#KnitPetiteProject: What does Petite Mean?

Our last post, outlining the plan for the #KnitPetiteProject.
All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

Before beginning this knowledge + skill-building journey, it’s best to first clarify the parameters of the folks who this may apply to.

That is, what does petite mean?

The English language uses that word in a bunch of different ways, but if we’re demystifying this weirdly mysterious sizing system we live in, let’s start here:

For the purposes of the #KnitPetiteProject, “petite” means any woman who is 5’4″ tall (1.62 m) or shorter, or has vertical body measurements which align to a shorter length than is served by established sizing systems.1

Let’s break that down a bit.


You’ll note in the definition above that total body height is the only clarified measurement given. That’s because having a height of 5’4″ or shorter makes it more likely2 that you’ll have vertical measurements that are shorter than the established sizing systems.

The height of 5’4″ wasn’t chosen at random; it’s a well-established line that clothing retailers have drawn in the sand, excluding 43% of American women from the “regular” size that is catered to. Next month we’ll get into why and how that line was drawn.

Vertical Measurements

Human bodies are all different, which may be obvious but is worth repeating, particularly in a discussion of this sort. The definition of petite we’ll be operating under for the #KnitPetiteProject makes note that a person may in fact be taller than 5’4″, and still have vertical measurements that are shorter than the established system may presume. This brings these 5’4″+ folks under the #KPP umbrella because they too may face vertical fit issues.

Body Shape: Weight

A question that arose multiple times in the first #KPP survey was:

Does petite just mean short or does it mean a more general slight stature? Because I am short but round.

Here is where we should emphasize that while the word petite may mean a variety of other things in the English language, for #KPP’s purposes, it applies to vertical measurements only. All weights are included. We’re not just talking about (or even focusing mostly on) slim women.

In fact, the petite-plus market is growing, and clothing retailers would do well to serve these people.3

Body Shape: Age

Also of note is that the #KnitPetiteProject is talking about women of all ages.

In the very interesting chapter on sizing in the home sewing industry in Sizing in Clothing, the authors explain that “[o]ur bodies do change with age, but everyone changes differently and at different rates.” They also note the kind of changes that commonly occur with age, including “…shoulders that move forward, a back that becomes more rounded, shorter overall height, a thicker waist, a lower and fuller bust, a rounder abdomen, smaller hips, flatter buttocks, and a tilted waistline (higher in the front and lower in the back).” (pg 341-343)

Much of this information will come to bear in our discussions on measuring our bodies (later this month) and determining approaches to making our clothes fit us.

What do you think?

The #KnitPetiteProject is collaborative; if you have any questions or would like to add to the info above, please comment on this post!

Fun Fact of the Week

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, petite, as a size in women’s clothing, is attested from 1929. We’ll be getting into the history of sizing standards much more in March.


Because the #KnitPetiteProject is a collaborative effort, I’d like to ask questions each week to help gather as much info as possible.

What sources can you find that explain why the petite size for women’s clothing is a) a specialized, out-sized category and b) defined as 5’4″ and shorter?


1 A clarification on terminology, taken from K.L. Labat’s chapter “Sizing Standardization” in Sizing in Clothing:
on sizing standards, “…a published document that has been developed and established within the consensus principles of a governing standards organization. In the USA, ASTM International provides a structure for developing and updating voluntary clothing sizing standards that may be used by clothing producers.” (pg 88)
on sizing systems, “…the total range of size and fitting combinations available in ready made garments, with each system containing a number of size ranges, each catering to the sizing requirements of a specific group of the population.” (pg 88-89)

2 For more info, taken from S.P. Ashdown, L. M. Lyman-Clarke, and P. Palmer’s chapter “Sizing for the home sewing industry” in Sizing in Clothing:
“The term petite refers to height only…Someone who is a petite size overall would be shorter proportionately in every part of her body that an average height person. However, a person who is 5 feet 2 inches or under is actually not necessarily petite overall, as she can be short in the legs only. Some women who measure petite in statue are actually longer in the waist and crotch that a tall person.” (pg 340)

3 Here is a 2008 article from the CBC and a 2016 article from Retail Dive. There’s many more such articles, many of which cite data from the NPD Group (see Resources above for more info about them). Assuming the validity of the NPD data and all the news sources that rely on it, 43% of American women are 5’4″ and shorter, AND the average American woman now wears between a size 14-34. That Venn diagram could certainly have a significant overlap of petite-plus women!

#KnitPetiteProject: What does Petite Mean?

#KnitPetiteProject: Plan Outline

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey! Your responses have guided the following plan outline for the #KnitPetiteProject.

That said, this plan is flexible and can change with new knowledge and questions we may have. I intend to make this a collaborative process! We’ll be talking and sharing information across platforms and always using this website as the base of information.

Throughout the year I’ll be checking in with pertinent surveys and other activities so we can learn and talk about this topic in a fun, open, collective, and body-positive manner.

February: Who is Petite?

Feb 14: What does petite mean? Looking at height, vertical measurements, body shape, weight, and age.

Feb 21: How many petite women are there in the population of various countries?

Feb 28: How do you know if you’re petite or have petite fit issues? How do you identify your petite fit needs?

March: What’s the deal with Sizing Standards?

March 7: How did we arrive at the sizing we have today? Why isn’t petite the standard?

March 14: How exactly is the standard for petite different than the standard misses/women’s sizing?

March 21: Should there be a compulsory (inter)national sizing standard that companies must adhere to?

March 28: What are some different examples of sizing charts, and WHY are they different? 

April: Petite Sizing Issues; Why Should we Care?

SURVEY: Now that we know what petite is and how we’re under-served, let’s discover the major fit issues we come up against.

April 4: Is there a significant and valuable difference between the standard and petite when it comes to knitwear?

April 11: What fit sacrifices does a petite person make when wearing a non-petite sized garment? Sometimes “just make it shorter” doesn’t work!

April 18: A valuable word on taste and what’s “flattering”.

April 25: Sharing survey results!

May: How Petite affects Knitting

May 2: Is a valuable change affected in “petiting” a knit? Let’s examine some real life examples.

May 9: Shoulders, back and arms; what are the issues, and how do they line up against standard sizing?

May 16: Looking at the variety of torso length measurements; what are the issues, and how do they line up against standard sizing?

May 23: Bust, waist, and hip circumferences what are the issues, and how do they line up against standard sizing?

May 30: Petite Plus; what are the issues, and how do they line up against standard sizing?

June: Tactics to Petite your Knits

June 6: Your personal variety of modifications; what are they, and how do they differ from the standard?

June 13: What to look for in a knitting pattern; hallmarks of a design you can modify.

June 20: Are there general modification rules we can follow when looking at a pattern we want to modify to our personal petite-ness?

June 27: Math, (im)modifiable design features, and your personal taste.

July: What the World of Sewing can teach Knitters

SURVEY: Petite knitting: workbook and KAL?

July 4: Where can you find petite sewing patterns and resources and how can they help a knitter? What’s a “sloper” and how can it help a knitter?

July 11: How is sizing in sewing different than sizing in knitting? 

July 18: Why is it easier to find petite and jr petite (vintage) sewing patterns than contemporary ones?

July 25: Sharing the survey results!

August: Petite-friendly Designers + Resources

Mini Survey: What designers do you go to for your petite patterns?

August 1: Who offers petite sizing in knitwear design? What sizing standards do they use?

August 8: Ravelry and the petite knitter. 

August 15: Online classes useful for petite knitters.

August 22: Books useful for petite knitters (want to do a read-along, anyone?)

August 29: Sharing the mini survey results!

September: Shopping for Petites

September 5: Off-the-rack tactics: how can we take what we’ve learned this year and buy smart? What should we look for in off-the-rack clothes?

September 12: What modifications can we make to off-the-rack clothes? How can we find hidden gems in our closets and make them work for our petite body now?

September 19: Where do you love to buy clothes? Why is that a good shop for you?

September 26: Reflecting on the strengths of making your clothes work for you!

October: Creating YOUR #KnitPetiteProject

SURVEY: Checking in with how you think the #KnitPetiteProject is going! Are we addressing your questions?

October 3: Anybody want to KAL?

October 10: Focus on your FOs and UFOs; is there any new knowledge you can apply to those pieces to make them conform to your fit desires?

October 17: Focus on your WIPs; is there any new knowledge you can apply to your on-the-needles pieces to make them conform to your fit desires?

October 24: Focus on your future patterns; what choices are you going to make when selecting a pattern?

October 31: Sharing the survey results!

November: Reinforcing Knowledge Through Community

November 7: Revisiting information explored earlier in the year; what did we miss? What can we expand on in November?

November 14: Body positive chat; destroy the negative and embrace what brings you happiness.

November 21: Victories and advice!: What would you say are your own petite fitting tips?

November 28: Share your favourite petite-fitting resource!

December: Year in Review

SURVEY: Did the #KnitPetiteProject improve your petiting confidence? Is the #KnitPetiteProject a valuable resource for petite knitters? How can we improve/expand the project?

December 5: What did we learn?

December 12: How best can we use this resource we’ve created?

December 19: Sharing your accomplishments!

December 26: Sharing the survey results and moving forward.

#KnitPetiteProject: Plan Outline

#KnitPetiteProject: Survey Results

WOW! We had an incredible surge in responses to the survey over the last 3 days and we’re up to 116 replies! Thank you so much everyone! This gives us a lot of info to move forward and construct the framework for our exploration of petite sizing issues in knitwear this year.1

This post will go over the survey results; I’ll be sharing the #KnitPetiteProject plan for 2017 in tomorrow’s post.

Let’s take a look at the survey results (to date):


To be honest, I figured this question would be heavily answered with YES!


Interesting: looks like there’s a significant percentage of people who encounter petite fit issues, but may not be modifying their knitting patterns to fit better.


Ah! I thought this might be the case. Looks like there may indeed be some room in the knitting world to have a discussion about petite sizing issues.  Excellent! Let’s move forward.


Well, look at that! I am comforted to see I’m not the only one who hasn’t found much in the way of petite knitwear pattern options. We can absolutely address that!


I asked this questions because I was specifically looking for guidance on topics to address in the #KnitPetiteProject. I had so many angles of approach swimming around in my head, I found it hard to pick a starting point!

Since the options above are truncated, I’ll list them here as well:

  • The history of sizing standards (31%)
  • How to tell if you’re petite (25.9%)
  • The difference between petite and “regular” sizes (56%)
  • How to modify off-the-rack clothing (62.9%)
  • You to modify your knitwear designs to serve your petite fit concerns (88.8%)
  • Where to get petite knitwear designs (67.2%)
  • Other (7.8%)


Wow! My friends, I’m so glad this question was such a goldmine for valuable info! I’ll list the rest of the answers below:

  • I’d love to learn more about the different ways that one can be petite – that piqued my interest from your live video.
  • 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.
  • Calculate yardage, obviously as petite I need less yarn than what the pattern calls for…
  • How to flatter different petite body types with knitting and off the rack clothing
  • Petite can mean two things: One is being short, the other is being smaller, all over. Not all petites are the same. I’m short, but average sized! The waistline of fitted clothing always hits me in the wrong place (it’s too low). I can adjust this on knitting patterns, but store-bought is trickier. 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’d like a nuanced conversation about ease. I’m petitely built and slim and finding a balance between clothes that have relaxed ease and look like a tent is rough. I found Fit to Flatter a good starting point but would like more info.
  • How to adjust for large bust size but small shoulders
  • I hardly ever knit clothing, but as I buy clothing in mostly petite sizes, just want to mention it would be great to be able to selectively modify patterns — for example: long arms + broad shoulders relative to an otherwise petite frame.
  • What are common adjustments Petites need to make? For example, I’m 5’4″ with long legs and a short high-waisted torso, narrow shoulders, and a small bust, so I often have to adjust armhole depths, overall length, and inc/dec frequency.
  • I am used to adjust patterns for so many years, I don’t have a special question. Though I would appreciate it, if regular sized patterns would give the length from hip to armpit so I can adjust waist shaping for myself.
  • 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.
  • Sizing on patterns only accommodates regular sizing. Patterns need to have options for those who are smaller than a size 4 or a size small. some of us knitters knit for people who are xxs. it would be nice to see these options in patterns.
  • So far, I’ve only knitting intentionally loose-fitting sweaters; I’m nervous about close-fitting sweaters! Don’t want to heck it up! (4’11”, slender save for bust and hips.)
  • How do you know when to modify?
  • How do I make changes to existing patterns? Where on the garment do changes need to be made? Basic garment, knitting and otherwise, construction.
  • I think I’m less petite but need an adjustment between boob size (FBA) and smaller or regular shoulders and neck. the area between collarbones and top of bra line seems to get no mention in designing knit wear
  • 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’d like to know where best to begin bust shaping (such as short row darts) as my shoulder to full bust and shoulder to underbust is shorter than most pattern allow for. I also have a relatively small waist compared to my bust and hip measurement and I think my neck to waist measurement is a bit short.
  • 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.
  • Modifying shoulder width in sweaters – I have narrow shoulders, but my arms are heavy
  • Loving a pattern and need resource to modern fly or downsize for example a sweater sz35-36 to modify to a 32-33 or less
  • Is there a classification for petite so at this time?
  • How to add darts to knitting patterns for the busty petite.
  • Armhole and sleeve length sizing
  • Why do the designers think that if my bust is larger, my arms and shoulders have also grown immensely?
  • 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.
  • Why is it so difficult to modify a knitting pattern when you are short waisted
  • How to measure and how to modify
  • When I see a pattern I like then I would try it. I could always frog the pattern.
  • I must knit kid patterns which aren’t fitted or aren’t meant to look sophisticated, so I always get ‘nearly there but not quite’ results. Thanks
  • Why is it assumed that just because you’re petite, you don’t need a size larger than 14/16 to wear
  • Petite doesn’t mean skinny. How do I modify designs for a petite, not skinny, older ( in my sixties) woman. Are their patterns for petite men?
  • How do I shorten torsos and increase hips in patterns?
  • how to calculate how to adjust waist shaping, particularly with full bust
  • Where can you find petite knitting patterns? Didn’t know they existed.
  • I’m actually having more trouble with sewing issues than knitting. I know with knitting that I can either make oversized or top-down with narrow sleeves (I have tiny arms) and for my figure, especially a tiny armscye. I look like a cute mushroom if I don’t make the armscye to my frame. Most knits are designed for women with longer torsos. I’m not just short, but I’m short-waisted and have a “column” torso with a gentle triangle shape (I have a thick torso but I also have very strong shoulders that aren’t broad, but muscular). I tend to make the same knit cardis over and over again because I know two patterns in particular flatter me.
  • fitting and sorting out plus petite sizing for sweaters
  • 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.
  • I’d like to know what flattering lengths are for knit garments and how I can modify them to fit my frame better.
  • I avoid raglan styles due to difficulty in shortening pattern proportionally
  • making adjustment in complicated cable and texture designs where modifying number of rows affect look of garment
  • Length is not the only issue, where to adjust shoulders, torso difference.
  • I need help modifying accomodiating smaller shoulders and larger bust.
  • Designers should add sizes for petite in pattern


Ok, I see now that people might have felt a little, uh, pressured to name me in here! But aside from that bias, there were lots of fantastic comments within these answers, which will lead to some interesting topics for the future of #KnitPetiteProject (I’m not telling YET!)

Below I’ll share the rest of the answers for this question:

  • Canary Knits. They are original, feminine, and flattering.
  • Joji Locatelli- simplicity, well written patterns. Josee Paquin- short rows shaping abilities create great garment drape for my shape. Isabela Kraemer- creativity, garment drape.
  • I think Ysolda Teague is an inspiration in her devotion to research on fit, especially in the upper size range. You are one of my favourite designers and I’m thrilled that you’ve chosen to focus on the lower end of the size range. I’ve always really appreciated your understanding of negative ease and the way you create flattering, fitted knitwear. So much talent ❤
  • I love Shannon Cook’s designs (simple but well thought out, and her sweaters seem to work on a variety of body types rather than only tall and willowy); love Helen Stewart’s eye for shawl design (even if I will never catch up); and all about Justyna Lorkowska’s accessories, especially over the past year.
  • Michelle wang, Hana fettig, Norah Gaughn, Kim Hargreaves
  • I don’t knit a lot of other designer’s patterns because I’m designing/knitting accessories patterns with my knit time. But a perfect design is Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Stopover. The yoke patttern stays up on the shoulders, which is more flattering, and the pattern is well written and easy to follow. I like patterns that follow normal pattern writing conventions; I’ve read so many of them that it’s how my brain works.
  • I love TinCanKnits. Most patterns span a huge range of sizes and have suggestions for modifications.
  • Julie Hoover, Laura Aylor, Carol Sunday, Emma Welford: classic designs, interesting shapes
  • Tincanknits, joji locateli, verra valimakii because all thier designs seem simple and theyre pattern writing is clear.
  • Purl Soho – modern, lots of variety
  • Laura Aylor is a favorite right now. She goes down to XS or even XXS in her patterns, they’re well-written, and her love of top-down seamless construction makes them easy to adjust. I don’t usually need to mess with them very much at all. Her designs are classic and easy to wear as well as being easy to adjust.
  • Concerning shape and fitting my favourite designer is Domiknitrix (Jennifer Stafford) but I knit any pattern of any designer with my own modifications, if I want to have the garment. If you like, have a look at my favorites at ravelry. removed for privacy
  • MK Carroll and Nicole Winer are friends of mine
  • Too many to name individually but I prefer designers who offer many different sizes/fit options
  • I have patterns from my mom from the 30’s that I love. I also knit things that I pick up at book stores from knitting magazines from the UK as well as on line knitting sites.
  • I like you! Also Stephen West and Ann Weaver for their punk aesthetics, Shannon Squire, Lee Meredith, Kirsten Kapur…
  • Thea Coleman- wearable, one piece, easy to modify. I also loved your tpct for the same reasons
  • Not sure at the moment, I’ve only made accessories.
  • Where to begin?!
  • I don’t really have one.
  • I don’t knit may sweaters due to concerns with fit and I design most of my own patterns, mainly for accessories. But I like garments that are easy to wear and not too fussy, such as those by Lete’s Knits and Tincan Knits. If I knit something more busy and complex it’s likely to be an accessory such as a shawl.
  • Joji Locatelli, Stephen West, Alicia Plummer Vanessa Smith. All for style and uniqueness .
  • Other than you, I like Joji Locatelli, Elsa Torrente, Sweaterbabe. Creative but very wearable patterns.
  • I like the look of many of Nora Gaughan’s designs, many of her sweaters have set-in sleeves which I prefer. Ragalin look terrible on me, but so many newer designers rely on them.
  • Norah Gaughan since many of her designs are sized for smaller women
  • Marley Birdbecause she is easy to follow. Linda Howell just because I like her. Robin chela easy to understand.
  • Don’t have a favorite as I mix and match patterns,
  • Rowan
  • Kim Hargreaves for her classic style. Amy Herzog for Custom Fit. Thea Colman. Anne Hanson.
  • Lanaknits because I know she is short like me. And Heidi Kirriemuir.
  • Debbie Bliss-clean designs; Carol Sunday -unique and beautiful designs
  • Kate Davies
  • Don’t have enough experience to know!
  • I normally go for free patterns. I don’t bother with specific designer’s name, just company.
  • Alice Plummer, Carrie Bostick Hoge, Isabell Kraemer, la Maison Rililie, Melissa Schaschwary
  • I’m sorry, I don’t remember their names.
  • None in particular.
  • Anne Hanson because her designs are classic with delicate details. She looks small, too!
  • Andi Sutterland because her cropped, top-down cardis create un-fussy lines for my particular torso. Carol Feller created the first blanket cardi that was proportional to my petite frame — the Florence Cardigan — and since then, I’ve adapted all my waterfall cardis/blanket cardis to those proportions. I tend not to shop retail and adapt existing clothes and patterns to my frame to the best of my self-taught sewing/knitting/crochet ability, so I’m not always sure what looks good on me until someone gifts me secondhand clothes that look FANTASTIC on me. Then I just have to figure out how to copy the pattern well enough to make repeats for myself. A long process, as I don’t have time to work on my wardrobe full time 🙂
  • Amy Hertzog and custom fit
  • Norah Gaughan, Melissa Leapman, Patty Lyons
  • Kathy Zimmerman – I have test knit for her for many years so know how her mind thinks Nancy Whitman – just like her designs Ericha Jacoby
  • Jean Slicer-Smith because the designs are from the shoulder down, more A-line.
  • James C Brett. Gorgeous yarns
  • Amy Herzog for fit, Teresa Gregorio, Norah Gaughan, Linda Marveng, and Lynne Barr for ingenuity of design.


1 FYI, I’m leaving the survey open! Please participate at any time.

#KnitPetiteProject: Survey Results

#KnitPetiteProject: Works Cited

This post will be an ongoing resource of works cited in the #KnitPetiteProject, including some annotations on the sources.

Do you have a source you think is excellent and should be added to the library of resources for the #KnitPetiteProject? Please comment on this post.

Feb 14

Feb 21

#KnitPetiteProject: Works Cited

#KnitPetiteProject: Your Assistance is Required!

I want us to learn together about fit concerns for petite women so that we can make all our garments, especially our knitwear, fit us the way WE want it to.

First, I’ve created a survey to help gauge what sort of information us petite women knitters are interested in. Please participate! Your input is needed!

In February, I’ll go over the results of the survey and we can collectively create a framework for our #KnitPetiteProject journey.

#KnitPetiteProject: Your Assistance is Required!