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Measurements for knitters

Front bust is the measurement at the break, straight across the upper chest.
Front chest is a critical measurement for set in sleeves
"Our bodies go inside the schematic."

I love this language from Lily (creator of the Untangled Knitting Podcast). The knitting world generally recommends a size based on full-bust measurement, and yes, we need our busts to go inside the schematic. But today I want to establish some other measurements because y'all, your WHOLE BODY needs to go inside the schematic.

And I hear some GREAT questions from knitters who are trying to take their measurements but get stumped.

"Which shoulder bone?"

"Is that around, or straight down?"

"Which measurements really matter for knitting?"

How to take your measurements for knitting

Upper chest

Wrap tape flat across your shoulder blades, under your arms, and across your chest immediately under your arms (above breasts, if you've got 'em).

Full bust (sometimes just called bust)

Wrap tape around the fullest part of your chest, parallel to the floor. This is NOT your bra size (that's based on your underbust!).

Bicep & wrist

Wrap tape around the fullest part of your arm, with arm down at your side, keeping tape parallel to the floor. Go ahead and do this for your wrist, too.


Okay, now we're getting into some jargon-y sounding business! The armscye is the measurement from your shoulder straight down to your armpit. It's not a curved measurement.

To take this measurement, stand with your back against a wall, put a ruler or pencil under your arm, parallel to the ground. Get another straight edge on top of your shoulder directly above that point. Measure the distance between the two - that's your armscye. Most women find their armscye is between about 5 and 9 inches.

Shoulder-to-shoulder (or, cross-shoulder)

This one seems like it should be straightforward, but where the heck do you draw the line between arm and shoulder? You're looking for the furthest bone that's part of your shoulder. You'll know you've found it if you put your finger on it and lift your arm and it stays relatively still.

The goal with shoulder-to-shoulder and sleeve length is that one ends where the other begins. Once you find that bone, maybe put a little dot there? Measure straight across to the other bone without curving your tape.

Arm length

Pivoting from your shoulder-to-shoulder, measure straight down to your arm to the wrist - wherever you like your cuffs to land.

Front chest

This is another straight line, this time the distance across your chest at the 'break' - a fancy way of saying 'armpits.' To take this one, get a couple of pencils under your arms, and have a friend measure straight across. This measurement is right where you'll want your set-in sleeves to land, so if you have a favorite set-in sleeve that fits great you can cheat and measure between those seams.


Your waist is the narrowest place on your torso, wherever that may be. Mine is basically at my ribs. To find this, tie a piece of elastic around your middle and do some interpretive dance. The elastic will find its way to your natural waist - measure there.

High hip

Wrap tape right around the tops of your hip bones.

Full hip

This is the widest point on your hips and derriere you can find while still measuring parallel to the ground.

Tips for measuring

  • Use the newest measuring tape you have - tapes stretch out over time

  • Get help. Your measurements are most accurate if you're relaxed with your arms at your side.

  • If you can't get help, just do it. Measured is better than not measured.

Go Further

Make some paper dolls! I use My Body Model to put my measurements to good use, but you can also create your own (I explain more in this video)

Eyeing up that dress form? I've wanted for YEARS and pinched my pennies and now she's here. She's from Fabulous Fit. Limitation - I bought the biggest size and added almost all the pads, larger users would have to order additional pads or use other padding to create their shape.

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