Velvet Gothic Dress: Halla Patterns dress

Another dress that I made a while ago is this velvet dress from Halla Patterns. I don’t like the name of the pattern. A kimono is a specific cultural garment from Japan and, while this dress may have a kimono sleeve and be inspired by kimonos, it is not a kimono and I will not be referring to it as such. Please read this post and I encourage you to follow @little_kotos_closet on Instagram. In the past, I have maintained the name of the pattern, but going forward I will not. I realize that makes it more difficult for people to search for my post if they are looking for others that make the pattern. I’m just hoping that going forward, there won’t be this issue. The Wiksten jacket has already been renamed to the Wiksten Haori jacket.

In November, the Toronto Sewcialists met up and had a fancy dress party with a sewing session before. I wasn’t initially going to make a new item for the fancy dress party, but then I bought this gorgeous velvet fabric from a local store, Fabric by Designers, that was going out of business but managed to extend their lease again so they are back in business. I managed to grab 4 yards of this velvet fabric for a decent price along with some ponte and doubleknit in their sale. I love this fabric. It’s soft and drapes so nicely. It washes really well, too.

I had also just put the Halla dress pattern together and then got a vision in my head of a floor length dress with voluminous sleeves. The resulting dress is gorgeous, moody af, and makes me think that I should be wondering the North York moors of Yorkshire, England, singing Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. Fun fact, I’m actually first gen Canadian on my dad’s side and he was born in Yorkshire. He also immigrated to Canada on a boat in the late 50s. I haven’t ever been to Yorkshire sadly. I hope to one day, though.

I made a size 28 graded to a 30 at the waist. I changed the skirt to a longer and slightly narrower skirt. It still has a lot of volume but not quite as much as the original pattern. I left off the pockets since they interrupted the drape of the skirt.

Here I am surprised by the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff.

Overall, the fit of the bodice is okay. The front needs a bit more length due to my large bust. While the pattern has different cup sizes, I do still need a bit more room to get tue waistband to sit in the correct location. You can see the waistband going up a bit as a result. I think also a shorter waistband would look better. I think this ends up being close to 3 inches long finished but waistbands work better on me when they are less than 2 inches long.

To get the longer sleeve, I just extended the sleeve by about 10 inches and added elastic to the hem. I didn’t want the elastic to be super tight just give the look of gathered cuffs.

Overall, the pattern was good. Good instructions. I like how the neckline is completely faced with self-fabric and then the whole thing is constructed together so that the facing stays in place. It’s pretty smart.

I enjoyed being moody and Gothic for this photoshoot. Makes the inner 90s goth in me feel pretty fantastic.

TL:DR Review

  • Pattern: Halla Patterns dress
  • Pros: I love this dress. The pattern went together well and the instructions were good.
  • Cons: The bust fit could be better. With HH cups, it’s difficult to get a perfect fit even with cup sizes. Next time I will lengthen the front bodice by about 2.5 inches and shorten the waistband by half.
  • Make again?: Absolutely.
  • Rating: pink-star-black-md pink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-md5/5 stars

So done with Healthcliff’s shit.

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Decades of Style Ophelia Overalls

Today I am sharing my Ophelia Overalls from Decades of Style. Usual disclaimer: I was given the pattern for free to test it out and share on social media. All opinions are my own.

I’ve been wanting to make overalls for a while now. Overalls were my favourite thing to wear in the 90s. I owned a pair of wide legged overalls in a lightweight denim fabric that I absolutely loved. I wore them all the time in spite of my sister poking fun at me and saying I could be a farmer in those overalls, to quote Clueless.

I loved those overalls and was recently thinking that I needed to replicate them since the style was coming back. Let’s be honest, style be damned; overalls are super comfortable.

When Janet, the mastermind behind Decades of Style, sent me the pattern information, I said yes immediately. I also knew immediately that the polkadot chambray in my stash was perfect for it.

Before I cut anything out, I did two things: 1) I compared the crotch curve of the pattern to my Blank Slate Forsythe Trousers and 2) I did a muslin of the pattern in a shorter length since the patterns requires a lot of fabric.

The crotch curve was almost a perfect match. All I did before making the muslin was scoop out the front crotch curve.

My muslin turned out well. It revealed that I would need a full belly adjustment. I also narrowed the width at the top of the bib by about an inch to account for my narrower upper frame. I didn’t want the straps slipping off.

 

 

The result in my final version is awesome. There are still some very minor fit issues. I do think a bit more of a full belly adjustment would help it. I also forgot to adjust the side panels for the increased length so they matched correctly. I will do that for my next version.

 

The result is so adorable and reminiscent of Rosie the Riveter that I am in absolute love with it. I did red topstitching, which while not perfectly even, is perfectly acceptable. I love the loose style of the overalls with the ties to cinch in the waist. They are comfortable and flowy.

 

Of course, it being Canada and the middle of winter….I will probably not wear this outside the house until the Spring. But I can always sew in them.

The other bonus of this pattern is those massive pockets. I can definitely start a revolution with those.

 

Finally, I will leave you with this note. Unlike a onesie or jumpsuit, the overalls don’t leave you naked when you pee. Hahhah.

For the pattern launch, there is a discount for 20% on the entire purchase with code OVER20 and it will run for 2 weeks.

TL:DR Review

  • Pattern: Decades of Style Ophelia Overalls
  • Pros: I love big pockets and I can’t lie. Those wide legged pants are so fly.
  • Cons: Doing pattern adjustments are slightly tough but that’s only because of the number of pattern pieces and that my brain couldn’t remember that the sides would need adjusting. There is a sewalong that will cover some adjustments.
  • Make again?: YES! I am actually going to go back and finish the muslin shorts I made since they just need a couple minor adjustments to be wearable.
  • Rating: pink-star-black-md pink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-md5/5 stars

Fancy Pants and Burda Sweater

 

Today I am sharing two newer garments I made in January: Style Arc Misty Jeans in a houndstooth doubleknit fabric and the Off the Shoulder Sweater from Burda issue 09/2018 in a turquoise hacci knit.

There isn’t much to say about the Misty Jeans. I’ve made them several times before. The only difference with these ones is the material. The fit is okay, but the material grows over the day so I needed to take in the waistband a bit. The doubleknit is a wool blend. Possibly blended with vicose or rayon since the material is super soft and doesn’t have great recovery like most rayon/viscose blends I’ve used. If I took the pants in, though, to account for the poor recovery, they would be tight on first wear for a couple of hours. I’m just accepting it. They are soft pants and super warm for winter so I’m not super concerned about them growing as the day goes on. With the waistband a bit tighter, it keeps them in place.

 

I made these for the #sewfancypants challenge on IG. The challenge was a lot of fun. It got me to finally make more pants.

The Burda sweater is lovely with these pants. I made size 52, the largest size. The pattern fits large. I find that about most Burda patterns, though. While I am a bit outside of the measurements for 52, I don’t have an issue fitting into it. I usually do an FBA but didn’t feel the sweater would need that and it doesn’t. It has an oversized look which is perfect for a cowl neck sweater. I am not really into off the shoulder sweaters so I am wearing this as a cowl neck. TBH I would also need to increase the size of the cowl to not have trouble getting it into an off the shoulder look. It’s a bit tight due to my bust size and the length from my nape to my full bust not being very long. Otherwise, the cowl just pops up and becomes a cowl again.

 

The sweater is hella long, though. We’re talking might as well be a dress long. I shortened it by 5-6 inches and then lopped off another 4 and even made a hem band with some of the length. HELLA LONG. I get I am 5’3″ but like….sometimes plus size drafting is way too long and Burda is pretty guilty of that. It’s possibly drafted for a 6 foot person in length!

 

BUT the arms are short. What? I didn’t notice because the model’s arms are scrunched up so it’s tough to see that the arms are shorter. I usually have to shorten arms not add long bands so they are long-sleeved. I don’t understand a cowl neck sweater with shorter sleeves… I want a sweater with long sleeves. I want to be cozy af.

Other than those issues of confusion, the sweater is great. I love the oversized cowl and the shape. It’s a lovely cozy sweater in a gorgeous turquoise/teal colour.

 

The sweater actually completes one of my make nine items. Yay!

TL:DR Review

  • Pattern: Off the Shoulder Sweater from Burda issue 09/2018
  • Pros: I love the final result! Even though I am a bit outside the size 52 measurements, it fits well.
  • Cons: Super long length and then weirdly short arms.
  • Make again?: I would. However, it required a lot of fabric even after shortening it quite a bit so I won’t be making it again any time soon since I don’t have enough fabric.
  • Rating: pink-star-black-md pink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-md  3.5/5 stars

Lace Party Dress

 

Talk about a slow sewing dress and slow to post blog (hahah), I started my lace party dress beginning of October and finished it just in time for my friends’ wedding on October 20th. And yes, it’s February and I am finally writing about it.

I love slow sewing projects. I mean don’t get me wrong, I can complete tons of fast sewing in no time, but I love being able to focus on details like handpicking a zipper, hand-basting lace to underlining, or hand stitching the lining to the skirt. My goal for this year is to focus on similar projects. I have a few planned that will be tons of fun.

Carefully pressing seams over hams with a presscloth become like meditation…

The dress uses the bodice from Simplicity 8096 and a gathered skirt plus self-drafted pockets. I draft most of my own pockets, which is not a huge skill to brag about, but I can’t stand a small pocket. I don’t have large hands (actually super tiny…like I buy kid’s size gloves to get them to fit right) but I like using pockets for my phone, kleenex, keys, key fobs, protein bars for when my food restrictions/allergies/intolerances make grabbing something to eat impossible, my kindle, a brick, etc. You know, normal things. The whole idea of tiny pockets on women’s clothing is weird and stupid and misogynistic since men’s clothing gets huge pockets all the time.

I had limited fabric for this project. I only had 2 yards of the dusty rose lace. The lace was bought many years ago through fabric.com at the same time as other orders for my wedding dress. I originally had plans to use the dusty rose lace on the bodice of my dress instead of the ivory lace and use the ivory lace instead for lingerie. My plans changed and I had this lace leftover.

With only 2 yards, there had to be some pretty good pattern tetris. I also had even less than 2 yards for the beige satin I used for the underlining AND lining…. eeep. Luckily the skirt underlining was able to get cut out using the satin, but I did need to use some other cotton pieces for the pockets and parts of the lining of the bodice. As you can see, I also needed to cut the beige skirt lining much shorter than the lace. It actually made for a lovely tiered hem look. I also used the beige satin for the straps.

The fit on this dress is similar to the fit on my crop top version. It is a bit tight at the front unlike the crop top, where I added in some inches for the overlap there and didn’t have 3 layers of fabric. I think I could benefit from adding an inch to the center panel for comfort. The back fits okay. Although the strap could be brought in on left by an inch (hello, asymmetry!).

 

As part of this outfit, I also wanted to wear a short crinoline under the dress for the wedding. I did leave it off for the pictures to show you the tiered hem. I originally thought of using tulle in my stash and making it from scratch. However, I had a crinoline from my wedding dress that was simply sitting around in a garment bag; the crinoline was longer than most of my skirts and dresses. I decided to be smart and just shorten that crinoline instead to be able to use it for other outfits. I removed the bottom panels of the two skirts of crinoline and then finished the hem with ivory hug snug.

The new shorter crinoline looks great. I have enough crinoline left from the panels I took off the bottom of both skirts to make another crinoline!

I think that some fabric dye would work great on it and then I would have 2 crinolines in different colours. I’m thinking maybe hot pink for the other one.

The result is a great party dress which I wore with some brown Doc Martens and a lovely floral shawl for the wedding. I felt pretty stylish. It was a really lovely night. I didn’t actually take any pictures, though. As a result, it took me forever to actually take blog pictures for this post.

 

Here I am accepting my fake award for being incredible.

 

To say I love this dress is an understatement.

Plus-sized Fashion and Sewing Industry

Recently a heated conversation took place on Instagram prompted by SBCC’s recent post on why size inclusivity is not often practiced. The plus-sized community has heard these reasons time and again. Fit models aren’t available, mannequins are more expensive, they can’t get pattern testers (maybe try asking a plus sized community like the Curvy Sewing Collective FB group and not having such a short turn around), they did a survey of existing customers and found out they were within their average range anyway so why expand? The IG post on SBCC’s feed is where much of the debate took place.

The basic lean of the post echoes a fatphobic language that somehow our fat bodies are modern day recent inventions that they have to “deal” with.

Comments from indie pattern companies without inclusive sizing started thanking SBCC (who btw does have a good size range) on finally creating a post that justifies their choices for not expanding their sizes. The comments further speak to it being difficult for a small business to expand their sizes and I do sympathize. It’s tough out there, but it’s really tough for a beginner fat sewist to start out and encounter zero patterns in their size.

Those indie pattern companies include: Closet Case Files, By Hand London, Sew House 7, Paper Theory, Fehr Trade, and others. The point in mentioning them by name is not to be mean (a lot of accusations that we’re being mean by being political going around….), but to see where they decide to go with the way that people are reacting to their comments. Will this change the landscape of the home sewing pattern industry?

It was already changing…

But let’s examine some history first to see what got us here and why Shannon, Mary, and so many others on IG are discussing this complex issue (Megan, Emily/The Catwood, Whitney, Jenny/Cashmerette, Emily, Jacqui and so many more).

A short and incomplete history of “Plus Sized” fashion

This article provides a good overview of the history of plus sizes.

In short, Lane Bryant was the first company that still exists today to cater to plus sized woman and used the term plus sizes in its advertisements in the 1920s.

Plus sizes were gradually moved out of the “standard” or “misses” sizes and provided their own sections in department stores and catalogs over the years. The reputation then became that plus-sized clothing was frumpy and not fashion forward.

“Perhaps it was because these plus-size boutiques were completely removed from straight size, trendy stores and clothes, or maybe it was because these plus-size clothes were not getting nearly the attention of garments that happen to be smaller than a size 14, but a stereotype was born that still lives on today.” (source)

It’s only recently that the fashion industry has started providing better fashion for plus sizes as a result of the body positivity movement.

Several brands, most notably ModCloth, have moved away from providing separate plus sized sections in favour of a more inclusive sizing perspective.

There are also some other retailers, like Forever 21 and H&M, who moved their plus section entirely out of their stores. Spoiler alert: that move doesn’t go over well with their customers!

An aside, this thesis covers plus sized online shopping motivations. It’s 300 pages and I haven’t gotten through it all yet but it is SUPER fascinating.

What the fashion industry is learning is that the plus-sized market is good for your business.

My own experience of the plus sized fashion industry

I have been plus sized since shortly after puberty. I remember buying unwired bras that looked like post-surgical bandages because that was what was available in my size. I remember shopping in the men’s sections for jeans that actually went up to my size. I remember wearing a whole lot of ugly clothes because nothing else was available. From age 13-16, I wore a uniform of men’s jeans, doc martens or running shoes, oversized men’s shirts and hoodies or flannel shirts or cardigans. Whenever I went shopping for a dress, I honestly cried myself to sleep because my friends would get to wear the gorgeous dresses and I would only be able to choose a floral sack leading to my decades long hatred of floral patterns that I recently got over. I asked my mom to make many things, but being a mom of 4 and working….well, I didn’t ask as much as I wanted to and I didn’t learn how to sew at the time either.

At 16 (1996), I started shopping in thrift stores and put together some more eclectic outfits. I loved finding the weirdest vintage cardigans with crystal buttons or something. I still never found dresses but I managed to figure out some fun ways of layering and styling that I didn’t think of before. I should also note that my mental illness factored into how I dressed a lot. I suffered from severe depression from a young age and often tried to hide myself in clothing to not be seen.

It wasn’t until I was 25 (2006) that I started exploring plus-sized stores, buying more fashionable things, and living my best life. Of course, as a poor student that kind of meant some credit card debt was acquired…. Eeesh. Around that time, brands were starting to really bloom with plus-sized fashion choices. This expanded through online shopping. I would shop ModCloth a lot and eShakti before I started sewing all of my clothes in 2012 (after learning to sew in 2008).

A short and incomplete history of sewing patterns

Sewing patterns have existed for a really long time; since about the same time the printing press was invented, sewing patterns having been available in print. The above image is from Juan de Alcega’s Libro de Geometria pratica y trac a para (1580). Early sewing patterns were available in one size only meaning that they had to be adapted to the individual based on measurements.

McCall’s (est. 1870) was one of the first pattern companies that provided multiple sizes in their sewing patterns.

This article covers a more complete history of sewing patterns. All companies create their own blocks to work from based on proportional measurements. Every company used their own block and there is not specific standard block. This is the same for the fashion industry, which is why you can walk into 10 different stores and have 10 different sizes or not even be represented in half the stores or more.

Not much (yes an oversimplification, I know) has changed in how patterns are drafted or graded.

(Aside: I would love to be able to read this journal article on Defining and Testing the Assumptions Used in Current Apparel Grading Practice; the summary sounds amazing…I miss having access to academic journals. Edit: I got the article! Another aside, this article is pretty fascinating on creating custom patterns using formula in CAD).

A history of “sizing standards”

Immediately become skeptical of anything “standard.” Before the 1940s, sizes were based on age in younger clothing and bust size for women. In the 1940s, this changed. In 1939, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to go to the effort of creating standardized sizes (*again keep your skepticism everyone*). Without a computer, the data of around 15,000 women was collected and analyzed by Ruth O’Brien and William Shelton. And it was biased af, everyone: “Since the survey was done on a volunteer basis, it was largely made up of women of a lower socioeconomic status who needed the participation fee. It was also primarily white women. And the measurements still primarily relied on bust size, assuming women had an hourglass figure”(source). They published the results in this book.

The general myth of sizing is that plus sizes are a new problem. I challenge all of you to do some quick research into fat bodies in paintings and sculpture and tell me again that plus sizes are a new problem.

The original data that created “standardized sizing” was flawed. It was racist. It was sizeist. It was classist. The authors get into weight and their median weight at page 48. Their average weight was 135 with 160 at the higher range.

A lot of people take this data for pure factual analysis that there weren’t a lot of fat bodies back then. Somehow fat is a “modern day problem.” First off, fat isn’t a problem. It’s something that each and every body has and will have until the end of animal history. Fat has some pretty wicked positives of helping cushion your joints, keeping you warm without fur, and many other things that are just being discovered through research. Second, we don’t have a lot of data that gets into average body sizes before 1939 or quite frankly after… Data has only existed on sizing since that study and not much has been done since. There has been more research emerging recently (thanks in part to body positivity movement), but it has yet to impact how patterns are drafted.

The absence of a history of plus-size pattern making

There isn’t a lot of resources on the history of plus-size patterns. I know only from anecdotal conversations with sewists who have been sewing and are plus sized as well as the anecdotal comments of vintage pattern sewists who are plus sized.

On the topic of vintage patterns, they are very difficult to find. However, whether this is because there were lower numbers produced or plus-sized sewists used their patterns and kept them until they wore out is a question for the no-history books on this topic. We know that plus-sized bodies existed but there are very few mentions of how to tailor patterns to a larger size in the earlier books on garment making (that being said, I haven’t done exhaustive research on this topic; I do find it fascinating though so if anyone wants to pay me to research this stuff, I will do it!). We do know that Lane Byrant was the first company to use plus sizes in their advertisements, but we don’t know whether people cared about it before. We know fatphobia existed, though. Fat jokes go back centuries everyone.

Anecdotal information from plus-sized sewists who have been sewing for years is pretty similar to my experience starting to sew 10 years ago (plus a few months): the plus-sized patterns were frumpy and not fashion forward in major pattern companies. Now the correlation of home sewing patterns to the fashion industry is very important here. Home sewing patterns tend to borrow from existing trends in the fashion industry for designs. For the most part (another heavy-handed generalization, I know), home sewing patterns lag behind the trends in the fashion industry rather than leading the trends.

This lag . . . I can’t explain why it exists (likely lots of complex reasons about why home sewists sew and business reasons, etc), but the fashion industry leads the home sewing industry which is why I provided a short history of the plus-sized fashion industry earlier.

So, if the fashion industry didn’t use the term “plus sizes” before Lane Bryant… then likely… home sewing patterns didn’t either. I mean I’m generalizing again here but one can probably say that there wasn’t really a concept of plus-sized patterns. “Stout” is a term that exists before. I would definitely need to do more extensive research to give you more information (pay me! haha).

A short and incomplete history of modern plus sized sewing patterns in Indie Pattern world based on my own experience

There have been many pattern companies that have sold and continue to sell plus-sized patterns for years now. All of the major (umbrella) brands provide some type of plus-sized patterns: McCall’s and Butterick have “plus-sized” sections on their patterns, Burda magazine (and subsequently their online patterns) have a plus-sized section (usually offering around 5-6 patterns a month in the 44-52 range), Simplicity has a plus-sized section, etc. Other sewing magazines tend to reach up to a size 52 or 54 for some, if not all of their patterns.

In the indie sewing world, certain brands have existed for a while with plus-sized offerings. We try to keep a comprehensive list of plus sized pattern companies at the Curvy Sewing Collective, so please check that out for a larger list.

With the body positivity movement, home sewing has actually changed a lot (thankfully!). When I first started sewing, my measurements were smaller than now. I don’t remember them exactly but they were around 44-40-48 and now they are at 52-48-56. With my smaller measurements starting out, I was outside the range for a lot of patterns and am even more so now. I learned quickly about BMV’s famous ease and found that with some adjustments I could actually fit into their patterns. I choose my size based on my upper bust measurement and learned how to do an FBA around 2012 from some other amazing sewists that ending up forming the Curvy Sewing Collective. Colette Patterns (a company who I was very into at the time since I was always into vintage looks) then expanded their sizing and the CSC was born with Tanya, Mary, and Jenny still being the original founding members. I’ve been there cheering on the CSC ever since then and am now an editor. Yay!

Since the success (albeit mixed….hrm) of Colette’s plus sized expansion, a lot of other indie pattern companies have emerged that cater to a more inclusive sizing either from their creation or from the overall success in the rest of the community and continuing demand for it.

I’d love to, in general, know more about the plus-sized home sewing market and what percentage it is of the home sewing market. I would also love if there were a more wide (har) survey done on the customer base. The CSC survey Jenny did years ago is currently the only one I know (does admittedly have it’s own biases since it samples CSC readers who are well, probably, plus sized).

What does this have to do with fatphobia?

Since standardized sizing was created through a biased sample size, the fashion industry has used that as a standard in pattern drafting and since home sewing patterns follow the fashion industry….well the cycle continues. Standardized sizing excludes fat people. The sample size didn’t have enough data and everyone sort of agreed that is okay and moved through history with a biased point of view. Fashion advice emerges for larger sizes based on some expectations to look more slim and hide their fat.

The very fact that a pattern company chooses to start with standard sizes usually stems from that need to conform to the norm in our society; in the 1940s it was the hourglass figure and then later it became a body with less and less curves creating a fatphobic norm. Somehow (it’s mysterious! *sarcasm*) because fat people weren’t part of that initial sampling, we are a modern day “problem” for pattern drafting.

It’s probably not an active choice for exclusion but it is an active choice to go with the norm.

A call to action for home sewing pattern makers

  • Examine why you chose your size range and be transparent about it. Share it in your about page.
  • If you want to expand your sizes, you don’t need to do it immediately. Try releasing an action plan or business plan or vision for the future. You can do it as slowly as you need to.
  • If you don’t want to expand your sizes, say that you have no plans and then support plus-sized pattern companies by linking to them. You can do that through FAQs to bury the recommendation if you really want…. We aren’t your target market so do us a solid and direct us to people who want our business.
  • Share your size chart and include more measurements (bicep, etc). Some of us will go through the trouble of making adjustments with more information available.
  • Listen to your customers and your potential customers. And, for goodness sake, if you choose to rely on a survey to understand that the plus sized sewing industry is huge (just like the plus sized fashion industry) at least share it in groups that target different demographics from your existing customer base. You will never have a good sample size unless you seek outside of your bubble. Let’s not repeat age-old mistakes here, okay?
  • Share your fat makers! I care if an IG feed or a blog is filled with white skinny young middle class cis straight abled people. I want to see BIPOC, queer (like me!), fat (like me!), old, disabled (like me!) people too! I want to see everyone and everything. I know that lots of people like curated feeds (UGH) so be transparent about what colours for backgrounds and fabric you prefer, quality of photography, backdrops. Let me know because there are so few pattern companies that share makes by a large variety of people.
  • Share samples on bodies in a range of sizes for your patterns and remember to share your largest size!

In conclusion…

Shout out to pattern companies that have inclusive sizing. Shout out to pattern companies that took this discussion and already acted on it. Shout out ESPECIALLY to pattern companies that have a size chart beyond 60 inches. It’s still a really rare thing to see.

This took a lot out of me and I want to share so much more (including a bunch of stories and experiences in the sewing community as a fat, disabled, queer person) and research more but at 3000 words I should stop there…

Feel free to buy me a ko-fi.

Top 5 2018 and #2019MakeNine

Every year, Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow hosts a Top 5 blog series for bloggers to reflect on their top 5 hits, misses, highlights, reflections, and goals. It’s a fun blog series and I’ve done it now for a few years.

In years past, I had a bunch of charts showing what I made and the breakdown of patterns companies and types. I started off this year logging that in a chart, but abandoned it in March because I realized that I didn’t need to make as much as I had previously. I’ve sort of reached a point with my wardrobe where I don’t need a lot and can slow down in sewing for myself. I know for sure that I didn’t make as much this year as previous years, but for good reasons.

I did manage to not add a bunch of new fabric this year. I did keep track of my fabric stash. I started the year off with 416 yards of fabric and ended the year with 376. Might not sound like a huge difference, but let’s compare that with the difference in 2017: started with 236 and ended with 416. WTF, dude?! No wonder my husband started looking at me like I had a problem. After organizing and going through my stash, I also managed to purge about 4 more yards to make it 372 yards in my stash. My best month for stashbusting was March for a total of 40 yards busted! My worst month was July where I did sew up 13 yards, but also bought or acquired through trades…. 25 yards of fabric. Most months, though, I did use up more than I bought. Win!

Top 5 Hits

Cashmerette Cedar Dolman with Long sleeves and Hem band

Simplicity 8096 crop top and pleated skirt set

Simplicity 8344 bodysuit

DIBY Club Gabriela Onesie

Simplicity 8140

It’s so difficult to choose just 5 hits. I loved them all. Over the year, though, I’ve grabbed these so many times and been sad when they were in the laundry hamper waiting to be cleaned. I’m even wearing Simplicity 8140 right now and have another version of the Cedar Dolman with long sleeves planned as well as another Gabriela Onesie cut out.

Top 5 Misses

Simplicity 8084: This one is just a tragic story of being in Cuba and getting it caught on a cup holder on a bus and ripping it asunder. I almost cried. I do have fabric to fix it, though, so I am hoping it will have a happy ending.

Cedar Dolman Long ruffled sleeves: The fabric just didn’t hold up for this one. I wear it around the house now.

McCall’s 7624: This is a failure of interfacing. There are ripples in the interfacing on the coral bands after one wash so it doesn’t look as crisp and neat  as it should.

Burda Knit Blazer: It’s a failure of fit here. I like it, but find that the proportions are just too long on me.

Cedar Dolman dress: OMG can I please stop spilling a million things on my dresses? I just wear this around the house now, but even without the stains (yes, multiple….lol) the skirt should be wider for this and overall I don’t really like the shape of these sorts of dresses, I’ve decided, after wearing several that became around the house dresses.

Top 5 Highlights

The Festival of Wizardry was so much fun! I loved making all the things for it and it was such a blast being there!

Drafting a bralette from scratch was a great highlight. Expect more of these soon for an exciting new adventure for me this year!

Perfecting the fit of my bra and redrafting it to have front and back closure was a huge game changer!

Getting a new and super amazing sewing machine! It has no issue with tons of layers of fabric!

Getting back into reading! Since I dropped out of my PhD in 2013, I had found reading really emotionally painful. My PhD was in English Lit and reading turned from a source of joy to a reminder of a really painful experience academically. I didn’t drop out without thinking it over a lot and weighing the options. There isn’t really a choice of picking up where you left off with a PhD so I knew it was the end of academia for me. It was a great choice for my mental and physical health to not have that in addition to working full time, though, but the heartbreak was real and it cut deep. I spent the year with a goal to read 15 books and I achieved it. I also found joy in reading again. I also bought a kindle since reading physical books was painful for my hands. Reading brings me such pleasure now. 🙂

Top 5 Reflections

  • I made it through the year without a single Emergency Room visit! This is huge for me! I have had at least one ER visit for the past several years, but this year was zero. I’ve spent the year really listening to my body, being careful with my joints, and getting better care for my breathing issues. I had a respirologist appointment recently where we celebrated a good year of getting my chronic cough under control with medication. I am so happy I switched respirologists last year because I am honestly doing so much better than last year at this time.
  • I haven’t been constantly sewing for myself like previous years. I got paid to sew for a few people as well as creating costumes for my troupe. I’ve also made gifts for people. I’m pleased with this balance! I love creating for myself and getting the confidence from clothes that fit, but I don’t need a huge wardrobe so creating for others is a great way of still being able to sew. 🙂
  • Having a community is a huge thing. I am so pleased with how @chronicallysewn has grown and where I see it going in the next year. I really treasure the friendships I have made through it, too! ❤
  • The QAPD Collective is also a great community locally for LGBTQ people in Toronto who love to laugh either as an audience member or a comedian. My husband introduced me to it and I have been grateful to be a part of it. I’m actually even performing standup now! My next show is at the Up + Comers at the Rivoli on Jan 29th!
  • I stopped using the term “hack” as much as possible since it started to get to me with it’s connotations. I design pattern changes… I don’t hack things apart with an ax and I am not a hack or faking it. Design not hack.

Top 5 Goals

  • I am spending the next few months learning how to draft lingerie patterns! I’m excited for this new venture and it’s been something I have wanted to do for a long time. My bralette was drafted by just sort of winging it, but I don’t want to do that going forward. I am learning the technical aspects of creating patterns and grading them. However, because of my chronic illness, I decided to do this not in the classroom but from books and online courses. I’m used to self-directed learning since graduate school is all about that. Yes, you have courses, but your own research is directed by your own self. I’m good at keeping on track for that kind of learning so I expect this will go well. I’ll be posting about this over the next while so you will be able to see how it goes!
  • Get paid. I once said that I never wanted this hobby to turn into a job. Well…. that has changed. I’m at a point where I would prefer to work from home rather than deal with a 9-5. This would fit much better with my chronic illness. The previous goal is a bit related since pattern companies often restrict use of their patterns for objects for sale. Not all are like that, but I’d rather not breach that. Quite frankly, I also prefer designing my own things and would love to be able to create things from measurements rather than make the pattern fit the person.
  • Learn more about wholesale fabric in Canada. If anyone knows about this, let me know. I’d like to understand the wholesale costs of fabric here rather than the retail costs to really be able to cost out anything I sell.
  • Share my experiences with you! Maybe I will lose the interest of some of my readers with this, but some might be fascinated by all this like I am. I also want to make the blog a bit more of a priority. I have fun writing so I want to do more of it.
  • Be more creative. I really want to go nuts this year with super creative projects and learn more skills like dyeing fabric or beading. I plan on having fun this year with my personal projects and creating some amazing statement pieces.

#2019MakeNine

  1. Ottobre coat Autumn/Winter 2017: I plan on adding a fake fur trimmed hood to it (possibly detachable). I have some lovely light blue wool to use. I will interline it with thinsulate to make it super warm.
  2. Cashmerette Chilton Trenchcoat: When my sewing machine died earlier this year, I was actually testing this pattern. I have it cut out already and the lining sewn up in the tester version. I just need to compare to the final version and make some changes.
  3. McCall’s 7726: I have some raspberry tencel twill already purchased for view D of this pattern.
  4. Burda Off the Shoulder Sweater: I plan on making this ASAP in some hacci knit. If I like it, I will probably make two versions in different colours.
  5. Burda Oversized Blouse: I just love this blouse!
  6. Burda Spencer Jacket: This jacket rocks and totally fits in with my goals of making some statement pieces.
  7. Decades of Style Dorothy Lara dress: I will need to grade this pattern up, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. I love the style of it and hope it looks as cute on me as it does on Tanya. I have some watermelon fabric that I plan on using for it.
  8. Blank Slate Patterns Marigold dress: This pattern was recently expanded for larger sizes and I love it. I have some red floral fabric for it.
  9. Seamwork Magazine Arden dress: I plan on shortening this into a top and using some sheer red poly crepe with white polkadots for it. I will need a camisole for underneath it, too.

For my #2018MakeNine, I only got 3/9 finished and the year before I think I got 1 or 2 done. I hope to get at least 5 done this year if I can’t achieve it all.

 

Bra Sewing, Swimsuit Sewing, Vacation Sewing

All the sewing in this post!

I still have a backlog of projects to share with you but I thought I would share some things that I recently sewed where I have used the pattern before or, in the case of bra sewing, am using an updated pattern.

Bra Sewing

I’m super pleased with my alterations on my bra pattern. This is definitely a better fit than the last bra I sewed. The last bra fit well but throughout the day my cup would spill over. This bra does that on the 3rd day of wear after washing.

After the last bra, I incorporated more volume in the lower center cup, split the bottom cup into three to better distribute the volume and give a nicer shape, shifted the straps in by 1/4 inch, and scooped out the underarm by about a half inch graded to a 1/4 inch at the top.

It’s really difficult to tell the difference between the two since the previous bra was in black, but the projection is shifted slightly more to the centre reducing the splaying from my pectus carinatam. Unfortunately, the above picture was also taken right before my period when I was swelling like crazy. I generally have a 2 -3 inch difference in my bust at that time. Hello hormones! It’s much better now and I can see how the volume in the cup is a much better fit.

Overall, the shape is great. I feel comfortable in the bra. There are tweaks, however, for next version.

  1. More volume in the lower cups
  2. Less length along the top edge of the upper cup
  3. Move in the strap another 1/4 inch since the strap is still flipping over
  4. Even out the horizontal line where the lower cup and upper cup meet (bring it down by about an inch and a half at the side grading to the height of the cup closest to the bridge)

I’m considering accounting for the differences in cup volume in my 2 breasts, but I think I will wait until after the next iteration to do it.

I’d like one more underwired bra in my rotation and then I want to make changes to my bralette pattern. I’m going to get myself a couple of pattern drafting books for lingerie soon and see if I can apply some of those techniques for a better fit.

Swimsuit Sewing

I recently made another Cashmerette Ipswich Swimsuit and I love it.

The mermaid scales are both from Water Tower Textiles. I chose to make a full side panel with firm powernet for a scandalous see-through look. I love it.

I did not make a bra for this. I lined it with powernet instead. The fit is not bad. Definitely some drooping in the water, but not too bad. The straps with bra strap elastic really do wonders for that. This is a size 24 G/H on top. Bottoms are 24 graded to a size 26.

Why make a swimsuit when winter is about to hit Canada?

Vacation Sewing

My husband took me to Varadero, Cuba for my 38th birthday!!

It was such a perfect birthday!!

We drank…

We ate…

We went to Havana…

I could definitely spend all my birthdays in warm weather and on the beach from now on!

Of course, I couldn’t leave without some marathon vacation sewing…

Cashmerette Rivermont top

Nothing like a mirror selfie with fox pj pants!

Simplicity 8344 Bodysuit

I love it so much. I may take the straps off, though, since I find the elastic can cover my bra straps comfortably.

I also shortened some Misty Jeans into shorts to give them new life, but neglected to take a picture.

For my birthday, I made it a goal to raise $200 for the Ehlers-Danlos Society and I exceeded my goal by $127 for a total of $327!! I am so grateful for the generous support of my friends and family. It made for the best birthday gift. ❤

In my reflection on the past year, I am grateful that I am managing my chronic illness better. It’s through my own hard work and that of my respirologist that I have come so far. With my chronic cough under better management, I am able to do more and get a better grasp on my health rather than struggling with the day to day of just breathing. I know without the meds, my health is tenuous so I have to be super careful to not miss a dosage or else my breathing becomes difficult as well. The fact that there are meds that do help me is huge and I am incredibly grateful for that.

Of course, saying I am managing my chronic illness is not a cure or that I am no longer chronically ill. I know my limitations better now and I know when to rest versus when to push it. I am gradually incorporating more exercise into my life, but I will not do it at the destruction of my body. I have a better understanding of what is good versus what is bad. I am disabled. I cannot do a lot of things normally and often have obstacles that prevent access for me. It’s been quite a year for me of setbacks and realizations and lots of wins. 38 feels good. I have hope and that is an amazing thing to have.