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Size Inclusivity in Knitting Patterns: Knitters' Perspective (1/2)

Size Inclusivity in Knitting Patterns: Knitters' Perspective

I had intended this third blog post on size inclusivity in knitting patterns to be the conclusion of the series. But going through the 342 responses to my size inclusivity survey I realized there's sooo much ground cover! Cramming all the data into one post would've made it miles long so there's actually going to be one more post in the series.

In the first part of the series I discussed the topic from a designer's perspective: what size inclusivity means and how to deal with it when designing and grading patterns. In the second part I examined 479 knitting patterns tagged with the #sizeinclusive hashtag on Ravelry to find out what's typical for size-inclusive knitting patterns today.

In this third part I'm going to focus on just the first two, very broad questions from the survey: what, in your opinion, is size inclusivity and what is it not? Next week's post will discuss the specifics: what are knitters looking for in a size-inclusive pattern? Do knitters' thoughts on the matter meet up with what designers are currently offering?


What Is Size Inclusivity?

Let's start by defining what size inclusivity means to different knitters.

What is size inclusivity?

It comes as no surprise that for the majority of knitters (59%) size inclusivity means offering a wide range of sizes. But this doesn't just means offering plus sizes (34%) but both ends of the spectrum: more than one in five respondents (22%) specifically mentioned including petite sizes as well. For 8% of the respondents size inclusivity means full adaptability, that the pattern comes in all possible sizes.

But size inclusivity doesn't just stop with sizes; it should also cover different body shapes, types, and figures (12%). Here's is a lengthy quote from one of the respondents, highlighting the importance of this often overlooked side of the inclusivity discussion:

"Size inclusivity is the only movement that has really addressed the issue of patterns being designed for extremely narrow stereotypical body shapes. Size inclusivity calls us to question preconceived notions about what an 'average' woman's body looks like: narrow-waisted and wide-hipped, with small shoulders and a prominent bust. This idealized image of women's bodies disregards the reality of countless women — transgender, intersex, and cisgender alike — who simply do not fit this mold. I am optimistic that the push for size inclusivity will result in developing an understanding that all bodies are unique and equally deserving of patterns that can be made to fit them perfectly."

For a large number of respondents size inclusivity means that the pattern offers suggestions for customizing fit (17%). But too often the discussion on size inclusivity focuses just on garment circumference. Size-inclusive patterns should also take height and length adjustments (5%) into account, similar to "lengthen here" instructions seen on sewing patterns. Just because a person is well-endowed in the bust department doesn't mean that they're also tall; size-inclusive patterns should also offer suggestions for modifying for short torsos.

For 4% of the respondents size inclusivity means the pattern is accurately graded, not just scaled or "mathed up" from a small(er) sample garment. Indeed, around 5% of respondents say that size inclusivity is ensuring that the pattern is comfortable, well-fitting, and flattering in all sizes it's offered in. Eight (2.3%) respondents want the pattern to be test knit in all sizes, and approx. 2% think size inclusivity is photographing the design on models of different shapes and sizes.

Size inclusivity is getting to wear things I make myself that I love and fit my body, feeling accepted and beautiful.

Twenty-four respondents (7%), some apologetic of their selfishness, state that size inclusivity means that a pattern is available in "my size". Shouldn't all knitters be able to ask for that? Shouldn't all knitters be able to say that...

"Size inclusivity is getting to wear things I make myself that I love and fit my body, feeling accepted and beautiful."

What Is Not Size Inclusivity?

What's on the other side of the coin? Not surprisingly, for the majority of the respondents the opposite of size inclusivity is offering only a limited range of sizes (54%) or, in the worst case, stating that one size fits all (15%).

What is not size inclusivity?

Size inclusivity is also not just scaling a pattern up (11%) mathematically with no regard for style and fit or, as one respondent succinctly put it, "simply multiplying a number to come up with a bigger number". Vague size labels with no accurate measurements (3.5%) is a sign of a pattern that's not size inclusive (more on this next week).

Compromising on aesthetics by designing oversized garments with too much ease (3%) is also seen as lack of size inclusivity as is changing design style (1.5%) from one block of sizes to the next. Nor is size inclusivity having to re-calculate pattern instructions (2%) for yourself or altering gauge (1%) by changing yarn or needle size. Not having all sizes test knit (2%) and photographed (1%) is also seen as lack of size inclusivity.

Nearly 8% think a pattern that doesn't offer variations or suggestions for adjusting fit is also not size inclusive. But offering too many sizes is not looked upon favorably, either. On the other end of the spectrum are respondents (2.5%) who think that a custom-fit, recipe-style pattern that can be adjusted for every body is not a representation of true size inclusivity.

Inclusivity is an acknowledgement that humans come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

Criticism to Size Inclusivity

And then there are the naysayers. One respondent is of the opinion that size inclusivity is just a buzzword designers use for profit by confusing people into thinking there are more sizes offered than in other patterns. Another claims that size inclusivity is asking too much of designers: not all patterns translate well to all sizes or sizes and designers shouldn't have to compromise their integrity and skill.

Several respondents stated that trying to accommodate for all sizes is not realistic. Instead we should cultivate resources for knitters to learn how to adjust patterns. And I think this is, in part, what the on-going call for size inclusivity stems from. Ours and perhaps our parents' generation are the first for whom buying ready-to-wear clothes off the rack is the norm. Not everyone has the skills to modify patterns to fit their body.

But should designers just throw in the towel and not try at all? I think not. To me, this following quote perfectly encapsulates the thought of at least taking the steps to start the journey to size inclusivity.

"Inclusivity is an acknowledgement that humans come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and that the designer who claims to be inclusive has made the effort to acknowledge that fact."


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Size Inclusivity in Knitting Patterns: Knitters' Perspective
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Susanna Winter is a knitwear designer, creating timeless and elegant pieces with clean lines. She has been knitting for over 20 years, knit blogging since 2007, and designing knitting patterns professionally since 2016.

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