I wasn't able to be in the same city with the kids for Christmas a couple of years ago, so I was so happy my daughter-in-law sent me a picture of all of the kids together wearing their "knitted by Grandma" outfits. Are they darling children or what? OK, I'm grandma so you know my answer to that question. :-) <-- Proud Granny smile.
I designed and made the jumpers and sweaters in the picture above while the kids were thousands of miles away. The girls are wearing blue sparkle yarn jumpers knit in the round to the underarms; the white shirts and tights are purchased. The boys' matching pull over sweaters are knit in a basket weave stitch. I allowed for plenty of ease in these garments and the children were able to wear them for two years of Fall, Winter, and into Spring. The green popcorn pattern sweater to the right is another of my designs, this time in crochet.
Most of us who have made garments for ourselves, family members, and others at some time have experienced the frustration of the results of all of our work not fitting the person the way we had hoped. We learn early in our hand knitting and crocheting careers to measure carefully and read through patterns before we start. There is no excuse to avoid making a swatch to check your gauge before you start. Those swatches can be ripped for the yarn to be used again, or they can be set aside to make a different project. Someday I'll share my "Picasso" afghans that are free form designs, many of which incorporate swatches I made before making other items or my "design musings" as I put to yarn what appeared in my head.
So, now you've made your swatch so you know if the gauge is working well if you are following a pattern that is not your own. Measure to count at least four inches of numbers of rows and number of stitches to be able to do the math to be sure what you make will turn out to be the size you expect it to be. Feel the resulting swatch and stretch it a little. Do you like what you feel? Is the fabric as thick or thin as you want? Hold up the swatch and wiggle it a little. How do think it will drape? Does the pattern stitch look the way you thought it would? With a little practice at this, you'll be able to predict results fairly accurately.
If you're making something for an adult and unless you know your recipient well, it's a good idea ask if a hand made item is something they would like. If so show him or her the swatch you've just made and the picture of the finished garment you plan to make.
If you are designing the item yourself, talk about the design you have in mind, color, fit, and perhaps a little drawing of what you plan to make. There are so many people who would love to have something hand made that it makes sense to knit or crochet only for those people. If someone isn't interested in a hand made item, just smile, calmly say, "OK," and change the subject. Then make an item for a different family member, for a homeless or military person, to donate to a charity, or for yourself. Those people, including yourself, will truly appreciate the time and love that you put into your work.
There are plenty of places on the Internet or in magazines to find measurements for standard sizes, but how many people do you know who are really "standard?" Measuring to make garments for those in your family is not as difficult as it may seem. Since I make many items while away from home I can't just grab the recipient as he or she is walking by and hold up a sleeve or try on a hat as I did when the kids were small. Now I have to do the measuring in advance. I have developed a simple form that I update a couple of times of year for my husband, kids, grand kids, and friends. The kids and grand kids gladly line up to do this and the older ones help the younger ones with the very quick process. I am fortunate to have three granddaughters (includes a set of twins) who all wear the same size. It sure cuts down on the measuring!
You're welcome to download and print the .pdf format measurement form by clicking here. I've added measurements to the form as I have made different items through the years; you may want to add even more or rearrange the whole thing. It's easier to know the measurement of a granddaughter's waist to knee than to send emails in the middle of the night and wait a day or two to get the measurement so I can finish a project. Measure loosely, remember that kids grow, and design/make your items with one, two, or more inches of ease depending on how tight/loose the garment is to be and what might be worn under it.
Now that you have your swatch and measurements, you can put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and do the math to design your own garments.
Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome.