Fashion, sewing

My Fatina Plus project.

7 July, 2011

Finding plus size sewing patterns is a completely frustrating exercise, so when I started sewing again recently I was dreading the time when I wanted to make something more complicated than gathered skirts. I’ve made quite a few skirts now and been very chuffed with myself for creating stuff I’ve seen available on websites, but when I got a huge pile of black mesh and desired a mesh maxi dress I knew it was time… time to face the dreaded plus size pattern books.

A lot of the patterns I’ve looked through from the big pattern houses (Butterick, McCall, Burda, Vogue and New Look) were pretty dreary looking. I loathe how their plus size sections are so minimal and out of date compared to what’s available for straight sized people. What’s worse, instead of just picking up a pattern for something tailored with cool features, I usually have to alter the patterns and spend heaps of extra time making sure my variations work. It’s expensive and it’s time consuming!

A full length photo of a pale skinned plus size model with long brown hair wearing a pink sleeveless shift dress with a big yellow bag.

I’ve been a member of BurdaStyle for many years, and while they have the obligatory tiny selection of plus size patterns I like being able to print out patterns at home rather than making a disappointing trip out to Spotlight. The Fatina Plus pattern has been on the website for years and has always tempted me, as it’s a pretty simple dress with loads of potential for variation. So I bought it and decided to play with it before I set out to make my much dreamed for mesh maxi dress.

A "print at home" pattern piece held up to show the overlapping A4 pages stuck together.

For my test dress I used a knit print fabric a friend gave me. I wasn’t too concerned about the dress fitting poorly because I seem to fit Burda’s sizing pretty well. I cut a size 54, one size smaller than my usual Burda size, on the advice of my lovely #sewtweeps buddies on Twitter. (If you are on Twitter and want to join the conversation or ask something, look for the #sewtweeps hashtag and save it on your client.)

A photo of my scissors cutting along the dashed line that indicates the size 54 pattern.

Printing and compiling the pattern pieces, while time consuming, wasn’t too hard a task. If you have never used printable patterns, ensure you don’t resize the pages before printing! There’s a 10x10cm box printed on the pattern so you can check you’ve printed the correct scale and prevent sizing issues. I attach my pages together with a bit of sticky tape a row at a time, then I add all the rows together. It can get difficult if you don’t have much space to spare, and if the pattern you download has a lot of pages. The Fatina Plus was about 30 pages.

A photo of two pattern pieces cut out of fabric with a 15 mm seam allowance on seamed edges

I cut out the size 54 and pinned it to my fabric, using the fabric layout advice on the instructions. When cutting the pattern pieces out of your fabric, do leave an appropriate amount of fabric for seam allowances as Burda does not include an allowance. I eyeballed about 15mm for seams.

A photo of my sewing machine attaching black stretch bias binding to the neckline of my dress.

I didn’t have enough to cut the bias tape pieces, but I wasn’t too worried because I had some stretch bias binding on hand. That stretch binding was especially useful when I discovered Nick had cut the shoulder off my dress when we were trouble shooting a stitching issue on my machine! I attached the two separated bits with the tape… it looks intentionally slashed now, and doesn’t affect the wearability of the dress at all.

A photo of the completed shoulder of my dress, showing the shoulder seam as well as armhole and neckline binding.

The black binding looked really smart and I was fairly impressed with myself. The pattern has two darts, three seams, neck and arm hole binding as well as a hem so it’s pretty quick to sew up (unless someone gets scissor-happy!) I tried the dress on after sewing the darts and seams to see what the fit was like, and surprisingly only had to take in a little under the arms and waist.

Nick was pretty devastated that he’d “ruined” my dress but I think it’s fabulous, even for a muslin! I showed him my binding fix and insisted that it added an interesting feature :P

An outfit photo of me, fat and pale skinned, wearing my version of the Fatina Plus pattern. The dress is made out of a green stretch fabric with a small stylised floral print, and I wear it with a belt, black tights and black shoes.

An outfit photo of the back of my dress, belted at my (high) waist.

A close up photo of the slashed boob feature on my dress. Black binding pieces the shoulder of the dress to the rest of the piece.

A photo of me wearing my dress unbelted, holding my belt in my hand, and throwing my head back laughing.

I feel confident with the pattern now, and will see if I can utilise my questionable drafting skills to draft some long sleeves for my mesh maxi dress. I’ll lengthen the dress at the “lengthen here” line rather than simply extend the hem. I want to be able to walk in it! I’ll use this tutorial to draft the sleeves, having used it once before. I may need to do a rough muslin with scraps first though.

I’m now also thinking about other variations for the dress, including adding a peter pan collar and maybe a full skirt. I’m ever hopeful BurdaStyle will add more plus size patterns to their site too!

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