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

Size Inclusivity in Knitting Patterns: Knitters' Perspective

This week's blog post picks up where last week's left off. In this post I'll summarize the rest of the results of the size-inclusivity survey. What are knitters looking for in size-inclusive knitting patterns? Do their expectations meet up with what designers are currently offering?

Size Range

The next questions in the survey were: what is the smallest and largest size you expect to find in a size-inclusive pattern? It was a little tricky to find the answer to these questions since some people answered in inches, some in letter sizes, yet others in UK or US ready-to-wear sizes — and it wasn't always obvious which unit the respondent used. I had to do a lot of finagling (and guesswork in some cases) to get all the answers on a comparable scale.

Expected size range in size-inclusive patterns

Expected size range in size-inclusive patterns

On the whole knitters are pretty conservative in their size expectations for size-inclusive patterns. Nearly all respondents want a pretty modest range of 30–50" in to-fit bust circumference. When you compare that with what size-inclusive patterns today are offering, the majority of knitters' expectations have certainly been met.

However, at the tail end of the size spectrum things turns around: around 20% of respondents are looking for sizes 66+ whereas only a measly 2.7% of patterns are currently delivering this.

Expected number of sizes in a size-inclusive knitting pattern

Expected number of sizes in size-inclusive knitting patterns

As for the number of sizes offered in a pattern, the majority of knitters want 8–10 individual sizes, ranging from 3 to 30 to "as many as possible". This corresponds pretty nicely with what current size-inclusive patterns are delivering with an average of 9 sizes.

Size inclusivity is not about how many individual sizes, it's about the range of possibilities.

But as many respondents pointed out, it's not the sheer number of sizes that's relevant, it's the range of body sizes and shapes the pattern can be adjusted to fit. As was evident in last week's post, some people think that all patterns should be fully adjustable to all sizes whereas others feel that it's up to the designer to decide whichever sizes a particular pattern can accommodate and is suited for.

"It's not about how many individual sizes, it's about the range of possibilities."

Size Increment

On average, knitters want size-inclusive patterns to be graded in 2-inch increments, that is, the jump from one size to the next is 2". This differs from what patterns are currently offering with a 4-inch increment being the norm.

Expected size increment in size-inclusive knitting patterns

Expected size increment in size-inclusive knitting patterns

But many respondents were quick to add that the expected size increments depends very much on the design style, how the garment is intended to fit, and how much ease is built into the pattern. For a more tailored look, smaller size increments are expected but larger, around 4" or so, are acceptable in loose-fitting designs.

Do you expect size increment to stay the same between all sizes?

Knitters are quite evenly split on the opinion on whether they want the size increment to stay the same throughout the pattern. A respondent explained the reasoning why knitters would want this: small and consistent increments are very useful for people who work at a different gauge. Many replied that size increments depend heavily on the type of garment and suggested ease, for example.

Others stated that fixed size increments are not realistic nor possible in all cases: gauges and pattern repeats simply don't fall into neat 1-inch jumps. Instead of a fixed number, many respondents replied that they'd like sizes to increase at predictable intervals following some standard, such as ready-to-wear sizing. If varying increments are used, it would be nice of the designer to explain why there is a huge gap between some sizes, as one respondent suggested.

Size Labels

The vast majority of knitters (73%) would like to see size labels expressed as bust measurements, be it in inches, centimeters, or both. Only 17% would like to see letter labels (S, M, L, etc.) although this is the preferred labeling system seen in size-inclusive patterns today (44%).

I've sometimes seen it suggested that sequential numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.) or alphabetical labels (A, B, C, etc.) are neutral ways of expressing sizes. Although used in some patterns (15% and 3%, respectively), knitters are not that keen on either.

Preferred size labeling in size-inclusive knitting patterns

Preferred size labeling in size-inclusive knitting patterns

Additional Sizing Information

The next two questions detailed pattern elements that are essential in size-inclusive knitting patterns for providing additional sizing information.

Additional sizing information in size-inclusive knitting patterns

Additional sizing information in size-inclusive knitting patterns

The top five most important elements that knitters want to see before buying a pattern are finished bust measurements (79%), photos of the design in different sizes (74%) and on different body shapes (71%), ease (68%), and intended wearer's to-fit measurements (64%). Comparing that with what patterns are offering I see one major discrepancy: only 20% of size-inclusive patterns indicate either modeled or recommended ease. Several respondents also commented that it's very helpful if the pattern information indicates the model's actual measurements and which garment size they're wearing, such as "the model is 175 cm tall with a bust of 85 cm and is wearing size M with 10 cm of positive ease".

As for must-have elements within the pattern instructions themselves, the top five are finished bust measurements (84%), to-fit measurements (67%), ease (60%), a detailed schematic of measurements (53%), and suggestions for modifying fit or shaping (46%). Many respondents mentioned that in addition to bust measurements, it would be very helpful to see, for example, hip or waist circumferences as these are areas that often need fit adjustments. Several also indicated that accurate size-by-size yardage requirements are a must instead of just giving a range of yarn needed.

Size inclusivity an all-encompassing design philosophy.


To summarize the results it can be said that knitters want detailed sizing information to help decide if a pattern is a right fit for them — pun not intended. While knitters' wants and pattern designers' practices do meet in some respects, where patterns are currently lacking are small, accurate, and predictable size increments, detailed measurements of the finished garment, intended wearer as well as ease, and the flexibility for fit adjustments.

Size inclusivity, it seems, is less about physical measurements or how many different sizes are offered in a pattern. Instead, it's an all-encompassing design philosophy that recognizes that there are a multitude of differently shaped individuals who are all entitled to well-fitting hand-knit garments.

"There's rarely such a thing as once size fits all. We are all uniquely different and that should be celebrated."


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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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