Handmade Conversations — Plus-Size Crochet with Mary Beth Temple

Posted by on Apr 23, 2013

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Plus-size crochet doesn't have to be shapeless garments with boxy shapes and tent-like silhouettes. Mary Beth Temple, author of "Curvy Girl Crochet: 25 Patterns that Fit and Flatter," says that crocheters of any size can create attractive and stylish tops and skirts, as long as they know how to choose the right materials and techniques. Read on for Mary Beth's tips on creating fitted, flattering, plus-size crochet garments.

plus-size crochet sweater
Love the book! What inspired it?

Thank you! Well-fitted garment patterns in crochet are hard enough to find, and if you are on the plus-sized end of the spectrum the selection is even smaller. Add to that the idea that there are so many crocheters out there who want to make garments instead of an endless row of scarves and throws, but they don't want to invest a lot of time and money into creating something that won't fit or be flattering. I wanted to fill that void by presenting a collection of wearable items in large sizes, alongside the information any stitcher would need to customize for the perfect fit.

What are some common misconceptions about plus-size crochet?

Some of the same misconceptions I hear about crochet in general from those not in the know — that crochet garments are boxy or bulky, have no drape and use only heavier weights of yarn, or look like you are wearing a thread tablecloth! ANY size person can create a wearable, flattering crochet garment by utilizing the huge variety of materials, tools and information available now.
plus-size crochet sweater
What are some easy ways to adapt a pattern to a plus-size?

Waist shaping is a quick modification to make, and very easy to add or subtract without having to make a lot of other modifications. Also pay close attention to garment length, and lengthen or shorten the garment and/or sleeves to make sure the hems are hitting you in the most flattering place for your body type. Sometimes just an inch one way or the other is the difference between looking great and looking meh.

What are some common mistakes people make when creating or even designing plus-size crochet garments? Any tips for overcoming?

Whatever you make, whatever size, whatever material — it has to fit well. I think a lot of stitchers of any size rush in to the fun part of garment creation without doing enough prep work, which is fine if you are making a scarf or a hat — after all, it will fit someone! — but not so hot if you are wanting something that will fit someone specific like yourself, or a friend or family member. Invest the time in making and blocking a gauge swatch, taking accurate measurements of your body or a finished sweater you own and love, and really tweaking any pattern so it suits you best, and I guarantee you will be happy with the results.

Design-wise the most common mistake I see is cross-back measurements that would fit a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers! Many patterns that are designed for books and magazines are made in a size small or extra small for photography. Then the pattern is sized (we call it "graded") up. That works very well up to about an XL or maybe even a 2X depending on the cut, but falls apart thereafter. Which does not stop some people from just adding inches to each size at each measurement point and telling the consumer they are offering plus sizes in the pattern — which leads you to a cross back measurement of 28" or an armhole opening that drops down to your waist!

Crocheters make these sorts of "plus size" patterns and are disappointed with the results, which I think is at least part of what leads to some of the misconceptions we talked about earlier. Once you have made one of the garments in Curvy Girl, and really gone through the process of fitting yourself, you will be able to look at any pattern in any publication, and see immediately if it's something that will work for you with a little tweaking, or if it's so far from reality that you need to look elsewhere.

Image credits (from top): All images from Susan Pittard and Taunton Press

cover of "Curvy Girl Crochet"
Mary Beth temple is the author of "Curvy Girl Crochet: 25 Patterns that Fit and Flatter," published by Taunton Press.

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