Which Size to Knit

There’s been a bit of a trend in knitwear over the last few years toward boxy, oversized sweaters, both in ready-to-wear fashion and in knitwear patterns. This approach to sizing can be liberating—rather than trying to fit all of our various parts and their relative sizes in a fitted sweater, we simply make sure the sweater hangs from our shoulders in a way that we like. On the other hand, deciding how big and boxy we want the sweater to be—in other words, how much ease we want—can make choosing a size to knit a very tricky prospect.

I designed Sempione, last week’s free sweater knitting pattern, to fit with about 4″ of ease. That means that I designed the sweater and knit the sample to have about 4″ more fabric around the bust than my actual bust measurements. I love the way the finished sample turned out—it’s cozy and comfortable but not too big for my tastes.

Sempione free sweater knitting pattern in Berroco Cotolana

I wore the sweater to TNNA in June, as I rightly suspect the inside of the convention center could get really cold. While there, my friend Andrea Rangel tried on the sweater herself. Andrea is on the smaller side—she’s very trim and athletic. On her, the sweater easily has 16″ of positive ease. But it still looks great. (Andrea’s also showing off her Braided Brook Pullover knit in Berroco Ultra Alpaca from her new book, Rugged Knits.)


For comparison sake, I asked Alison to also try on the sweater—Alison’s measurements fall somewhere in between mine and Andrea’s.


So if a large-size sweater fits a variety of different body types, how do you choose which size to knit? First and foremost, personal choice always plays the most important part. If you like your sweaters to be closer to your measurements, as they are when I wear it, choose a size that gives you 2–4″ of ease. Other factors to take into consideration are the neckline and the armholes. If you notice in the photo of Andrea wearing the sweater, the neckline is a little wide and the armholes fall way down on her arms. Since this is a drop-shoulder sweater, the arm seam will hit below the shoulders. If Andrea’s on board with the “flashdance” look and doesn’t mind if the sweater slips off her shoulders now and then, she could knit this size. Going down a size or two, however, would mean that Andrea would have a sweater that better fits her shoulders but still has plenty of ease for the trendy, oversized look.

Another thing to consider is your fiber content and gauge. Sempione is knit in Berroco Cotolana™, a cotton-wool blend that has plenty of drape but remains springy as well. Also be sure that the gauge you’re getting is loose enough to let the fabric move and drape nicely.

Want to try out this shape for yourself? Sempione is available for free, but we have a few other recent patterns in this shape: Coneflower, Odele, and Espe.

Coneflower sweater knitting patternOdel pullover knitting pattern in Berroco MykonosEspe sweater knitting pattern designed in Berroco Elba


6 thoughts on “Which Size to Knit

  1. I recently went to Nordstrom’s Designer Preview Runway Show which showcased the upcoming trends for Fall. Many of the top designers were showing oversized knits as well as layers of knitwear. It was so inspiring and often they were sized s/m and l/xl or they offered one size for the garment. In particular, i want to recreate a scarf I saw on one of the models using Berroco’s Remix.

  2. Thank you for such an informative article, It helps take the guess work out of deciding to make this sweater,

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