Making lemonade, sewing-style.

Although I generally wait to buy new sewing patterns until I have seen them sewn on a wide variety of body types (read: not just thin people), I took a chance and bought a brand new indie sewing pattern last week.

And now I regret it.

I don’t want to name names here, because A) I would just be needlessly throwing shade, and B) It’s mostly my own fault, and could have happened with any other indie pattern. But anyway, I paid upwards of $15 for a pretty wonky pattern, and I feel a little burned.

Part of the problem is that some designers do not give enough information about the pattern itself. I have not been able to find really basic info on the pattern in question, like what height the pattern is designed for, or what cup size. Somewhere on the designer’s website it says, “for average height,” which could mean anything, especially since average heights vary from place to place. Maybe they think average height for women is 5’6″! (Here’s a hint…it’s not, at least not in the U.S.)

Now, I’m a fat person. I’m sized out of many indie sewing pattern ranges, and I’m at the tippy-top for most of the others — as in the largest size, and then maybe outsized at the hips. I know how to alter for that; it’s not a big deal (no pun intended). I have narrow shoulders, and although no one would call me busty (I wear a 42B, you guys), I have a 4 1/2 inch difference between my upper and full bust measurements. In sewing terms, not bra terms, that makes me a D cup! Most sewing patterns only have 2 inches difference between the upper and full bust measurements, so the first pattern alteration I ever learned to do was the full bust adjustment. I am accustomed to making “regular” patterns fit my “plus” body, but…I need some basic information to know where to start.

I have only sewn one other dress pattern by this designer, and I had trouble with it, too. And it was a sewing blog darling! I had seen it on women of many different sizes and shapes, and thought it would work for me, too. But the fit through the shoulders was terrible, the neckline gaped a bit, and the exaggerated A-line in the skirt seemed to have been drafted incorrectly at the largest size, as it was comical in its inflation. I wore it twice, then donated it to Goodwill. I hope someone with strong, wide shoulders found it, and is happily wearing it today.

In that case, I did blame myself. I didn’t make a muslin (test garment), and suspected that I should have made a smaller size at the shoulders just by eyeballing the pattern. But I thought, it’s a knit, it’s forgiving — and I was in a place where I had sewn several frustrating things in a row and I just wanted to finish something simple. But that dress was undeniably a dud.

I had hopes for this new dress pattern. It was breezy without being too voluminous, and had a nice modern look to it. But it also had a tulip skirt, which seemed like a strange choice for a pattern that obviously called for drapey fabrics. I took the plunge and got it anyway.

I made a muslin the day after I bought the pattern, which is light speed for someone like me. For example, I still haven’t sewn a Colette Moneta dress, yet I bought the pattern pre-release! I am not on the cutting edge of sewing, generally speaking. Anyway, the muslin had Problems with a capital P. At the largest size, the tulip skirt was straight up ridiculous looking. I mean, it looked like jodhpurs in skirt form! Even in a drapey fabric, that was going to look bananas. The sleeves were okay, though I didn’t personally like the length on me — and I cut the neckline for a much smaller size, so it was A-OK. I ended up drafting a completely different skirt — just a plain, knee length A-line. Maybe, like the fictional Leslie Knope, I just needed to learn that tulip skirts weren’t for me.

Or maybe, just maybe, there is a problem with the method or computer program this particular indie designer is using for pattern grading. Because the largest size seems to be too exaggerated — everything is blown out of proportion. You can only grade a couple of sizes up or down from any set size before this starts to happen, though most clothing retailers and many pattern designers do not bother with the extra expense of drafting two separate sample sizes and grading them both. (By the way, that’s why most women’s t-shirts are XS-S-M-L-XL — medium is the base size — and why many clothing lines only came in 6-8-10-12-14 back in the day.) Believe me, this shows on the largest sizes — and maybe on the smallest sizes, too. I have no idea about things on that end.

Anyway, having made an altogether new skirt, I did finish the dress over the weekend, and although it’s not my favorite thing in the world, it’s wearable. I took my lemons and made some sewing lemonade. But I also learned my lesson, and I will not be buying that anonymous brand of sewing pattern again. Sigh.

2 thoughts on “Making lemonade, sewing-style.

  1. I was just trying to watch an episode of It’s Sew Easy and, it was like a foreign language to me.
    First of all, I love your fashion. It is so hard to find great, decent quality clothes in an average store. Whhhyyyyy???!!!

    Sorry about the wonky pattern, very disappointing indeed.
    I must say, however, I like that you don’t lower your standards and always look ready for the greatest of possibilities.

  2. @Tanzy Yeah, sewing definitely has a learning curve — I won’t deny it. And I was horrible when I started back in the day! Seriously, I almost flunked the sewing chapter in home ec!

    There are a LOT of factors why clothes suck nowadays — even straight sizes do, it’s just that plus sizes have even more problems & higher prices. Everything from fast fashion disposability issues to poorly manufactured fabric are problems even before you get to fit issues. It’s kind of a nightmare. You know how much I love clothes. I spend a lot of time & energy on my wardrobe (put probably less $ than many people think) both because I’m picky & vain (it’s true, haha), but also because it is a form of fat activism for me. To be visible & stylish when fat is a subtle “fuck you” to the haters of the world. ;)

    Oh, & BTW — sorry for the lag time on your comments. They should have been showing up automatically since I approved the first one, but they keep getting held for manual approval. I’ll look into that & try to fix it.

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