Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The difference between Plus and Regular clothing sizing

Notice a rather stark difference between these two?
It is no secret that I have struggled with my weight my whole life. It is complicated. But the conclusion I have come to these days is you have to live for today and not wait for when you are skinnier.

I have always had a hard time buying store bought clothes that actually fit. Sometimes I would find a brand that would fit flawlessly (Talbots) for a few years and then they re-brand or start cutting their clothes differently and once again nothing fits. 

I keep trying new brands. I went to Torrid for the first time a few weeks ago. (In case you don't know Torrid is plus size clothes for younger gals) I found a few things I liked. But I discovered; 
a. I may be too old to be shopping there, 
b. their smallest size top (a self esteem boosting 0) is too big on me, and 
c. their size 0 pants are too tight in the leg while the size 1 about fell off. 

Over the past few years, through making my own clothes,  I have learned why it is so hard to find clothes that fit off the rack (or even fit enough to alter). 

1. I have TINY shoulders.
2. I have big boobs
3. I have a long torso relative to my overall height
4. I have a big butt and a small waist (well relative to the butt any way) 
5. I have "thick" some would call them, legs. 
6. I am exactly on the borderline between "regular" and "petite" as well as currently being trapped in the canyon between "regular" and "plus". More on that canyon below. 

These are body issues that the clothing industry does not cater to. However I have a hard time believing I am the only one. 

Recently I decided rather than fight these battles I would focus on making my own clothes, a luxury not everyone has. I have found a pattern I love! Even though I had to make a few rather large adjustments. 

Recently Colette Patterns embarked on changing their pattern line to include up to size 3X. Read more about this HERE. And while I loudly applaud their efforts, there are some interesting things I discovered while making one of their recent patterns. 

This is the lovely Moneta pattern. As you can see it is designed for knits and sized XS - 3X. 

This is a great start. It is a simple flattering shape that can look good on anyone. Their patterns are packaged beautifully and I love that the directions are in a little booklet attached to the envelope rather then another huge sheet to deal with. 

However the issue I have is why is there 1/4 - 3/4 inch difference between each size in the "regular" range but you get up to plus and there is about two inches between the sizes? 

Colette points out on their blog that there are challenges to making plus size patterns. Maybe, but I think it's really just that they are used to what they are used to and there is a learning curve. Just like on Project Runway when they have a "real people" challenge and all the designers are thrown off their game by anyone over a size two. 

Now are you starting to see the canyon between the two?  
XS - S = 1/2 inch 
S - M= 1/2 inch
M-L = 3/4 inch
L-XL = 3/4 inch
XL - 2X = 1 1/2
2X - 3X = 1 7/8 

This is the top of the sleeve. That's a big jump, in comparison. 

My pink line is a much different shape than the pattern 
On the show "What Not to Wear", they often pointed out to people that their body was not the problem. The clothes that they were trying to wear simply did not fit. Their philosophy of try on a million things and spend $5,000 was all well and good but is hard to do in real life. 

This is the bottom of the bodice. The bodice is longer on the larger sizes to allow for room for the "girls". I actually found this length to be just right, still the difference is noticeable. 

These are the differences in the measurements of the skirt pieces
Two inches is a big difference. Especially when you consider that you are really gaining a total of 8 inches (2 each side which gives you a total of 4 front and 4 back). Between a XS and a S you only gain a total of 4 inches. Why such regular increments and then such a huge jump? Thus creating the canyon I referred to in my list of clothing difficulties.

All that said, it is a lovely dress pattern, sews up easily and is one of my new favorites. And in some ways I feel a lot better about why nothing at stores fit me. Because if this pattern (which they put tons of thought and effort into) does not work out of the envelope, chances are slim of finding any that do. 

Finished version no. 1, I have a few more Moneta's planned now that I have worked out the fit issues. I have also used the lovely bodice to draft a tunic / t-shirt and made a test one of those. 

I will have to do a different post on how to measure and make these changes. To be honest I have done it so many times I can draw it out from memory and do not measure. But I know how to and can explain it so that other peeps can benefit from all I have learned. 

Another question people ask me is "why do you even use patterns"? The short answer is I am a seamstress, not a designer. Also my two favorite pattern companies are Colette and Kate and Rose and I really like supporting them. They have done all the lovely design work, makes it easier for me to make it fit from their starting point.  

I plan for my next few posts to be more about the technical aspects of changing the pattern to make it fit. Let me know if you have specific questions. 

Peace Out 
- C  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Coat, done before winter is over!

Back in early November I had a few hours of free time. In that three hour window I cut out and finished the outer shell of a muslin of a new coat I wanted to make for myself. It was really supposed to be a muslin so I could practice with the pattern and decide what I really wanted to do with it. But it turned out great and the perfect weight for Southern winter weather so I will hang on to it as is.

I used the Colette Patterns Lady Grey. Which is an "advanced" level pattern and is sized 0 - 18.

We all know I am not a tiny person and I was looking for something I could get my arms into even with a sweater on, so I cut a size 18. Now keep in mind this is a "regular" 18 and not plus. I would never in a store buy a ready to wear 18. It would be too big.

My size is in the canyon that lives between "regular" and plus. If you are not someone who has experienced this you do not know that between a regular 14 and a 14W (aka plus) there is about a 1.5 - 2 inch difference. The interesting thing about this is that between "regular" sizes there is 1/4 to 1/2 inch difference in the size. More about this in my next post, where I will really show you something that will illustrate this difference.

This is a lovely pattern. I made very few adjustments. The shoulders fit great which almost never happens, so I have to say that Colette has won me over with this pattern. I had a less pleasing experience with another of their patterns a few years ago. I made their Crepe dress in 2011 with less than stellar results. But I have high standards and made a few poor choices.

The only thing I would really change if I made this coat again is, I would make the collar a little different shape. Otherwise it is nice right from the pattern.

The back of the collar is the one piece that I think
is not upsized enough to go with the larger size.
Next time I would make it longer.

The outer is a red aztec sort of print. It is a heavy jersey that I inherited from a friend. I made this coat for about $10 worth of interfacing, thread and buttons, plus the cost of the pattern and it is still much less and a much better fit than I could achieve with something store bought.

In this picture it is lined and top stitched and about 95% ready to be worn. Then it sat again for a couple of weeks while I debated buttons and the belt.

I have a "new" machine and I have a 1964 Kenmore. The new machine used to do great button holes but it has been abused and the button hole it sews is no longer as pretty as I would like. I have had this old Kenmore up and running for about a year now and had not yet figured out how the button-holer worked. So I decided if I was going to put buttons on my lovely coat I had to figure it out. I was terrified of it. Which was silly because it took me about 7 minutes to figure it out and it makes beautiful button holes with ease.

I considered a black rhinestone button but somehow it was not right. 

I ended up settling on these large black vintage buttons. 

The belt is the same fabric as the outer shell on one side and the lining on the reverse.  
I ended up sewing the belt in place rather then belt loops. 
This is because the fabric is jersey and 
it would get all scrunched up if I did not sew it in place. 

I was so excited when I finished I tried to take a picture of myself in it. 

Fortunately a kind mom friend at school pick up was willing to take a picture for me. If you will notice the collar does not come quite far enough forward. But the front lapels are so lovely it may not even need that back collar piece? Also I must have short arms because the patter says 3/4 sleeves and I did not make and adjustments and the sleeves are full sleeves on me.

I am contemplating making a rain version. But I have other projects in line ahead of that. My next post will be about sizing! Why nothing store bought fits me and the changes I almost always have to make to patterns.

Have a great weekend!!!
Peace Out - Chrissy   

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's 1.12.15 already let's get this year started

I am not sure entirely why but 2015 has been a slow starter for me. Maybe because I am not writing my blog or doing anything at all to organize my thoughts, but I am going to start doing so now! 

So first off resolutions! I am doing attainable monthly resolutions rather than HUGE year long ones. I hope they build on each other but not going to beat myself up about them. January = NO Cheese! and get to Jazzercise at least twice a week. That's it. February = See my friends more often! Hopefully while continuing not to eat cheese and to get to Jazzercise at least twice a week.  Small goals I can actually achieve.

But you are here to hear about what I have been sewing. The last project I actually finished was right before Christmas. It was "M's Magical Christmas Dress" which is suspiciously similar to the Elsa dresses I made around Halloween.

When M drew out this design, I thought she was nuts. I thought it was going to look ridiculous. But it is her dress so I went with it and I am glad I did. It really did turn out lovely. 

The thing that was throwing me off was that those are tiny silver butterflies on the white overlay. I had it stuck in my mind that it had to be a summery looking dress, or all white or some such nonsense.

In reality they just look like silvery spots that could be snowflakes or whatever. I'm the only one who cares that they are butterflies.

Of course the first time she wore it was to a ornament making party where she promptly got blue paint on the front and did not tell me till two days later. Fortunately I worked my magic and got most of it out. She really does not care and is happy to wear it paint and all whenever she gets the chance.

School has been back for a week, and I really have to get my brain back in shape. All that resting and playing turned me to mush! So I have actual paying jobs due this week that I really must get to!

Hope your 2015 is shaping up ok.

Hugs - C   

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Giselle Dress, Winter Version

We all know I am a huge fan of all things peasant style. I even have a Pinterest board called "Oh Peasants....How do I love Thee!" Where I keep all my inspirational ideas. It is a simple, timeless and flattering style on almost anyone.

You may remember early in the summer (when it mattered that my AC was out) I made a very summery Giselle dress.  It is a dress I wore a lot over the summer.  But the v neck is too low and I did some serious thinking about the changes I wanted to make. The overall concept is great and the pattern was very easy to change. I am a great sewer but a little lazy. No way I am drafting a pattern for something for myself when there are great patterns out there to buy. BTW you can by the Giselle and all her other lovelies here.

Last week I had a fancy dinner party to go to, so about a week before that I realized I did not have anything to wear. Our weather has been unusually cold. So I needed an actual winter dress. I looked through my sewing stash which is huge, and I found some black stretch velvet that I wanted to use. Then I had to decide on a pattern. Giselle came to mind. But I wanted some embellishment, because as much as I love black, this dress deserved a little something.

I picked some stretch lace out of my stash, I like brown and black it is a little unusual as a combination. But not weird and for sure wintery.

For a more comfortable fit, I had to make a few adjustments to the bust. First I made the v neck less deep, then I created a seam down the center from the v to the top of the bodice to accommodate my shallower neckline. Additionally I added about an inch of length to the bust cup to give myself a little more room. Some would call this the "full bust adjustment".

Another change I made, because I have to make it to everything I make for myself, is that I narrowed the shoulder and raised the armhole. I have tiny shoulders in comparison to the rest of me. I know it sounds like a lot of adjustments but I always have to make them so I have gotten good at it. I did all this without measuring just eyeballed it. Plus I was using stretch velvet which is very forgiving.

However one adjustment I forgot to make was making an adjustment to the bodice and the back that accounted for all these bust adjustments. So once again the back was too long. Which the first time I made it I blamed Kati & her pattern (SO sorry!!) but it was me! And my flakiness. This picture is not super easy to see but I had to cut about an inch and a half off the bodice bottom to make it match up with the back. Which actually made the bodice the right length for me so like magic it worked out.

To attach the lace, I first sprayed it with spray-on fabric adhesive. I let that dry and then sewed it on. I tried pinning but the fabric was stretch and the lace was stretch and life is too short to battle with stretch fabrics! I also made a small change in the sleeve band, instead of elastic I used a wide band of the stretch velvet to make a sleeve band.

Here I am all dressed and ready to go. 

These shoes where a mistake! My feet hurt the whole time!

These will be the ones I wear with it in the future. 

Slightly blurry b/c taken by the kiddo. 
I hear that Kati is making a wool Giselle. Hmmm....... I may have to borrow her inspiration and make myself a couple more winter versions. Now I just need to figure out how to carve a little time out to work on something for myself!

Happy Sewing,


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Wrap up

Today is November 1. It is cold and windy and I have on a sweatshirt. I was sure it was never going to happen. I was sure this was going to be the year that summer lasted forever. Since I live in GA there is a good chance we will see a weird 80 degree day again before the end of they year, but I think I can finally steadily wear long pants and sleeves safely.

Halloween night went about like it always does. We met up in the front yard, took pictures, hit a few houses and then the youngest kids started to melt. So we were home by 7pm.

M really like the colors and general wintery-ness of Frozen, but she wanted to be herself and not someone else. She wanted to be Marion the Winter Fairy. I was totally supportive of the self confident decision and dove into making the fairy costume. M picked out the pattern McCall's M4887. Which was super simple to make. But turn out pretty.

I did not like the plan for the wings that the pattern included so I had to make my own wings.

I used a layer of mirror organza and a layer of netting to create the base of the wings. Then I sewed wire to create the veins of the wings.

I did a satin or zig zag stitch over the wire to make each row so that the wings would be stiff but flexible.

Yes it took a lot of time to make them this way. Be careful not to hit the wire because then it gets forced down into your machine. And you have to stop and pull it out and fix it and start sewing again.

But it is worth the work because they come out beautiful.

 It is usually a safe bet to make a "skimpy" costume here in GA. However last night was the first cold Halloween of M's life. Which happened to coincide with her first "skimpy" costume.

While she ended up with leggings and a sweatshirt on under her costume, at least I was not carrying a bug furry costume around.
What is it about a criss cross strap that is so appealing? Not sure but it is lovely. It i a detail that no one but me saw. But I still like that it was there.

Last weekend we went to the Halloween parade and were able to wear our costumes without extra clothes under. For my Autumn Fairy, I used the same pattern form M's costume and made it bigger. And I used a different skirt pattern that deserves a whole post to it's self. I made my wings the same way but used black and gold stretch net and some brown tulle as the base for my autumn colored wings.

 Fairy make-up was added to M's costume. I like the giant snowflake on her face and she also has snowflake buttons in her hair.

A few people mistook her for Elsa. I was like "Does Elsa have wings?" and they would just look at me all big eyed and blinky. Well does she? NO she does not. Have a little imagination kid, she's a winter fairy.

I was mistook for a gypsy, but that I get I did sort of look like a gypsy with wings. But who knows maybe that is what an Autumn fairy looks like?

I did Eric's makeup too. We threw together a last minute scarecrow costume for him. It actually turned out pretty cool for just being stuff we had around the house.

 M and I both wore cowboy boots with our costumes. Hers were the perfect color to accent her costume. I was going for comfort and warmth, but they worked for looks too.

All in all another fun Halloween was had by all. And we are going to another party tonight. May get another chance to wear costumes?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I like Anna, from FROZEN

Ahhh.... the question Elsa or Anna? Well as alluring and glamorous as Elsa is, there is something
From the cover of the pattern package

about Anna that I like better. Anna is the one who is actually brave and loyal. Elsa starts out hiding
from her problems. Anna is just more fun and realistic, with all her quirky weirdness. Plus she is a doer. She gets the job done, my kind of gal.

So it was very fun to get to make an Anna costume. I used the McCalls M7000 again. Since I had already used it a few times I knew it would go together smoothly.

The basics of the outfit are the same as the Elsa dresses. But I used very different fabrics and I got to make a cape! I love a good cape!

The little girl who ordered it picked it up yesterday and she was squealing and clapping with delight. It was SOOOOO cute. Her older sister got an Elsa dress. Her reaction to the Elsa dress was cute too "it's just so realistic", is actually a pretty good compliment from a Frozen obsessed seven year old girl.

I applied the applique to the flat cut out pattern pieces, which you should always do if possible. I also simplified the applique design a little. There are only so many hours in the day and it gives you the basic idea. The applique pieces are fleece. You know to go with the whole winter theme.

This is the front bodice piece. I used stretch sparkle velvet which is soft and cozy.

For the skirt I used blue satin and the white top is actually a fabric very similar to tights. It is stretch and soft.

I am going to be super honest and admit that there is not supposed to be a center seam in the skirt. The first one I burned. But that is what I get for being lazy and trying to use Heat & Bond instead of sewing. They look better sewn and they will stay on forever.

A trick for holding the applique pieces in place is to use glue stick. But you have to let it dry for a while before you sew. If you sew while the glue is still wet you just gum up your needle. And your fabric will still move on you.

Since I had burned the first piece I had to start over on the skirt front. Sadly I did not have enough fabric to do it in one piece. However I think it worked out just as lovely. And actually I think the dress looks nicely balanced with the one flower on the bodice and two on the skirt. I think more would have over powered the tiny gal who will be wearing this lovely gown. I simply serged the bottom of the skirt in pink the accent the pink in the flowers.

The cape is my very favorite part. I love the style, the color the whole thing is just fun. This is the same stretch sparkle velvet that I used for the bodice, but in fuchsia.

For the trim I used GIANT black ric rack, per request. And it turned out way better than I thought it would. The closure at the neck is a satin "frog" that is the same color. I bought a bunch of these when I was in China, this is the first one I have used.

I have to admit there is a little part of me that wants to make one of these capes for myself. And ironically I have already taken a different kids pattern and scaled it up for myself for my own personal Halloween costume.

Which hints at YES there are more costumes to come. Next I will show you my kiddo's costume and then my own. Hope you have pics of all the cuties who now own these costumes shortly after Halloween.

Only eight more days til the big day!!! Are you ready for trick-or-treaters? It's on a Friday this year, which means CHAOS will ensue........

p.s. If you have not yet seen this drag queen rocking out to "Let it Go" you really have to see it  (Kid friendly) 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Elsa Dresses!

What do I love so much about Halloween. Well honestly the fact that it is a low pressure fun holiday.  Except that I manage to create my own pressure. I LOVE costumes, making them, wearing them, just the fact that costumes exist in the world makes me happy. So I end up making lots of them.

Back in August I thought it would be fun to make some Frozen costumes. And a couple of my friends took me up on it and I made two Elsa Costumes (Anna is in the works).

I did use a pattern because, they exist so I thought I would take the easy way out.

McCalls has out M700 with Elsa and Anna dresses though they don't have the Disney rights so it does not have any names on it.

I like that Elsa and Anna are in the same envelope and are made on the same basic pattern.

The Elsa dress is A LOT of fabric. And the sizing on this runs BIG. As all McCalls patterns there is way too much ease in them. I started cutting a 7/8 but in the end used the 3/4 for girls who wear a store bought 7 slim.

I chose the McCalls pattern because it is more simple to put together than the Simplicity (ironic?).

I bought the Simplicity one too. So if I end up making more I may try  that one too and see which one is better.

But just based on the line drawings and the number of pattern pieces I would say McCalls wins.

I used 5 different fabrics in this dress. And I made more than one and tried different fabrics in the other one. I wanted to try some new things and see what worked best.

This version is a light blue chiffon, which was amazingly easy to work with. But is not as sheer as I would have liked.

The bodice is glitter dot tulle lined with lingerie mesh. Which yes is the stuff you make bras out of. But I had to line it with something and I thought that would be soft and comfortable.

This is my daughter modeling it for me. I hope the final recipient enjoys it more. But she is close to the same size so I got her to try it on for fit.

I still need to hand sew some hooks into the tops of this and the other Elsa dress I have made. Those are the last little steps and then I can send them out into the world.

Sometimes it is hard to translate a cartoon into a costume. In cartoons they don't need silly things like zippers.

So the overlay is sewn in between the two bodice sections and I had to leave an opening for the zipper.

If this were a professional costume I might have done that differently. But it is for a child who will outgrow it so I just went with what the pattern suggested.

This is the first Elsa dress I made. See how wispy and thin that overlay fabric is. I love the look but it was a mess to cut and sew.

Next I am working on Anna. There are more smaller pieces to that one. But it is in some ways more fun to make. After that I only have three more costumes to finish. Two are almost done and one (my own) is not even cut out yet.

But I will get them done, I will!

Happy Halloween preparations to you!