Browsing Tag

sewing

sewing

Sewing for beginners. The start of a beautiful journey.

10 November, 2014

Sewing for beginners

“I wish I could learn to sew just like you!” and “Make me one of those!” are the most common responses when I show people things I’ve made. Sewing isn’t a mystical gift, you too can learn if you have the desire to do so! I’ve put together a resource pack for beginner sewers because while the internet is brimming with information, the trick is knowing where to begin, and what to look for.

Meet your machine - this is the anatomy of a sewing machine.

Meet your machine – this is the anatomy of a sewing machine.

How do I use a sewing machine?

  • Read the manual! If you bought the machine second hand, google the brand and make, people often upload scans of manuals.
  • Sewing Machine 101 – walks you through setting up your machine for the first time (or maybe even the tenth time, it takes a while to get the hang of it somehow!)
  • Learn to Sew – Tilly and the Buttons has written a lot of great posts on learning skills and trouble shooting problems. Go ahead and bookmark it – I promise you will need it!

How do I use a sewing pattern?

Sew a better garment.

Some free sewing projects for you to try.

My very messy/ productive sewing corner. Featuring my new dress form!

My very messy/ productive sewing corner. Featuring my new dress form! The machines on my desk were my grandmother’s: a Pfaff and a Bernina overlocker that are over 20 years old. I also have a newer Husqvarna that I managed to break within a year.

My top tips for beginner sewists:

  • Buy as good a machine as you can afford. Don’t be afraid of vintage machines, in fact the heavy metal sewing machines are likely more durable than the new plastic ones going for the same price.
  • Get your sewing machine serviced regularly.
  • Read the manual. I still refer to my manuals, especially for my overlocker.
  • Buy nice sewing shears. Don’t let anyone else use your shears, and don’t use them on anything except for fabric.
  • Use nice thread. Cheap thread is ok on my newer Husqvarna but my Pfaff can’t deal with it.
  • Change your needle for every 8 hours of sewing time. Use the correct needle for your fabric weight. Buy German made needles.
  • Your size in sewing patterns may not be the same as your size in ready-to-wear garments. Often it is bigger. Don’t be afraid, get out a tape measure and cut your correct size.
  • Read the instructions! So many people skip this step and when you’re starting out it may seem like a bummer but many commercial sewing patterns contain a lot of valuable instruction. You paid for the instructions, don’t just chuck them out!
  • Trace your size from the original pattern. Use tracing paper or some lightweight non-fusible interfacing. This way you can keep the multi-size pattern and run up different sizes for yourself or your friends.
  • Sew up a trial version of your garment in cheap fabric. This is called a muslin or a toile, and it’s a worthwhile endeavour if you don’t want to spoil your nice material. You can use it to alter your pattern so it fits better – just transfer the nips and tucks to your paper pattern.
  • Take the time to finish the seams in your garments nicely. Press and baste if needed. A little extra effort leads to a  better result you will be proud to wear.
  • Shop at a local fabric store with knowledgeable staff, rather than a chain store with non-sewing staff. Advice is only a question away!

Resources for plus size sewing

A huge list of plus size independent pattern designer links for plus sizes.

The Curvy Sewing Collective also has a list of patterns that offer plus sizes.

Follow Natalie’s board Plus size sewing on Pinterest.

My Pinterest board for Plus Size Sewing collects more and more links every day!

Fashion, sewing

The saga of self drafted pants.

8 November, 2014
My little avatar dreams of comfy elastic waist pegged pants with pockets. It's not too much to ask for, right?

My little avatar dreams of comfy elastic waist pegged pants with pockets. It’s not too much to ask for, right?

I have wanted some ankle length pegged/ tapered elastic waist pants with slashed pockets for ages, and I thought I might try to cobble together a pattern out of a pair of capri pants included in a McCall’s pattern I bought years ago.

Some tunics, a sundress and basic elastic shorts.

Some tunics, a sun-dress and basic elastic shorts.

So the original pattern had a tunic, a dress, and shorts; I thought the pants would work as a starting point since I couldn’t find any patterns in the books at work. I’d just peg the legs and add some pockets. Easy. Oh how foolish I was. I altered the pattern by adding a waistband casing for the elastic, since the original pattern only had a fold over elastic waist; I also added my pockets and took in the legs. Why not a fitted waist with a fly? Elastic is comfortable, and with a big tummy and no waist, regular waistbands fall down on me!

A very unattractive illustration of my first two muslins. The top two is the first attempt, and the bottom two is the second attempt.

A very unattractive illustration of my first two muslins. The top two is the first attempt, and the bottom two is the second attempt.

The first muslin allowed me to identify that the crotch depth needed shortening, the front and back crotch curves needed lengthening and I added in a full butt and full tummy adjustment. I also narrowed the legs as they were far too baggy and added a bit more to the hips.

The second muslin revealed the calves were far too tight, and the front pant piece needed to be bigger, and the back narrower. I thought I’d put more length on the front crotch curve too. Some of the drag lines I had no idea how to fix so I thought I’d just go ahead and make up my “good” pants in some lovely black cotton sateen I bought from work, and let the 3% elastane sort out a few things.

 

The lens flares disguise the many issues with these pants!

The lens flares disguise the many issues with these pants!

Here I model my new black pants. The cotton sateen unfortunately highlights all the fit issues! I'm wearing them with my purple GreenStyle Creations raglan top.

Here I model my new black pants. The cotton sateen unfortunately highlights all the fit issues! I’m wearing them with my purple GreenStyle Creations raglan top.

The back view shows that some of my fit problems are gone, but I have knee lines!

The back view shows that some of my fit problems are gone, but I have knee lines!

Right from the beginning, as I was cutting out the pants I realised that the sheen of the sateen would highlight every fitting issue. It’s probably a great fabric for more tight fitting pants, but alas I do not know how to draft them.

I am thinking of joining the Australian Sewing Guild, mostly to seek fitting advice! It’d be fantastic to be privy to the expertise of life long pattern drafters and sewists. Just think, I can walk in wearing these pants and walk out possibly possessing the knowledge to build a better pair! The internet is amazing for learning so many things, but to be able to pick the brain of a skilled person who is sitting right in front of you is invaluable.

Nick was very insistent I stand powerfully in the middle of the driveway with my big shadow behind me! Unfortunately I couldn't help giggling.

Nick was very insistent I stand powerfully in the middle of the driveway with my big shadow behind me! Unfortunately I couldn’t help giggling.

For now I am happy to wear these pants to work, as I’d intended. Usually I wear my tops untucked, but did a little tuck for these photos.  Unfortunately the sun was blaring, my eyes were watering, and onlookers were looking while we took these photos so I’m a bit self conscious!

Our gardenias are already blooming, and they smell fantastic.

Our gardenias are already blooming, and they smell incredible.

sewing

What do a whale, a deer, an elephant, and a dachshund have in common?

31 October, 2014

…They all live in a forest on my new t-shirt.

The model wears this grey raglan tee with contrasting yellow sleeves and neck binding.

The model wears this grey-striped raglan tee with contrasting yellow sleeves and neck binding.

I came upon GreenStyle Creations Centerfield Raglan T-shirt on pinterest the other night and couldn’t get it out of my head. I had a cute as hell printed cotton knit I wanted to sew up immediately if not sooner and it was the perfect fit for this raglan sleeve tee.

My first version of the Centerfield uses this ridiculously twee animals-in-the-forest print fabric with white sleeves, binding, and breast pocket.

My first version of the Centerfield uses this ridiculously twee animals-in-the-forest print fabric with white sleeves, binding, and breast pocket. I opted for the curved hem variation on this t-shirt.

I cut the 2XL off the pattern and I didn’t make any alterations beside dropping the short sleeve length to hit just above my elbow, and adding a tiny useless but adorable pocket. To be honest, I didn’t even read the instructions… it’s a straight-forward process for those who’ve sewn with knits; this tee took less than an hour to run up using my overlocker, and a twin needle on the sewing machine for hems. The results are delightful, obviously.

The back view.

The back view.

Check out this cute pocket! Why is there a whale in the forest, hanging out with deers, elephants and a dachshund?

Check out this cute pocket! Why is there a whale in the forest, hanging out with deers, elephants and a dachshund?

An hour later I was craving a second version but my stash was almost completely out of knit fabrics. I used this purple polyester slinky knit… I have no idea what it’s properly called but it has a slight texture; I also pulled out the very last skerrick of pink paisley mesh. The mesh is difficult to work with and I could have done a rolled overlocker hem but I don’t have matching cotton. I did a little band to finish it off because it looked a bit crappy unhemmed.

My purple version of the Centerfield features mesh sleeves. I cut a straight hem a little shorter than the pattern due to fabric shortage.

My purple version of the Centerfield features mesh sleeves. I cut a straight hem a little shorter than the pattern due to fabric shortage.

The back view.

The back view.

 

GreenStyle Creations “Centerfield Raglan T-shirt” –  in a nutshell.

 

Changes made to pattern

  • Added pocket, and dropped short sleeve length on print tee.
  • Added a banded sleeve hem on purple tee.

Pros:

  • Huge size range!
  • Great length.
  • Curved or straight hem options.
  • Sleeve length options.
  • A quick sew.
  • Will make again, over and over.

Cons:

  • It’s killing me every time I have to write center instead of centre!

 

sewing

Everyday Elegance.

29 October, 2014

I recently got a job in my favourite local fabric store which has driven me into a frenzy of inspiration but, lacking the time, I haven’t actually sewn much. This week I’m in enforced isolation due to having radioactive iodine therapy for my Graves disease, and what better time than to indulge in a bit of sewing?

Almost sensing the imminent storm of activity, my Pfaff decided to make a lot of noise so I had to put it in for a service (conveniently, my work can send machines away for service and repairs!) I almost threw a tantrum my niece would be proud of, but my mum stepped in to loan me her machine!

I’ve certainly been working it hard over the last few days running up muslins for a couple of blouse patterns bought from indie designers. The first two are from SBCC and I’m still working on them, however I can show off the third blouse, the Everyday Elegance Top, from Patterns For Pirates.

A comfortably fitting top with 3/4 sleeves and button tab, v neck and rounded collar.

A comfortably fitting top with 3/4 sleeves and button tab, v neck and rounded collar.

The xxxl size was actually two sizes too small for me, but I bought the pattern anyway and after printing and piecing it together I graded it up two sizes and did a full bust adjustment. The first version of this blouse I made in a vivid pink polyester print I bought years ago. I eked the back piece out of what was left by not cutting on the fold; fortunately the print is the same  left to right and up and down!

Front view.

My pink floral polyester Everyday Elegance blouse.

Back view.

I noted immediately upon putting it on that polyester is slightly gross to wear in Brisbane’s humidity. So this top will be worn in winter – the two week period we get here in this town to wear our long sleeves! The elbow room was also a bit mean considering the button tab restricts some movement so I added a little width to my pattern for the next version. I also planned to construct the collar and v neck a little differently to hide the messy bit of overlocking that pokes out when the collar is attached over the v neck binding.  Speaking of.. my v neck binding is terrible.

I model this white cotton Everyday Elegance shirt competently with hand on hip!

From the back. The fold above my butt probably signifies a fit issue… I will consult my copy of Fit for Real People!

Close up of my atrocious v neck binding. The collar was a beast!

For this version of the pattern I used a cotton shirting with a self stripe from the fabric stash my late grandmother gave me. She probably bought it intending to make a shirt for my grandfather! I top-stitched every seam because it just felt like I should. The cotton is beautiful to wear, and I will be test driving it at work on Saturday. There’s no air conditioning in the shop and if the current weather keeps up we’ll have a fair challenge for this here blouse.

I completely stuffed up the collar construction by sewing in the interfacing in the wrong order, and I only realised after I’d clipped the seam allowance. Halfway through unpicking it I realised it’d be easier to just cut a new collar. When I got to the sleeves I realised I’d cut two right sleeves due to laying out the pieces to avoid a flaw in the fabric. The self stripe looks different either side and I wanted to make sure the whole garment was made with the same stripe so I went back and cut a new left sleeve because growing an extra right arm is slightly beyond my capabilities…

Front view of the white cotton blouse as modelled by my brick wall.

Back view.

Despite my slightly wonky collar and annoyingly wrinkled hem I’m proud of this shirt! I haven’t made one in a very long time, and I wanted to make sure I finished it nicely enough to wear to work. Even though it has some flaws, it’s nice to be able to wear things I’ve made at my job in a fabric store!

 

My handmade ice cream shoes!

OH! I wanted to show off my nearly finished self made ice cream shoes! I just have to varnish them to protect the acrylic paint. I bought a pair of cheap wide fitting flats from Yours Clothing that were a patent cream vinyl; after spraying with adhesive I just painted straight on to them and chucked some bugle beads on the toes for sprinkles! I have no idea if they’ll hold up to even casual wearing but they’re cute as heck.

 

Patterns for Pirates “Everyday Elegance Top” – in a nutshell.

 

Changes made to pattern:

  • Graded up two sizes.
  • Full bust adjustment.
  • Deepened v neck.
  • Added width to sleeve at elbow length.
  • Dropped armscye front and back, didn’t alter sleeve as it has gathers.
  • Turned and top-stitched v neck binding after collar was attached.

Cons

  • Sizing doesn’t go up high enough.
  • The collar is a bit fiddly.
  • Instructions could be clearer.

Pros

  • Nice casual shirt that transforms based on fabric choice.
  • Will be making it again.
sewing

Sweetheart floral dress.

1 April, 2013

I pose fresh as a country daisy in my hand made dress with a pointy pitchfork in one hand and an evil/ sassy glint in my eye.

I pose fresh as a country daisy in my hand made dress with a pointy pitchfork in one hand and an evil/ sassy glint in my eye.


Welcome to my sheet dress! Mum gave me this old floral sheet the other week and I was surprised at how heavy it was; I’ve never had the pleasure of sleeping on sheets of such quality! I pretty much never wear light coloured clothing so I’m baffled as to why I was so enthusiastic about using this sheet for the second of my self drafted day dresses, but I’m actually quite pleased with it.

Modeling my cream floral dress with sweetheart neckline, scalloped sleeves, french curved darts, scalloped pockets and a-line skirt.

Modeling my cream floral dress with sweetheart neckline, scalloped sleeves, french curved darts, scalloped pockets and a-line skirt.


Cute scallop sleeve!

Cute scallop sleeve!


I'm professionally modeling this pocket with a scalloped detail.

I’m professionally modeling this pocket with a scalloped detail.

I used the same skirt pattern as the spotty dress and added a few cute scalloped details on the sleeve and pocket. Pop over here to this tutorial on scalloped hems and you’ll get the gist of it. Once you can do scallops you can do a few different shapes and you’ll never have a boring hem again.

The back neckline closure features a heart button and loop.

The back neckline closure features a heart button and loop.

I had been wearing this dress all day when these photos were taken, so do excuse the creases. Next time I need to be sure to reduce the neckline gaping because I always forget about it until it’s too late. Nonetheless, it’s a very comfortable dress to wear around the house and I’m pretty chuffed.

Fashion, sewing

Self-drafted spotty-dotty-stripy-pocket dress.

27 March, 2013

The rough sketch for the dress featuring wide gathered straps and wrap around pockets; and the front and back bodice as well as sleeve slopers on my patterned rug.

The rough sketch for the dress featuring wide gathered straps and wrap around pockets; and the front and back bodice as well as sleeve slopers on my patterned rug.


I’ve wanted to draft my own properly fitting sloper for a long time, and over the last five years I had a couple of good attempts but was always foiled by formulas that completely collapsed when you used larger measurements. Lots of people seem to use this bodice block method by gedwoods on BurdaStyle but I’ve tried it and a number of others like it and it always ended with a mighty weird looking block. My fat body seemed to explode every damn sloper method it came across.

Upon tracking down this front and back sloper method on madalynne.com I knew within ten minutes that I was on a winner! It took me a couple of hours to plot out all my measurements, then a further few days sewing up about five different muslins in order to tweak the fit (using Fit For Real People); but when I tried on that last muslin I broke out into fits of Elaine Benes-grade joyful dancing!

Inspired by this Modcloth dress, I came up with a design to suit me. The neckline and the wide straps could stay, but the gathered waist was banished in favour of an a-line skirt. I wanted to include pockets but felt like I could do better than simple patch pockets for this dress. One morning a copy of Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear mysteriously turned up at my place (thank YOU Poliana!) and after ecstatically thumbing the pages I came across some rad side pockets that wrapped around to the back skirt. Yep! Let’s do that!

Modelling my new handmade dress in navy polka dots with striped pocket lining at the hips.

Modelling my new handmade dress in navy polka dots with striped pocket lining at the hips.

The back of my polka dot dress.

The back of my polka dot dress.


For those who’ve experienced the joys and frustrations of the design process, we know that design outcomes very rarely turn out just exactly as they are conceived. It’s not actually a terrible thing, and often you can trip across beautiful solutions to the little problems that are posed across the process. It turned out that I didn’t have enough polka dot fabric to execute the pockets as planned, but I did find a navy striped material that would provide a smashing contrast at the hips.

I will be tweaking this pattern slightly – I will narrow the width of the neckline because the straps are set just a little too wide. I also need to remove a little fabric from the back bodice height because of my sway back. I could stand to bring in the waist a little but I’d rather be comfortable – this is a day dress just for wearing at home and doing little errands. It’s fully cotton and the bodice is lined (with the striped fabric!) so after a few washes I expect it to be soft and very easy to wear.

Hands on hips, looking very pleased with myself!

Hands on hips, looking very pleased with myself!


Pattern drafting is a skill I’ve long been mystified and entranced by. Taking the human body, a very complex set of bumps and curves, and mapping it in two dimensions is very cool to me. I love drawing, bringing lines and shapes together to make meaning, and pattern drafting is an extension of that. That I can take lines and shapes, transfer them to flat bits of fabric, then transform that flat fabric to garments that envelop my body and accompany me through periods of my life… it’s just a very profound thing to me.

And that’s the story of my spotty-dotty-stripy-pocket dress.
The End.

Garden, House

Twig by twig nesting.

6 December, 2012

My living room with a new coat of duck egg blue paint, two big beige chairs and the tv stand.


All the years I rented, not having much control over my space or the power to improve it even when it verged on unlivable, I thought buying my own home would be amazing. I was going to paint every wall a different colour and put up pictures! I’d knock out walls, re-tile the bathroom, install ridiculous tap-ware, and make the entire floor of the bedroom a mattress with draped fabric dripping from every corner. After the contract on the house settled and I saw how much money was left at the end of every fortnight I realised my absurd and fanciful home improvement dreams were going to have to wait. Now I’m trying to insert my whimsies in whatever budgetary cracks I can find, and while my beautiful swan-like domicile will unfurl its many coloured wings much slower than I’d have liked, I think it’s actually going to prolong the fun.

In the last week we’ve made significant headway in the living room thanks to Nick playing furniture tetris and finding a much more pleasant way of configuring the bulky lounge suite we bought so cheaply before we moved in. The living and kitchen areas are my problem zones due to the overuse of grey. 50 Shades of Kill-Me-I’m-Living-In-A-Rental-Again Grey. Grey carpet, grey curtains, grey tiles, grey cabinetry, grey counter tops. The sand beige lounge suite pushed me over the edge into blandtopia so I was pretty excited about the offer of leftover paint from my Mum, who tastefully chose a duck egg blue for her sewing room. I know it’s a bit out of “fashion” in blog land, everyone was all about duck egg blue in 2008 and I have no idea what they’re all about now but I still love it.

My colour block cushions in pink, yellow, aqua and red.

Last night I got out all my fabric including a bunch of scraps from my Granma’s stash and set to work salvaging all the best bits of the brightest colours and sewed it into four new cushions. I wasn’t intending on doing a colour block/ triangle thing but that’s what happened.

Our tiny giftmas tree with papercraft gems and rock salt lamp.

Earlier this week I permitted a small tree during this time of Giftmas, a time of the year so unbearable in temperature and jolliness that I reject reality for several months. This year I thought I’d ease up on the Scrooginess for Nick’s sake because he loves Christmas and he ought to be rewarded for tolerating my cantankerous nature for seven years. The paper craft gems are from Mini Eco; I will interrupt my crotchety lady times for a bit of gratuitous paper craft any time of the year. I’m still waiting on Kanye West to respond to my crafternoon invitations, I suspect he’d enjoy paper craft.

Our courtyard garden with flamingo populated turf.


I can’t help but shelve my angry pants when I go out to our courtyard. The lawn flamingos are a recent addition and are actually guarding the most burnt patches of grass, thanks to the potency of Miffy’s pee. (I know there are things you can add to dog water to alleviate the burnt grass issue but I haven’t bought any, and to be frank it’s not that distressing.) The cuttings I took from Mum’s place are mostly doing well – the daisies and geraniums are loving it, and the polka dot plant will probably flourish anywhere because all it wants to do is propagate all over earth.

Purple daisies blooming.


Super close up on the pink geranium.

Things that don’t grow so well in my garden: chives, pansies, pink begonias and poppies. So far we’ve enjoyed eating home grown beetroot, basil, shallots and marjoram. I’m currently growing rocket and mignonette lettuce, purple beans, tomatoes and kale. I don’t hold high hopes for the tomato and kale because spring melted into a heat wave and many of my seedlings have carked it. Growing plants is very experimental at the moment but it’s rewarding and offers me a space for meditation.

The proposed grey chevron along the long wall of our living room vs the current bare wall.


Come back inside and sit down while you listen to my grand plans for the rest of the living room! One thing I definitely know is blog-cool is chevrons and I don’t want to be that person, but I didn’t know it was cool until I started googling chevron textiles for the bedroom. I want to paint a pretty thick grey chevron pattern down the long wall of the living room that extends into the hall way, and on that wall I will hang an assortment of pictures. The blue wall is currently empty because it’s waiting for me to save up for some white floating shelves!

So that’s what we’re up to at the Perkhaus as 2012 winds down. It’s been a year of unexpected things, some good, some challenging and some pretty shit. I am very fortunate to have our little unit though, and look forward to putting it together piece by piece.

sewing

The eventual bull’s eye: Burda Style Dart Dress.

18 August, 2012

This has certainly turned into a sewing blog of late, and shall continue to be one for at least this post because I want to show you the fruits of my labour on the Burda Style Dart Dress. Firstly I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kate for sharing this pattern with me, mwah mwah! Secondly, this is a pretty good pattern but I strongly advise sewing a muslin first because I had to grade the largest size up four sizes to EU 60 instead of my regular 56. I probably could have done with the 58 but more ease in garments is a bunch comfier!

Instagram collage of pattern pieces undergoing grading and the dart dress made in polka dot fabric.


Burda made this in a polka dot fabric which is so cute, but I couldn’t find anything besides rough-as digital print cotton at Lincraft (yeh I bought some what of it?) and I’d rather have something a bit nicer with more weight. The original pattern has 18 darts, so yes it is aptly named, but I eliminated the darts at the hem because on my muslins they restricted my ability to walk comfortably. That’s the beauty of a muslin too, you can edit the pattern to suit your body as well as the way you move.

I made two dresses from this pattern, the first was a wearable muslin made out of some brown gabardine I had metres and metres and metres of, and the second was made out of purple ponte. The ponte is super soft and easy to wear, probably not the best choice for the structure in the design but whatever!

Full length photo of me (fat, white, with short blonde hair) wearing a brown knee-length dress with a V neckline, cap sleeves and darts at the shoulder, neck and waist.


The back view of my brown dress, with darts on upper bodice and top of skirt meeting at the waist.


The purple dress, staring Miffy.


The back view of the purple dress. Miffy glares at the camera.


Miffy jumping up on my knees in a blur of cute.


I have a feeling this pattern will be used quite a bit because the darts can be sewn the other way around for a less ~darty~ dress, and the neckline darts can be taken out with a bit of nifty pattern altering. I’m very glad I ended up making three muslins (including the brown dress) in order to figure out the right size for me, because it’s a good basic pattern with scope for flexibility and adaptation.

sewing

You sew and sew: don’t tell me DIY is my only option.

8 August, 2012

The mystical lower workings of my overlocker.

For interest’s sake I want to list the costs of making some of my clothes. So take for example my recent black dress.

Fatina Plus pattern – USD$4
2m ponti (50% sale) – AUD$13

Cool so that’s easily quantifiable and given a $ value. A $17 dress! Bargain! But there’s also the matter of time and access to resources.

Resources:

  • Internet
  • Printer
  • Tracing paper
  • Sticky tape
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing skills
  • Energy
  • Ability
  • Suitable fabric
  • Sundry sewing supplies

Time:

  • Print pattern and sticky tape it together – 30 minutes
  • Trace pattern and make sizing adjustments – 30 minutes
  • Dart to princess seam conversion, cap sleeves, side panel slash – 30 minutes
  • Cut pattern, pin to fabric, mark seam allowances, cut fabric – 30-60 minutes
  • Construction – 1-2 hours
  • Pressing – 30 minutes
  • Fitting – 30 minutes
  • Adjustments – 30 minutes
  • Battling with glitchy machine – 1 hr
  • Hems and finishing – 30-60 minutes
  • Final pressing – 30 minutes

I’m a pretty competent sewer and cut corners here and there, i.e.: I rarely baste things except when inserting a zip or gathering/ easing fabric. I have no idea how to assign a dollar value to my time but that dress took around 6 hours to make. Maybe more. I can’t remember.

A less experienced sewer might spend double the time working on this dress, even more if they follow the often confusing instructions that come with patterns (and they all love telling you to baste ridiculous shit like darts.) Someone with restricted time and ability could be working on this dress for longer than a week. I didn’t make a mock up of this dress (a muslin) but I have with more complex patterns. That’s extra time and material!

It really chafes my bits when people are smart arses and suggest “oh sew your own clothes” to criticisms fat people have about the clothing they’ve got access to. It’s not a skill everyone has, it’s not an activity everyone has the time to do or the physical or mental ability to carry out without barriers.

Sketches of clothes I want to sew for myself including a button down skater skirt, a slip dress and tapered pants.


I am very privileged to have an interest in sewing that has been developed by attending a high school that taught me how to do it, and to have a family that has nurtured my sewing. My mother bought me my sewing machine, my Nana gave me her sewing cabinet, and recently my Granma gave me her sewing machine, overlocker, lots of fabric and another sewing cabinet! I am truly fortunate.

For many people though, they don’t have access to the skills and resources I have access to. When it comes to clothing for fat people, it’s slim pickings and many affordable clothes are produced overseas, sometimes in factories that have poor working conditions. Domestically produced garments, especially in Australia, are way too cost prohibitive for me. It’s a situation fraught with the tension of guilt vs class with the added bonus of being too fat to get an actual choice.

Sewing is political. It’s something I enjoy, and a skill I use to make the things I don’t get an opportunity to purchase in stores. It’s not especially cheap, especially when it comes down to time, but it can save cash money. I would never sew as a job because the honest truth is that most people can not or will not pay the true cost of a hand made garment, but then again… we’ve all got to wear clothes as per our unspoken agreement with society, so what are we to wear if we can’t pay domestic designers and machinists? Criticising and shaming poor fat people for wearing cheap clothing produced in questionable (and often outright awful) working conditions is futile because there are few other options, and telling poor fat people the last resort is to sew their own clothes is flat out bullshit.

Fashion, sewing

Another Fatina dress.

6 August, 2012

I’ve been sewing like a woman possessed by the ghost of a sewing machine lately! My Granma gave me her overlocker, machine and sewing cabinet along with a bunch of fabric so I haven’t really come up for air in the last fortnight. My initial priority was to sew EVERY stretch fabric into booty shorts and leggings but I’ve discovered how ridiculously expensive stretch fabric is so that project has been shelved.

The dress pattern pieces laid out, showing the side panels that are slashed diagonally at the waist.

Lincraft had a 50% off fabric sale so I scraped together some money to buy black ponte (and then went back to get some purple!) and made this dress based on the Burda Style Fatina plus pattern. I’d already cut a pair of leggings that were too small and got turned into short shorts, a second pair of leggings that were a little better (ugh I need to perfect the leggings pattern!) so there wasn’t much fabric left to work with. I decided to alter the pattern and converted the bust darts to princess seams, thus leaving me with three front panels that were much easier to accommodate on the fabric I had available. I also dropped the shoulder length for a little self-sleeve. Thanks to my home ec sewing classes and the internet for helping me out with the pattern adaptation skills!

The dress on a hanger turned inside out to show the seams overlocked in grey thread. The skirt is a lot less a-line shaped than this!

An outfit photo of me (fat and white with white hair) wearing a black sheath style dress with a sheer animal print button up blouse underneath, black tights, Docs and a human tooth necklace.


Some of the seams pucker a bit, I’m yet to figure out the best way to sew using an overlocker, but considering many off the rack clothes often have worse construction I’ll deal with it just fine. (I know people who are super picky about puckering seams but I’ve got more pressing things to worry about in my life, such as hastily sewing new clothes before my old ones fall apart.)

The back of my dress.


Ineffectually modeling my fake human teeth necklace. (Made out of paper clay and the dental records of my foes.)


The teeth necklace laid on a table. I’m thinking of selling these?


Another front view, with hands on hips.