length and where & how to shorten
  • yes
  • How to deal with broad shoulders plus a short waist on sweaters.
  • I usually avoid knitting garments because I’m concerned about putting _so_ much effort into making something that won’t fit. I expect that I’m petite plus, though that’s a shape I’ve never come across in stores.. I’m 4’10” and currently most comfortable in a size 16 pant My top and bottom halves are rather proportional to each other, and over the past few years I’ve become somewhat round around the middle. I also have a fairly large for my height bust (d cup). I don’t know if describing my unusual shape helps, thought I’d add what I can.
  • sweater patterns seem to be pretty okay for me–I think I have an average or longish torso but shortish arms and legs. I tend to knit top-down, trying on as I go. this way I can tweak the fit if necessary. I find myself often lengthening the bodice and shortening the sleeves, but perhaps some of this is more out of personal preference (I prefer 3/4 length sleeves) than out of being petite, I don’t know. I do have problems with off-the-rack clothing from stores though. necklines and shoulders are an issue. what’s currently in style can add to that problem. (dropped shoulders and boxy cuts, augh.)
  • Sleeves always too long
  • Sleeves that are too long (though that’s easy to modify, usually). Torsos that have all the wrong ratios for where the bust, waist, and hips fall and the increases/decrease to get those. Shoulders that are too broad. Necklines that would fall off my shoulders (and shouldn’t). Patterns that go in rows instead of inches/cm. I have to recalculate everything, and heaven help me if my gauge is not the same as my swatch. It really discourages me from knitting sweaters, knowing I have to re-do all the pattern stitch/row counts. I’ve had to learn a lot about garment construction and fit to understand how to change those counts, too. (Which was fun to learn! But it’s not fun to slog through a sweater’s worth of calculations.) Cowls and scarves and hats sometimes have problems with length/width, but those are generally easy to modify.
  • overall length of garments, placement of shaping (I have a short torso and there’s hardly any space between the underbust and my waist), design elements in the wrong place, just because I’m short doesn’t mean I don’t have a large bust or carry weight in the belly and upper arms. It’s frustrating (mostly with commercial clothing) when designers think that petite means everything’s small/skinny.

What suggestions do you have for the #KnitPetiteProject?

  • Stay awesome? I have no idea. You’ve been doing a great job so far!
  • Keep up the good work! We short gals need equal time! 😆
  • Remember that petite refers to height, not weight. Plus sized petite patterns are almost non-existent.
  • At 5’4″, I’m on the edge of the petite sizing as regards to my height, so it’s all about the shaping for me. This is easy to adjust for plain stocking stitch knits, but very difficult if it involves lace or cable patterns.
  • Help people find what they need to personalize to THEIR body type.
  • Not sure
  • Perhaps some sort of easy access chart that shows a ballpark reduction in the measurements given in a pattern. I have one bookmarked on my computer that I refer to when dressmaking – http://www.madalynne.com/patternmaking-how-to-make-a-pattern-petite – BUT there is no substitute for (a) knowing one’s measurements; and (b) trying on as you knit
  • I hope the project will create size/grading guidelines for pattern designers.
  • The only thing that has worked for me is looking a store made sweaters and compared the WIP to it.
  • Neckline and shoulder width are my biggest problems, especially with raglan and top-down designs.
  • Patterns should come in petite sizes i.e. for persons with small shoulders and larger chests as this body type does not conform to standard sizing. Shaping should be stated as eg. 1′ before the waist start decreasing rather than as a standard length.
  • Sweater pattern w/sizes for larger bust.
  • I don’t think there is an easy answer because there is no one set of measurements for short people any more than there is for people of any size. There is no average.
  • None so far! This is really interesting stuff and I appreciate your synthesis of all the factors that go into this complex topic. I look forward to the new installments.
  • seems to me that petite fit issues are the same as any fit issues…no two people are alike and very few are standard sizes…something that fits me at 5’0″ and 150 lbs will not fit someone who is 5’0″ and 100 lbs…nor will it fit someone who is 5’4″ and 150 lbs…
  • Make sizes that fall in between child’s size and the usual women’s small.
  • Measure as many petite women as possible and that should help provide new guidelines
  • Be sure to cover those of us who are not shortwaisted. I am narrower between the shoulders, but my petiteness (hee is that a word) comes in my lower leg length.
  • Some designers include an ‘adjust here’ notation – more extensive use would be great. More comprehensive schematics too – many patterns don’t even bother other than ‘Size 10’ or ‘M’ but even those that do usually only have bust measurement and maybe sleeve or torso length.
  • Knitting a dress? Almost impossible.
  • Patterns that suggest not just length in numbers but in body position would be great (i.e., knit the sleeve to elbow, or knit back to bottom of shoulder blade)
  • A whole garment approach rather than just chopping off the bottom inch or so. Eg with sleeves I hardly ever reach the point where all the increases are made before I need to cast off for the armhole edge. Result? Never wide enough above the elbow without amending the rate of increases at the start of knitting a sleeve.
  • Use smaller models when designing for us. A 5’9″ or taller model doesn’t give us a usable pattern
  • I think this is a wonderful project and don’t quite know what to suggest. I know there are lots of short/vertically challenged women. Many have given up knitting garments and just do socks, shawls and stuff for kids and grandkids.
  • Petite doesn’t necessarily equal size 0-2 in Ready to Wear. there are 12-14s out here who are also short/petite and I would guess we need more help adjusting patterns for our petite stature than our tiny friends.
  • I’m not clear on what exactly you are. Are you going to teach fitting techniques, or are you trying to get designers to change the way they fit patterns?
  • Ideas for how to make adjustments in specific areas. How to compare pattern schematic measurements with actual measurements.
  • Sizing options for petite folks
  • Along with offering patterns for petite wearers, or examples of how published patterns would be adjusted, suggestions for knitters to recognize the fit issues they have and how to correct the pattern for better fit. For example, some knitters need to adjust for a full bosom, in addition to being petite, so they need that adjustment as well as the “shorter” lengths for petite.
  • no suggestions, just thanks for starting this!
  • Anything with a waistline detail that flatters and falls in the right place
  • looks good so far
  • How to tweak shaping, and how to tweak design elements to account for a shorter body length.
  • I’m not a pattern designer so maybe this would be very cumbersome, but some notes about how to adjust some petite fit issues in the pattern such as percentages of stitches to remove and where to make those changes. In the case of necks too deep, how many rows to add or what to change in gaping necks. It’s not quite like sewing where you fold the pattern tissue – what would the equivalent be in knitting?
  • None
  • Is it possible to include some “sample” projects to try out any new skills the Petite Project may address?
  • Take the time to research patterns for your petite frame, pay particulate attention to those that have photos and are being worn by a person with your body type. I am very small in the shoulders and bust and have short arms. I’ve learned what to look for in patterns and I accept the fact that there are sweaters I’d love to know, but because of my size they won’t work.
  • I’m not sure what the objective of the project is, other than to help knitters resolve the issues. Giving people tips about how to modify patterns? I’m curious if there are other issues petite knitters have.
  • Awareness!: the craft yarn council measurements do t work fo many many of us!
  • I can’t think of anything
  • non yet
  • Necklines!
  • I would love to know more about how to assess items I have knitted for fit and to determine where the problems are and how to solve them in the future. For a lot of my sweaters I find the shoulder seams slide backwards in wear (pulling the front of the sweater up) and I am having trouble identifying what alterations I should make to solve this.
  • Nothing in particular.
  • Suggestions for adjusting waist shaping
  • Short people come in all shapes. Don’t forget the slim petites; we’re out here.
  • Keep going! This is fascinating.
  • A way to easily resize shaping to modify for shorter torsos and arms
  • How to adjust patterns so that they are not so overwhelming
  • Helping with arithmetic formulas to shorten sleeves in pattern.
  • Encourage designers to be realistic about the limitations of their patterns. It’s OK that not everything will work for me! but please don’t tell me that a 34″ is a small size. No, it’s really not.
  • I’m afraid I have no suggestions – but look forward to the discussions, which might give me some bright ideas!
  • I don’t have any suggestions but thank you for doing this! I have hope for us short people now 🙂
  • To make an app or tool of some kind that you can put in your measurements and it will generate an appropriate version of a pattern.
  • Schematics! They really help me see what the project is intended to be so I can see how I need to change it.
  • I wish all designers would include a schematic in the pattern. Usually beginners may not know they can tweak a pattern to fit their body better. I don’t have any suggestions.
  • I find European and Japanese patterns fit me much better–US designers seem to think that all US petite women are fatter than Europeans or Japanese women, and we’re not!
  • I’m just glad this is a thing, honestly. I’ve been struggling with fit in sweaters since I was 12 and knit my first one.
  • Since I don’t know if this is classes or KAL or what, I am not sure what to suggest. Maybe list good fitting tutorials?
  • Need more aran and cable designs that look good with a smaller chest area.
  • Just recently came across your project and am delighted to see petite fit issues addressed. I welcome suggestions on how to tailor the fit of a patten. Please continue to share your findings!
  • How to fit knitwear for petites with larger chests
  • Address the needs of the short but stout crowd!
  • Take into account that petite does not always mean small bust. I’m a size 2 but often can’t get things to fit properly on my chest.
  • Identify and explain the sweater styles that can most easily be customized for varied body shapes (despite all the hoo-ha about bigger sizes, there isn’t much good advice for petites) example: if short in the limbs, vs short in the waist, what style would be most complimentary & easy to adjust to fit? Thank you
  • Short does not equal no bust
  • tutorials on calculating descreases, how to find your waist if you still have one
  • Instructions on how to ‘petite’ garment patterns
  • I find that length between shoulders and bust is an issue. Especially in raglans, by the time I get to the number of correct increases, the armpit is 3 inches too long.
  • Help knowing a good rate of decreases/increases on sweater bodies or sleeves (i.e. at what point is it too much too soon and gives it a funny look)?
  • I’ve never delved deeply enough into garment making to really wrap my head around it, so I don’t yet know what I don’t know! I do appreciate your work and look forward to finding out what I can learn.
  • a dedicated Ravelry group could be helpful. I’m not very chatty, but I like to share relevant projects to groups and browse the projects others have shared. this would make it easier for fellow petites to spot others with a similar build and see what patterns and adjustments (if any) they’ve made.
  • It would be great to get a list of sweater patterns that are designed with petite proportions in mind — or a list of those that are particularly easy to modify
#KnitPetiteProject: Fit Survey Results

#KnitPetiteProject: A valuable word on taste and what’s “flattering”

Our last post where we hear from real knitters about petite fit sacrifices.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

Please lend a hand to the #KnitPetiteProject and answer this brief survey! We’ll be sharing the results next week!

Above all, I want the #KnitPetiteProject to be a body-positive tool we can all use to empower ourselves, helping us achieve the ends WE want to achieve.

I thought it was important to touch on taste, and what we may consider “flattering” for this very reason (and, in anticipation of next months’ series of posts where we look in depth at our bodies and determine what our fit issues are.)

This is also a valuable point to raise because taste is individual and fashion changes; its expressed value will change the desired fit of a garment, which certainly pertains to how we judge good fit!

If something is your style and you love it, I believe you should wear it, regardless of whether it supposedly “flatters” your body or doesn’t. Plus, if we are being honest, to flatter almost always means “makes you look thinner”, and that definitely shouldn’t be your prime objective when it comes to getting dressed.1 Anuschka Rees

Taste and What’s Flattering

Many of the top hits you get if you google “petite fit”, “sizing for petite” and the like are lists of “rules” intended to make you look taller (and as usual, enforce/create a look of thinness).

I avoid talk like that because it’s destructive: it takes as its position a presumption that 1) you focus on your flaws 2) they are indeed flaws, and 3) you want to conform to the author’s ideal of beauty. The underlying notion here is body shame. I’ve wasted enough energy in my life being embarrassed by my body. I suspect many of us feel the same.

So when I embarked on research for the KnitPetiteProject, I wanted to avoid garbage like that. I NEVER want to make assumptions about how someone wants to look. I want to have conversations and share information about how we can achieve what we want to achieve, regardless of what the “rules” say we should want to achieve.

An example: (and I use myself here so as to prevent embarrassing anyone else!) I’m quite sure that my taste in clothing, from the shapes, colours, patterns, and styles, is objectionable to many people, for many reasons. Tastes differ, and so do values and morals. If I were to entirely follow presumptions of how I should try to look, I certainly wouldn’t dress the way I do.

I was emotionally abused2 for significant years of my life by cruel peers who instilled in me a disgust for my body. To this day, it’s an internal fight to wear what I want to because my “fat might be hanging out” or some such garbage. Those peers hated fat. They hated it so much that they expended incredible amounts of energy making me feel like a disgusting excuse of a person.

So that narrative is there, in my head, whenever I choose to wear my beloved crop tops. That narrative is there, but I feel like I’m smashing smashing smashing it each time I wear those tops that are so cute! Those tops that I made! With beautiful bright colours, and lovely yarn, and all that brings me joy!

All that is to say, if I allowed that narrative to win, I wouldn’t dress as I do. My tactics each morning would be about hiding and disguising, not celebrating and enjoying. That narrative is the dominant narrative of our culture here in the modern Western world.3 I’m not a “perfect” shape. I have stretch marks and cellulite and rolls, I’m 34, I “shouldn’t” be wearing short shorts and crop tops and all other manner of items and colours and shapes that I do. To all that I say, I’m a grown woman, and I make my own choices about what brings me joy and ultimately, what makes me feel comfortable and confident.

But what if I DO want to look taller/thinner/curvier?

There certainly are people who’ve noted their concerns surrounding “flattering proportions” in the KnitPetiteProject surveys, and designs that may “overwhelm” a petite body. This is a valuable conversation to have! I think, though, that any time we talk about ideas like this it should be without presumptions of “correction”, and instead should be that we are simply very clear about the look we want to achieve, and the tactics we can use to achieve it.

A good resource is Amy Herzog’s Knit to Flatter book and class. When I first enrolled for Knit to Flatter, I did so with a bit of trepidation. I was afraid it might be yet another “if you’re pear shaped, you have to dress like THIS!!” Fortunately, it is not like that! Herzog does indeed talk in depth about aesthetics and proportion in relation to body shapes, giving advice like colourful yoked sweaters “balancing” out a body that is wider at the bottom. But from the outset she makes herself very clear by stating that we should all dress in whatever way makes us feel good.

The line of distinction that I want to make clear is this: yes, there are tactics you can utilize to add or remove emphasis, but I will NOT EVER assume you would want to employ a particular tactic because you are a particular shape.

Interested in a more in-depth discussion of this topic? See the Question of the Week below!

Changing Fashion and Flattering Fit

“…perception of good fit varies from person to person as well as within the same individual over time and depending on environmental context.”4

Changing fashion plays a role in our perceptions of good fit. To get the look of an oversized 80s sweater, you’ll be judging its fit based on different rules of measurement than, say, a fitted 50s-style sweater.

The excellent chapter “Sizing and clothing aesthetics”5 is filled with excellent, thought-proving statements that add more complexity:

“Through taste, individuals are able to demonstrate their interpretation of the cultural moment.” (pg 311)

“The subjectivity of taste is complex; understanding the fit of garments as a consequence of taste is more so.”

“In regard to garment size (especially in extreme body types), good and bad fit, like cut, are somewhat elusive. Significantly, it is my assertion that absolute expressions of fit do not exist. If fit can only be accessed as an approximation, then, when fashion changes from tight fitting to loose fitting, the concept of fit is further displaced.” (pg 313)

In light of our focus on petite women, largeness and littleness and its relation to the body, clothing, and fashion, are valuable to reflect on:

“…littleness is implied in femininity and bigness is implied in masculinity. These polarities exist at the basis of fit. In the body’s attempts to characterize itself towards one of another pole, males and females idealize themselves in a segmented section of their continuum… Gender is of course an ambiguous concept.” (pg 318)

All these quotes are shared here with the intention for us all to ponder, for ourselves, what we judge as good fit. What we determine is our own taste and preferences. And this entire post is here to encourage you to feel strong, comfortable, and certain of the choices you want to make about how you look, because next month we’re going to start digging into shape, fit, and the tactics to make clothes fit our petite bodies the way we want them to!

Fun Fact

More a Fun Quote than a Fun Fact…
That chapter in the Sizing book I’ve been referring to in this post is filled with interesting quotes. Here’s another:

“The Elizabethan corset and other forms of structured suppression and figure-molding garments have been influencing the shape and therefore the fit of garments on a women’s body up to and until the 1960s when fashion’s leadership became less dictatorial and more democratic.” (pg 313)


I have a background in art and art history. I am very studied at looking a visual information and human expression through art & fashion, that includes how we take in visual information, ways to draw or repel attention, to enhance or reduce.

I would be happy to have a discussion of this sort here, for the purposes of the KnitPetiteProject. I would stipulate that, of course, this would NOT be prescriptive but instead should illuminate how to draw or repel attention. I would not presume certain shapes desire certain shared ends.

Ultimately: would you like to have a body-positive discussion about aesthetics and clothing? Share your thoughts by commenting on this post.


1 Anuschka Rees. “The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe“. Ten Speed Press, 2016.

2 This is very much a side note, but I think we should call “mean girls” and the “bullying” they do what it really is: emotional abuse.

3 The modern Western world is a culture I feel comfortable speaking about, but if you live elsewhere, the statement here may certainly be the case for you as well.

4 D.H. Branson and J. Nam, “Materials and Sizing”, Sizing in clothing: developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. S. P. Ashdown, Textile Institute (Manchester, England) Woodhead Publishing in association with The Textile Institute, Apr 20, 2007. pg 266.

5 Van Dyk Lewis, “Sizing and clothing aesthetics”, Sizing in clothing: developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. S. P. Ashdown, Textile Institute (Manchester, England) Woodhead Publishing in association with The Textile Institute, Apr 20, 2007. pgs 309 – 327.

#KnitPetiteProject: A valuable word on taste and what’s “flattering”

#KnitPetiteProject: What fit sacrifices does a petite person make when wearing a non-petite sized garment? Hearing from REAL knitters!

Our last post examining the value in a difference between regular and petite sizing.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

Please lend a hand to the #KnitPetiteProject and answer this brief survey!

So far in the #KnitPetiteProject our sources have been from fibre science and garment design scholars, knitting experts, and some internet sleuthing for information shared by apparel manufacturers and retailers.

This week, we’ll turn to the actual, lived experience of real knitters.

The question we’re looking at in this post is: if a petite person does not modify their knitting to accommodate their shorter vertical lengths, what are the repercussions?

The following are comments shared from the first #KnitPetiteProject survey (information collected anonymously) and shared in a forum on Ravelry (posters kept anonymous):

Waist and Bust Shaping and Torso Lengths

  • Waist shaping is always an issue, since my torso is not super long and never seems to align with where shaping starts/ends in a pattern. I have tried to do the math with my measurements and gauge and the schematic. Disaster.
  • The waistline of fitted clothing always hits me in the wrong place (it’s too low).
  • I wonder about modifying for my petite, large-breasted, but not fat-bellied body. If I select a pattern for my bust size, it’s often too big in the waist and shoulders.
  • At just under 5’ tall, I have had the tunics that ended up as dresses, and sleeves best suited to an orang-utan.
  • I’m 5 feet tall, but I’m busty, which makes everything difficult. If I find something that fits my measurements around my bust, I wind up cutting six inches off to make it short enough.
  • I have to stay away from large-scale cable or diamond-shaped aran patterns because my tweaking for less stitches around the bust would usually alter the appearance relative to my adjusted neckline and armholes.

Shoulders, Back and Arms

  • I often have to adjust armhole depths, overall length, and inc/dec frequency.
  • When I knit patterns based on my bust size, the rest of the sweater is too big. How do I modify the pattern so the body of the sweater fits properly?
  • I have short arms and am narrow through the shoulders but a regular bust size and distance across the back. Neck and shoulder fitting and shortening sleeves are sometimes difficult.
  • I avoid raglan styles due to difficulty in shortening pattern proportionally
  • How to modify garments to fit my narrow shoulders without being too tight in the sleeves and on the rest of my L/XL torso.


  • The other thing I’m currently thinking about is proportion. Short and average sized means wearing a sweater with yoke patterning that comes down onto the upper arms just makes me look shorter and wider. Not flattering! So what kinds of designs would give me a longer, leaner line?
  • I need to modify knitting patterns for size and style. I love fisherman knit patterns, but the cables and other details can overwhelm me at 5′ and 110 lbs.

Petite Plus

  • I’m petite and full figured, and I feel that I need to resize the length of sleeves but not the length of the body, what gives?
  • I’ll be the lone voice in the wilderness calling for petite plus sizes. I don’t sew, but I do knit. I have no idea how to adapt patterns.
  • …I am mightly irritated by the standard assumption that as we grow bigger in the bust, we will need huge sleeves, wide necklines, and an armhole depth of 10” or more. Or that as we grow wider, we grow taller! …

The Second #KnitPetiteProject Survey!

In February and March we’ve laid a foundation for WHY we may encounter petite fit issues. This month were looking in depth at what those petite fit issues are. I’m asking for YOUR HELP, and sharing the results of the survey at the end of April.

Please lend a hand to the #KnitPetiteProject and answer this brief survey!

Fun Fact

This post was inspired by a book resource recommended to the #KnitPetiteProject, Fit for Real People. We’ll be looking more in depth at this book in the coming weeks. It’s pretty easy to get online via sellers like Amazon if you’re interested in reading along! This is a fantastic example of how all of us working together and sharing information is building a resource we can all use to help us fit our knits to our own bodies!


Have you ever been measured by an expert (ie: seamstress, bra-fitting, any tailoring, etc…)?

#KnitPetiteProject: What fit sacrifices does a petite person make when wearing a non-petite sized garment? Hearing from REAL knitters!

#KnitPetiteProject: Is there a significant and valuable difference between regular and petite when it comes to knitwear?

Our last post looking at a few different sizing charts.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

In February, we looked at who petite women are. In March, we studied some sizing standards history. And now in April, we’ll be asking a valuable question: is there even a point in considering petite fit in knitwear? Should we even care?

“…height should not increase with size.”1

Right off the bat, let’s clarify a couple of things.

I know I’ve personally been a bit tripped up by the concept of a “sizing standard”, and the concept of individual “sizing systems”. For this week’s post in particular, it’s going to be important to underline the fact that there is NO compulsory sizing standard that clothing designers or manufacturers must adhere to.

Instead, there are complex and in some cases very specifically targeted sizing systems that are developed by any number of industry groups, specific manufacturers, and even individual creators.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to use the CYC standards (which are widely used by knitwear designers) and ASTM’s Petite Misses’ Body Measurement chart, also touching on Kathleen Cheetham’s Petite Plus chart.

I regret to say that I simply have not found an in depth petite body measurements chart for sizes above a 46″ bust. Please let me know of any resources that fit this description!

As always when looking at charts, I do not want you to feel you are measuring your worth with these numbers! These are just body measurements; averaged out, flawed, and attempting to create a system wherein individuals can be served through the smallest number of different sizes despite the enormous number of ways our bodies differ from each other.

The purpose of this post is to give you an idea as to how shorter vertical (and some horizontal) body measurements can impact the fit of your knitted garments.

What is regular?

We looked a bit at CYC’s body measurement chart last week, and even talked a bit about some weaknesses this chart includes. Nevertheless, it is widely applied by knitwear designers for a number of reasons, including its size range, number of body measurements, and the fact that it’s freely available.

Please keep in mind that not all designers use CYC!

CYC Body Measurements chart
  • To note: bust size range goes from 28″ – 62″
  • Vertical measurements included are Back Waist Length, Sleeve Length to Underarm, Armhole depth
  • Cross Back measurement is important to determining shoulder sizing and body frame, which is important to selecting size and achieving good fit.

What is petite?

We’ve talked a bit about ASTM in the past, but to recap: this source is worth using in our post today because they are a leading source of body measurement data. They base their numbers on a variety of sources (both old and new), and revisit their charts through specialized committees every few years. That said, it is limited in that it does not include a wide range of larger sizes, and has been shown to skew towards individuals who are more “top petite” than bottom petite.

I can’t say that is is an exact complement, usage-wise, to CYC within the knitwear design community. Generally, as we’ve seen, knitwear design hasn’t focused on petite sizing and the chart very frequently relied upon is CYC (as seen above) and is without petite sizing.

The ASTM Petite Misses’ Chart is not freely available online, so I can’t post all its measurements here.

But what I can do is share a bit about what they have to say about these body measurements, and give a comparison for a select number of measurements for 3 different sizes.

In the standard table, ASTM states that although the information included are body measurements, “… they can be used as a baseline in designing apparel for Misses’ Petite in this size range when considering such factors as fabric type, ease for body movement, styling, and fit.”


I’ve selected the sizes listed here because they are the closest comparisons to what exists with CYC.

And since ASTM’s petite charts do not include bust sizes above 46″, let’s also take a peek at Kathleen Cheetham’s chart:


On Cheetham’s chart, note that:

  • the bust range is from 38″ – 50″. This is still not a direct comparison to the size range in CYC, which extends up to 62″
  • she also has Back Shoulder Width and Center Back Waist Length, which we can now compare against our regular measurements from CYC.
  • her charts are very specialized to the petite plus body size, with narrow shoulders, D-cup bust, and a tummy.

Where do the differences lay?

Cross-reference time!

The number of measurements all these charts share is limited, but I’ll pick a few here to demonstrate the point.

There are certainly other numbers that would be helpful in demonstrating the value and significance of the petite/regular difference, but as we are limited by the charts and their copyright availability, I’ll limit our discussion to just three examples.

All three of these numbers are significant to good fit. As we’ve learned earlier this year, fitting your frame is important, and determining the size of your frame rests on accurate shoulder measurements and fit. (Also important to this is a high chest / upper bust measurement, but as this isn’t a shared number through all three of our charts here, I’ll have to omit it from our analysis today).

Cross Back

The smallest sizes seem to agree here, with 14″ as the cross back measurement.  But if you take a look at our mid-range size of 36″ bust, we see that the petite body numbers say 15″, where the regular body numbers say 16″ – 16.5″.  The 46″ bust size give a petite number of 16″ 5/8, versus the regular number of 17.5″. And from Cheetham’s chart, which is designed specifically for petite plus women with narrow shoulders, the difference is even starker: the 50″ bust on her chart is 15″ 3/4, whereas the regular chart says 18″.

Center Back Waist Length

The smallest size in petite 15″ 3/8, versus 16.5″ in the regular chart. A mid-range size of 36″ bust gives a petite number of 15″ 3/8, versus 17″ 1/4 in the regular chart. And the largest size we can compare, a 50″ bust, measures 14″ 7/8 on Cheetham’s chart versus 18″ on the CYC.

You’ll start to notice that Cheetham’s chart is not a total complement to the ASTM numbers. Through this disparity we can see the plurality of sizing systems; Cheetham’s chart is for a highly targeted market of petite plus sized women. I’ve contacted Cheetham for an interview. I hope to be able to share more info with you on how she created her charts when she responds.

Armhole Depth

The smallest sizes in petite gives this number as 5.5″ versus 6.5″ in the regular chart. Our medium range size of 36″ bust gives a petite armhole depth of 5″ 7/8, versus a regular armhole depth of 7.5″. And our largest comparable size, the 46″ bust, gives a petite number of 6″ 5/8 versus 8.5″.

How does this affect hand knits?

Next week we’ll hear feedback from REAL knitters on the fit sacrifices they make when dealing with regular sizing for their petite bodies. For today, let’s touch on the topic of the importance and value of petite body measurements and regular sized hand knit patterns.

Cross Back, Back Waist, Armhole Depth: Why do these discrepancies matter?

The cross back number plays a role in where your shoulder seams are going to lay (for set-in sleeved sweaters), and determine the amount of room built into anything that’s going around/across that part of the body. For example, I’ve used the cross back measurement to determine how far apart arm openings have to be in items like simple shrugs. If I as a designer have calculated an extra 1.5″ into that number, you’ll have droopy sleeves and/or ripples of too much fabric across your back. This could ruin the look of a garment.

The centre back waist measurement is important to fit because it determines the length of your sweater from shoulders to waist. As knitters, you know that some sweaters require significant waist shaping. This is functional, but can also be an important, decorative element of the sweater. If that waist shaping is happening even 1.5″ away from your actual waist, it will sit oddly on your body and you may have too much fabric in some areas, and then too little in others. You could get folds of fabric at the small of your back and weird-looking bunching. This also cascades length issues above and below the waist point.

Armholes that are big and a bit saggy might indeed be your stylistic choice, but if you want to achieve the designer’s intended look for the garment, then this measurement deserves attention.


Materials are one of the critical factors that affect garment fit, and therefore an understanding of material properties has an important place in the development of garment sizing.2

There are certainly some stitches, gauges, and other factors that will tighten up hand-knitted fabric, but in general many hand knits can be said to have a good degree of stretch.

I’ve personally made much use of this in my own hand knits and designs; this stretch means you can use negative ease and create a garment or accessory that is snug to your skin. As we touched on last week, that is sometimes a matter of taste (tight sweaters that hug your body, think 1940s “sweater girls”), and it is sometimes a matter of function (hats and socks have negative ease so they stay on your body, where they’re meant to be!)

That stretchy quality also makes knitted fabric more “forgiving” for fit, but of course, it does not mean that it erases fit concerns entirely. As D.H. Branson and J. Nam state in their chapter on materials and sizing in “Sizing in Clothing”:

“The fitting process can be simplified in the use of stretch materials as the stretch can potentially compensate for individual body variation that would require greater attention if the design were executed in a woven fabric. Yet, it is erroneous to assume that a stretch fabric garment will automatically fit in all the right places and provide ease of movement.”3

One such way a sewing pattern may pay more attention to fit than a knitting pattern would is the sleeve cap shaping. Sewing patterns may make the slope of the front of the cap a different shape than the slope of the back of the cap. Knitting patterns rarely do this.

Knitting legend Shirley Paden also makes note, “…because woven fabric do not have the stretch of knitted fabrics, they are generally 1″ – 2″ (2.5 to 5 cm) larger than their knitted counterparts. Keep in mind that cable and twist-stitch patterns will make dense, narrow fabrics while openwork and lace patterns will make very stretchy fabrics…Typically, you’ll want to add 1/2″ to 1″ (1.3 to 2.5 cm) of ease to the knitted fabric to attain a similar drape to [a woven counterpart]”.4

Weight of Fabric

Yarn comes in many thicknesses and fibres. These factors exert their inherent properties on fit in a number of ways.

For example, a super bulky knit sweater will not only be heavier than a DK weight sweater, the actual thickness of the yarn will consume part of the body space measurements. This is an aspect that a good designer would certainly take into account.

A heavy weight of yarn thickness or fibre will also exert more physical weight on the garment. This may be compensated for within the design, but there are repercussions if the wearer’s body isn’t the length the design assumes it is. The intended drape of the design may be incorrect, the lengths may drag down. And we may get that dreaded (unintended) super low neckline.

As Maggie Righetti says in her excellent book Sweater Design in Plain English, “Most home-knit fabrics stretch a great deal lengthwise. They do not stretch so much crosswise…Blocking the sweater will NOT stop the lengthwise stretch. No thing yet devised by man stops gravity!”5

If you already have too much vertical length in your knits, and as Righetti assures us, it WILL stretch over time, the length issue is compounded by the weight/stretch of hand knit fabric.

#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. This month we’ll be looking in depth at what those petite fit issues are. I’m asking for YOUR HELP, and sharing the results of the survey at the end of April.

Please lend a hand to the #KnitPetiteProject and answer this brief survey!

Fun Facts

“The three vertical measurements from underarm level to waist derived from the anthropometric survey actually decrease for each larger size up to bust circumference of 39 inches (99 cm). For sizes larger than 39 inches, the vertical increases are positive, but very small. None is incremental.”6

“Currently, ‘trial and error’ has been used to modify patterns for knit fabrics and to determine grading rules to create a set of sizes.”7


What petite modifications do you make to your handknits?


1 N. A. Scholfield, “Pattern Grading”, Sizing in clothing: developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. S. P. Ashdown, Textile Institute (Manchester, England) Woodhead Publishing in association with The Textile Institute, Apr 20, 2007. pg 180.

2 D.H. Branson and J. Nam, “Materials and Sizing”, Sizing in clothing: developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. S. P. Ashdown, Textile Institute (Manchester, England) Woodhead Publishing in association with The Textile Institute, Apr 20, 2007. pg 264.

3 Ibid, pg 269.

4 Shirley Paden. Knitwear Design Workshop: A comprehensive guide to handknits. Interweave Press, 2009. pg 20.

5 Maggie Righetti. Sweater Design in Plain English. St Martin’s Press. 1990. pg 24.

6 N. A. Scholfield, “Pattern Grading”, Sizing in clothing: developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. S. P. Ashdown, Textile Institute (Manchester, England) Woodhead Publishing in association with The Textile Institute, Apr 20, 2007. pg 180.

7 D.H. Branson and J. Nam, “Materials and Sizing”, Sizing in clothing: developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. S. P. Ashdown, Textile Institute (Manchester, England) Woodhead Publishing in association with The Textile Institute, Apr 20, 2007. pg 269.



#KnitPetiteProject: Is there a significant and valuable difference between regular and petite when it comes to knitwear?

#KnitPetiteProject: Survey 2 “What are your fit issues?”

Hi everyone!

In April, we’re going to begin looking at the practicalities of petite fit issues and knitwear.

Let’s take this opportunity to check in with the #KnitPetiteProject and get some feedback!

Please participate and have your voice heard by answering this 2-question survey.  And please share it with all the other petite knitters you know!

We’ll be discussing the results of the survey at the end of this month.

Thanks folks!

#KnitPetiteProject: Survey 2 “What are your fit issues?”

#KnitPetiteProject: Some different sizing charts, and WHY they’re different

 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.

CYC women’s sizing chart

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.

#2. EASE

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…

Examining Charts

For each of the charts we’ll look at below, have your numbers ready and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who do I think this chart is for/who does it represent?
  2. 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.

Sewing Charts

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.

Retailer’s Charts

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!


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.



#KnitPetiteProject: Some different sizing charts, and WHY they’re different

#KnitPetiteProject: Should there be a compulsory (inter)national sizing standard that companies must adhere to?

Our last post outlining how the standard for petite is different than the standard for misses/women.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

When I started the #KnitPetiteProject I was convinced that there should be a sizing standard adhered to across the board: from the perspective of a consumer, I thought this would make it so much easier for me to select items store-to-store, and at the very least I would know that all items would need alterations in all the same ways.

The more I read, the more I have become convinced that this is a very difficult, maybe impossible and undesirable goal.

Adopting a worldwide clothing sizing standard, especially for body size dimensions, is difficult if not impossible, given the wide variation in body dimensions and cultural diversity in shopping and product expectation.”1 emphasis my own

Sizing Standards are Voluntary

As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, the creation of sizing standards is a large, research-intense undertaking by governments or international standards bodies, whose findings are voluntary for manufacturers and retailers.

As a refresher, some standards-creating bodies currently are ISO and ASTM.

Smaller Population Target = Higher Accuracy of Fit

A research guide from Tufts notes a few important guidelines when it comes to working with anthropometric data:

  • Most data sets focus on particular populations, such as children, populations sharing a particular medical condition, or members of a profession, such as the military or an athletic sport.  These should not necessarily be extrapolated to general populations.

  • Apples must be compared with apples, not oranges.  When merging multiple data sets, make sure that they share common features such as units of measurements, the physical condition or age of the subjects measured, etc.  Pay attention to the terminology for specific measurements.

  • Chronology and geography is important.  Averages evolve over time due to migration, changes in diet, mortality, and other factors.  Data collected in a one country or region 50 years ago may not apply to a later population in a different location.

Even if a widespread, representative body scan project was implemented in the United States today, all the data collected would have to be revisited in a few years to ensure accuracy. It would also have to be narrowed into representative groups of individuals (in this case outlined as children, those with certain medical conditions, etc). Of course, this applies to the segment of adult females as well.

A researcher we’ve referenced earlier, K.L. Labat, states that “[t]he need for an international standards organization is not in developing a worldwide standard with a one-size-fits-all agenda, but to coordinate and make available body measurement data from all the countries wanting to participate in world trade of apparel.”2

Also noted from Labat is the desirability of defining sizing systems for specific target markets, gaining a better understanding of the differences and similarities of human bodies. I’d like to think we’re working toward that with the #KnitPetiteProject!

Variations between Nations + Ethnicities

To flesh out the idea of smaller target population, take a look at this info: Labat outlines a number of different countries and their work toward developing a sizing system. Check out the info below and how much it varies:

  • Germany (1983) published a system that identified 9 figure types using the height by hip as the key dimension.
  • Hungary (1986) created its system using height and body build with 3 key body measurements.
  • Korea (1990) used 5 height groups for its system.

Even within the same nation, there may be a variety of body type differences associated with ethnic backgrounds. The data we looked at last week from the CDC (pdf) gave us a bit of insight. This article from scholars C. L. Istook and S-J Hwang Shin argues the importance of understanding the shape of diverse ethnicities: “This study revealed that ethnic groups had different fit problems and significant body shape differences. Even within the same figure type category, a variety of body dimensions existed in each ethnic group.”

Size as Marketing

“…is it possible to satisfy all of the female population with a manageable number of standard sizes? Based on the conservative estimates expressed in our question above, a retail store would have to carry some 72 different sizes to cover the entire female population!3 emphasis my own

Susan Koger, co-founder and chief creative officer of ModCloth, wrote this op-ed for the Business of Fashion in April 2015. Through customer feedback and independent 3rd party surveys, ModCloth discovered that 88% of women size 16+ would buy more clothes if they came in larger sizes.  There was considerable work involved in order to serve this segment of ModCloth’s market: as Koger says, “…we set up a dedicated team to ensure fit and proportion are properly executed across all sizes, and shared this with designers that sell on ModCloth, as many lacked the resources to extend their sizing.” Ultimately, this was a very successful and valuable decision for the company.

Personally, I know I have made purchases through this website because of its brand-attitude toward body positivity – they appear to very much believe in this ethos, not only creating / supporting / selling clothing in larger sizes, but also including (un-photoshopped) images of larger sized models.

Size as marketing is powerful: this ModCloth example demonstrates how a company looked into their market, did their research, worked through all the follow-up steps, and delivered on their value statement, becoming attractive to customers because of this work, as well as the pure existence of the clothing sizes they sell.

If ModCloth had to stick to an (inter)nationally dictated sizing system, this work may not have been accomplished. The company was able to look internally and serve its market.

Companies and manufacturers with up-to-date anthropometric data can select out the numbers for their own target market and serve those individuals with a greater accuracy than, say, a company that relies on charts/data that represent an average woman from the total female population. Or, even more skewed, a set of data from a female population entirely apart from the one they wish to serve.

The lack of an enforced (inter)national sizing standard means that as consumers we may lose the ability to hop from shop to shop, knowing we’re always a size 12. But it also means that we may be able to find a shop for whom WE are the target, and have an even better fit experience, consistently, within that manufacturer.

Fun Fact

Perhaps this fact isn’t “fun” so much as interesting: according to the Youtube stylist Lauren Messiah, within the fashion industry “tolerance” allows the garment creator a margin of human error: it means they can mess up within 2 inches ie: cutting too much fabric from the pattern, machine skewing and messing up seam allowance, etc… You can pick up the same shirt/brand/style/size within the same store and they may not be the same at all!

“The number on the tag doesn’t determine your worth, and it’s not even true most of the time.”


Have you ever purchased clothing (IRL or online) from a foreign country? Did you notice any differences in the sizing?

#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!


1 K. L. Labat, “Sizing Standardization”, Sizing in clothing: developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. S. P. Ashdown, Textile Institute (Manchester, England) Woodhead Publishing in association with The Textile Institute, Apr 20, 2007. pg 100.

2 Ibid, pg 102.

3 Marie‐Eve Faust, Serge Carrier, Pierre Baptist, (2006) “Variations in Canadian women’s ready‐to‐wear standard sizes“, Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 10 Iss: 1, pg 80.

#KnitPetiteProject: Should there be a compulsory (inter)national sizing standard that companies must adhere to?