I shouldn’t be surprised that off-the-rack clothes and crafting patterns have a lot of the same problems.
Being fat (if you take issue with that word, please see where I already addressed that), I am quite often excluded from clothing choices. Most of my off-the-rack shopping happens online, because, with a few exceptions, brick-and-mortar stores have apparently decided a solid half of the population is unworthy of entering their premises. Even brands that carry them often stick us in a back corner, or perhaps more insultingly, relegate us to online-only status. I guess they want our money but don’t want to actually see us.
Sadly, this exclusion also happens in knitting and crochet patterns. If you go to Ravelry, you have the option of searching only for patterns that come in plus sizes. The second you check that box, your choices rapidly diminish.
Case in point, when you search for any crochet top, with no criteria selected for yardage, yarn weight, hook size, or anything else, you get more than 3,600 results. Add in “plus” and that number drops below 300. It’s completely absurd.
The same thing happens with knitting patterns, where it drops from 13,000 to 1,300. Even if you take into account the fact that this removes children’s and men’s patterns, that’s still a massive, horrifying reduction.
You see the problem? There is absolutely no reason to create a pattern and then only size it for a minuscule fraction of the population. It’s lazy designing, at best. At worst it’s downright insulting, especially when you notice that the options for pieces that show more skin all but completely disappear. That, to me, indicates designers are buying into the tired, outdated idea that fat women should be covering up more than thin women should.
News flash: we have no more reason to hide our bodies than anyone else.
This is absolutely ridiculous. We shouldn’t have to beg and plead to get a few handouts, pattern-wise. They should just exist. You shouldn’t release a pattern unless it’s sized at least to 3X, and preferably it should go higher. This is especially true if you are charging money for the pattern. If I am paying you, I better be able to make the item in my size WITHOUT doing additional calculations.
I’ve heard the excuse that some patterns “just can’t” be sized up any higher. This was from an editor of a major knitting magazine, no less. To that I say: then they aren’t good enough patterns to be published. The ability to make a full range of sizes (hint: “full range” does not mean small through extra large) should be a non-negotiable part of the criteria for anyone who is creating or publishing patterns.
It’s the same thing I say when the designers on Project Runway cry about “real woman” challenges. If you can’t design for all bodies, you shouldn’t be a designer.
What About Plus Patterns Only? Isn’t That Just As Bad?
I’ve heard this asked about plus size clothing brands. So let’s assume that the question would come up about patterns.
“Isn’t it just as exclusive to only make plus sizes?”
In short: no.
Plus size stores and patterns exist because fat people are excluded from “regular” spaces. Someone saw the gap (…or The Gap, since they exclude us too) and filled it. If fatphobia didn’t lead people to make clothing lines or patterns that stop at size 14 or XL, there would be no need to make plus-only lines.
Marginalized people creating their own spaces and meeting their own needs is not the same as privileged people excluding them and passing it off as “normal.” They are a response to being pushed out. Plus, they usually come with a hearty dose of stigma attached. So it doesn’t hold the same aspirational quality of a mainstream item that cuts people out.
When there is a plus-only brand, pattern, or what have you, it is marketed as a specialty size. But thin-only ranges are marketed as the regular or normal set of sizes. This is in spite of the fact that there are actually more fat people in the population.
So no, it’s not “just as bad” or the same thing to create or design things for fat people only.
So What’s a Fat Crafter to Do About this Lack of Patterns?
One solution to this is: create my own knit and crochet patterns that fit people my size. And I may do that. I’m currently working on a pattern that was easy to customize, and I’ll probably share that when I finish.
But I shouldn’t have to.
The solution to being excluded should not be to do the labor and make your own items. Unless you want to, of course, in which case create away! But people who want to buy clothes off the rack or create something directly from a pattern should have that option. No matter what size they are.
If you’re a designer, there’s no excuse. You must make your patterns go beyond size L or XL.
Note: I have also published this post on Medium. If you like it, please go there and give it some applause.