advice · fit · norah's knits · sweaters

Norah’s Knits: Making Sweaters that Fit

Deciding what size sweater to make for yourself can be more than confusing. Some sweaters look good tight, some loose, some looser in places and tighter in others. The best looking fit depends on a combination of your personal style, current sweater fashion and your height and shape.  Really nobody can decide on the best fit for you, except for you!

Maybe knowing what I’ve discovered about sizing sweaters for myself will lend insight into what might work for some of you. I am 5’ tall and currently wear size 14P in ready-to-wear, although most of my fashion self-discoveries held just as true when I was a size 8, as well as when I was a size 18. Maybe it’s more about being short and curvy, than exactly how big I might be at any given time. Here’s what else I’ve learned:


If it’s going to be oversized, make it VERY oversized. I like pieces to be 8-10” bigger than my bust measurement. I can even handle a heavier fabric like Peruvia Quick, if the sweater is really big. Then, in order for a sweater to look its best on me, I have to watch for details like body length, and sleeve width, as well as length.

Body Length – The best length for me, for an oversized garment, seems to be about 25” in the front. I’m loving the new style of a longer back. So, pieces like Spenser are great for me (maybe with a modified sleeve).

323_spenser_lg Spenser (designed by Amanda)

Sleeve Length – I am crazy for 3/4 sleeves. Longer sleeves seem to overwhelm me and make me look bigger. An abbreviated sleeve seems to lighten up an otherwise heavy oversized piece.  That’s probably why I use a shorter sleeve length for a lot of my designs like Furthermore.

ng11_furthermore_lg Furthermore

Sleeve Width – If the body of my sweater is wide, usually I like a very narrow sleeve. Not so tight that it binds, but as narrow as comfortably possible. It’s really very flattering.  I learned this trick about 15 years ago when I tried on (and bought) an adorable big gauge sweater from JCrew. The wide body and narrow shorter sleeves were an epiphany for me. I suddenly went from thinking that oversized and heavy weight sweaters weren’t for me to realizing that they could be.

ng11_analogia_lg Analogia


With a tighter fit, I tend to like a lighter weight yarn and a fit of 0” to no more than 2” negative ease. I do well with some room through the waist and hip, with a hint of curve but 2-4” of positive ease to disguise any bumps and bulges through my middle.

Shoulders – I find it’s important for a tighter fitting sweater to be close through the shoulder, which usually means having a set-in sleeve.

ng9_parlan_lg Parlan

Body Length – Mid hip works best for me if the hip is fitted, but I can handle a longer length if the hip portion is looser.

tanzanite_lg Tanzanite

Sleeves – With a tighter sweater, I still prefer a shorter sleeve, but I can definitely handle a long narrow sleeve or even a sleeve with some volume.

314_panna_lg311_nilsson_lg Panna & Nilsson

Have you made any fit discoveries some of us might benefit from? Share them as a comment or on your Facebook page!

11 thoughts on “Norah’s Knits: Making Sweaters that Fit

  1. Thank you for the advice. As a fairly new knitter I am currently trying to make sweaters for myself but afraid of the time commitment only to find out it doesn’t look good on me. Maybe I should try more adjusting of the pattern to fit “my body”. I am going to really look in my closet and see what I wear and why before my next project

    1. That’s a great approach. I also learn a lot by trying on sweaters in stores – yarn stores or department stores. Often, something I didn’t think would work looks really good.

  2. Great advice, Norah! I agree about oversized being super-sized but should be paired with skinny jeans or a pencil skirt. Thank you for the advice and for providing us with so many “wearable” designs.

  3. Wow, thanks this is a real eye-opener! I like over-sized sweaters but I always end up feeling shlumpy in them. It never occurred to me that narrower sleeves or different hemlines could make a difference.

  4. I would love an opportunity to try your sweaters. However, I am a larger size than those that are available from you. Have you ever considered making larger size patterns, say up to a 4X or larger? Your designs would do well for us larger girls. I wish more designers would see that and offer those sizes along with the smaller ones. 2X seems to be it and there are certainly a lot of us out here.

    1. Thanks for your request. We will consider going larger. Be sure to check out the actual finished measurements of our 2X, I think it is larger than 2X would be in a store.

  5. Can you give suggestions for petite sized women. I love your designs and agree about the slimmer, shorter sleeve looking better. I find there is too much volume in sleeves but I’m not sure how to alter the pattern. Can I simply leave out an increase or two.( on set in sleeves)?

    1. Hi, This is a great question – one that’s worthy of a whole new blog post. In short – For a narrower sleeve, I’d start with one sized smaller sleeve if your size is too wide and be sure to make the armhole the shorter length as well. For a shorter sleeve I’d start with a few more sts than called for and increase up to the called for number.

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