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I will no longer sew patterns that don’t fit my body

Dear pattern designers

If your pattern doesn’t come in my size, you won’t be getting any more of my money. I won’t be grading it up. Because you should be doing that for me.

I’m Michelle, aka @sewverymuch. I live in Canberra, Australia where currently we are having a beautiful warm, cold, wet, sunny, windy autumn. I love bright colours and bold prints, lean towards dresses, tops and skirts over pants, and I’ve been sewing for myself on and off for close to 30 years. About 80% of my wardrobe consists of me-made clothing.

When I first started sewing for myself, the Big 4 (plus Burda) were my only choice of patterns. The range in the larger sizes (above size 22) were extremely limited, and most of those definitely weren’t cool and fashionable patterns. But as my sewing journey continued and independent pattern designers started emerging, it was exciting to see new concepts and designs that I just didn’t see in the few plus sized patterns that the Big 4 provided. However only a couple of these new independent designers had inclusive, extended sizing that I could fit into. I still bought those patterns though, in the hope that I could grade the pattern up to fit me. Looking back now, I get so sad that I was happy to take the meagre offerings of pattern companies and pay them good money for me to do their work for them.

In January 2019 a conversation was started on Instagram around why pattern companies are reluctant to have more inclusive patterns for their plus-sized audience, and it struck a chord with so many of us in the fat sewing community. I’ve had 55+++ inch hips as long as I’ve been sewing and this conversation dredged up all the negative feelings I had around sewing to clothe by fat body. Because as a fat sewist it gets tiring to:

  • find a pattern that accommodates your hips
  • find a pattern that includes a finished measurements chart so you can determine if your hips will fit within the measurement even though you are well outside the size range
  • learn how to grade between and beyond sizes
  • be told that a certain style or colour is “flattering” for your fiure (I really hate that word and find it demeaning and that’s a whole other post!))
  • have fellow sewists who fall inside the regular pattern size range (i.e much thinner than me) gasp when you tell them your hip size, or look embarrassed when they rave about how good XYZ pattern is and you should try it oh hang on they only go up to a 42 inch hip
  • get a “GOOD FOR YOU” when you sew something nice that fits well (another three demeaning words I would like banned from the vocabulary)
  • have pattern companies tell you that doing a plus size line is too hard and your body size is too difficult
  • try to convince pattern companies that “one size fits all” is a flat out lie (this one is my favourite (no, not really)).

So after this very thoughtful conversation on Instagram, I realised that my opinions needed to be actions. I decided to pay better attention to those companies and suppliers that I followed, and most importantly those I gave my money to. I stopped following the companies that all the cool kids followed, especially if they did not have extended sizes, did not plan to do extended sizes in the next few months, or were just downright insulting to fat sewists by their language and/or arguments against extending their sizes.

Most importantly, I realised I was sick of spending money on patterns to find out the fit was really off, or the size range was ridiculously non-inclusive. I decided to no longer buy patterns that did not include my size in their sizing. After years of grading these non-inclusive patterns in an attempt to make them fit my body, I was now refusing to do it a moment longer.

If they weren’t going to support me in trying to clothe my own body, why should I be supporting them?

Later in the year I took another step by only keeping the PDF patterns that were size inclusive. A lot of the patterns on the shelf in my sewing room didn’t actually go to my size – I bought them when I thought I could grade up and out. There was a lot of money spent on those patterns, but I considered it a sunk cost and it was FREEING.

In the last 18 months we have seen several pattern companies extend their sizes to be more inclusive, and while we are not yet talking about a level playing field, things have improved considerably. I applaud those designers, both existing and new. But there are still pattern companies on my shit list and I suspect they will remain there forever.

9 replies on “I will no longer sew patterns that don’t fit my body”

Yes to all of this! I only started garment sewing 18 months ago, and made my account on Instagram then too. I quickly started unfollowing companies as I realised they didn’t cater for me or me fellow fat sewists. It’s so liberating. Almost everything I see on Instagram now is something I could make because it’s from an inclusive company, a plus size sewist, or a straight sized sewist who doesn’t support fatphobic companies.

Agreed! I started doing this as well and found it really freeing. Exactly as you say: if they don’t support me, I won’t support them.

Amen! I also knit and stopped buying Vogue Knitting magazine years ago because they don’t size patterns beyond 40-42 hip. I also stopped shopping at department stores that hid their plus-size clothes in a back corner or only made plus size clothing is black, magenta, and teal. So over hearing the message that women above a size 12 aren’t supposed to be seen in public. Money talks.

I so agree with you on all counts. I live in Queensland where life is rather casual, which is great if you are a size 8 – 14, after that for a size 18 to 20 there is it becomes almost impossible to find nice styles and when you do it is almost always black or it is in such bright and garish colours that i feel like a clown when wearing them. Hence making my own clothes I struggle with getting patterns in my size especially around the bust. I, too, now refuse to buy patterns that I have to grade up, especially with the cost of the patterns.

Agreed! Although I’d take it a step further. Not only will I not give my money to patterns companies that aren’t inclusive of my size needs, but I will actively lobby them to change their ways. Every one of them has an online presence, including social media. As I come across patterns I bought that really don’t meet my needs, I’ll be contacting the company either online or by snail mail to register my displeasure. I want them to KNOW that they’re not getting my money, why I’m unhappy, AND that I’ll be advocating for them to change their ways in every forum I can. Just not giving them my money is a passive action. I want to take the battle directly to them.

Oh my gosh! I could’ve written your exact post, and included a larger waist size!

You have given me a whole new perspective. I started writing notes to Indie pattern companies saying the exact same thing! Just before I saw a link to your blog, I actually wrote two emails this morning. Thank you for putting my thoughts in a much clearer framework. I’m joining you! And now I’m going to cruise around your blog and enjoy more.

Brava!
I’ve been sewing since the 1970s (when I was in elementary school). Up through college or so, I could accommodate my pear shape through multi-sized patterns, kind of. I didn’t really understand fit at all, but sometimes my methods worked. 😀
But when I gained weight in my 20s, I mostly stopped sewing garments. Recently, I’ve wanted to sew for myself again, because even though there are many more RTW options available for those of us who have bigger figures, those options rarely have the color, pattern, or fabric content I want. Yes, the problem with being a sewist is you KNOW clothes can be better!
I got a pattern last summer that I thought was pretty close to my actual size. It was from an independent maker. In the end, though, it was a complete nightmare to assemble the pattern from their pdf, and then alter it appropriately. I gave up. Now, I’ve resolved, like you, to only buy patterns that are specifically sized for larger bodies. Cashmerette is high on my list, and I am hunting for other companies that design for the fat! Companies that get that my tummy isn’t ever going to be flat, that my upper arms are not toned, and that my back quite likely has some fluff. My hat is off to you for saying out loud what needed to be said.

Bravo! I think both of you are absolutely right. More than 30% of women in the USA are larger than the standard pattern sizes. It is time that pattern companies and retailers give us more options that shapeless bags to wear over our curves.

Yes to all of this! I finally stopped buying pdf patterns that were too small because printing out and taping and then embiggening was exhausting me. I’m probably a 36 in big 4 pattern sizes (28 US in ready to wear), and almost nothing comes in that size. You’ve inspired me to purge the patterns that don’t fit and never will!

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