Posted by: GourmetGirl | August 3, 2010


One of the many “standardized” sizes I disagree with is that long sleeves should be knit 17 – 18 inches in length.

Yes, if I shove a tape measure up my armpit and measure down to my wrist it is 18 inches. If I knit a sleeve 18 inches it always seems too short. Even with the start of the sleeve an inch or two below my arm pit – 18 inches is too short of a sleeve for me.

Look closely at all those sweaters displayed in the magazines – have you seen how short some sleeves are on the models? Even the sweaters that are obviously too large for the model (shoulder seam appearing too low on the arm) the sleeve ends above the model’s wrist. Sure some models could have extra long arms for their 5’10”, 105 lb. body. But, a size 38 inch sweater’s sleeves should be long on them – not too short.

Further research on this phenomenon made me run to my closet and start measuring sleeves of store-bought clothes that I liked the sleeve length. I wear extra small to small. The sleeves from the underarm seam to the end tends to run abound 20 inches.

I knit that sweater I was working on 20 inches. It was perfect in length – it never seemed to ride up too short. Yea!

On my next sweater I didn’t knit my sleeves that long. I was measuring, trying it on, trying it on and trying it on. I figured this sweater must be different. I knit it to 18 inches.  Wearing the finished sweater – THE SLEEVES WERE TOO SHORT!

One of the many things us knitters need to remember when wanting our sweaters to fit well – measure clothes that you own that fit you the way YOU like them and knit to those measurements! Don’t follow the knitting standards. Knit for YOUR body.

Can I repeat that again?

Knit to fit YOUR body. Don’t knit a sleeve 12 inches in circumference if you measure 14 inches. Likewise, don’t knit your sleeve 17 inches if all the sleeves in your closet measure 20 inches.

Happy Knitting to fit YOU,




  1. Thank you for your insight, Nancy; I completely agree with you on all your fine points about knitting top down and trying on in the process, as well as getting some estimates of the required measurements from sweaters that fit well. However, as a way of apology for all us knitters who are bugging you designers about sizing, schematics with measurements stated, etc., I have to say: we do not always knit for ourselves. Moreover, often we knit long distance for people who are hopelessly impossible to ask for measurements, either of their bodies or the old sweaters; who do not own a tape measure and lose the one you give them as soon as they can; finally, we knit for children who grow up so fast you are aiming for sizes they might reach next winter or summer. All this notwithstanding, I’m wholeheartedly support you in your call: whenever possible, knit top down and try it on often! In fact, searching as I usually do through all my books and magazines and downloads for top down pattern for my next project, I started dreaming: wouldn’t it be nice if we had a knitting magazine “Top down knits”, or something to that point? It could be online published, which I’m guessing is simpler and less expensive. What do you think?

    • Great Points Alyssa!!
      When knitting for someone else, trying on can be a problem…. In my design that will appear in September’s 2011 Creative Knitting Magazine, for the sleeves I gave more direction – leaving out the customizing choices. It is something I will probably pursue in future designs.

      Another choice when knitting for someone else is to go by measurements of one of their favorite shirts or sweaters. If you don’t have the luxury of raiding their closet – take a tape measure to Macy’s!

      My knitting friend, Mady, grew up in Germany. She said top down was a favorite choice for kids wear – just take out the bind off and knit it longer for the next year’s wear!

      …..a top down magazine – what a fabulous idea!

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