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Son Of A.R.A.N. Project

Part 1: Measurements for Everyone (Fluffies Included)

Copyright 1999 Janet Szabo. All rights reserved.

Arm yourself with an accurate tape measure (I like the coated fabric kind) and a good friend or relative. There are two measurements we will need to start: the "cross-shoulder measurement" and the "full bust" measurement.

"Cross-shoulder" should be measured from the head of one shoulder across the back of your neck to the head of the other shoulder (the place where the shoulder drops off and becomes the arm.) Got it? Good. Write it down.

"Full bust" will be measured across the largest part of your chest. Write that measurement down, too.

Why are these numbers important? What we are aiming for here are sleeves knitted from the body down -- like dropped-shoulder sleeves -- but set into the body enough to make a more refined fit. No more bulky arm seam laying across the middle of your upper arm, adding visually to your girth (I suffer from this problem, so you'll have to pardon me if I leap up on my soapbox from time to time ). If we were making a sweater with true set-in sleeves, we would want the sleeve cap to rest on that shoulder head, hence the cross-shoulder measurement. We're going to fake it -- they won't be true set-in sleeves -- but we still want that sleeve "cap" to be somewhere nearer the shoulder than the middle of the upper arm.

Ya still with me?

So, we should be able to arrange it so that the width of the top part of the sweater -- from the shoulders down to the base of the armhole -- matches the cross-shoulder measurement pretty closely. However, what do we do when we reach the base of the armhole and need to accomodate the larger "full bust" measurement? We cast on additional stitches for the base of each armhole, which increases the circumference of the sweater. No problem, right?

Wrong. The neat and easy "1/2 finished garment circumference minus cross-shoulder measurement times sts per inch = number of stitches to cast on for armholes" formula (okay, maybe not so neat) breaks down as you start dealing with larger and larger bust measurements.

Just because your bust gets larger doesn't mean that your cross-shoulder measurement gets proportionally larger along with it. An "average" cross-shoulder measurement is between 15-17", and there are plenty of people who have narrow shoulders but a large bust. If you accomodate the bust measurement, there is way too much fabric at the shoulders, sleeves droop, etc.

Let's say my bust is 38" around (which it is) and I like sweaters that fit at about 44" around. Half of 44" is 22", and 22" minus 16" means that I need an additional 6" on both the front and the back (think of it as 3" additional inches at each side of the front of the sweater and 3" at each side of the back). That's a lot of additional fabric to be casting on at the armholes, and it can also have the unfortunate side effect of having the base of the armhole cut unattractively across your boob. (Sorry, folks, there's no good way to say it). That last problem was pointed out to me by Lily Chin, and I'm not going to argue with her, because I think she's right.

So we compromise. We don't have that sleeve "cap" rest right on the head of the shoulder, but fall off of it a bit. In other words, I might up my cross-shoulder measurement from 16" to 18" or even 19". I'll still manage to avoid that ugly sleeve seam resting across my upper arm, and I will have less fabric to cast on at the underarms. We can also work some increases as we approach the place where we cast on for the body, to refine the shaping even more, but we will leave that for when we get there.

Your assignment, then, is to get those two measurements, and play around with the cross-shoulder measurement. Decide how much ease you want in your sweater (6-8" is about average, but decide what you like -- check out the fit of a sweater you already own and like if you want an idea). We really don't want to be casting on more than 5" additional inches to the front and to the back, so you want "half the finished garment circumference" to be no more than 5" larger than the cross-shoulder measurement (6" for the larger sizes). For the people who like roomy sweaters -- say, a circumference of 52" or more -- this might mean that your cross-shoulder measurement has to be 20" even if your shoulders are actually only 16" across. That starts to approach the measurement of a sweater with dropped-shoulders, but our sleeves will be set into the body and hence better-fitting.

If you have access to the book Handknitting Techniques From Threads, look at the article by Deborah Newton entitled "Fashion Doesn't Stop at 40 Inches." It'll help clarify some of this.


Last Updated: April 12, 1999
Page maintained by: Esther S. Bozak, ebozak@cs.oswego.edu
URL: http://www.cs.oswego.edu/~ebozak/knit/soa/part1.html