We’re thrilled to share that the patterns of Plain & Simple: 11 Knits To Wear Every Day are now available for individual purchase, and the collection has been updated to fit everyone within our supported size range (up to a 64-inch bust). What does a more size-inclusive Plain & Simple look like? And what was the Quince team’s approach to updating this collection? We asked Quince Development Coordinator, Kirsten Hipsky, for all the knitty gritty details. So whether you’re new to Quince or have been following along from the very beginning, we invite you to read along and discover a new Plain & Simple.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Quince?
Sure! I'm development coordinator, playing shepherd to all of our pattern offerings and outside designers, and I'm one of two technical editors here at Quince. In addition to editing, I've done a lot of design work in past roles for other organizations and for my own independent designs, so I love to be able to use both my creative and analytical sides in my role here.
Q: Can you give us a little background on Plain & Simple and the rationale behind up-sizing the patterns in this collection?
When Plain & Simple was coming together, Quince seemed to have an approach of making a medium-sized sample, shooting it on a skinny model, and letting knitters choose how much ease to use in the project. So while many of the sweaters in the book technically went up to a 68-inch or 72-inch finished chest measurement, that wouldn't provide as much positive ease for a person with a 64-inch bust as some of the smaller sizes could achieve.
When I came aboard here at Quince a little over a year ago, our team felt strongly in providing much more robust inclusivity. What if someone with a 64-inch bust wanted to wear a sweater with as much ease as the one the model's wearing? People of all sizes deserve choices and the chance to wear comfy, oversized sweaters. I know I've been living in mine throughout the pandemic!
So an idea was born to not only provide individual patterns for sale from the Plain & Simple book, but to take the opportunity to expand the size range to fit everyone within our supported size range with as much ease as the model's wearing.
Q: What does the Quince approach to creating more size-inclusive patterns look like? For example, looking at the Willow pattern, how did we approach re-sizing this design?
We knew from the outset that this would be a big project. Not only were we adding two to five new sizes for every garment, we also had to update the writing style of each pattern in several ways to reflect our current style (like dividing long lists of sizes into multiple groups to help knitters and editors alike keep track of them). This required a lot of painstaking work to splice in the new information without damaging any of the old information. So we ended up spreading the work out over the course of 2021, doing just a few patterns at a time between editing and publishing other collections. I would do the first edit and regrading and my eagle-eyed colleague Angela would check over my work and wrestle the pattern into a good format for an individual PDF.
Above: Each garment pattern of Plain & Simple was carefully edited, regraded, and reformatted by the Quince pattern development team. (Note: above is a working draft of a pattern and does not reflect the finished product.)
The work itself of adding new sizes was a fun challenge! It really required visualizing how each pattern was being knit, especially around tricky areas like the neck and shoulder shaping via short rows. I probably spent hours wearing distant, intense expressions during the regrade process, a look my partner calls "rotating multiple cubes" but which I think is more like "knitting mind sweaters."
For patterns with patterning in the yoke like Willow, Chestnut, Birch, and Aspen, we were honestly terrified of how challenging it would be to add more sizes, but it turned out to be relatively easy, especially for Willow. All the architecture was already there for adding on more stitches to the outside of the motifs, so all I really needed to do was to follow suit with a couple more.
Above: Re-grading a pattern involves many hours working in spreadsheets, ensuring not only a good fit and functional math for multiple new sizes, but also that the original design elements of a pattern are preserved and scaled appropriately.
Ironically, it ended up being a greater challenge to add more sizes to some of the plainer sweaters, which could vary more in the way they shaped the armholes, neck, and shoulders. I may have also smoothed over a few existing sections that I found confusingly worded or strangely jagged in their approach. I really like smooth, consistent number progressions in my patterns, and it's rare that I get a chance to make them happen in a pattern that's not my own!
Q: Where do you see opportunities to make Quince patterns more accessible and inclusive to a wider audience?
Ooh, that's a great question! I think it will have to be a long process of listening, learning, and challenging a lot of our assumptions. As designers, we're used to looking through fashion magazines and runway shows for inspiration, places that still steadfastly refuse to design to fit and flatter larger sizes. As knitters on deadlines, of course we'd like to knit the smaller sizes to give our joints a break. So even though many of us may be plus-sized ourselves (and most of us are certainly larger than professional models), it can still take a long time to relearn our craft to actually work for bodies like our own, not merely make wider versions of skinny sweaters. But what is life if not a learning process? I'm so excited to see what the future holds for more inclusivity for all types of bodies!
We hope you enjoyed taking a peek behind the curtain of Quince pattern development. Find all the patterns of Plain & Simple: 11 Knits To Wear Every Day now available for individual purchase. Customers who have previously purchased the digital version of this collection will receive a fully updated PDF in their email. Working through a pattern from this collection and need some help? Reach out to our team at email@example.com.
Thank you, Colleen! We’re happy to offer an expanded size range for the Plain & Simple collection and look forward to making more of our patterns (future and past) available in additional sizes.
Thank you for thoughtfully embracing the fit needs of those needing larger sizes. I love the look of the pattern example, and if this is but a sampling of your other work, I feel more confident it using your patterns that ever before.