sewing

Patterns For Larger Plus Sizes: a Dream.

21 February, 2017

I’m a member of quite a few plus size sewing groups and it’s so frustrating when you’re a larger plus size person asking for pattern recommendations because people will mostly only post links to patterns that either stop at size 20 or 26. Pattern sizing is different from ready to wear sizing, neither of which seem to be standardised, however the big pattern companies use a semi-reliable measurement standard between them. New independant pattern designers may use a standard chart, but it seems like many have made up their own system. It’s annoying, it’s unreliable, and at any rate… they rarely cover people who need to make clothes larger than a size 26. This compounds the upsetting reality of ready to wear fashion’s neglect of larger plus size people – please reference my frequent rants on the topic of “just make it yourself!!!!

I’ve done a little pattern drafting and grading, in fact, it’s mandatory if you are a larger plus size. You need more skills just to get the same results as other sewists. Actually, those results may vary because when you’re grading up more than a few sizes the resultant pattern can often morph into a strange creature that requires yet more tweaking. I have more luck when I grade up patterns based on a women’s or plus size block – the difference between a misses and women’s block is very important if you are older or bigger because girth and gravity play a significant role. I refuse to grade up more than 3 or 4 sizes because the outcome is usually horrible and a waste of time and fabric.

You Must Be This Fat For Me Top Care About Your Opinion. This is a proposal for a badge in a future round of Girth Guide patches.

You Must Be This Fat For Me To Care About Your Opinion.
This is a proposal for a badge in a future round of Girth Guide patches.

 

My primary concern these days is to produce things that are specifically made for larger people that will enhance their comfort and sense of belonging in the world. I design my necklaces to have longer chains (which can be shortened on request!), my rings are bigger (larger sizes sell out first!), my politics focus on accessibility and the taking up of space, and I refuse to accept that I don’t exist according to size charts. If we are to hold up our end of the social contract and not run around in the nude, there must be accommodations made to provide clothing – a foundation within the physiological needs every human has that can be built upon. Unfortunately within capitalism, super fat people aren’t a big enough market. So we’re enough of a target to mock and abuse, to lock out of medical and employment systems… but not important enough to clothe.

These are my first few drawings of patterns I'd like to try and design, including: an overall dress; peplum top; and shirt dress.

These are my first few drawings of patterns I’d like to try and design, including: an overall dress; peplum top; and shirt dress.

To this end, I decided to try and draft some patterns for larger plus sizes. Of course, I could seek out a pattern maker and hire them to draft and grade these patterns but… I’m the kind of person who wants to do everything themselves just because I think I can. Also, I don’t have a bunch of money to invest in this. I’m your local autodidact, and in this day and age there’s no reason why I can’t figure this shit out. Right?

My friend Poli bought me this copy of Adrich's Metric Pattern Cutting For Women's Wear a few years ago. It's brilliant.

My friend Poli bought me this copy of Adrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting For Women’s Wear a few years ago. It’s brilliant.

I’ve done basic drafting in Illustrator, and as a graphic designer it’s one of the programs I’m super comfortable in; however much I love it, Illustrator is not the right program for this job. Fortunately I came across Valentina, an open source pattern making software. Armed with my copy of Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting For Women’s Wear, I set off to create a basic bodice block. The learning curve was steep and I was predictably naive, yet with a lot of help from the fantastic developers I managed to draft a bodice and sleeve over the last three days.

This screenshot from Valentina shows a basic fitted bodice and sleeve using Aldrich's method. It amazes me that we build clothes from these two dimensional lines!

This screenshot from Valentina shows a basic fitted bodice and sleeve using Aldrich’s method. It amazes me that we build clothes from these two dimensional lines!

Now the real challenge is in adapting that block to create designs I want to wear, but can’t find in my size. Grading is also a little bit overwhelming, as the program doesn’t do grading/ nesting of sizes like I’m used to. My first goal is clear: draft a shirt dress for multiple sizes from 22-36; and I am bloody determined to figure it out. I know people have been responding very positively to my goals, but please be patient – I’m only one very fat lady!

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sewing

Bra making: I must, I must, I must increase my bra sewing and fitting skills.

11 February, 2017

One of my goals this year was to sew my own bras. Finding a bra is soul destroying for many people, and it’s been hell for me because I need a large band and cup. Bras for my size are nearly impossible to find, and the one or two that I can find cost anywhere from $90-150. As a result I have been wearing the incorrect size for years.

Aside: do you know how much it bothers me when people trot out the “n% of women are not wearing the correct bra size!!!??!!” There’s a reason: Bra sizing is not standardised, you can’t just assume you are the same size across all brands. Even if you fit into and use the sizing chart, there’s no guarantee the damn bra will fit! Another reason: bodies are different. Fat and breast tissue are distributed in all matter of different ways across all the bodies in the world.

This vintage ad for Charmode Cordtex bras illustrates sizing from small cups to large. Notice the longer frame for the largest size? That doesn't really work for larger stomachs and will ride up under the bust! Plus notice the style gets decidedly less lacy and delicate as the style increases. Some things never change...

This vintage ad for Charmode Cordtex bras illustrates sizing from small cups to large. Notice the longer frame for the largest size? That doesn’t really work for larger stomachs and will ride up under the bust – hence the straps to attach to a girdle! Plus notice these bras get less lacy and delicate as the style increases. Some things never change…

 

So, last year I decided the only thing to do would be to sew my own bras. Aside from the major challenge of learning bra construction, finding a pattern to fit me has proven to be incredibly challenging. If I thought ready-to-wear bras were hard to find… bra patterns in my size are non-existent. Remember what I said about bra sizing? It applies to bra patterns as well. I decided to go with the Pin Up Girls Classic pattern, because Beverly Johnson’s Sewing Bras: Construction and Fit class use this pattern (her one). I bought two of her bra kits and a couple of underwires, then upon figuring out that the largest band size (48) would not fit me, I aborted the project.

 This is my third version of the PUG Classic bra, and I used some fairly thick ugly white tricot from my work. In this version I'd gone down a cup size and darted out excess in the top cup as well as added a gothic arch in the band (between the cups).

This is my third version of the PUG Classic bra, and I used some fairly thick ugly white tricot from my work. In this version I’d gone down a cup size and darted out excess in the top cup as well as added a gothic arch in the band (between the cups).

When my last couple of bras popped their underwires I knew I had to resume my bra making goals. I measured myself again and worked out I’d be a 54F based on the Pin Up Girls sizing system. Previously I’d been wearing 44G bras from Marks & Spencer, and even then the wires did not sit comfortably under my breast. I had no idea how this was going to work out. I graded the 48F pieces up three sizes and sewed up the bra while religiously watching the Craftsy course. It’s practically compulsory if you want to learn to make your own bras – and I’ve been sewing for 20 years! I put the bra on… and the cup was too big. My mind exploded. Bra sizing, what the fuck?

With help from Beverly (it’s incredible how much time she dedicates to answering questions, and truly one of the best reasons for purchasing the class) and a bra making group on facebook, I went down a cup size. From there it took me 5 pattern versions undertaking various alterations to get a reasonably well fitting and comfortable bra. The bridge still isn’t tacking to my chest wall but I’m not being stuck in my bingo wings by vicious wires and I don’t feel like I’m going to die after wearing my bras for 6 hours.

This was my first "good" bra after splitting the lower cup. I added some lovely caramel coloured lace to the chocolate duoplex (my favourite bra making fabric so far) to create a butterfly effect between the cups and bridge.

This was my first “good” bra after splitting the lower cup. I added some lovely caramel coloured lace to the chocolate duoplex (my favourite bra making fabric so far) to create a butterfly effect between the cups and bridge.

I’ve altered the PUG Classic pattern significantly, and this is the norm rather than the exception in the bra making world. Why bother making your own bras unless they are tailored to suit you? I should have properly kept track of my alterations but I know I:

  • Darted out excess in upper cup.
  • Took a dart out of the outside of the cup (upper and lower).
  • Narrowed the bridge at the top, and widened it at the bottom (I will widen even more next time).
  • Split the lower cup to allow the breast to settle into the cup.
  • East/ west alteration to project the tissue forward. Yep, east/ west refers to the direction the breasts point!
  • Rounded the cross cup seam so it was less “pointy”.
  • Added a gothic arch to the band (good for those with big high tummies).
  • Raised the height under the arm and added a back strap extension.
  • Darted out excess under arm in the frame.
  • Widened the base of the straps where they attach to the upper cup.
This bra uses the beige bra kit from Bra Maker's supply as well as some coral lace positioned as a kind of power bar on the side of the cups. I am not fond of it, and wish I knew how to extend the scalloped lace up the strap.

This bra uses the beige bra kit from Bra Maker’s supply as well as some coral lace positioned as a kind of power bar on the side of the cups. I am not fond of it, and wish I knew how to extend the scalloped lace up the strap.

I’d love to try other patterns but the problem is they simply don’t come anywhere near my size. I will have to grade up regardless of which pattern I choose. Another reason why it really shits me when people tell me to “make my own” when ready-to-wear doesn’t come in my size – PATTERNS DON’T EITHER! I can use the Classic bra and morph it in a few different ways – I’ve already drafted a four piece cup (with power bar) and a horizontal seamed bra. When I can afford it, I want to buy the Bravo Bra #2 and the Queen Bra Elite – the two other patterns that come up close to my size.

Bra making supplies are scant in Australia and shipping from Canada and the US can be prohibitive. I have purchased my pattern, kits, and supplies from Sew Squirrel, who have amazing customer service. Duoplex is my favourite material by far as it has nearly no stretch, is soft, and requires no lining; it is available from Sew Squirrel in black and white by the yard and in other colours in the kits. I’ve also purchased fabric and findings from Booby Traps, who have the best name, and while they don’t stock duoplex they do have a range of tricot, lining fabrics, elastics, and findings in a variety of colours.

My favourite bra to date uses black duoplex as well as a sheer net with flocked hearts on the upper cup, and a sheer bra lining behind it for stability.

My favourite bra to date uses black duoplex as well as a sheer net with flocked hearts on the upper cup, and a sheer bra lining behind it for stability.

I’ve worn my self made bras exclusively over the last two weeks and even the early versions are more comfortable than my shop bought bras. I have so many plans for new bras, it’s really exciting to have control over the design when the only bras you’ve been wearing have been black or beige for the last 10 years!! The black bra above is my favourite and the most comfortable by far. The wider back band and strap extension make a huge difference because I don’t feel like the band is disappearing into my back rolls any longer; it’s truly incredible to take my bra off at the end of the day and not feel like I’ve been caught in a mouse trap for an eternity!

Fancy Lady Industries

New laser cut jewellery goodness!

8 January, 2017

Lately my focus has been poured into designing my laser cut jewellery stuff for Fancy Lady Industries! I’ve also been sewing and working, so blogging has sadly fallen by the wayside. This must be amended! Fancy Lady Industries has really been powering on and I’m super proud of my tiny plastic empire; it’s so cool that I’m getting over the awkward modesty thing, but it still lingers a little.

Please allow me to show off some cool stuff I’ve got in store, and some sneak peeks at upcoming goodies.

Available right this very moment on Fancy Lady Industries

Bread tag earrings and necklace

What better way to display my bread tag earrings and necklace than on a romantic bread roll? I’ve long been fascinated by bread clips, or occlupanids, as cultural detritus so I wanted to elevate them to jewellery!

Miffy and the Red Glitter Hair Bow

Lil Miffy wears my red glitter hair bow very cutely!

Natalie and the Red Glitter Hair Bow

Here I am borrowing Miffy’s hair bow for my bun. I also have some adorable little bow dangle earrings to coordinate.

Art Nouveau Laser Cut Necklaces

I designed these Art Nouveau necklaces from black and white glitter acrylic because I’m slightly obsessed with the style. I hope to have more pieces out in the future. Circle pendant and statement necklace available right now.

Peaceful Dove Necklace, Laser Cut Jewellery

The Peaceful Dove necklace arose from my desire to do something to help refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. I designed it to be laser cut and etched from sustainable laminated bamboo. The profits raised are donated to Asylum Seekers Resource Centre. Necklace and brooch available.

Coming soon – Steambugs!

I’ve been invited to a steampunk event in Brisbane at the end of January, so I created some jewellery especially for the occasion.

Steambees in white glitter and copper glitter

I put a new/ old spin on my Art Deco-esque bees by using white and copper glitter.

Red glitter moth necklace

The moth gets a dark upgrade to blood red glitter.

Steampunk cog earrings.

I couldn’t create steampunk jewellery without throwing some cogs in the mix. These dangle earrings combine mint and copper glitter acrylic, and I’m in love with the combination.

Steampunk wasp necklace

The wasp necklace looks amazing, if I say so myself, with the top layer in mint and the bottom layer in copper glitter.

Steampunk death head moth chatelaine

Chatelaines are little objects women have kept at their waist for a long time, but rose to popularity around the turn of the century. They had all kinds of useful household items attached to them for quick access.
My death head moth chatelaine is a modern rethinking of the object with little charms dangling from it.

The steambugs items will be up in the shop after the event! If you’re in Brisbane and are interested in heading to Clockworx, hit the facebook event page.

I have so many ideas. SO MANY. As I sell jewellery I funnel the money into designing more jewellery. One day I want a huge plastic empire!

Please do pop over and check out Fancy Lady Industries!

A Creative Career, Fancy Lady Industries

My plastic jewellery empire.

21 October, 2016

I’ve been so busy, and I’m starting to feel I’ve been through a hypomanic episode. My ideas are amazing, I’m a powerhouse, so pure, so fresh, look at this rad shit I’m making, I don’t ever need to sleep! Since I’ve been treated for bipolar I’m pretty much on an even keel but this recent activity is truly outrageous.

Home time! Met some lovely people, sold some jewellery.

A photo posted by 🔼 illuminatalie 🔼 (@definatalie) on

I have moved my shop to etsy. Why? Well for years I resisted because I wanted to do it on my own, but I’ve come to the realisation that etsy is a powerful platform with a huge market and search facility. I’ve also started going to markets to try and spruik my wares; and it’s been interesting so far. I’m still trying to find the perfect fit for my shop and items but the experience has been invaluable.

A Teddy Bear Bee necklace and brooch set made out of laser cut black and gold glitter acrylic, available on Fancy Lady Industries

A Teddy Bear Bee necklace and brooch set made out of laser cut black and gold glitter acrylic, available on Fancy Lady Industries

Laser cut moth, bee and wasp brooches amongst flower and honeycomb cell earrings, available on Fancy Lady Industries

Laser cut moth, bee and wasp brooches amongst flower and honeycomb cell earrings, available on Fancy Lady Industries

Some of my unicorn, moth and flamingo necklaces with a poodle brooch, all made from laser cut black and silver holographic glitter acrylic available on Fancy Lady Industries.

Some of my unicorn, moth and flamingo necklaces with a poodle brooch, all made from laser cut black and silver holographic glitter acrylic available on Fancy Lady Industries.

A vintage lilac velvet bumbag with long white fringing, available on Fancy Lady Industries.

A vintage lilac velvet bumbag with long white fringing, available on Fancy Lady Industries.

Some bird wing dangly earrings made from laser cut black and gold glitter acrylic available on Fancy Lady Industries.

Bird wing dangly earrings made from laser cut black and gold glitter acrylic available on Fancy Lady Industries.

Currently out of stock, but new gold glitter fat necklaces coming soon!

Currently out of stock, but new gold glitter fat necklaces coming soon!

I’ve been totally overwhelmed by the response to my new items. Things are going so well! Some of the jewellery items sell out before I can blink, it’s just so heartening to see the positive response to the things I design.

The peaceful dove design I have created to raise money for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, available to pre-order until Monday 24 October 2016.

The peaceful dove design I have created to raise money for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, available to pre-order until Monday 24 October 2016.

Currently I’m doing a pre-sale for the Peaceful Dove, available as a necklace or brooch. The profits will be going to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, a wonderful organisation that advocates for and supports Australian asylum seekers and refugees. The pieces will be laser cut and etched from bamboo, and I’m incredibly proud to be able to do this. The asylum seeker and refugee situation in Australia is dire, and I’m passionate about creating a more humane Australian response to a global problem. The Australian Government and opposition use these vulnerable people as political pawns, and the offshore detention prisons are horrid places where human rights abuses happen ever increasingly. Amnesty International has rightly called out the appalling abuse and neglect on Manus and Nauru prisons; this situation is a shameful reflection on Australia.

If you don’t need a necklace or brooch, please consider donating to the ASRC directly.

So that’s where I’m at. Now you’re up to date!

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Fashion, sewing

“Just Make Your Own” – How Sewing Is Not A Panacea For RTW Fashion

3 September, 2016

When you are superfat your sewing pattern options are limited, just like in RTW clothing. It’s frustrating trying to find cute patterns but even more annoying when people tell me to just sew clothes myself because RTW clothes aren’t readily available in my size. Sewing people just tell me to “grade it up” if I ask about a pattern size being unavailable to me, but that takes ages and I get angry that I have to do it.

I made the Cashmerette Upton dress with some beautiful pink and purple floral fabric that has a chocolate background. I moved the gathers to the hip, and sewed in my own tag that says “Made By Natalie”.

Things I do when I sew my own clothes

  • More often than not I am grading up at least two sizes from the largest size (indie designer size 26 and big 4 size 32w). The pictured Upton dress has been graded up two sizes.
  • Forward and sloping shoulder alteration.
  • Full bust alteration.
  • Bust dart lowering.
  • Make the front hem longer to allow for my big belly.
  • Raise the waist line to allow for my high waist and belly comfort.
  • Large belly alteration.
  • Retrace the altered pattern for continued use.
  • A muslin always for each new pattern.
  • Enough ease to pull dresses over my head rather than use a zip I can’t reach.
  • Cotton lining to add comfort and fanciness.
  • For Nick I enlarge the collar, narrow the shoulders, shorten the sleeves and do a large belly alteration.
  • Add my own sewing label that makes me feel like I am wearing a beautiful garment I could have bought off the rack if such magical racks existed.

Sewing is a skill, fitting is a skill, pattern grading is a skill. I have taught myself these skills because I need to do it, but I also have the aptitude for sewing and the fairly dire need for clothing. Lots of superfat people do not have sewing skills or the time/ resources to acquire these skills. It’s unfair to tell them that their only option is sew their own clothes if RTW sizes are unavailable, and even if they do sew, the pattern sizing is similarly non-inclusive.

Here is Nick wearing a Simplicity 4975 shirt with short sleeves, made out of a gorgeous pink hibiscus on black background print. Miffy is an unwilling participant in this photo.

Here is Nick wearing a Simplicity 4975 shirt with short sleeves, made out of a gorgeous pink hibiscus on black background print. Miffy is an unwilling participant in this photo.

It’s not enough for me to just sew my own clothes. I need to do a number of pattern alterations to get a comfortable fit, because sewing my own clothes is not an alternative option if I’m just going to end up with too-small, ill-fitting clothes I can buy off the one or two racks available to me. The same fat-stigmatising nonsense goes on in sewing patterns that does in RTW fashion.

sewing

23 Easy Steps To Making A Dress. The Result? Worship Her Efforts Or Fear Her Wrath.

14 August, 2016
  1. How to sew a dress...I want to make a dress! I WANT TO MAKE A DRESS AND I MUST MAKE A DRESS
  2. Which pattern? Ugh now I have to pore over pattern reviews.
  3. GUH, now I’ve got to cut it out.
  4. I suppose I should make a muslin.
  5. Every finger must be stabbed with pins. The world will pay for this injustice.Sewing maths
  6. Muslin finished. Disaster. Let’s make it work. Let’s alter the pattern in a billion ways. Full bust adjustment, forward shoulder adjustment, sway back adjustment, lengthen skirt. Just kill me so I don’t have to wear any more clothes.
  7. Second muslin. Eh it’s ok. Time to butcher my good fabric.
  8. But what fabric? This one! Oh not enough yardage. I guess this one then.Finger prick
  9. Position pattern pieces. Meditate on the best way to minimise yardage. More fingers pricked. Blood. Cursing. Screaming. Damning these sharp but indispensable pins to heck.
  10. I bloody hate this. I hate sewing. I need a break. Watch some netflix.
  11. Stare at the fabric. Cut out the fabric. Mark the goddamn notches and darts. This is the worst. I don’t know why I wanted to do this. Whose idea was this? Why can’t I fit into ready to wear clothing? A pox on the fashion designers who don’t think I exist. You’ll regret your entire life when I die and haunt you in the nude.
  12. God I hate sewing darts. Pressing.
  13. This is going to be so great. I’m going to look amazing. Everyone will love me sick.
  14. Try on bodice without a bra. It’s ok. I guess, if pendulous boobs ever become fashionable.
  15. Skip putting clothes back on because I’m only going to be taking them off again to try the bloody thing on again. It’s 1am, no one will see.When you make a sewing mistake
  16. Catch an entire swathe of fabric in the seam. Fall to knees and cry.
  17. Break time. Watch 6 episodes of Wentworth. Can not possibly face the situation I have created. Bed.
  18. Wake up and remember the dress. Resign one’s self to a solemn day of unpicking, sewing and finishing. I am a powerful woman and I can beat this garment into submission.
  19. The hem. Fuck the hem it’s time to read facebook. Paste a few links to Snopes articles and feel like shitty no-fun daughter and niece. Everyone must suffer when I sew.
  20. Ugh the hem. After dinner. And three hours of tv.
  21. Stare at the nearly complete dress. Hang it up. Let’s do it.
  22. Hem the dress. Immediately strip, and put it on before surveying the bra-free catastrophe before you in the mirror. Grudgingly put the bra on. And…Compliment me when I finish my damned dress damnit
  23. The dress. It is done. I am a genius. Pure and brilliant. A vision. Please compliment me. I love sewing and I’m so passionate about this, I’m going to make at least 10 more from this pattern.

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For Sale, sewing

Sew all the bumbags.

25 May, 2016

A month or so ago I wanted to make a bumbag. I just thought it was a cool idea for walking so I didn’t have to jeopardise all my stuff, like phone and keys, when bending down to pick up Miffy’s carelessly deposited droppings. Then I thought a bumbag would be cool for all kind of occasions, especially for people who wear clothes without pockets (womens’ clothing I’m looking at YOU!) Someone suggested it’d help them out a lot for baby wearing. And another person wanted one just because it looked cool. I also wanted to sew bumbags to fit fat people, because so many of the bumbags I looked at didn’t have waist bands long enough to fit us.

Total Bumbag sewing pattern

My Total Bumbag pattern had to have a 1980s style promotional image!

So I decided to make a pattern for the bumbags I’d been making so I could share the love and bring the humble bumbag back from the 80s! You can purchase the pattern here if you’re interested. The pattern includes pieces to make bumbags for adults and kids as well as in depth instructions.

Lil Bumbag

The apple print kid’s bumbag and amazing pink digital print leggings I made for my niece.

People who didn’t sew then wanted bumbags. I made a couple and they sold almost immediately! Then I made more! I opened an etsy store to sell them (also because I am experimenting with the benefits of selling through etsy vs selling on fancyladyindustries.com) and I listed a bunch the other day!

That’s what I’ve been up to. I’ve also been sewing other things, like clothes, but I haven’t had time to take nice photos.

 

The front view of my Pastel Leopard bumbag. I love this fabric! It's a taupe leopard print on cream with mint in the centre of the leopard spots.

The front view of my Pastel Leopard bumbag. I love this fabric! It’s a taupe leopard print on cream with mint in the centre of the leopard spots.

The rear view of my Muffin print bumbag features a zippered pocket for stashing important things.

The rear view of my Muffin print bumbag features a zippered pocket for stashing important things.

This bumbag uses a William Morris print in pastel pinks, creams and blues. I adore it! I've popped my beat up Samsung s5 in the bag to show scale. These bags will fit your phone, keys and a little purse.

This bumbag uses a William Morris print in pastel pinks, creams and blues. I adore it! I’ve popped my beat up Samsung s5 in the bag to show scale. These bags will fit your phone, keys and a little purse.

This bumbag uses an adorable pink and cream floral/ hearts Lecian print in two colourways.

This bumbag uses an adorable pink and cream floral/ hearts Lecian print in two colourways.

Some of these fabrics I can’t get more of so they’re quite limited. But I work in a fabric shop and am eternally scouting for new cute prints so more bumbags are on the way!

Check out my bumbag shop!

sewing

Meet Tilly the Singer!

10 March, 2016

At the end of last year I wanted a new machine. Something probably not brand new, but a little younger than my lovely Pfaff. I started saving up money and gazed wistfully at advertisements for Berninas. One day I decided to take stock of my life and realised I had a Husqvarna, only a few years old, sitting in the garage… her power cords all chewed up thanks to a mischievous dog who shall not be named. It was not sewing properly so I’d stowed it behind a couch, the same couch Miffy hid behind during thunderstorms. She’s not normally a cord chewer, but she must have taken to it in her fits of anxiety. Thanks, Miffy.

I took the Husqy into work to send it to the sewing machine repair guy, thinking I’d have the mod con I really wanted (automatic button holes!) while still using the Pfaff as my regular machine. I’d put off buying a new machine until I could afford a really, really you-beaut-bloody-ripper bit of  kit. Yes, I would do that.

Unfortunately it seems as if the power cord on the Husqy is going to be problematic to replace (I’m yet to properly talk to the repair guy since I’ve been sick and busy) so… I decided to do something entirely sensible and buy a machine that can only sew in a straight line. No automatic button holes. No zig zag. It’s actually older than my own parents.

It's a 1949 Singer 201k!

It’s a 1949 Singer 201k!

NO REGRETS! Meet Tilly. (I finally saw The Dressmaker, ha!)

I found her on Gumtree and she was $95. I don’t know if that’s a good price, but she was the cheapest of the 201 models I saw listed. The guy I bought her off was probably younger than me, and sews camping bags and other hefty stuff. Perfect. I need a machine that can sew through my leg and is adorable and doesn’t have automatic button holes… oh dear.

BUT THE STITCHING. The 201k is renowned for its perfectly lovely stitch.

BUT THE STITCHING. The 201 is renowned for its perfectly lovely stitch.

 

I'm a sucker for old manuals!

I’m a sucker for old manuals!

She came with all the manuals (from 1949!) and a bunch of feet, as well as a bag of random bias binding and threads. My mother-in-law gave me a few Singer feet some months ago, and I was bummed at the time that my high shank Pfaff couldn’t use the ruffler, but now I can ruffle my butt off.

Get a load of that ruffling foot! It's a hell of a contraption but once I got over the fear of having my fingers gnashed I managed to make some great ruffles in no time at all.

Get a load of that ruffling foot! It’s a hell of a contraption but once I got over the fear of having my fingers gnashed I managed to make some great ruffles in no time at all.

Seriously, who wants me to ruffle something for them?

I’ve been planning on sewing more purses and bags and now I can do that without fearing my Pfaff will combust. It’s a wonderful machine but now I’ve seen what the Singer can sew through, it’s definitely my go-to-guy for heavy duty stitching. I’m also going to use it for top stitching because I’d be a fool not to showcase that sexy, sexy stitch quality.

Now I just need a bigger sewing desk. And one capable of holding up my three all-metal sewing beasts!

sewing

Hanky hems for a stuffed up week.

9 March, 2016
IMG_20160301_224044

My first hanky hem t-shirt of the week as modeled by my dress form. The black and white swallow print cotton/ jersey from Darn Cheap Fabrics is bordered by a panel of black mesh along the front hem.

Last week I went into a bit of a hanky hem t-shirt frenzy. I had two I’d made a few months ago, but I wanted to make some more after my boss complimented me on one I was wearing! Funnily enough, I’ve had a head cold and last week I was working 5 days, but somehow I decided it was an appropriate time to sit at my sewing machine and sniff, cough and splutter my way through the night as I sewed hanky hems.

In this my dress form is wearing another hanky hem t-shirt, sewn up in some jasmine photo print jersey I bought from work.

In this my dress form is wearing another hanky hem t-shirt, sewn up in some jasmine photo print jersey I bought from work.

The pattern is one I based on a dartless fitted t-shirt block by Connie Crawford, given to me by a friend a few years ago. It’s no longer available on her site, but you can adapt a t-shirt pattern you already have, or trace a t-shirt you own and draft the pattern.

My probably-not-industry-compliant pattern diagram illustrates how to adapt a t-shirt to have a hanky hem.

My probably-not-industry-compliant pattern diagram illustrates how to adapt a t-shirt to have a hanky hem.

To start with, take your front and back pattern pieces. Mark the hip line of each piece, then draw a horizontal line out from that hip line on your front pattern piece. You can continue that line into eternity if you so please, it will result in more dangly side bits as they drop and essentially form a longer, flared, side seam. Smooth that angle into a nice curve. Copy your alteration to the back piece.

The bottom hem of the t-shirt will have a waterfall effect and if you’re using a knit, you can usually get away with not hemming it at all. I lengthened my t-shirt so it was tunic length.  I like the casual look of it. I finished my necklines with a band, and this tutorial shows you how to do that. You can also finish the sleeves with a band, but I used my twin needle.

The hanky hem can also be applied to patterns for woven fabrics too. Choose a fabric with a soft hand and lots of drape if you want your t-shirt to gently flutter over your hips, but if you prefer an architectural silhouette you could go for a more stiff or heavier fabric. This is why sewing is awesome, you can create different things from the same starting block!

Here are some kind of shoddy instagram photos of me in my hanky hem tops. There just hasn’t been time enough to take nice photos with the good camera!

In my backyard (the trees are huge now!) wearing my black and white swallow t-shirt with some black cropped pants.

In my backyard (the trees are huge now!) wearing my black and white swallow t-shirt with some black cropped pants.

 

My boss took this photo of me at work, hence the lovely bolts of fabric! I'm wearing the jasmine print t-shirt here, and forcing myself to smile through the streams of constant snot!!

My boss took this photo of me at work, hence the lovely bolts of fabric! I’m wearing the jasmine print t-shirt here, and forcing myself to smile through the streams of constant snot!!

body acceptance, Body Image, sewing

True story: I sew my own pads.

23 February, 2016

[Content note: this post discusses menstruation and sanitary products.]

I switched to a menstrual cup a few years ago and never looked back. I’m not the most ardent environmentalist in the world but packaging waste makes me feel anxious, and knowing how many plastic wrappers I was sending into landfill didn’t sit well with me. Another bonus to switching to a reusable menstrual product: saving money. I love saving money, because it means I can spend it on other things that I might not have otherwise had the money for.

When my shoulder and back pain got really bad a year ago, it was harder to use the cup; panic would overtake me as I squatted in the shower unable to extract it. It was going to stay inside me forever. And ever. This immovable cup would cause a back up of uterine lining and I would one day squirt blood out of my eyes like that horned lizard from The X Files. Or I could ask Nick to help me. Both options were terrifying.

In my transition to reusable menstrual products I came across cloth pads and dismissed them largely because it seemed like a hassle to clean them. I wasn’t a hippie, just a poor lefty feminist, and cloth pads were at the bridge before you got to moon paintings. After realising I couldn’t continue with the cup due to my shoulder I remembered cloth pads and did a bunch of research.

There are lots of positives about using cloth pads: cheaper, reduced rubbish, sewing/ buying your own customised pads is fun, tailored pads to suit your body shape, cloth feels nicer than plastic, no adhesive/ plastic rashes,  you’ve always got a stash handy, plus more and more. Some people say their cramping and period length are reduced but no studies conclusively prove this, nor have I experienced this. At the end of the day, if you find something that works for you, then that’s all that matters.

For a bunch of fabric sewn together and wrapped around your underwear gusset, cloth pads can be completely confusing. I’ve sewn since I was 15 but this was a new world of absorbancy, dryness, leakproofness, and of all things… press snaps. It can involve quite an initial outlay of money for specialty materials but when you work out the cost per pad, then a cost per use, it becomes more affordable. I wanted to Do Everything Right. I didn’t want surprise leaks or traveling pads landing on the floor.

PADS in SPACE!

My first three pads were made from a planet print blue flannelette, a black floral brushed cotton, and a star print blue flannelette.

There are many patterns for pads available online, but since I’m fat I didn’t want to mess around. I traced the crotch of my own underwear and added wings long enough to wrap around the gusset and close with a press snap. I put about six layers of cotton fleece and microfleece inside as the core, topped it with flannel and backed it with PUL (a waterproof fabric), using this tutorial as a rough guide. Then I got out my hammer and made a lot of noise inserting the snaps. Voila! My debut on the cloth pad scene.

People make cloth pads out of all kinds of fabric. I have even seen Minion and Donald Trump pads. I can’t quite tell if it’s because they like the subject matter… or really hate them. My work has stocked really cute flannelette in the last year so I’ve been able to get some great prints! Some people prefer using quilting cotton for the pad top, because of the range of prints available, but you can also use old clothing. I got really anxious about the core fabrics when I started and bought some stuff called microfleece; apparently it’s more of a wicking fabric and not an absorbent fabric so may have a tendency to leak under compression. It’s worked fine for me. In fact, so long as there is some kind of fabric there and you swap it out every so often, you probably won’t leak even if you don’t buy specialty fabrics.

Two of my space print pads - these are an all-in-one style with the core layers sandwiched between flannel (top) and PUL (backing).

Two of my space print pads – these are an all-in-one style with the core layers sandwiched between flannel (top) and PUL (backing).

If you’re sewing your first couple of pads don’t focus too much on getting just the “right” fabrics, just give it a go. The esoteric language of the world of cloth pad making really puts many people off! Gather some flannelette, polar fleece, regular cotton fleece and some press snaps. You don’t need those fancy resin snaps and a big commercial snap press. Metal snaps, a setting tool and a hammer do just as well. Down the track you might want to experiment with stuff like Zorb, Windpro and PUL fabric but to begin just use the most accessible materials. I found it too easy to get overwhelmed, and the only reason why I didn’t give up is because I did not want to go back to disposable pads.

And how have I found my cloth pads after nearly a year of use? They are very effective. I haven’t bled on any couches or skirts; and the cleaning process isn’t as gross as I thought it’d be. I stash my used pads in a bag under the sink and wash them every couple of days; first wash is cold with regular detergent and any oxy-action product, then second wash is hot with more detergent and sometimes borax. I am not too fussed with stains, honestly, but a big bake in the sun does wonders for lifting much of it. I remember the sickly smell of used disposable pads and was very surprised that used cloth pads smelt different. Not scent free, but not terrible either.

If you don’t have access to a sewing machine or find the idea of making your own pads too scary, you can always buy some ready-made ones from the hundreds of pad makers on etsy. There are so many different designs and shapes! It may seem like the price is expensive but remember, with proper care you’ll be using these pads for years.

The eighteen exposed core cloth pads I made this weekend. They feature flannelette tops with lollies and sweets, dogs with sunglasses, and sweet little fern prints.

The eighteen exposed core cloth pads I made this weekend, based on my original pattern but refined a little. They feature flannelette tops with lollies and sweets, dogs with sunglasses, and sweet little fern prints.

This past weekend I had a terrible sinus headache and I wanted something mindless to do, so I cut out a bunch of material and attempted to make a second style of pads to add to my stash. I wanted to attempt an “exposed core” style, and I wanted to try my hardest to produce a nice outcome. My first pads were hastily sewn and I didn’t iron a damn seam. This time I spent ages at the ironing board, and the result is a less bulky and far crisper looking pad. In fact, 18 cloth pads in total. And then I spent a morning hammering in snaps while Nick was watching Daytona (HA!)

Three of the new exposed core pads. I used up some plain cotton fabric for the wings and put my lollies and sweets and puppies in sunnies flannel on top. These didn't have snaps installed.

Three of the new exposed core pads. I used up some plain cotton fabric for the wings and put my lollies and sweets and puppies in sunnies flannel on top. These didn’t have snaps installed.

I could probably write about this forever, but I’m wary of completely inundating you with TMI. I got a lot of advice from the Sewing Cloth Menstrual Pads group on fb, they have an extensive knowledge library in the files with a lot of free patterns, and the admins work very hard to make it a trans inclusive space. Obsidian’s Reusable Menstrual Products site has a wealth of information too.

For my next set of pads I might try toning the toxic levels of cuteness down. I certainly won’t be sewing Minions, Donald Trump or any of Australia’s wretched political leaders into my cloth pads. My vagina is too precious for that.