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A Plantain jumper in purple crushed velvet

2 Dec

Stretch velvet in a rich dark purple Mmmm! I bought this and a coral pink of the same fabric on special at Spotlight a while ago, intending to sew it into jumpers for my next trip down south. But it was so hot and staticky and icky under my hands here in Darwin that I couldn’t bear to touch it.

I carted both lengths down with me on a trip to visit a friend on the Gold Coast of Queensland. It was really cold, the middle of their winter. Suddenly I was really keen on sewing it up!

Deer and Doe Plaintain as jumper

I used the Deer and Doe free t-shirt pattern, drawn by the gently body-skimming silhouette, and a curiousity about Deer and Doe patterns, which all look rather pretty.

Plantain t-shirt

 

To adapt the pattern to an overtunic thingy, I used the guidelines my friend’s sister in law, a now-retired professional seamstress, gave me on how to create an outerwear pattern from an underlayer pattern. The suggestion on the Deer and Doe website was to sew a size bigger, but that doesn’t allow enough room to go over the top of another item of clothing. I’d end up with too-tight armscyes. Ugh. (Discovered this years ago when I was trying to survive a Canberra winter, rendering unwearable some yummy fluffy blue fabric *sad*). My solution back then was to forget sewing warmer clothes and come back home to Darwin :-P)

Here are the guidelines:

  • Add to the height of the shoulders 2cm or so.
  • Add to the width of the sides 2cm or so.
  • This extends the underarm out 2cm or so, so add to the edge of the underarm on the sleeve a corresponding amount.

It worked, and is very comfortable including under my arms. In the picture it looks like it’s not quite long enough in the armscye but I am pretty sure that pulling is a result of needing a bit of an FBA. The Deer and Doe website said the Plantain is sized for a C cup, but I might not be their version of a C cup. Meh.

Or I might need to add a bit more height to the shoulder seam, or cut away the underarm a bit, AND add in a bit of an FBA.

I redrew the neckline higher, and added a turtleneck for warmth. Looking at the pictures of the tunic I think I should have made the turtleneck a bit longer/looser, I think it’s pulling in the body of the tunic a bit much. It was guesswork, I’m not that experienced at working out how much neck binding I need to fit a knit top.

I also added to the sleeve length to make sure they fit my apparently longer than normal arms. Yay warm wrists!

To be honest I don’t really care about the little fit/construction issues, I’ll wear it so little, only when travelling, and the fabric is just so pretty and the colour so gorgeous the issues just aren’t a big deal. However I’ll probably play around a bit with the pattern a bit more when I sew up the coral one – next time I’m visiting someone with a sewing machine somewhere cold!

I had a conversation recently about how useful pattern reviews are to other people who sew, and the consensus seemed to be that they were well worth it. I’m sure many many people have already reviewed this pattern, but here are my thoughts on it:

It’s a beautifully-styled t-shirt pattern, a real staple, and if I didn’t have too many t-shirts in my wardrobe already, I’d be sewing up some of these. It’s also well-drafted, things match up as they should etc. I think the C cup is a bit on the modest side of C. I totally ignored the patches on the elbows, I can’t see the point of them, but hey, ymmv!

I can see from a google search many other people have had the same thought of this pattern – it would make a lovely dress. One day I might give that a go, in normal t-shirt fabric using the pattern’s original scoop neckline, the short sleeves, and measure myself carefully to do just the right amount of FBA, and just the right armscye height. Made thusly, it would be perfect for Darwin’s climate.

I’d definitely buy a Deer and Doe pattern based on my experience with this lovely t-shirt pattern, if $$ weren’t a factor. (Ouch!) These sweet shorts being my first choice!

Chataigne shorts

Last but not least, my friend crocheted me a gorgeous hat and scarf. The hat was a 1920’s-ish cloche, and the scarf has very cool twirly strands as a ruffle. I love it! Thanks Kathy 🙂

All pictures taken at my friend’s local surf club overlooking the beach, but with big perspex wind-breaks to shelter me from the nasty wind. Great place! Good tea. Can’t ask for much more than that right? I am still a bit bemused by the surfers rushing out into the icky-cold ocean in barely even shorty-wetsuits. Crazy! (Looks like so much fun though. Maybe I need to go to Bali or Broome to learn to surf one day. *dreams*)

And before the subject is lost forever I took this photo to show my daughter, vastly amused. In Darwin our beach warning signs are all about box jellyfish and crocodiles. Nothing so fancy as that shown below!

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A christmas vintage nightie

20 Oct

My sister in law Sandra has long been a fan of my vintage nighties. I’m planning on making her a christmas present of  a pretty floral vintage nightie of her own. And as she wants to learn to sew better, but hasn’t had much chance to learn, as part of her present I’ll give her the nightie pattern and a tutorial on how to sew one herself.

My main issue is fit – she lives some thousands of kilometres away. Badly organised of us, isn’t it 😦 Sandra’s sending me a top that fits her to help me get the size right. I’ve been trying to figure out a pattern for her – my go-to vintage nightie pattern is originally a vintage (ie tiny!) size 10. I’ve upsized it to fit me, but I don’t feel confident it can upsize further (She’s a tad bigger than me) while keeping the integrity of the pattern. You know how it is! Patterns can be sized up or down approximately 2 sizes, but usually not more before the fit gets so warped you have to start over again with a bigger or smaller draft.

I’ve been looking for a solution… and I found this in a local charity-run op-shop.
Isn’t it deliciously hideous???

Simplicity 7944 womens nightgown and robe by RavensNestPatterns, $8.00:

It’ll probably be too big (given it’s modern sizing, thus huge …) But between it, my go-to pattern, and her nicely-fitting top, I feel confident I can create a decent nightie pattern. Here’s my tiny-sized vintage go-to nightie pattern, isn’t it pretty?

It makes up like this:

And this:

I reckon I know how to turn Hideous into Pretty. There are two big differences between the patterns:

1)Hideous has a very full, straight skirt, Pretty has a gently-gathered, moderately-full at the top, a-line skirt.

2)Hideous has a yoke that comes across from the front of the armscye, Pretty’s yoke goes just underneath the armscye. I know from a pattern similar to Hideous but much prettier (also, sadly a tiny size) shown below, a yoke finishing at the mid-armscye can look Pretty, and is also roomy for sleeping in. My go-to yoke under the arm pattern can be restricting across the upper bust when wriggling in your sleep like I do. Mid-armscye yokes have their merits.

Hmm…. I notice this pattern’s skirt is also a moderately-full A-line.

A minor difference between Hideous and Pretty, is how the gathers are arranged. Hideous is gathered evenly across the yoke. Pretty has them gathered where the fullness is actually needed – above each bust. The back gathers are concentrated in the centre, which also looks pretty.

Then there’s the pattern art. Pretty’s pattern art uses Very Pretty Fabrics. Hideous’s pattern art uses, well, hideous fabric. I can’t imagine that blue fabric being anything other than ugly, staticy harsh nylon stable knit of the type my Granny would be very familiar with. Ugh.

But that needn’t bother anyone as, of course, Sandra’s nightie is going to be made in Very Pretty Fabric!
T2Xv57XchaXXXXXXXX_!!20371978

Oh, and the Hideous pattern cost 20c. The woman at the counter tried to charge me only 10c.I said ‘Oh it said patterns were 20c.’
‘Oh! … Well I’d better charge you 20c then!’
‘Yes I think you ought to!’

🙂

ETA: My beloved partner proofreader seemed to think the Hideous pattern wasn’t all that Hideous, really. Well, each to their own, I think it’s Hideous 😛

Swirl dress!

1 Dec

Here’s the swirl dress I’ve sewn as part of a sewalong I’ve referred to a couple of times, held by the talented and awesome Sew Retro Rose.

Here I tried the classic pin-up girl pose so commonly seen on sewing and fashion blogs; I think mine needs some work. But it probably won’t get worked on as in taking this photo, the whole ‘pin-up’ women as sexual images for men’s consumption thing did upsetting things to my head. (Hence the rather unsure smirk on my face.)

Moving on to happier thoughts, the front trim for the original pattern stopped at the shoulders. Since I’m not really into coffin dresses, I continued it round the back and down to the waist. A word on the fit of the back, shown below, I think it’s about as good as I can get it until I learn how to fit it more effectively. Due to the wrap-over part it was much harder to work out how or where to take the extra length up, so I just took it off at the waist. It’s good enough.

I love the effect of the bias-cut back skirt that is subtly observable in gingham. The front is on the straight grain, and the back is a semi-circle so curves from straight at the sides to the bias as the edge of the wrap. I love it!

You know, I’m not sure if I was just standing oddly, or not, but in this photo I look like I really do have a sway back. I never thought I did, just that I had a very short back. I should keep an eye out for it to see if that is my natural posture or not.

The side view, for what I can learn about fitting:

  • Perhaps my FBA wasn’t big enough? There’s more differentiation between front length and back length in my body than there is in the dress. Or perhaps it’s being distorted by catching under the arms?
  • The back’s too long but we knew that already 😛
  • It’s also too wide across the shoulders, so it’s catching under the arms when I have my arms forwards, rather than falling away from my arms smoothly like it would if properly fitted across there. I’ll take it in. The skirt’s fine though.

In this photo I don’t look at all like I have a sway back.

See the wavy hem? In the hopes it might flair the skirt in a suitably vintage manner, I put some horsehair braid from my stash in the hem. First time I’ve ever used it, and I’ll definitely use it again, it helped sew the hem really easily and with no warping of fabric as I went round the bias parts of the hem. Awesome!

However, the poor braid had been stored in a nice neat oval-shaped roll for so long, when unrolled and put into the hem, it still held the curves of the roll. I am very sure all I need to do is press it on a suitably low temperature to straighten it out, but I didn’t have time before these photos.

I’ve since washed the dress, (the braid handled being through a normal wash cycle perfectly), but it still causes the waves shown above! So I definitely need to get in there and press it properly flat.

The hair kerchief is one I made years and years ago, blue roses on a yellow background, with toning blue ric rac trim round the edge, all in one of my favourite colour schemes, baby blue and soft yellow. Like the dress! A happy accident that the two matched 🙂

Birthday cake. Mmmm!

29 Aug

Butterfly birthday cake even! I recently joined The Monthly Stitch, which is having its birthday this month. Happy Birthday Monthly Stitch! So lots of TMS members are sewing cake.

My TMS cake sewing is birthday cake too. A very close and beloved friend demonstrated just how well she knows me by giving me a birthday gift voucher to my most fave shop in all of Darwin. The moment I saw this fabric I knew it was for me. Technically although it’s a craft cotton, it’s a very fine weave, making it feel more like a soft poplin. Very nice! though a touch too light for shorts. But hey, I got them to work and I love them! I love love love love LOVE them!

So thankyou Kite, for my gorgeous birthday present 🙂

Covered in coral-coloured butterflies…

(As a total aside, this photo totally cracks me up, coz I look exactly like my mum in shorts from the back 🙂 Guess which side of the family I take after huh?)

All ready to go for a walk on the beach, paired with my favourite top that I haven’t really blogged about yet:

Of course, no beach walk is right without a cute doggie to share it with.

Construction notes:

The pattern is from an old Burda mag, 4/2004. Simple but elegant wide trousers with pleat and yoke. I’ve made them a number of times and they’re definitely a TNT pattern.

My weight/size has been going up and down like a yoyo lately. I’ve found over the years the crotch curve doesn’t really change with weight changes, it’s really only the total circumference that does. So I built in some easily-accessible wiggle-room by increasing the seam allowance to 2cm, then sewing each yoke section to the corresponding main trouser piece. I then sewed the side seams of both main piece and yoke all in one seam. I did the same for the back, pictured below. (A trick I learnt from RTW men’s trousers when my beloved but presumptuous younger brother bought a pair of trousers that needed letting out at the back seam. Rather than cough up $20 to have the store tailor do it, he said ‘oh no, my sister’s a seamstress, she can do it.’ Ahem. Well ok, so I learnt how to construct trousers in a way that made them easy to adjust, and coz he was my bro I kindly didn’t charge him $20 to do the job myself…)

Also note the pretty ‘seafoam’-coloured inner yoke. I didn’t have enough of the main fabric, and this co-ordinated very nicely.

I’ve found top edges of yokes can stretch and become too big during the day’s wear, even with some interfacing, so I added in some waistband stabilizer into the top edge stitching line. This doesn’t stretch and it really helps to minimise the yoke top edge stretching.

Pretty buttons! From my stash even 🙂 They work beautifully, which surprised me, as red and coral pink aren’t obvious bedfellows, until I realised there’s just a touch of the same red in the butterfly wings.

Here’s the front pleat that makes them so slouchy and comfortable. (The back has a dart.)

My thighs are quite full on the inner thigh, and I can have problems with shorts creeping up when I walk. Usually employing all these tips I gave Laurwyn of Quirkyprettycute works well enough. But this fabric was just too light for them to work. I tried adding interfacing along the inner seam. It was an experiment and I can report that it worked. Too easy! I’ll be doing that with all my lighter-fabric shorts from now on!

(As a side note, if you want to learn how to be quirky yourself,  this wiki that came up when I was looking for Laurwyn’s blog, tells you how :-D)

Conclusion:

I’m so in love with these shorts 🙂 Happy Birthday me!

McCalls 6470 or: a matter of proportion?

28 Jul

I made McCalls 6470 up in a soft craft cotton. The pattern looks designed for a more flowing fabric, like a satin, say. But it worked fine, I think.

McCall's 6470

I got mum to take some photos. She hates taking photos, but I batted my lashes nicely and she did it for me. Aw! The things mothers do for their children! (Thanks mum!) I took a look at the resulting photo (I only get one chance. She doesn’t do repeat shots! so you get a silly expression coz mum had said something that made me laugh.)

Anyway, photo. I was like … what happened??? I look like I have a ‘triangle’ figure instead of my actual hourglass one. Huh???

 

Was it the belt? Was it the fact that there is a huge amount of fabric around the shoulders and bust in this pattern, that then narrows to the hips?

Or is it that I used a soft craft cotton that stands out more than the slithery drapy satin reccomended would have?

Or is this just how I look in a straight skirt and I’m not used to it coz I hardly ever wear straight skirts?

Here’s the back shot. Again I think it’s top-heavy.

So I went experimenting on my own, inside, with some mirror-selfies. I apologise for the crap photos. I know my photos aren’t usually that great anyway, but my new phone’s photo capacity is really lousy. *facepalm*

Back to the proportions, here is the outfit without the belt. I think it does seem more balanced top and bottom. Funny a belt round the waist changes the emphasis so much.

With both the skirt and the top shortened, (below) I still think it’s more top-heavy, though the width of my thighs revealed by the top’s higher hem balance it a bit. Or maybe it just makes me look chunky all over? O_o

And with something entirely different – bloomers inspired by these from Phonograph Fashions made with my TNT retro jammies pattern, burda 7109 (I just want to buy that entire shop out, to be honest!)

Hmmm. Still emphasises the top, but the bloomers help balance the bottom a bit.

 

Yup, that’s definitely making me look broad across the shoulders. Gosh, IS it possible to look like I have (relatively) slim hips??? I wouldn’t know myself if that happened too often!

After all that experimentation and photography, the conclusion I’ve come to is that it does bring quite an emphasis to the shoulders. Or I could just be seeing things that aren’t there.

What do you guys think?

What I’ve learnt about sewing undies

19 Jul

Undies, knickers, panties, those things! Being an Aussie I’ll refer to them as undies, m’k?

A personal goal of mine is to make my own lingerie, inspired by the likes of Bloom’s Endless SummerHandmade by Caroline, Sewaholic, and all the lovely patterns and blog posts on sewing lingerie to be found in the online sewing community. I figure ‘if you guys can do it, then so can I!’ Right? Right!

(I’m sure I got this at attitude from being a little sister. All my life I’ve watched my older sister do stuff, and I’m thinking ‘If SHE can do them, then so can I!’ Mum reckons this attitude always annoyed my sister no end. Poor Kylie!)

Sewing lingerie is a pretty daunting goal though, so I divided it up, starting with undies.

What do I want in a pair of undies?

I feel kinda crazy talking about the different roles of undies in my life! But there’s no point in sewing undies I won’t wear, be them ever so pretty in my lingerie draw, so bear with me?

I need to:

  • be able to walk over an hour in them
  • dance over and hour in them
  • bike ride an hour in them
  • do a pilates class in them
  • not have to adjust them just at that moment I am sighting a feral pig down the length of my arrow – or even having just gotten out of the car, for that matter
  • not have them show under my clothes
  • look suitably cute and appealing when viewed by my partner

Gosh I don’t ask much, do I!

There’s a few rtw styles that fulfil the requirements – the ubiquitous Bonds hipster bikinis(left) and Parisian knickers (right).

I can buy them fairly easily, so why am I so determined to make my own? Well, the Bonds bikinis are BORING. The Parisian Knickers are hard to find in cotton – polyester undies in this climate? No thankyou O_O. But mostly because they just don’t last long . I suspect this is a climate issue – the lycra in the fabric dies within 6 months. It happens with t-shirts with lycra in them too.

Heh, and I bet too, that now I’ve told the world how much I like them, they’ll both be discontinued by this time next year.

Oh yeah, and, I like a challenge:-)

Patterns patterns patterns

I made a pattern from each rtw style.

Next I pulled out the most likely suspect from my pattern collection, a Kwik Sew boyshorts-style pattern from an op-shop. The pattern envelope has long gone so I don’t know the pattern number, sorry 😦 However here is the pattern after I’d muslined them for a one-way stretch cotton knit. (More on muslining later.)

I also looked online for more inspiration. I fell in love with the Granny Panny from Sew Vera Venus. She offers a number of truly awesome patterns for free, including the Granny Panny.

And lastly, I have a pattern from off the internet that I’ve thrown away the original printout, and on the tracing I kept, all I wrote on it was simply ‘Pretty Things’ . I have NO idea who or what Pretty Things undies are, but if you do know, please tell me so I can a) acknowledge them properly, and b) thank them, because they are really comfortable!

What I made!

The RTW undies: When made in similar fabric to the originals, both the Parisian Knickers and the Bonds bikini were almost exactly the same as the rtw. This surprised me. I had my doubts that copying a rtw pair would produce anything much useful, but it was actually really effective. Yay!

I don’t have a picture of the me-made Bonds bikini, but could you just take my word they were very comfy? Here are the Parisian Knickers:

Photo

For these, I used stretch lace fabric found in the scrapbooking section of Officeworks. Seriously. *rather bemused* All I can say is it is a good advertisement for the value of reaching out to touch every textile you ever see 😀 It was only when touching it that it became obvious it was stretch lace. Why you’d need stretch lace for scrapbooking, I don’t know…?  The fabric is modal jersy/lycra from Dharma Trading and I’m sadly disappointed by it. It’s a nice comfy stretchy cool fabric – that pills the moment it’s washed. And I have a front loader I only use cold water with, so I am not butchering them 😦

The Kwik Sew supposed boy-shorts in one-way stretch cotton from Spotlight (This is how they ended up after adjustments to make them fullfil the Undies Requirements. Not exactly boy-shorts anymore, are they!)

My version of the Granny Panny (Oh why isn’t my photo all neat and shapely like Sew Vera Venus’s?), in a very funky purple polkadot cut a dress I found in an op-shop. I never took to the dress, but as a pair of Granny Pannies? LOVE!!!

 

The mysterious Pretty Things undies, in modal rayon/lycra from Dharma Trading, and stretch lace from Spotlight. Very comfy!

Hey Imogheena, just get to the good stuff already!

ok ok, So what have I learnt?

Patterns…

  • Why have more than one pattern? The patterns have very different layouts – some take up a lot of fold, some barely use a fold. Some are made of one big pattern (nice and easy to work with!), others two or three smaller pieces which fit on small scraps of fabric better. For eg I got 2 Parisean briefs out of a singlet top requisitioned to undies-making. If I’d used the Granny Panny or even the Bonds bikini, I’d have only gotten one pair from it. Conversely, with the modal rayon/lycra, I could get more Bonds bikinis than any other type. However it was so slithery, the Granny Panny with only one main piece, would actually have been easiest to use.
  • Crotch style (eg attached only at the sides/a seam down the centre/no seam/sandwhiched onto the front and back etc) has a huge bearing on how comfortable undies are, and there seems to be as many different versions of crotch-linings as there are undies patterns!  I found it’s pretty easy with a bit of judicious tracing and perhaps a seam added or taken away, to adjust most undies from one crotch-lining style to another. The increase in comfort a crotch-lining in your prefered style creates is well worth the effort.

Muslining undies…

  • Muslining is really really useful. And I HATE muslining, so I don’t say this lightly! Often quite small differences in stretch and recovery between fabrics can make a huge difference when on your body.
  • It works an absolute treat to literally draw with a pen where you want the exact leg-opening and waist-opening to fall on your own body! It was perhaps the most useful thing I worked out about sewing undies. Yeah! Go me!
  • If you do draw the openings on your muslin, it helps to have fabric to draw on, so cut extra length in the leg and waist openings.
  • There are tutorials out there that teach you how to adjust the pattern to different fabrics. (Using this principal in this tutorial by Cloth-habit) However they don’t take into account the lengthwise stretch or lack, of a fabric. But this is important for the comfort. You can do the same calculations for the length, but neither of these approaches necessarily made the leg opening fit well. (Noooo I’m not finicky! Honest!) I found muslining the easiest way to solve all of these issues at once.

Elastic and stretch laces…

  • The width of the stretch lace needs to be calculated into the fit. ie if the fit is perfect with 2cm wide lace, if made with 4cm lace it isn’t gonna fit right, especially through the crotch which will now be 4cm wider than drafted. Yeah I know. Obvious when spelled out, right?! Fortunately it’s easy to just cut that extra width off the pattern pieces before applying elastic.

How much elastic/ stretch lace to apply to each opening?

Like fabrics, different lingerie elastics and laces all have a different stretch and recovery. You want to get this bit right. After all a leg-opening that binds is a misery; too loose a waist and you might lose your duds, too tight and you’re back to misery. I decided the best thing to do was just experiement. Make 200 undies! (Well, not literally. I  mean the 200 zips concept) figuring eventually it would all make sense. And it did! Phew!

Firstly I simply measured each kind of elastic around the relevant body part at the taughtness that felt comfortable. Boy did that not work! Often the elastic I’d cut would be longer than the opening it was supposed to pull in. Huh? Even when it was smaller than the opening, once applied it was usually just too loose.

Eventually I realised that so long as the undies fit nicely, all you need is to cut the elastic a bit smaller than the circumference of the opening. DUH!! So obvious – well, now I’ve worked it out…

The caveat is: the ‘bit smaller’ varies with the stretch/recovery property of each elastic, and I haven’t yet found a way to work out how much by other than trial and error. I’m open to suggestions!

Fortunately I’ve now done so much trial and error I’m starting to intuitively know how much smaller particular elastic needs to be.  The 200 zips principal at work. YAY!

THEN I discovered that like bras, elastic in undies loosens as it ages. *facepalm* (I blame the Bonds hipster bikinis that I didn’t know this already – the fabric dies long before the elastic does.) So now I add that into my calculations too.

Construction…

This is the easiest way I’ve found, it means you’re applying elastic to a long edge rather than in the round, making it a lot easier to handle and match the elastic evenly along the fabric.

  • Sew the crotch seam and sew or baste the crotch lining in
  • Apply leg elastic to both leg edges
  • Sew up one side seam
  • Apply elastic to waist
  • Sew the other side seam up

 

Applying Elastic…

I’ve seen many suggestions for applying elastic, and duly tried them all. I’m really sorry that I can’t credit these suggestions correctly because they were gleaned from many late nights vegging out on pinterest and following links and I’ve long forgotten who said what. They’ve come from tutorials on adult lingerie, children’s undies (Do children have lingerie???) and swimwear for both adults and children. One day I intend to sort my Pinterest sewing boards a bit better, when I do I’ll come back and link to the lingerie-sewing board.

The suggestions:

‘Stretch the elastic more across the back than the front leg opening.’ IME it makes no difference and is a pain to do, so I don’t do it.

‘Stretch the elastic and the fabric a bit’ and conversely ‘only stretch the elastic to fit to the fabric’ IME this also makes no difference. What DOES matter is that you have good control of both fabric and elastic. Some elastics sit better on fabric that is stretched, others on fabric that is lax. Some fabrics are easier to sew the elastic to when stretched, others not. I do what works best.

The other important thing this impacts on is the stretchiness of the seam itself. I discovered the seam itself needs to be very very stretchy. If the seam is any less elastic than the lace it feels binding. The zigzag chosen needs to be very wide, and not very long.

And not elastic but still a common suggestion, ‘You can cut up old t-shirts to make undies!’ Hmph. See the point about muslining. By the time you’ve muslined there probably won’t be any fabric left for the Real pair. However if you’ve sewn 200 undies (or thereabouts ;-P) you’ll have enough experience to use t-shirts effectively. But when learning? IME it makes it harder, not easier.

 

Pretty pretty undies all cut up (from two singlets I wasn’t using) and ready to sew up 🙂

Learning to fit a plus-sized friend (Help?)

20 Sep

Recently I’ve come face to face with body-dislike, and the fears and humiliation that so often comes from having a body at all, let alone  a body nowhere close to what our western society tells us it should be. Not my body-dislike, but a friend’s. She’s plus-sized, and describes her body with a genuinely humourous grin as a ‘beach ball’. And she generally seems pretty ok about her body size and image overall.

So I was a dismayed when we started upsizing patterns for her, (there are very few patterns, even plus-sized, that don’t need adjusting upwards for her figure) that she – well she very determinedly didn’t disintegrate into tears. Eeek!

There’ve been a number of posts and conversations over the years in the sewing blogosphere that talk about the effect of sewing on body image. I’ve even chimed in on a few. Recently Karen of Did You Make That posting in The Guardian “Can sewing change your body image?” created a lot of discussion, The Colleterie has visited this issue. Gertie‘s visited it. From comments and posts generally, it seems some people have found sewing to have a negative effect on their body image. Most seem to have found it positive.

I particularly liked Julie’s Doodle Blog’s take on it, that fitting the things she sews is about resolving the differences between patterns and her body, as opposed to when she shops for rtw it becomes a list of ‘problems’ her body has. This is probably closest to how I personally feel about size, fit, and sewing. However I can’t tell you how I feel about rtw shopping because quite honestly I hardly ever do it. I sew, or op-shop, and the sizing in op-shops are all over the place, as are the styles, colours, fabrics, and quite often the clothes themselves! (Oh I ❤ op-shopping!)

And I can’t tell you how sewing has or has not affected my own body image because I’ve been making clothes for myself since I was 10, a year or two before my body started developing. I kinda have no ‘before’ and ‘after’ to compare! But I do know the freedom to create exactly what I wanted to wear – within the constraints of a typically small budget, and the fabric available in the local fabric shops or op-shops (no Spotlight in Darwin back then, for good or ill, and no Lincraft ever) has meant that my feelings about my body and clothing is simply another part of the creativeness that infuses the rest of my life.

Sewing aside, I also danced all through my teen years (Ok, ok I still do! I’ll dance on my deathbed!) and my dance teacher’s focus on the quality of movement rather than the shape or size of the body doing the movement probably had an overall far more positive effect on my feelings about my body than any other one thing in my entire life. (Thanks Mrs H! You’re a legend!)

Believe me, my generally healthy body image isn’t bullet-proof. I avoid reading woman’s magazines like the plague – they inevitably make me feel huge, ugly as hell, covered in acne and wrinkles and that my relationships with my partner, mother, daughter and all my friends are in tatters.

But… all in all, for me, the numbers on the tape measure are mostly just a (pretty useful!) fitting tool.

So here I am, not sure how to teach my friend to sew clothes that actually fit her without accidentally shredding her self esteem about her body, in my enthusiasm to teach her to sew clothes that fit and look good on her. I’m hoping the ‘looking good on her’ will win over the “OMG that pattern is HUGE, look at the vast expanse of fabric it takes to cover me” reactions. But getting to the hopefully positive end product may not help if she doesn’t survive the negative feelings fitting her properly is bringing up.

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!

She’s visiting from Melbourne for a month, the day she left home it was raining and 5C *shivers* and she arrived to a balmy 30C here. Oddly enough she didn’t have many clothes suitable for the late dry-season weather we’re having, so we ran up a “pillow-case dress” in a gorgeous bright pink-and-orange hibiscus print. Looks great!. I’d LOVE to post a picture of the first dress we made but she’s not sure if she’s ok with it.

eta: she’s decided she is ok with me adding in her picture here! She’s one brave woman in a lot of ways, and facing her body-image fears is just one of them 🙂

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