Choosing a Size - Beyond Upper Bust

Do you need modifications or a different size?

One of the best pieces of sizing advice out there is to choose your size based on your upper chest. We totally stand by that advice - and, humans are complex and dynamic and wonderful. Today, I'm going to dig a little deeper into choosing a size; this is Bess, by the way! I'll also share a little story about the time when I finished a sweater on the way to a photoshoot and found out it didn't fit me. It was yesterday!

Take your measurements, a lot

Fit is a moving target, because you're a dynamic creature. When you first take your measurements it can be really eye opening to see where you land on a standard size chart.⁠⁠

Your shoulders may be one size, your chest a different one, your hips in a third size, your upper arms even another. In this practice, you'll start to get an idea of how to modify a garment to fit your exact measurements.⁠⁠

The catch? Measurements change. Sometimes predictably, sometimes less so. Just like the rest of your life.

Take your measurements each time you cast on so that you can make sure you're selecting the size that's right for you.

Need help taking your measurements? We've got an article for you!

The Clearly Story

A close up of Bess wearing a grey and cream colored Gansey Raglan hoodie with a diamond texture. The upper arm is noticeably tighter than the chest.

If you watch the One Wild Broadcast, you know I describe my body type as "juicy." One of the things about having a juicy peach body is that some parts of my body can change size pretty dramatically throughout the month/season/whatever.⁠⁠ I've learned that taking my measurements every time I cast on a new garment is really important because they may have changed.

I've also been chatting about the pattern update I'm working on for the Clearly Hoodie. This update will add bust darts, create a more elegant hood shape, and improve the fit of the yoke and front neck. I started knitting my sample in early January and decided to knit my sleeves one size larger for a better fit in my upper arm.

My upper arm is one of my juicy parts, the size of my upper arms changes more than most of the areas of my body. Knitting a size higher in the sleeves usually means my sweaters will fit better when my arms are bigger or smaller - I do not like a tight sleeve!

This past week, I was finishing my new sample of Clearly (now called "Clearly Changed") on the way to our photoshoot. It's been a pretty stressful time in my family's life which led to the tubular bind off happening in the car.

When I pulled on my sample at the shoot, the sleeves were too small.

Whether it was the aforementioned stressful time or just some extra bloat from travel - my upper arms are one inch larger than they were a month ago. That's a full size on most size charts.

Our photoshoot was in no way ruined, we got great pictures of Clearly on me. Just with smaller sleeves than I would like. Life happens that way sometimes, maybe my arms are this size temporarily, maybe not. I will probably knit my next sample in a different size, depending on my measurements next week!

Choosing a size beyond upper bust

Jen measures the crossfront of her dress form, who is wearing a pink textured zip up cardigan.

Your upper bust measurement is one of the best predictors of key fit points like your cross front and armscye depth.

I still recommend that you check more than your upper bust measurement when choosing your size. A good schematic will give you all of the key fit points you need to asses. Here are my recommendations.

Upper arms, hips, and other outliers

You almost surely have outlier measurements. Meaning, measurements which are different from the data represented by a standard size chart. Standard size charts are created based on averages, but people are not created based on averages at all.

Some measurements, like your hips, require modifications. Some measurements, like your cross front or your upper arm, could require that you size up or down for the best fit.

Fit from the top down

The most important measurements for a sweater or shirt that fits happen in the upper torso. Garments hang from your shoulder and wrap under your arm well before they reach your chest or hips. Whether you're knitting from the bottom up or the top down, those upper torso measurements will make or break your fit.

If you're knitting a seamless raglan or circular yoke sweater, your upper arm measurement is going to impact the overall fit of your garment more than in another construction. (This is what happened with my new Clearly!) In a set-in sleeve or drop shoulder construction, your cross front measurement will give you the best fit information.

Your lower body still exists

Once you've chosen a size to fit your upper torso, check your lower body measurements. Our patterns offer guidance for checking if you require bust darts to add fabric for your chest - some folks will also need to remove fabric after the underarm. Waist and hip shaping can also be adjusted, added, or removed in order to fit you with the intended ease throughout your unique shape.

We've got lots of advice over on the Broadcast about fit modifications, and you can also always book a One on One if you're feeling overwhelmed about modifying your knits!

When your knits still don't fit

Bess is looking over her shoulder at the camera wearing a blush pink handknit hoodie with a diamond texture.

There was nothing I could do to predict the change in my upper arm size over the last couple of months. My sample isn't uncomfortable on me; I can still wear it. If I find that I can't, I know Candace would be thrilled to have it.

Sometimes you can predict changes in your body. Look at pictures of yourself from the last few years and see if you notice any cycles. Depending on your lifestyle, you may tend to be one size in the winter and another in the summer.

Here's the TL;DR

Choose the size that fits your upper torso. Make the modifications you need from there.

Dying to go deeper? The One Wild Broadcast recently turned One Year Old! There are many hours of talk on fit and making modifications to your sweaters over there for you!

Choosing a Size - Beyond Upper Bust
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