March 2022 Studio Hours: Kim McBrien Evans on Representative Sizing Standards

30 March 2022

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Our presenter this month was Kim McBrien-Evans, a Canadian knitwear designer and yarn dyer. Over the last few years, Kim has been developing a new sizing chart for garment design, for use by both makers and designers. Our Studio Hours with Kim came the day before publication of this great new resource—it was a treat to share in the excitement of its unveiling!

Kim shared her process of making these new charts and her reasons for doing so in her article for Digits & Threads, and she gave us a more candid version in our Zoom chat.

The project started as a personal one—why did sweater designs not fit her body? In particular, why were the biceps too tight and the shoulders too loose when the chest fit well? Kim realized that this problem happened to many people, particularly in the larger chest sizes, where the proportions in the standardized size chart seemed to be off.

Kim credited the work done by the Craft Yarn Council, ASTM International, various independent sewing pattern designers, Ysolda Teague, Jacqueline Cieslak, and others, and used their work to inform her charts. This project took Kim outside her comfort zone—she’d not been a spreadsheet person before! She also initiated a survey of knitters. Kim worked to make certain that every one of the 800+ respondents would have a home in her sizing chart. The chart is inclusive of more bodies and using it to design garments will result in the need for fewer user modifications.

As members, we were all thrilled to see the new standards, and many people thanked Kim for all her work on this project. We are excited to see these charts made available to everyone, to help designers and knitters make garments that fit.

After Kim’s presentation, we had the opportunity to ask specific questions about our own sizing issues and how best to use the sizing charts. Kim stressed that the upper torso measurement is key to getting a well-fitting garment. The full chest measurement is much less important and can be modified using certain chest-size adjustment techniques. (In the chat, a few members recommended Kim’s classes!)

Kim helped us understand the cross-chest measurement. This is the distance between the armholes, and it tells the knitter where the armhole seams are supposed to sit on the body. It’s also important for designers thinking about how much fabric to remove for the sleeve cap.

We discussed how to measure ourselves. Kim reminded us that it is important to wear the underpinnings you will wear with the finished garment. Wearing a bra can significantly change the full chest measurement. Of course, if your sweater is going to be for lounging, perhaps you won’t want to be wearing a bra…

A member with narrow shoulders asked for advice regarding cardigans that slip off the shoulders and Kim gave a tutorial on how to take the upper torso measurement—key to getting a good fit. She suggested that for a cardigan with set-in sleeves, the member likely will want zero ease.

We also talked about how to choose a size. A member asked whether, if her measurements fall between sizes, it is better to go larger with less ease, or smaller with more ease? Kim replied that different sweater shapes and fabrics could go different ways. Kim pointed out that knitted fabric has 1-2 inches of inherent ease over the size of a sweater—you won’t see a change in the fabric, so you can “fudge” your size if needed. And even if your measurements don’t neatly fall into one of Kim’s sizes, these comprehensive charts can help you mix sizes with more confidence.

Show and Tell

We had such a great time discussing Kim’s new size standards charts that our time for show and tell was shorter than usual.

We started with a quick look at one member’s progress on Kim’s Edgeways Cardigan, the not-so-mysterious KAL sweater pattern (her first design using the new sizing charts). It promises to be a lovely, bright, stripey sweater.

Another member then reported on the Campaign for Wool Canada town hall held earlier that day, which presented “The Wool Plan 2021-2026” (see Michale Raske’s article published in D&T last October) and their goals “to rebrand and revalue Canadian wool, to advocate for the entire Canadian wool value chain and to [give] Canadian wool a voice on the international stage.” The campaign also has launched “The Carpet Plan” to support an all-Canadian rug manufacturing industry and is working on achieving commodity status for wool (did you know that wool fibre isn’t considered a “farm product” in many agricultural surveys?). The town hall was a lively forum for discussion and questions. The member also recommended other upcoming events, including the April 12th Town Hall: The Wool Plan for the Artisan.

Next, our presenter Kim gave us a peek at her new yoke sweater design that she’s making using yarn dyed by Emily C Gillies. Kim plans to include notes with the pattern about how to work with various Canadian dyers’ styles of yarn.

And we ended our hour together talking about Knit City Montreal, which will be Digits & Threads’ first in-person event. Kim and Kate will be assisted in the booth by some studio members (Karri, Cheryl and Jo). If you are at Knit City Montreal on Apr 2-3, stop by to say hello and to pick up your member swag!

Digits & Threads Is a Member-Supported Independent Online Magazine

The articles, tutorials and patterns we publish about Canadian fibre and textile arts, crafts and industry are made possible by our members.

Copyright © Sarah Thornton except as indicated.
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About Sarah Thornton

Sarah Thornton is a connector - she loves bringing people and ideas together, especially over local fibres and foods. When not teaching college Biology labs, she knits, spins, designs, teaches, and occasionally weaves in her new studio space on Vancouver Island. She's also a cyclist, skier, hiker, and gardener! Find her patterns and classes at sarahthornton.ca and @sarsbarknits on Instagram.

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