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.