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Sleeve Measurement Guide For Knit Fabric

Measuring Finished Sleeve Length
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Sleeve Measurement – “What is the correct sleeve measurement for my size?” It’s a question that often comes our way.

Another question is “How long should the sleeves be?”  To get the perfect sleeve length you will need to take accurate arm length measurements.

In a hurry to get all those knitting pattern measurements squared away?

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correct sleeve measurement

Measuring Finished Sleeve Length

The mere thought of figuring out what a correct sleeve length is can cause frustration – especially if you have to do it yourself.

Why not ask a friend to help you with the sleeve measurement?

Sleeve Measurement 101

Using a fiberglass measuring tape [they don’t stretch] and someone’s help, measure from center back neck, with your arm relaxed at your side and slightly bent, over the shoulder bone and along the outside of the arm to the protruding wrist bone on the outside of your wrist.

Definitely a tricky feat and best accomplished in “steps”:

  1. Hold down the end of the tape at the base of the neck and place it along the shoulder line to the shoulder bone. Make a note of this measurement [A-B] then let go of the end of the tape. Continue to hold the tape at the shoulder point.
  2. From the shoulder point [a protruding bone towards the back of the shoulder], run the tape along the slightly bent arm down to the elbow. Let go of the shoulder point.
  3. Holding down the tape at the elbow, place it along the side of the forearm down to the protruding wrist bone.
  4. Make a note of the total length from base of neck to wrist bone then subtract measurement A-B.
  5. The measurement calculated in Step 4 is the actual length of the sleeve.

Measurement A-B is important if you plan to knit your own sweater. When figuring out the shoulder width – shoulder point to shoulder point – think of your shoulders as nearly 2/3 of the framework that supports your sweater.

What is the remaining third? The back neck width.

Compare measurement A-B to shoulder measurements seen in any knitting pattern diagram.

Take a few minutes to do the math and adjust the stitches to get the shoulder width you need.

Adjust the sleeve length if you have long arms but as long as the shoulder width is correct, the sleeves will hang correctly from the shoulder.

The Importance of Shoulder Width As It Relates To Sleeve Measurement

Hobbie's tailor showing us how to take sleeve measurements

  • When the shoulder width is too narrow, the shoulder seams are pulled up onto the shoulders. The sleeve becomes too short.
  • When the shoulder width is too wide, the shoulder seams hang down over the top of your arm. The sleeves become too long.

Ever tried on your Dad’s sweater? The shoulder seams falls over the top of your arm, right? The sleeve length may be just right but the shoulder width is too wide.

A simpler method which involves far less wrestling with the tape is to measure for the sleeve length by beginning at the shoulder bone, along the outside of the arm to the wrist bone, over a slightly bent arm.

Better yet and no guessing involved – if you a have sweater that fits you well, measure the sleeve from the shoulder seam to the edge of the cuff.

Thinking of knitting your own sweater…or ordering one of our standard or custom-sized sweaters?

Here are some factors to consider.

You can use the sleeve measurement [and the shoulder to shoulder measurement] to help you select the correct size to order. This will also help when a knitting pattern needs to be adjusted.

When thinking knitwear and “sweater”, do not measure sleeve length as you would for a man’s shirt.

The typical shirt sleeve measurement is for a stable fabric. This type of sleeve measurement incorporates the half the back shoulder width plus the arm length.

As noted above, the standard shoulder width measurement used to construct a man’s shirt may not correspond to your actual shoulder width.

[yellowbox]For example, I need a 25″ sleeve. If I were to take sleeve measurements as given for a shirt, the sleeve length is usually identified as a 33/34 or a 33 but the combined measurements may still not fit correctly when applied to knitting.[/yellowbox]

Why? Because my shoulder width is wider than the standard measurement for that size.

Here is another fact which affects sleeve length in sweaters – the weight of the sleeve!

Yes, the weight. Shirts are constructed of stable, woven fabric with no stretch whatsoever.

[yellowbox]Sweaters are constructed of knit fabric with varying amounts of stretch. Over time, while worn, a sleeve will “grow” and lengthen depending on the weight of the entire sleeve.  When drafting custom knitting patterns, we actually deduct 10% from the shoulder width to compensate for this drooping. In this way, the sleeve seam sits squarely on the shoulder rather than off the shoulder.[/yellowbox]

This is particular true in ribbed knit sweaters where 30% to 70% more yarn is used than for a plain stockinet stitch sweater.

We firmly believe that a correct sleeve length, in coordination with the correct shoulder width are the key to a properly fitting sweater.

When the shoulder seams sit at the shoulder line, you’ve got it made!

If you have any questions, drop us a line and we will help you easily determine your sleeve measurement.

Knit to Flatter
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