July 10, 2023 3 min read 7 Comments

This past Saturday was our first session of the summer tank class. We talked about the pattern and the construction, but mostly we talked about size–specifically what size to knit.

This tank is a close fitting garment so you don’t want much ease. In fact, there probably should be some negative ease, which means that the tank should stretch across the bust a little bit.

It’s a challenging concept for many knitters, and I totally get that. The idea that something would stretch across your anything creates an unfortunate image in our minds eye. When a knitter is unhappy with a sweater she’s knit, 9 times out of 10, it’s because the sweater is too big, not because it’s too small.

Like most patterns, this tank is designed around standard body measurements put out by the Craft Yarn Council of America, and as such, they move in 4” bust increments. So, there is a 30” bust, a 34” bust, a 38” bust, and so forth, all the way up to a 62” bust. But there isn’t anything in between those sizes. So if you are a 32 or a 36, or a 60, you have to decide between one or the other. That’s just how it is.

Plenty of students in the class who are between sizes, as am I. I am about a 36” bust and will have to decide between making a garment with a finished bust measurement of 36” or 32”

It seems like a lot of difference. 4 inches is a lot, right?

Not really. Not in a knitted garment.

To prove my point, I went to my closet and did what I always advise you to do. I pulled out several sleeveless tops and laid them one on top of the other, from largest to smallest, and measured.

Here they all are

three tank tops on top of one another

You can see that the bottom tank measures 18” across giving me a 36” finished bust, while the smallest measures 16” across for a finished bust of 32”

measurement of tanks with tape measure showing a difference of an inch at each side

That’s a difference of 4” between the smallest and largest. Then I tried each one on.

Here’s me wearing the 36” tank

Ellen wearing an aqua tank in profile

It’s fine. I wear it all the time.

And here’s me wearing the 32” tank. Also one of my favorite garments that I wear all the time.

ellen in profile wearing the salmon tank

They don’t really look that different do they?

I have two points here:

First, Put the ease into perspective – Having 4” of negative ease over your entire bust is minimal. Think of it in percentages. 4 inches of negative ease divided by my entire bust measurement is a stretch of just over 10% - not so much. The larger your bust, the less difference 4” of negative ease makes. If your bust is 48, then 4” of negative ease is just 8%, and so forth. If you want to get a sense of what 10% of stretch looks like, take your 4” swatch and ease it out to 4 ½ inches. Not very much, is it?

Second, in knitted fabric, 4 inches doesn’t make that a big difference in fit. Those two sweaters look pretty much the same on me. Even though one has zero ease, and the other has 4 inches of negative ease, the difference in appearance is minimal and I really wouldn’t have known there was that much difference if I hadn’t measured them

And I have a bonus point here too. This is another tankI have in my closet. I should put it in the donate pile, but it has an illustrative purpose here. This tank measures 12” across for a finished measurement of 24”

black tank measuring 12" across

And here is me wearing it with 12 inches of negative ease.

ellen wearing black body con tank

If you like a very body conscious look, don’t be afraid of massive amounts of negative ease to get that effect.

Bottom line is this: Don’t stress about an inch or two -- or four in your garments. Knitting stretches. Choose a size that's close, cast on, and  create something beautiful.

I would love to hear your thoughts. 



7 Responses

Donna Bohmfalk
Donna Bohmfalk

September 19, 2023

Really helpful and quite eye opening for me. As you know I struggle with the whole correct “fit” concept. This is an ah ha moment in my minds thinking. Thank you for your invaluable knowledge and willingness to share it with us.

Kimberly Westcoat
Kimberly Westcoat

July 24, 2023

Good information. I have not made a TANK but plan to soon. I have been wearing my Agave sweater in Norway.


July 14, 2023

So helpful and the photos explained alot.

Polly Callahan
Polly Callahan

July 11, 2023

Thank you. This is extremely helpful!!

Thanks, Ellen
Thanks, Ellen

July 11, 2023

Thanks for the comparisons, as they were very helpful and encouraging(two of your many gifts).


July 11, 2023

Thanks, Susan. I’m glad it was helpful. Looking forward to seeing your next beautiful creation!


July 11, 2023

Hi Ellen, great information today! Help me balance this discussion of choosing a size close enough with the benefits of a custom fit (which I hope to do soon).
Thank you!

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