Rules for Feeding the Stash

Friday, September 23, 2016

More On Bodies

Bear with me please, this is a longer post, and it kind of wanders, but I really needed to get some of this stuff written out here.

One thing that I've heard several times since I released Finn is, "Thank you so much for using a model that's shaped like me," and that's stirred up some feelings. My thoughts on bodies (and how cool they are) are on record, but there's still a part of me that recognizes that every time I take a picture of myself for a pattern or for the blog or for Instagram I am making a statement. I have complicated feelings about that.

I wish we were better about body diversity in knitwear (I wish we were better about diversity in general, but I can really only talk about body size from a firsthand perspective). Things are already so much better than they were when I started knitting, but there's still work to be done. There are still designers who won't grade a top above a 40-inch bust, and most knitwear models are on the smaller side. There are a bunch of inter-tangled reasons for this, and I've heard a lot of them. This conversation comes up a lot in the industry. I'm a bit guilty of it myself-I've more than once found myself thinking "I could knit sweaters so much faster if I was X-inches smaller."

I made the decision early on in my design career that I would model the majority of my samples. Part of it is convenience-I like to wear the things I make. But a lot of it was the recognition that I am one of the smallest knitters in my knit group in town. I'm in the smaller half of the group that meets up for Our Common Thread. I have a 44-inch bust, thank you very much, and many of the knitters I know are my size or significantly larger. So, I thought to myself, I could be alienating a lot of knitters if I made all my samples a size 36. I still think that's true, and given that I've heard "seeing a model that's close to my size/shape makes me more likely to buy this pattern" more than once since the Finn photos went up, I'm probably right.

I feel validated whenever someone thanks me for using a "model that looks like me-" I like to think that putting my self and my body out there is the right choice, but I also feel a bit sad that it should be so novel to see reflections of ourselves in the knitting industry. And honestly, there are tons of diversity issues in knitting other than body size, and I hate the thought that this wonderful thing that brings so many of us together ends up looking so much more homogeneous than it really is. And I don't want to sound like the knitting industry is getting everything wrong, because it's definitely not, I just would love even more of it, and I hate how the act of taking and posting pictures of myself is something that people feel they ought to thank me for.

I don't really have a nice way to wrap this up. It's a problem, and it's been a problem for a long time, and it will continue to be a problem unless we keep working through it as a community and figuring out how to showcase the diversity of the knitting community within the knitting industry. Conversations like this are hard, and fraught with emotion and history, but they are important.

Ultimately, what it comes down to for me is something I said in my last On Bodies post: "since all bodies are perfect and amazing and beautiful, everyone deserves clothes that fit them and that they feel comfortable in." I'd like to add to that: since all bodies are perfect and amazing and wonderful, everyone deserves to see images and reflections of themselves from within the industry.


  1. Diversity is such a challenge when looking at modelling in general, but I think knitting does a teeny tiny better job of it. I especially love it when a garment pattern comes out and shows a variety of sizes modelling it- because you are so right, we need to celebrate our diversity and all bodies are beautiful. Health is so much more important than any conventional, outdated idea about what women should look like. We should look like ourselves - healthy & happy, and that comes in every single size out there.

  2. This is a great post, thanks for sharing! The problem is still very much alive and kicking, and you are so right in that it would be great if we were past a stage were posting pictures of not tiny models is immediate cause for celebration because of its novelty. It should be a standard, and I really think one day we will get there.

  3. It would be lovely to see patterns on multiple body types. There is so much diversity even within families, that I'm not sure why the fashion, knitting, design industry doesn't seem to want to promote that. We shouldn't have to feel joyful when we see a model the same bust size (42") as us, it should be a norm. But designers like you are starting to change the way people see 'modeling' and we 'the knitters' really do appreciate it. Great post!

  4. Amen! This is one of the things I love moste about Ravelry: Once a pattern is made from several knitters, and photos are shared, I can see how it looks in different colours, on people of different sizes and skin tones.