Which measurements matter in designing a men’s sweater vest?

Yesterday I invited you to join me as I design a sweater vest for myself with Universal Yarn Colorburst yarn. Today we’ll look at the measurements you need to have to design something that you would be proud to wear or to gift to a man in your life.

Colorburst comes in many different palettes, any of which would serve for a gentleman’s personal preference and panache.

Step 2

The 2nd step of designing involves taking and recording accurate measurements and determining how much ease you want to build into your design. I like my sweaters and vests to fit closer to my torso, so I only add about 2” of ease to the chest and tummy measurements. This leaves room for a t-shirt or dress shirt to go underneath without bundling up uncomfortably. Some guys like the big baggy look, and for them you’ll need to add 4” to 6” of ease to the chest and tummy measurements.

Swatching is a must when designing your own men’s vest with any yarn. With Colorburst, it’s all about the width of the stripes and the best textures.

The most crucial measurement for a sweater vest is the cross-back measurement. To get this measurement, find the knobby shoulder bone at the crest of your man’s shoulders and measure across the back of the neck from one shoulder to the other. If the wearer is in absentia, or if it’s for you, can find a friend to measure your back, then find a dress shirt he likes and that sits well on his back and measure from between the two sleeve seams across the back near the top. To this measurement, you do not want to add any ease, but if you want the shoulder straps to be narrow, you can subtract between 1” to 3”. I wanted my sweater vest shoulders to be substantial for warmth over fashion. In the photo above, you can see that I went with 19½”. If you’re going to work wide sleeve opening edgings, you’ll need to also make the shoulder straps slightly narrower to accommodate the edge ribbing. I wanted the ribbing on my sleeve openings to hug my shoulder, so I didn’t subtract any width from my cross-back measurement. The cross-back measurement is the most crucial because it determines the point from which the whole garment will drape downward.

Take the chest measurement across the widest section of the chest and upper back with the arms up or use a t-shirt that isn’t loose on the wearer. If you don’t have a form-fitting t-shirt, you can use the loose shirt chest measurement, but you won’t add additional ease, as that’s already built-in. If the tummy measurement (taken at the belly button or widest point just above or below the belly button) is greater than the chest measurement, then you will need to have zero ease added and use the belly measurement as the chest measurement.

The Earth and Sky colorway of Colorburst has two of my favorite colors, plum and teal. It’s just the right amount of warmth for a winter’s day of reading.

The next two important measurements to take are the lengths. First determine if the wearer wants the bottom hem to land just above his belt loops, just below the belt loops, or longer; some men like sweater vests to land mid-buttocks. Then, place the measuring tape just beside the neck, at the center of the shoulder where the seam should sit and measure from there along the back to the desired length. Measure from the same point keeping the tape right on the chest and tummy curves to the desired length. If the front length is longer than the back length (which is usually the case for men with larger stomachs, then you need to go with the front length, otherwise, use the back length.

Your schematic should look something like this. Don’t worry if it’s rough or to scale…a general idea is all you need. It’s the measurements that are going to count.

When you’re all done, sketch out a schematic diagram for the sweater vest and label the measurements you have. For the chest measurements with ease added in, divide in half for the diagram. The width of the neck opening will be between 8” and 10”, depending on how thick or wide the back of the next is. The depth of the armhole will usually be around 9 inches, but for men with ample pectoral muscles and big biceps, you could go as deep as 11” or 12”. I take the circumference of the upper arm, add 4” for ease, and then divide that total by 2 for the depth of the arm opening from the initial bind-off at the under arm to the first bind off at the shoulders. I start the V-neck opening about 1½” above the beginning of the armhole shaping.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to calculate all the numbers of rows and stitches for your design and give you an example of two stitch patterns you could work into part of the vest as a design element. Universal Yarn Colorburst and my Karbonz by Knitter’s Pride add excitement to this designing adventure! Join me!

These size US4 [3.5mm] needles were the perfect size for a tight 2×2 ribbing on the hem and armhole edgings for this vest, but I did use size US5 for the front, and size US6 for the back of the vest.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 1: Designing a men’s sweater vest using Universal Yarn Colorburst

Go to part 3: Calculations for a men’s Colorburst sweater vest

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