Designing a Size-Inclusive Sweater
A story of fixing your mistakes, or, why I decided to redesign the Mae Cropped Sweater.
I released my first knitting pattern in 2020, and it was not size inclusive. To be totally transparent, when I first launched it, the Bridget Dress wasn't tech edited and there were some problems. That's how little I really knew about the process of designing and releasing a knitting pattern. I knew about test knitters, but had only found a few and none of them had finished the pattern. I didn't feel confident in the whole process, I felt mostly disappointed.
Early on in my career, I was chosen as a Pattern Academy Fellow with Eat.Sleep.Knit. Through this program, I met a number of other incredible designers who work in knitting and crochet. I also met more test knitters and, yes, I found out about tech editing as well. One of the first things I did was have The Bridget Dress tech edited and tested again!
That was then, this is now.
Well, let's fast forward just a couple of years, everything has changed. It has always been my intention to be a size-inclusive designer. I believe any person who wants to knit one of my patterns should be able to, regardless of size. While it's impossible to offer one pattern to fit every shape without modification, offering a range of sizes that includes as many folks as possible is the best place to start.
I offered my first patterns in a size range that fits up to a 54" bust measurement. I made that decision based on what I saw in the majority of the knitting industry, but I have to admit that it was a mistake. The 54" bust measurement represents an old standard of inclusion that was not very inclusive. Size inclusive designers at this point offer patterns that range up to somewhere like a 70" bust measurement or beyond.
Of all of the designers I've met who have been generous with me, I have learned the most from my dear friend Jen Parroccini. Before Jen started offering her services as a consultant to designers, she was my dear friend who liked to ask me about color and photo, and I liked to ask her about fit and size-inclusion. She recommended tons of resources to me, and taught me a bit more about how to make my designs end up looking like I wanted. If you are a new designer she is a valuable resource.
Still, my early patterns are not size inclusive enough.
By the time my first sweater pattern launched, I had been growing and learning as a designer for more than six months. That's the thing about being a new garment designer, it takes so long to release a pattern (at LEAST six months in my experience). By the time you've launched your early designs, you've learned enough to wish you had done them all differently.
Now that I am working on my fifteenth garment pattern (and beyond!), I've found that I have fewer feelings of regret each launch and I am more happy with the fit of all sizes each time as well! It has always been my intention to return to my early patterns and rework them. I am someone who learns by doing, and when I know better I do better.
The Hypatia Sweater (coming Jan 1, 2023!) is the first re-design of my patterns. I've renamed Hypatia because this new garment has several differences from the original pattern, the Mae Cropped Sweater. Not only have I increased the size range up to 74" (to fit a 70" bust), I've also polished up the design to be a better match with my original vision. I love the finished garment, which will be available with either cropped or full length options for the body and sleeves.
When you know better, do better.
I chose the size range of 70" to be inclusive while still being able to offer a thoroughly tested pattern. It is no secret that finding test knitters in larger sizes is not easy. Thankfully, as I have found more people to test knit my patterns I have been able to offer more sizes.
In 2023, I'll also be re-designing the Mae Summer Crop, the Love Yourself Sweater, and the Bridget Dress. Stay tuned for these release dates as well as new designs in this size range.
If you wish to knit one of my patterns and it isn't offered in your size, I'm sorry! I wish I had always known what I know now. Today I feel confident grading patterns for all bodies and sizes. I will always be happy to work with you and regrade one of my patterns to your size at no cost to you. Please don't hesitate to reach out.
I can not pretend to be an expert on size-inclusivity. As I said, I am always learning and I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn. I'm sharing my experiences here because I hope to inspire other designers to look at their own range of sizes. I hope that if you are not a designer, you might be inspired to stand up and correct your own mistakes. Accountability is a beautiful gift to give to your community.