There has been a big discussion on sizing, and being size inclusive, in the sewing community in the last few days. I posted a little bit about the Scroop Patterns sizing range, how Scroop Patterns started, and why I chose the size range I did on instagram. However, I thought this is really something that deserves a longer, more thoughtful blog post. IG’s word count is pretty limited!
Scroop Patterns grew out of my work as a sewing teacher, and as a result, being as size inclusive as possible was one of the primary goals of the pattern line from the very beginning.
The most common reason people give for coming to a sewing class is because they can’t find ready-to-wear (RTW) clothes that fit properly.
When I started teaching sewing it was incredibly hard to find patterns that women in a whole range of sizes could make. The Big5 options were blah and often terribly drafted, and almost no indie pattern labels went above a 44″ bust. I hated having to tell women that a pattern didn’t come in their size.
I graded up a fair few commercial patterns just to make sure women could take my class – and started making my own patterns. I learned pattern grading in university, studying stage costuming. I didn’t realise how rare it was it at the time, but my course included drafting for plus sizes, and fitting plus sizes, which very few fashion courses do.
I got lots more experience fitting a huge range of body shapes and sizes as a sewing teacher. Wellington NZ is an amazing place to be a sewing teacher, because students come from such a huge range of backgrounds. New Zealand is a very ethnically diverse country, and Wellington is a very cosmopolitan city. One of the things that people do when they move to a new city is to take classes to meet people. So I’ve gotten to help women from all over the world, from Latvia, to Ghana, to Malaysia, fit patterns on themselves. And I got to see, over and over again, the types of fit adjustments that women needed to make to most commercial patterns.
I also got lots of help from amazing friends with different body shapes who were willing to let me test things on them, and ask them questions about their bodies. This isn’t an easy thing to do, and it took true friends to not be insulted, and to tell me when I was making comments or assumptions based on my body that were rude and hurtful to other body types, and to take the time to teach me. I owe them a lot. Educating myself to be more inclusive took teachers with extreme patience and love – and it’s an ongoing process.
My first patterns were hand drawn and photocopied (and heck, at the time that’s what some Indie pattern lines were selling), but they FIT a wide range of women as well as a single pattern possible could.
So I learned CAD programming, and my patterns started looking a lot posher, but I still developed them with the same goal: if I teach a class based on my pattern, I want women of every size to feel that they can take the class, and make the garment, and not have to make any more adjustments than someone much closer to my measurements.
Every Scroop Pattern is either made on a 38 and 46 block, and tested and graded up and down from there, or (for simpler shapes) made on a 38 block, and fully checked and re-fit at 46.
Both blocks are based on my body shape: average verging on very slightly narrow shoulders, average verging on very slightly narrow back, B cups (sewing B, which isn’t the same as bra B – a much higher percentage of women are a sewing B than a bra B), slightly pear shaped, with a full bottom.
This is my body shape, but in many ways it represents the most common adjustments I help sewers make to commercial patterns.
I show women how to do narrow shoulder adjustments more than 12x as often as I show women how to do broad shoulder adjustments. I help people grade up in the hips, or do full bottom adjustments, far, far more often than the reverse.
My B cup is smaller than the average it’s true, but on pattern where cup size really makes a difference to fit (like the Ngaio blouse) I do the full bust adjustment for people, and build in multiple cup options.
Armed with this perspective on sizing, I started Scroop Patterns out in 2016 with a 30-50″ bust size range. In mid 2017, from the Rilla Corset onwards, I felt secure enough in the fit of my patterns to begin offering them in a 30-52″ range.
Will they fit everyone perfectly? No, of course not! No pattern can. Every body is different, and unless you’re shaped exactly like my block, you’re going to need to do a bit of adjusting.
But hopefully, by giving a lot of fit choices, like the multi cup sizes in the Ngaio Blouse, and the two hip flare choices in the Rilla Corset, I’ve made the job a lot easier.
And I’m always researching and growing, in the hopes of making my patterns even more inclusive.
The Economic Realities of an inclusive size range
OK, above was all the fun, happy part, about how important I felt it was for Scroop to offer a broad size range, and how I developed it, and how proud I am of it and the amazing women who helped me develop it.
Here is the not-fun economic part, which is why I don’t blame any very small, one person Indie Pattern company for not having an inclusive size range.
Developing patterns that come in 10+ sizes is really, really expensive. ï»¿
In case the bold doesn’t make enough impact, let me say this again even larger:
Developing patterns that come in 10+ sizes is really, really expensive.
Offering a pattern is more than 6-7 sizes is pretty much 2x the work of offering it in 6-7 sizes. And 2x the work means at least 2x as much money to create a pattern.
If you’re going to offer in more than about 6-7 sizes, and you want the additional sizes to have any chance of fitting reasonable, you have to have two blocks for most patterns – which means that you do a lot of the work of developing the pattern twice.
You have to do 2x as many fit checks and adjustments – and pay 2x as many fit models for their hours (or have really, really amazing friends willing to donate their time who have exactly the right body for you to use as a fit model for the additional size.)
You have to check each size for accuracy in the actual pattern, and figure out how to fit all those extra sizes and fabric requirements and cutting layouts into your pattern. And all of this takes more time.
You need more testers to test your patterns, and that’s more people to email, work with, more feedback to read and process and balance against each other. And just more time.
Then, if you want to really show what your patterns can do with you sample photos, you have to sew 2x as many samples, and pay/bribe the models and photographers for 2x as many models and hours.
Just to be clear, in my view NONE of this additional cost is about bigger sizes being harder to fit or develop patterns for or check, as long as you know how to draft and fit those sizes. I don’t think they are harder: just less taught and written about. This is simply about MORE sizes being more expensive to develop, and taking more time. Any time you expand a range, up or down, the cost goes up.
Based on my pattern development time, it costs me, at an absolute minimum, an extra $2,000 to develop a pattern in a 30-50″ size range, instead of a 32-44″ size range.
And that minimum is calculated at me earning NZ’s minimum wage per hour for my time.
And I live in a city where the minimum wage is not a living wage: i.e. you can’t pay rent and buy food on the minimum wage.
To cover that extra cost of pattern development, I have to hope that I can sell an additional 200 patterns (on top of the base amount of patterns I need to sell to cover developing one), before I even start to make a profit/earn more than minimum wage on a pattern.
More sizes = less patterns
But it gets worse from a business perspective: having a really inclusive size range actually makes it HARDER to sell more patterns.
You see, because every pattern is 2x the work, it takes me twice as long to make a pattern, and I make half as many different patterns as I could.
And half as many patterns, means half as many patterns to sell. Sure, you may have more potential customers to sell them to, but that’s also hard, because…
Unless you spend a lot of money on marketing (which I don’t have, because I’m making patterns that cost me $2,000+ more to make), less patterns means less buzz.
Indie pattern lines survive on buzz. We can do a lot of our own social media (but once again, that takes a lot of time – and skill), but what we really need is people blogging reviews, suggesting our patterns in groups when someone asks for a pattern that looks like X, pinning our patterns on pinterest, and sharing them on IG.
The more patterns you have out, the more things get shared, and the more you have something that fits a popular website/sewer’s look or need for a specific thing.
The fewer patterns you can make a year, the less you get mentioned in round-ups of new patterns being launched. The fewer patterns you have to be suggested when people are looking for a look. The less your name gets out there – and the less of the few patterns you have that get sold.
Yes, you have more possible customers with more sizes, but if they aren’t hearing about you, they can’t buy your products.
For example, every time the Curvy Sewing Collective does a ‘New Patterns’ round-up that includes one of my (rare) new patterns, I sell 2x as many patterns as usual that week – and get a flow on mention effect that is really good for my overall sales. If I launched a pattern every 2 months, even if I got overlooked for one, people would see Scroop Patterns name again in another 2 months.
The Otari Hoodie got missed in the Curvy Sewing Collective monthly round up when it came out (I’m sure it happens all the time – it’s a lot of work to write a post like that, and there are so many patterns to check!). This omission had a devastating effect on my projected sales of that pattern. It was a major bit of free marketing I missed out on, and meant that there were a hundred other flow-on mentions I didn’t get. For a line my size, that’s huge.
So, more sizes = more time = more cost = less patterns = less people hearing about you = less overall sales.
What does this all mean?
From a purely business perspective, less sizes would have been smarter.
I made my sizing range choice based on what I wanted my pattern line to represent, and what I felt was right.
But from a purely business perspective, cutting out all those extra size lines when I started out, and spending that $2,000 per pattern on marketing, on really fabulous photography, on ‘pretty’ models would have been a much smarter move.
I couldn’t afford a model or photographer or extra sample for my first few patterns, so it was just me – and there was some pretty nasty criticism about that in the less kind parts of the sewing internet (criticism of indie pattern lines can be vicious – we’re expected to be brilliant at/be able to afford so many things, and when we slip up there always seems to be someone to point it out). Now I use friends as models and photographers, and have (sort-of) learned to be a photographer, and my photos look better (but still not as lovely as they could).
Making 2x as many patterns a year would have been an even smarter (from a business perspective) move. Instead of having 10 patterns for people to buy, I’d have 20.
Between marketing and more patterns, I’d be selling enough more to the people who fit that 32-44 size range to easily cover the ones I sell to people buying patterns for the outer sizes of my size range.
I wouldn’t change my choice at all: being inclusive was an absolute priority for me.
However, in being able to say that, it’s important to keep in mind that:
My ability to make Scroop Patterns inclusive essentially comes from a place of privilege.
I can afford to design a pattern line that isn’t as profitable as possible because I have another job that keeps me (barely) financially viable.
And I have a husband who earns significantly more than I do.
Essentially, we have a safety cushion to fall back on. If my pattern line never makes a cent of profit, we’re going to be OK.
But not all potential indie pattern designers have that.
So, if a talented designer with experience and great ideas wants to make a pattern line, and she absolutely can’t afford her own version of an extra $2,000 to make a inclusive line viable, and has to start out with three sizes down from her size, and three sizes up, in the hopes of one day being successful enough to add more, I’m not going to judge her.
Most indie pattern companies aren’t just small businesses: they are micro businesses. It’s one person, working at home, often around their own day job, trying to offer some pretty amazing things to the world.
And if what they need to do to offer anything at all, is to only offer it to a small range, whatever portion of the possible size range that is, I understand. I know it’s not ideal, but DEFINITELY it’s better than telling women without the luxury of a safety net they shouldn’t even try, just because they can’t include everyone in their vision.
(but yeah, if you’re a big super popular line who almost every sewer can name, who has been around for a decade and isn’t trying to offer anything plus size, I am giving you a little bit of side eye. Step up).
Some of the comments on the size inclusion discussions on IG and facebook called designers who only offer a small range ‘lazy’, or other really judging terms.
As a sole designer who knows how much work it takes to create a reasonable quality sewing pattern even in only 6 sizes, much less the 12 I carry, that felt like an absolute kick in the guts.
I know it wasn’t aimed at my pattern line, but I know how much work a pattern is, and how little the vast majority most indie pattern makers make (if they make any profit at all) and lazy is the last thing they are.
To think that there are people who look at the hours, and hours (and days, and weeks) and love that indie pattern designers put into a pattern that some people won’t pay US$10 for because they are ‘too expensive’ and then call us lazy.
Well, that sucks and hurts.
Yes, there are pattern lines that need to take a hard look at how they represent women, and the choices they make, and some of the more judging terms they use – but calling them lazy is probably wrong, and definitely isn’t going to help encourage them to be better or to educate themselves.
And most indie pattern lines are probably doing as much as they absolutely can with the resources they have, and should be celebrated and supported – not called lazy because they can’t do more.
So what can you do to help indie pattern companies be size inclusive?
Buy the patterns of companies that are! The more you support small lines like mine that are trying to be as inclusive as possible, the more we can grow and add more sizes.
I’m not done with how inclusive Scroop is. As soon as I can afford to I’m going to expand the Fantail Skirt size range to at least 52 (and maybe even up from that). As soon as I can afford to I’m going to expand the range for all my future patterns.
But right now, my line is barely breaking even: and that’s true for a lot of indie pattern companies.
So take a look around, find the indie pattern lines whose values you really support, and buy their patterns whenever you possible can. And when you buy, blog and IG and mention them, and let people know.
And if you can’t buy, you can still blog and mention.
The more sales you give to a line like mine, that is clearly trying to be as inclusive as possible, not just in size, but in offering things like multi cup size, and in the women I feature, despite being a micro-business with razor-thin profit lines, the more a business like mine can grow and include more people.
And if you see a particular Scroop Pattern you’d love to buy, but it doesn’t come in your size, message me and let me know! The more feedback I have on demand, the more I can focus on expanding my range.
I know I’ve got a lot more to do to be really inclusive, but I’m trying all the time, and I need your help to get there.
Thank you fir this excellent explanation AND for offering your patterns in a wide size range. I sew in the plus range and am not offended that many smaller indie designers don’t offer my size – I think of them as having a different niche. (I do wish someone would do a tramping trousers or shorts pattern with a gusset and even zip off knees, but I guess I make my own up). I just don’t buy them. I feel differently about the larger pattern companies – BMV, Simplicity and Burda (at least Burda envelopes). Surely they have the resources to grade more of their offerings to a wider range?
I appreciate the effort you put in and the personal cost it involes. I am ever grateful to Style Arc, Ottobre, Knipmode, and more recently Cashmerette and Hey June for giving me a range to choose from. I also honour designers who like you eother have professional training in drafting or engage a profess8nal in their process.
I’ve just about given up on IG and FB and I don’t have a blog, but I’ll keep spreading the word about Scroop where I can!
You’re welcome on both counts! And thank you for supporting Scroop Patterns <3
Thank you for sharing your process and explaining the reality of what a lot of us had no idea about! How I wish I was in Wellington and could take classes from you, being mainly a self-taught sewist. I agree with Lyndle, in that I would never buy an Indie’s sewing pattern that markets to pear shaped people, being the opposite shape myself, that is their niche and good on them.
I showed my daughter your fan-tail skirt ages ago and she loved it but it has got lost in the sewing queue, I will rectify that very soon!
Thanks Linda! I really appreciate your feedback and support <3
I may be slightly pear shaped (really more big-bottomed than the traditional hip-y pear) but many of the Scroop patterns do work well on bodies that are other shapes: Rose, who models the Eastbourne in size 46, is an apple, and Anne, who models them in a 36, has a very straight figure, and they both loved how they looked in their trousers (I would never, ever use a model who wasn't thrilled with how they looked in their outfit! I feel you can really tell if someone doesn't like how they look.)
I frequently use Jenni, who is a very traditional hourglass, as a model as well - she looked amazing in the Ngaio and Fantail. And I personally think that the Henrietta Maria looks even better on triangles than pears. But I also think that what is 'flattering' is what makes you feel good - no matter what the official 'rules' are. So wear whatever is making you happy!
I want to offer a word of encouragement. I don’t spend any time on social media sites, but I do read your blog religiously and I appreciate the excellent work you do! Thank you for the explanation of the process of creating new patterns and the expense it entails. If people have more knowledge of what goes into producing a ‘creative’ product, I think they will value it more highly.
Thank you for the encouragement! I really appreciate hearing that people enjoy my blog!
As I have mentioned on a couple of the IG threads, the problem is systemic. The design students Ive worked with were required to draft in fashion size 8 for underclassmen, and were Finally Allowed to work with the size 4 mannequins and models by senior year. I had had one of my students ask her drafting prof for a book on plus size drafting, because in my community theater costuming, I was struggling. The prof not only said that they didnt know of a book, but thought it was not needed!
Leimomi, you listed your book on IG for me which Ill restate: Master Patterns and Grading for Womens Outsizes by Gerry Cooklin. I cant wait to track this book down.
Everything Ive learned about plus size sewing I got from the blogs of seamstresses who learned to make their own alterations. I would have never known about the armscye problem otherwise! But since then, Ive always tried to critically eyeball all patterns to make sure that in addition to the numbers working, that it isnt crazy out of whack. Necks, arms, etc need to fit real bodies, no matter the bust or waist measurement!
thank you so much for this in depth breakdown of your decisions as a small pattern designer. Its kinda like the duck metaphor. Smooth sailing on the surface to outside viewers, paddling like mad underneath!
I 100% agree! It’s a systemic problem. Design students aren’t taught how to create clothes for larger bodies (probably by teachers who also weren’t taught that) and even if they want to there are so few official resources out there to learn from. The internet is great, and is hugely adding to our store of information, but can also perpetuate myths and falsehoods. We hear a lot that larger bodies are harder to draft for because there are more diversity of shapes – but really, shapes are very diverse at the small end too! I don’t find drafting for a specific larger body any more difficult: it’s only harder because there are so few resources to help guide you. I just picked a body shape which translates across larger and smaller women, and went with that. Sure, it won’t serve all in any bust measure by any means, but it’s a start.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful additions to this conversation!
This is exactly what got me so mad about the comments from lots of designers. Since I teach Illustrator to people in the fashion industry, I know how much money and effort is needed for a well drafted pattern and if designers say they can’t offer more sizes for those reasons, I personally understand that. But saying they don’t do because our bodies are so weird and they need lots of alterations simple is insulting. Every body is different and most of us need some adjustment of a pattern. I am plus sized but fortunately my body seems to be pretty standard so with a well drafted pattern, all I need to do is grade up one size around the hips and that’s it. On the other hand there are slim people who need a lot of adjustments like narrow shoulders, small bust etc. It shouldn’t matter because we’re all beautiful. I’ll have to give your patterns a try. The Ngaio blouse looks right up my alley and it would be easy to make the fit around the hips a bit more relaxed.
“But saying they don’t do because our bodies are so weird and they need lots of alterations simple is insulting.”
It’s utter nonsense. In high school and college I had the “ideal” figure for the decade (Twiggy!), I modeled for a major line when they did local showings for store buyers (because I looked 14 but was really 19 and fit the sample stock adequately) … and I still had to do multiple alterations on any commercial pattern: shoulder slope and width, bust size and dart position, bodice length, pants crotch and rise, etc.
As we said way back then, “it’s a cop out”
That’s me! That’s me! Very small bust, thin but pear-shaped with broad shoulders from doing martial arts. Just proving your point: thin people have “weird bodies” compared to the “standard”. It took me a long time to like my body for what it is (strong and awesome!), and even longer to be kind to others’, and I am still learning.
I do wonder if so many are drawn to historical clothing is because everyone can find a period where that person’s body was considered beautiful. Every single person deserves to feel beautiful! It is wonderful of you, Leimomi, to do your part to help all women feel beautiful.
If only we were men with their waist-inseam sizing that make it to simple! But then we wouldn’t have as much fun. (Or as interesting conversations!)
So true about historical costuming. It’s definitely part of the reason I love it; Empire fashions balance out my “imperfections” perfectly. And I’ve long maintained that my eldest sister is a mid-19th century type: with pale skin and dark eyes and hair, and sloping shoulders, and she loves wearing wide and deep-ish necklines, and widening sleeves – those mid-19th century styles seem perfectly suited to someone like her, with a smaller frame but full curves. And even some of the hairstyles, we recently concluded, would suit her best. I wish those styles were easier to recreate in a modern context…
Thank you so much for the view behind the curtain! I realize that a lot of the economics and work that go into making a pattern line are private (which is entirely fair) but I love hearing about the process of decision making, drafting skill, and the numbers involved in pattern design. And I notice and appreciate body-positivity of your blog. I’m someone who’s read every post (which I hope doesn’t sound creepy; I’ve been following along since 2010) and a few years ago I realized that I’ve never read you apologize for or insult your body. In fact, in your posts about your own clothing, you’d often mention things that you liked. It meant a lot to me, in a sea of bloggers modeling the (beautiful! skillfully done!) things they’d made and saying things like, “Sorry that I’m not wearing makeup” or “Ignore my huge thighs” you appeared, out in nature, with a big joyful smile, talking about what you liked or didn’t like about the clothes, instead of about yourself. So thank you.
You’re welcome! It was a bit hard and to be so open and blunt about what things cost, but I thought it was really important to give people some perspective on what it actually takes for an indie pattern line to do what they do – it can’t be that different for me than most.
I’m delighted that you’ve read all my posts, and don’t think it’s weird at all. Everything I put out there is for people to read. There is a lot I don’t blog about, but that’s expected.
I’m very honoured that you feel I’m doing a good job of being body positive. With the blog as a whole I try to balance being realistic (NOT creating an ‘aspirational’ ‘my life is perfect’ effect – because it isn’t!), while also not glossing over how much privilege I do have. I’m a home-owning professional living a secure middle class lifestyle in a (gorgeous) safe country with a semi-universal healthcare system. That’s a LOT of privilege in 2019. And I’m a straight, white, cisgendered woman who can walk into any generic clothing store and fit most of their products, and who fits general societal ideas of attractiveness. If I can’t be happy with the very lucky hand I’ve been dealt, what message am I putting out there?
There two part of my body I do complain about, but I think they are fair because they are actual medical issues! 😛 I have knee problems caused by a fall, and scoliosis. I joke about the knees when I have to wear really glamorous neon coloured tape to support them (goes beautifully with all my clothes…), and have talked about how the scoliosis makes fitting some patterns difficult.
I think sewing bloggers, including myself, do blame fit issues on their bodies, in order to be kind to the patternmaker – it’s a hard line to walk, acknowledging that all bodies are weird, without putting down your own body when you do it.
For sure! And I certainly don’t think we all need to only have positive thoughts and feelings about our bodies; in a way the “all bodies are beautiful” attitude doesn’t really solve the problem of moralizing women’s bodies–a body certainly doesn’t have to be or feel beautiful to be worthy of care and respect, both by its person and by others. But I do appreciate when bloggers talk about their bodies with same kind of language they’d use when talking about someone else’s.
Wow! This post was an eye opener for me. I am a fair to middling, plus size sewer who is just starting to deal with fitting basics – so that I can sew more than garments that are based on box shapes. In my case a disproportionate amount of my weight is in the bust. The result is that I need patterns that can accommodate a bust size that is usually three sizes larger than the hips or waist. A lot of patterns don’t even come close. Thanks for the effort that you put in to make it easier for people like me to begin our pattern grading journey from a realistic starting point.
Thank you for chiming in and adding to the discussion. Good luck with your pattern grading endeavours!
I think this helps give us a little perspective; thank you for your candor. You spread compassion out here on the internet and I appreciate it. Keep up the good work 🙂
Thank you so much <3
thank you for being the only blogger in my roll who is willing to say that WANTING to be inclusive is not enough – we need to do it – and yet actually SUCCEEDING can be the result of quite a lot of privilege.
it’s very easy to blame others & oneself, and very hard to find solutions.
You’re welcome! Thank you for the feedback. I thought it was really important to show what it takes me, just to give that perspective.
I think it is wonderful that you are able to offer an expanded size range and I am sad that a lot of people expect small indie designers to have the resources to do everything that the Big 4 or Burda can. Several indie designers have grown their size range once they had enough resources to do so. I think that is great and it is wonderful that they were able to get to a point where they had the resources to do that.
I admit that these conversations about “inclusivity” often bother me. They always seem to focus on expanding size ranges (for women) up. Setting aside the lack of patterns for men, which is a whole other problem, I see two problems with this assumption. First, to truly be inclusive you should acknowledge that there are women who consistently can’t find patterns in their size because they are below the normal size range. The average height, weight, and body type vary throughout the world. I am not an a sewing A-cup (I am a C-cup), but I follow a lot of sewing bloggers out there who have to regularly do a small bust adjustment and I can only think of a few indie designers that offer patterns with A-cup options. The big companies don’t. Even their multi-cup patterns start at a B-cup. At 5″4″ (162 cm) I regularly encounter patterns designed for women who are several inches taller than me. (I had to chop 6 inches off a big four pattern once when hemming because I didn’t pay attention before cutting things out and only muslined the bodice. I had to laugh. Fabric was pooling all over the floor. I looked like a kid playing dress up.) I can’t imagine the pain of trying to petite a pattern designed for someone who is 5″8″(173 cm) tall when you are 5′ (152 cm) tall. Like I said I don’t think small pattern companies can be expected to have the resources to cater to everyone, but the size range of human beings is vast and I think we should acknowledge that people are not being served on both ends before we advocate for our particular needs (in this case plus size).
The second problem I see with inclusivity conversations is they are often centered around grading up patterns therefore by default on serving people who are bigger allover. Most patterns are created for a standard body shape. Many of us are not that body shape. My waist and hips are generally a size bigger than my bust and when I was 20 lbs heavier they were 2 sizes bigger than my bust. My bust size is often included in patterns, but my waist/hip size can require drafting up a size from the largest size. (For reference my current measurements are 40″-35″-45″ which puts me in between the 40/42 size ranges for Scroop. I always check final measurements because I like fitted clothes and might be able to go with a straight 40.) I have a distinct pear shape with very narrow shoulders and I used to have an exaggerated pear shape. If a pattern isn’t designed for a pear shape, grading it up so I can fit my waist/hips in won’t stop me from having to alter it to make it what I consider is flattering on me (like adding some element up top to balance things out or shortening/lengthening sleeves so they don’t hit right at hip level). Grading up a pattern won’t necessarily make a pattern look the way you want it to look on you. When I was 20lbs heavier I fit into Cashmerette’s sizing (bottom size, C cup). I bought the Upton Dress. It was a disaster. I could not get the shoulders to fit. This is not because Cashmerette’s patterns are bad, but rather they are designed for a body type with much larger shoulders than mine. Grading down Cashmerette’s sizing so I could fit into their patterns now would not solve that problem. I think it gives beginning plus size sewers a little bit of a false expectation, when you say well these are the companies with expanded size ranges, you should try them, but you completely disregard what body shape that pattern designer designs for. The beginning sewer looks at this really nice plus size model and thinks I will look like that, but the model has been picked to fit the shape of the pattern because no designer is going to photograph an rectangle shaped model when their designs are meant to compliment an inverted triangle shape.
I think I have rambled a bit and may not make complete sense. I wholeheartedly support trying to reach sewers in more sizes (and shapes) and make sewing more easily accessible to lots of different sewers. I think the conversation should go beyond specific sizes and numbers.
I absolutely agree that the conversation about inclusivity needs to include more than just going up in size. Inclusive means all of us. A big part of my goal with Scroop was to have a pattern line where most women could make the same garment, from the same pattern, so that women taking a class together didn’t feel they had to have a ‘special’ pattern. The statistic about the average American woman being a 16/18 has been brought up a lot in this conversation – and that’s absolutely true. It’s also true that as a larger woman in the Western world you’re exposed to a huge amount of prejudice and disadvantages. Society constantly says that as a woman, you’re only valid if you are thin. And that sucks. 🙁 And while the very small end of the market is also under-served, it’s not nearly as much so as the larger end of the market. So I can totally understand that the discussion on inclusivity has been primarily about that.
But I also live in a country with a significant growing Asian minority, and where there is a lot of prejudice against Asians. 🙁 Many standard adult women’s clothing shops don’t go below a size 8 (about a 34″ bust: not that small). So I also get a lot of sewing students who literally can’t buy clothes that aren’t aimed at teenager that are in their size. 🙁
So my point there is that when we talk about the ‘average woman’ we need to make sure don’t just mean “the average mostly-white woman.” Because that’s also problematic.
I also agree that fitting definitely does go beyond numbers, and that not every block is going to work for you, even if the measurements do. Cashmerette’s, as you note, is a very specific block, and generally does not work for people who aren’t broad-shouldered. But even if you have to do a LOT of fit adjustments on a pattern because of your shape (not size), it does help to start with a pattern that has at least some measurements in common with yours – not one that is 6 inches smaller (or bigger) at every possible point. And I think most people asking for more patterns closer to their size realise that!
A very lengthy and slightly ramble-y response to your comment!
I loved each of your statements. Thank you both so much for pointing out new places to explore and work to make better for all!
Leimomi–does Boden ship to NZ? I read somewhere that very small women love their teen line because it is super-high quality and fashionable. They have a petite line, too.
Thank you for writing this insight into designing inclusive patterns. I love that you do design for a broad range of sizes and I wish you well in your designing journey
Thank you for the support and for speaking up <3
Thank you for this very thoughtful and enlightening post. It’s fascinating to hear of the inside processes of a pattern line. I am in awe that you chose to make this choice of principle over gain, privileged position or not.
I think part of the problem is that indie pattern lines will fit a niche, but many don’t see it that way and aim to fulfill the same need as so many others. It’s understandable to have a limited size range, but why does it have to be the same small sizes every time, the same assumptions about “normal” bodies?
You’re welcome! I really appreciate that people are finding my perspective interesting and helpful.
I completely agree that there aren’t enough pattern lines focusing on larger sizes. It really comes down to points that I touched on, and Tegan elaborated on: the availability of information and teaching on making clothes for broader size ranges. Fashion schools really only teach drafting and fitting for smaller bodies. There is only one technical pattern book focused on it: Master Patterns and Grading for Womens Outsizes by Gerry Cooklin. And it’s out of print, and at the moment costs about NZ400 or US300 🙁 . Really good fit mannequins for larger sizes are more expensive than smaller ones. So any pattern maker who wants to focus on larger sizes has a harder hill to climb to start with, because they are starting with a much smaller, more expensive set of resources. It’s part of a much, much bigger societal problem that we have to fight against, where advertising and marketing reinforce the idea that only smaller bodies count 🙁 It’s been fabulous that there are things like the CSC, putting a lot of information out there for designers to learn from and use as a resource, it’s a tiny drop about the “assumptions about “normal” bodies” (as you so eloquently put it) that is put out there and fed to us in every book and magazine.
It didn’t/doesn’t make sense for Scroop to be a plus-size focused pattern line, because it was really made for me to teach from, so I need to be able to offer patterns across the whole size range – up and down, as much as possible. But I would be really interested in a discussion of how someone like me (size 38 in my range – I guess that makes me around US size 8 or a UK size 12?) could create a plus-sized focused pattern line. How would people feel about that? How could a designer who saw that larger women were really being underserved, and wanted to fill that niche, do so in a respectful way, if she wasn’t part of her target market? Is it possible?
I sometimes hold back on answering questions in the CSC FB group, even when I’ve done the adjustment many times, because I’ve never done them for myself, and I don’t want to be the ‘skinny women telling fat women how they should be’ thing, kwim?
You are also an artist with taste and respect. If Christian Siriano (the tiny elf-thing he is) can receive acclaim for his gorgeous visions of “curvy” women, maybe you can follow? Again, all bodies are beautiful, and all bodies deserve to look their best. One issue with super-inclusive ranges is that not all silhouettes make all shapes their most beautiful. And there is a dearth of clothing that makes curvy women look their most beautiful. Hasn’t there been a lot of ink spilled that plus-sized women have trouble feeling fashionable and beautiful because the patterns are ugly (and signal class divides), and the shapes are lumpy?
Another problem–to me–is that many plus ranges increase sizes without translating the germ that the designer brought to the garment. Just like you can’t word-for-word do a good translation of a piece of literature, an artist cannot just size up or size down while maintaining the integrity of the artwork.
But a range that starts from an embrace of curves sounds lovely. I would love to see what you would do with it. No doubt it would be beautiful, joyful, and respectful of the intelligent women who sew your patterns.
I am talking out of my butt, but with an open heart. So take me to school if I need a lesson. This is such a great post to learn from. The comments so far are swell. Complex issues, definitely.
Thank you for the vote of confidence and support!
Re: the Christian Siriano thing. There is a long history of gay men being given a carte blanche to talk about women’s bodies in a way that women don’t really allow other women to do. I saw Luca Costigliolo talk about women’s bodies and corsets at Costume College 2016, and while he had a lot of amazing, helpful information, he also said some things that he could NOT have gotten away with if he wasn’t a gay man. They were rude, judgemental, and frankly cruel, and if he had been a woman saying them we would have been enraged.
I’m not saying that Siriano is like this AT ALL, but that weirdly, it can be harder as a woman than as a gay man.
I was thinking a lot about this comment. Currently, I work in a nursing home, and wholly support the “Dignity movement” to ensure that our elderly feel respected. This is the same idea we are discussing, here: people as objects as opposed to real people with emotional lives and bodies.
Yes, both women and LGBT (or whatever “non-conforming” means to the patriarchy) men are oppressed by toxic masculinity. Many gay men are further objectified into being the snarky accessory of a straight woman. Not everyone can bloom where they are planted, or turn their oppression into a shining light like Dr. King. So many others are twisted by it and hurt other people the same way they have been hurt.
Or, some people are just jerks. Sorry about that experience.
Re: Christian Siriano-he first came to mind as a tiny person designing for the many experiences of women in a thoughtful way. He does seem neat, doesn’t he?
I wouldn’t worry about “skinny women telling fat women ….” I learned to sew in high school from a skinny teacher who generally fawned on the cheerleaders and considered anyone fat to be a pig and a slob. At that time I was 36-24-45 inches (no, that is not a typo; I had a 21 inch difference between hips and waist) and the styles then were for A-line and pencil skirts. I couldn’t buy anything to fit that figure and any pattern needed drastic alterations. I HAD to be able to sew my clothes, and Teacher Evil Witch taught me how to make those alterations. I didn’t like her but I was grateful.
And you aren’t even an Evil Witch. I first heard about you a few years back from someone who specifically mentioned that you are completely non-judgmental about body differences. I think anyone with any sense would appreciate being taught the skills they need to make clothes that fit well and not worry about the source, especially when said source truly wants to help.
Thank you for explaining about the economic realities of an indie pattern company. It makes perfect sense why a wide range of sizes costs more. But like most people, I never stopped to think about it.
You can see it in several NZ libraries, if that helps.
Yes, the university I teach at has it, and I have my own copy. But that doesn’t help other sewists who want to buy it so they have it on hand to reference all the time, and can’t afford $300!
I saw the title, then I poured a glass of wine, and settled in for what would be a neat explanation and discussion. In the past, you definitely opened my eyes to body acceptance, which then opened my eyes to food deserts, and lack of green space for poorer people, food-manufacturers making processed food as addictive as possible, and the intersection of class, race, gender expression, and body size. Whew! Thank you so much for opening my eyes.
Of course, while reading and wanting to concentrate, my kiddo kept bringing little shamrocks that she called “hearts” because she is adorable. I got annoyed at first, until she showed me a torn shamrock and we talked about how all hearts are beautiful, no matter what. Priorities, Elise, get your act together. Love is more important than anything.
So all bodies are beautiful, and all bodies deserve to look their best. You show us just how much love you put into this range while adhering to your standards.
This discussion reminds me of the problem of no products for darker skin. Just like all body-shapes, all colors of skin deserve to look their best. So why did it take until 2017 and Fenty Beauty to make inclusive beauty? I used to buy the $50 foundation in solidarity with the darker-skinned ladies who only had the niche lines for so long. YSL “nude” shoes also recently added various colors, and there are only few pantyhose companies that think of non-white women.
Right, back to bodies! Thank you for teaching me in the past, and for working within your values. You used your privilege for good, which says a lot of good about you. And like Meira says, it’s thrilling to get a peek behind the curtain. It is so much fun to see the joy you bring to all of your artworks, along with the brass tacks supporting it.
So, let’s talk practicals: How can a non-blogger/non-social media-type person help support? I also don’t really have time to sew, so I can’t buy in solidarity like I could with shade-inclusive beauty ranges which I did use. Can I sponsor a student discount for you?
We did ‘meet’ with a conversation about body acceptance didn’t we! And you were incredibly willing to listen to a different perspective, and change your viewpoint, which really impressed me! Not many people are: I know I sometimes see myself sticking to a viewpoint just because I started with it, and I have to stop and check myself.
You’re doing a pretty good job of supporting me already. You’ve given me some amazing gifts, and more importantly, every time I see one of your comments on my blog I know I’m going to feel a little happier reading it <3
I'd love to implement a student discount, but I'm not sure how to do that...
But I'd love to hear from other plus sized women about what more those of us who are privileged enough to be able to walk into most clothing stores and buy something can do to help.
Aw shucks; you describe what I aspire to be and sometime achieve.
For student discounts, some companies just ask for an email from a .edu email account, and then confirm the account. Maybe something like that?
What a wonderful explanation. Thank you for being size inclusive. Your post was well written and compelling.
Thank you! I’m trying my best 🙂
Thank you, Leimomi, for writing this. Everything you explain is clear and heartfelt, and while it is true that the entire sewing pattern industry must do better for the full size range of sewers, it is also true that many, if not most, indie patternmakers are microbusinesses (micro-microbusinesses even) without the resources to offer a larger size range. I recognize this as a sewer who just fits into the Big 4 companies’ misses sizes and doesn’t fit into many indies’ size ranges. I’ve often wished a particular pattern was available in my size or came with a built in FBA or was drafted for a short-round. I feel lucky that I have as many patterns available to me as I do and grateful that some indies are offering ranges graded for larger sizes and curvier/plumper shapes with cup size options. And I feel conflicted when I read the statements of other frustrated sewers who obviously want and need and deserve to have options available to them. I support them and I want the industry to do better by them. But so often their anger at not being offered what they need is directed at those who don’t have the resources to fulfill that need–both because they (the sewers) lack understanding of what developing a quality pattern requires and perhaps because after so many years of having their needs largely (though not entirely) ignored by the major pattern companies the willingness of indie makers to listen and engage about their needs leads them to believe that simply by force of will and numbers of comments, indies will suddenly locate the resources to meet their needs. And maybe some will. Those who have taken Jenny of Cashmerette up on her offer of help in locating info and resources are an indication that they want to provide those products and are willing to take the first steps. I’m not sure where this rambling is headed really. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing, and share some of what I’ve seen, though perhaps my perspective is skewed; my thoughts on this are certainly muddled and conflicted.
You’re welcome! Thank you for joining the discussion, and for summing up the issues so beautifully.
I really do hope that all of the increased resources will make it easier for more lines to offer a more diverse size range.
Wow. I had no idea. That was an amazing read. I loved every word.
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond and acknowledge the post <3
I knew it was difficult to size up to plus size, and that the differences in plus-size bodies are more pronounced than the differences in “regular” sized bodies (aka we don’t all put weight on the same places). I had no idea it was as pricey and difficult as it is!
It’s never startled me that the indie designs fit the designers like a kid glove – and maybe not so much me. It also doesn’t *bother* me – I like that folks are sharing the work they’re doing for their ideal wardrobes. Much like a RTW designer designs for *their* aesthetic, and maybe mine matches, and maybe it doesn’t. I don’t expect any designer to do everything, because they’d do it poorly. What I’d like to see is more voices! Then maybe we can all find one or two or three voices that speak our languages?
No, Scroop isn’t for me (excepting maybe that corset pattern?) You and I have opposite bodies. I enjoy your blog tremendously (I do send people to your blog). If I had a sewing buddy with your shape, I’d send them your way in a heartbeat. Me? Eh. Eventually I’ll learn to draft for myself, and in the meantime, I pick up things here and there and hack them half to death.
You do good work, important work. And maybe you just need to hear that. So – hear. 🙂
I don’t actually think it’s harder to draft and sew for larger bodies, except that there are fewer learning resources – and that always makes things harder. But the internet helping to rectify that.
It is said a lot that larger bodies have more options for putting weight, so are ‘harder’, but I really think that’s an excuse used so that designers don’t have to acknowledge that they don’t know how, and it’s been used so much a lot of people have accepted it as truth.
It wouldn’t take me any longer to make patterns exclusively in 46-54 busts than it would 30-38 – they are just different size ranges, but you’d have your fit silhouette for either. Sure, there are some really tricky large bodies – there are an equal number of really tricky small bodies. Things get just as ‘weird’ as you get very petite – and there are plenty of weirdnesses in between! Having fit lots and lots of bodies, I would not say that larger bodies are all inherently harder. As a designer, you just pick a base silhouette, and go with it.
Thank you for your support – and good luck in your sewing and learning to draft journey!
I realize that most people wouldn’t understand the ins and outs of pattern drafting, such little gems as you can only go up about 4 sizes from a block before a pattern piece starts to distort, etc. What always surprises me is that people have no concept of how hard any independent business person works. I just can’t see how people can be so unintelligent, that are in the sewing world. So I would pay no need to the critical and keep on doing what you are passionate about. More people will thank you than not. It just seems that clever, well informed people with valuable conversation, tend to be less vocal. (To completely misquote Jane Austen.). I for one, thank you, and plan to buy your patterns soon, I am 46″ in bust and 50″ in hip. So a pear as well. I can draft up my patterns, but I get terribly tired of having to do so, I really appreciate someone who will do it for me, it is pleasant to pay for a pattern one can use without putting in as much work as making your own in the first place would have been!
Thank you for your insight and understanding. And for the great not-quite Austen quote 😉
I buy lots of patterns as well, because while sure, I can draft them, it’s faster not to, and so much more relaxing if someone already did the work and instructions. So I can completely see where women of all sizes are coming from in wanting patterns in their size!
Thanks for explaining how commercial pattern-making works! There’s so much work which doesn’t “show” in the end product.
I’m self-employed as a self-publishing writer, so I have an inkling of the countless hours of “invisible work” that go into producing a creative work – and the frustration of knowing that if people paid you for the hours that you actually poured into something, your work would be totally unaffordable.
I mentioned the Eastbourne trousers to a couple of friends today. One promptly looked the pattern up, and excitement ensued (including the suggestion of a sew-along). Whether that will result in any business for you, I don’t know, but here’s hoping!
You’re welcome! I think people in most creative industries really do understand how much it ‘costs’ to produce something. Thank you so much for spreading the word about Scroop, and good luck with your writing & publishing!
I just made a fantail skirt. I saw this soft yellow cotton stretch sateen and thought of you (you not only like yellow but practically champion it.) Which made me think of the fantail pattern, and the next thing I know, I’d bought the fabric.
Came home and bought the pattern. I tested for you for the Ngaio and was SO impressed with not just sizing but how well-thought through the construction was. I always meant to actually buy a pattern from you one day. It was the yellow fabric that made me do it! Your love of yellow also sells your patterns! (And sells Spotlight’s yellow fabrics :-D)
The point of all this is I was so impressed – like beyond even Ngaio impressed – with the fantail skirt itself, the sizing, the drafting, the construction, everything, so much that it’s made me reeeelly want to start blogging again so I can sing your patterns from the rooftops.
I’m also really happy to read all you’ve written about inclusivity, for a sewing and a not really sewing reason.
Sewing, although I have no trouble fitting into ‘non-inclusive’ pattern sizes, I have been resizing and fitting pretty patterns for my plus-sized mum for years. I’m very used to adjusting for ‘big’ biceps, poochy tummy, whatever, but also something less obvious – how style lines need to work in proportion to my mother’s body, though grading will probably throw the proportions out, but so will keeping the original smaller size’s style line proportions. I figure this is one of the really big reasons why patterns developed specifically for plus-sized women really are their own pattern, not just an add-on to the other sizes.
The not-really-sewing reason is because I teach ballet to adults and was already composing in my mind a post about body image and the relationship to the mirror we have as dancers. But I struggle to really know how to approach it because my understanding of my and others bodies has indelibly been shaped in a very positive way (no pun intended) by sewing my own clothes since I was 8-9. It’s also been shaped by my mother never putting any importance on my body shape or size. she doesn’t focus on it because to her it’s simply not important.
I also want to write a post about how frustrating it is to find nice ballet gear for even ‘normal-sized’ women, let alone plus-sized. I’ll be more appreciative of those who do try to offer it, than I would have been before reading this post.
So reading your blog has helped me work out how to slant the dance blog post.
As for the oh so pretty yellow fantail skirt, I’ve already got some photos that do justice to it. Good thing tomorrow is a public holiday here in Australia. I might have a chance of actually writing all these blog posts!
“one of the really big reasons why patterns developed specifically for plus-sized women really are their own pattern, not just an add-on to the other sizes.”
Definitely … because what is flattering to a uncurvy figure won’t work for a curvy one. Try to design something that would look equally good on 1960s Twiggy and Sofia Loren and you will start looking for cliffs to leap from in despair. When Sofia looks good, Twiggy looks like she’s testing her mom’s wardrobe, when Twiggy looks sleek, Sofia bulges.
I fully support the idea of more pattern companies with larger sizes as their base model – but I really don’t feel that larger sizes specifically look better in different clothes. Different shapes yes, but not different sizes.
I think it’s REALLY important not to conflate curvy and plus sized – they aren’t the same thing. You can have very curvy, Sophia Loren-esque figures at quite small sizes, and there are larger women who have very little differentiation between their bust/waist/hip. A couple of the larger women who I am closest to have pointed out that a huge problem in the body acceptance/inclusivity movement is the focus on and celebration of plus sized bodies with a big difference between their bust/waist/hip measures. That’s become an acceptable, ‘beautiful’ body type, sometimes at the expense of other plus size figures. The term ‘curvy’ is used a lot, and women with figures like Ashley Graham are lauded – but there isn’t the same space, focus, and encouragement given to women with, say, Ashley’s hip measure, but a 6″ larger waist, and a 4″ smaller bust with a much smaller cup size. And that is problematic. If we (society, sewists, pattern designers) really want to be inclusive, we have to be both size AND shape inclusive. And that means not assuming all larger bodies are/should be Sophia Loren-y, and encouraging any sort of diversity in pattern development. A pattern developed for a specific type (not size) of figure type is likely to fit best on that type of figure type across the board – size notwithstanding.
Whether it’s flattering or not is really up to the person wearing it. Flattering is what makes a person happy to wear, and everything else is just opinion. 🙂
Awww, thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the Fantail, and am really honoured that you think it is so good. <3
Interesting that you bring up ballet. Toi Whakaari, the NZ Drama School, shares its building with the NZ School of Dance, so I'm surrounded by future professional ballerinas all day. And watching them worries me. It's so, so demanding - not just physically, but in the images it projects. Comparing the ballet dancers to the contemporary is striking How do you balance the tradition and art with an approach that allows for more body diversity, and that protects young women more? It doesn't surprise me that it's hard to find gear for a wider range of sizes, but it's still disappointing 🙁
Thank you for all your posts, and especially this one – I knew there was a lot to pattern drafting and design, but of course nowhere near the background and detail you provide. A particular source of pleasure for me is your “voice” – so positive and upbeat and realistic. I have long enjoyed your body positivity, implicit as well as explicit, and the welcoming spirit you display to participants and commenters – one does not get the feeling of being outside the cool girl in-group.
I don’t sew but read most of your posts. Although retired from a making business, dying , felt making I appreciate your difficulties. Those who are not creative and don’t make anything might say how lovely a product is but don’t buy it because they think it’s too expensive and have no idea how much of themselves the maker has put into whatever she creates. I would say no one woman textile business makes them rich and most struggle to break even. So my heart goes out to you especially being targeted by nasty individuals on the net. Thank you for your explanation of pattern making it was so interesting. You’re a lovely person sticking to her principles and I wish you all the luck in the world
Would outsourcing the grading to a specialist with the software for it make sense? They are usually fast, because its their full time job, and because its a competitive service, not exorbitantly priced.
Oh wow, body sizes.
Just tackling the issue is hard, and committing to doing it is admirable.
Half the time I outsource my grading, half the time I don’t – it depends on the pattern. The more interesting and unusual a pattern, the less likely bog-standard grading is to work well with it. And the more specific you are with your grading and sizing requirements, the less it works. The cost savings is marginal to nonexistant with outsourcing: you still have to go over outsourced grading with a fine tooth comb to catch any mistakes or oddities (with the Fantail Skirt, the company I sent it to graded the pleats over each other, which is obviously not physically possible to sew – and they were a highly respected company that does grading for some major designers), and make tweaks to the grading to make it perfect. I can tell very, very quickly when a pattern companies is doing their grading with software and not checking and tweaking.
For pattern lines with a look based on basic darted or princess seamed fitted bodice with skirt and neckline variations outsourced grading is probably worth it, but the minute you get into interesting pattern shapes, no dice. I’m working on a historical pattern that the two grading companies I use have said they can’t grade – the shapes are just too weird, and it would take too much time for their rate. So I graded it, which seems to have worked, but I was able to do it because I made so many samples I really understood where space was needed.
I just wanted to drop a comment and say thank you so much for an in-depth and clarifying post about the realities of pattern drafting. As a fat/plus-size seamstress who is often just outside even the plus size ranges (my bust is 54″), it can be frustrating to work with grading on top of pattern adjustments. Fortunately I’ve become reasonably adept at adjusting patterns to fit me, and you’ve also encouraged me to finally purchase the Fantail and the Ngaio, which I’ve been waffling on for a while. Looking forward to sewing them up!
All the best with the future patterns and I’m keen to keep on supporting Scroop and other indie pattern companies who draft for larger sizes.
MOAR comments! What a wonderful post that so many people are chiming in, and commenting thoughtfully on each other. It’s a great place to start the morning. (deep breath), onto the news!
The fantail skirt I made in your class is my absolute favourite piece of clothing and I’m so grateful that you helped me size up the pattern. I love swishing around in it and always get compliments.
So many people are unaware of how much work independent creative people put in behind the scenes. Your classes are fantastic and I’m sure take a lot of time and effort to create. You always make sure that your students get a great fitting item and I feel like I get more than good value for money. I can see how that extra mile wouldn’t always pay off and truly appreciate that you do it.
I hope that more plus-sized people realise that making your own clothes is satisfying and creates a great fit, and continue to submit indie pattern creators like you.
This is such a thoughtful and interesting post. I really felt for both sides of that debate, the plus sized women who face discrimination in every aspect of their lives, only to find that the sewing world, which is about individuality and making stuff to fit you, excludes you too.
But like you, I thought a lot of the criticism of the Indies who tried to explain the costs was pretty harsh and a little cavalier. There was a lot of ‘well, just release fewer patterns, forego the income for a while, you’ll make double your money later’ or ‘just do a kickstarter’ that really ignored the reality that a lot of these designers are tiny businesses working from home and they don’t have the financial freedom to take that risk.
You’ve done a really great job of explaining the costs and returns involved in Indie pattern making and I hope people read this.
Can I just say AMEN! I’ve been in the pattern making business for 11 years. For many years I’d been receiving requests, I really didn’t want to do it for all the down sides you state. Then when I decided to give it ago, it took me 2 years to get it all together. It was impossible to find willing fit and fashion models, create and perfect my plus block, and then on to something someone could wear. Just this year I’ve published the first extended pattern line that includes 18w-30w with cup sizes up to F. YOU said it perfectly. Nearly every word of it I could have written myself. Now I’m wondering…..please consumers, remind me why did I do this?
Thank you for this information. I am a plus size sewer but also a typical triangle – small top (with small breasts) and larger at the bottom. I am also 160cm / 5ft 3″ so I am also too short for the majority of patterns.
I have also gone through menopause which has gifted me the meno-pot (a pot belly). Ah the joys.
I totally get the lack of sizes. Most of the time I have to increase the bottom as my top half (not always) fits within the upper size but then my hips are at least 10cm too big). I have taken a number of classes to learn how to fit patterns. But fitting is generally hard, no matter what shape your body is.
With the recent conversations re Tessuti Fabrics and their recent release (yes they could have probably done their messaging a bit better but we live and we learn), I found that it was so easy for people to say that they “should just skill up, it can’t be that expensive or hard – I’ve done it, so so should you.”
It is not just that and it is not that simple. Employment is expensive here in Australia and they also run a fabric store so their overheads would also be expensive. Colette did say that they do want to expand their range, but have found that they don’t have the expertise and that they would only release a pattern when they knew it was of a high standard.
Which I would expect of any pattern designer.
There are too many pattern “designers” out there with just awful patterns for us plus size girls – they are literally squares/rectangles – even Burda Patterns are not very appealing because they too go down this path (and they also think that plus size ladies are tall!).
I love Cashmerette Patterns but with her range, I have to always do a SBA as with hers, they start at a C cup. This is her niche and Jen does it so well, but not all curvy girls are large breasted.
I so want the pattern world to be inclusive for ALL of us, no matter what shape, size, colour or ethnicity and I hope that pattern makers hear us, but not all pattern companies will and can’t.
You have articulated the life cycle of a pattern so eloquently and put the human behind it – this gets forgotten so often; that there is a human on both sides of the discussion.
This lack of inclusivity is also present in other crafts such as knitting – I hope they listen as well but until then we have to keep supporting the pattern companies that do give us decent patterns like yours.
The world isn’t perfect, but there are honest and hard working people out there trying to make it a whole lot better.
All the best.