The most commonly asked questions we have here at Bill Baber Knitwear all relate to sizing, and these are also the hardest questions to answer! So we thought it was about time we went into a little more detail to try to explain a little how we size things, why its so complicated and how you can better shop for styles in store or online.
The best place to start is with an understanding of how we knit, we go into plenty of details here, but in short we are not hand knitters and we are not big factory producers, we sit somewhere in the middle.
The benefit hand knitters have over us is more control over each stitch, as they build up the piece they are knitting click by clack they can make little adjustments as they are going. A knitting pattern or guide (and please bear in mind we are not experts on hand knitting) can be adjusted by an experienced hand knitter as they are going. If you need a slightly wider or longer sleeve then you can repeat a section for a little longer than usual. Yes the overall knitting time might change, but its a straight forward adjustment. Where we sit on the spectrum between hand knitting and factory knitting makes it harder for us to make an adjustment like this as we are going.
To create a garment we use a programme, written by us on a computer. We have thousands of programmes covering our entire collection.
For the Pico top as an example we have a programme for each panel, that is one each for the front, back, sleeve and neck band. Each programme may take us many days to create, sample & perfect. They all meet together like a jigsaw and getting the fit perfect can take days and weeks. If you make a change to the sleeve, you must make a corresponding change to the front and back panels. Its no small task. Add to this the fact that for the Pico alone we have a Small, Medium, Large & Extra Large version.
So thats a distinct programme for each panel and each size. The Pico ‘Suite’ is therefore made up of 1 common neck panel, 4 fronts, 4 backs, 4 sleeves. Each one perfectly balanced so the finished garments is the right size. if we need to make a change (for example for a new yarn mix or colour), it often has an effect on many of the panels. Thats a huge time commitment.
So, when someone asks us if they can have a slightly wider sleeve or maybe a few extra rows in the body, we usually fall off the chain onto the floor before trying to explain why its difficult for us.
So what do we do?
All of that being said, we are in the business of making knitwear that you are going to love and that fits you well. The hardest part for us is communicating the size through the website or over the phone – there is really no substitute for trying something on. In the interest of making it a little easier, please read on.
What does one size fits most actually mean?
Most of our collection fits into this category. We make Orkney Snoods, Infinity Scarves, Ponchos, Wraps, Celtic Stoles and a dozen other types of wrap around garment. They are amongst the most popular styles we knit and certainly make up the bulk of garments which people buy to take home as persents. In practice its very hard to make a single style that fits everyone in the world, you know for yourself just by looking around that we are a many splendid species and come in all shapes and sizes. To the best of our ability, these styles are made to fit the majority of people. We have sold these styles in store for 40 plus years and have watched countless thousands of browsers try them on. In our experience, these are knitted in the best possible size to fit the broadest range of body shapes. They wont fit everyone. We have over the years been asked to make petite or plus size versions, and in some cases have done so, but these are special pieces only and are not often found in stock. We are attempting to put measurements online of all styles, in the meantime just ask if you want to check.
What is a one size style?
This is Bill Baber Knitwear speak for a style that we only knit in one size, you’ll hear us talking about it in store where we only have the stock on the shelves at hand. It’s less common online where we generally make to order in your chosen size. In fact most of our garments begin life as a one size style. We use all our years of experience to design a style and size it appropriately. We then test it in store and perfect it over time. If the style is proving popular then we will gradually add sizes to the range and publish it online. Some of our shapes are made to address a particular body type. For example we may design a close fitting petite style for those lucky enough to wear them, or a larger loose fitting pullover designed for the plus sizes. Often these designs don’t work well in other sizes. It is hard to make a tight fitting sleeve design in an Extra Large as folk don’t like the fit and they are not popular. So you may find a slim fit style is only available in Small and Medium, or a loose fitting tunic that only comes Large & XL!
How do we measure garments?
We try to apply a standard measuring process for all our styles. Measurements are always best taken just after a steam press to make the knitwear nice and flat. We do it in centimetres but can just about convert to inches if required. The most important places to measure are as follows:
1. Bust/Chest. Lay the garment flat and measure a straight line between the base of the sleeve or arm pit of the garment. This is often the widest part of the body. It is also often the same as the shoulder width. We are generally aiming for a regular UK medium of 46cm +/- 2cm. for loose fitting styles like Long Ivy Tunics we usually start at 48cm and +/- 2cms. Sizes go up in 4cm increments, so a medium is 46cm, a large would be 50cm, XL would be 54cm and so on.
2. Wingspan. Lay the garment flat and stretch out the sleeves into a wingspan. We measure from cuff to cuff. We find this is a more reliable measurement than sleeve length as some garments have a short sleeve and wide body or feature a dropped sleeve design.
3. Length. This is usually taken from the shoulder just to the side of the neck opening and measured down to the lowest hang of the garment. We are trying to give you the longest measurement rather than measuring the side seam or from the base of a low cut neck shape.
4. Bicep or arm opening. this one is important for determining if the sleeve is a slim fit or loose fit. We measure the widest part of the sleeve usually just beyond where the sleeve meets the body. If the garment is sleeveless then we are measuring across the arm hole gap from armpit to shoulder.
We spend a huge amount of time measuring and comparing garments and appreciate how important it is in determining whether the item will fit or not. We are working through the whole collection and getting up to date measurements we can share online. Meantime, when you are shopping online, if you are not sure, just ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will happily knit and measure the garment before posting to be sure yours is as you would want it. We are also very flexible with returns if it’s not quite right.
Measuring at home
If you are not sure what size you need, then you could try measuring something else you have at home that you like the fit of. Then compare it to the sizes online or let us know so we can compare it for you. Just follow the steps we outline above and that will help us hugely in getting the right fit for you.