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sewing

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!!

Fashion, sewing

Unicorns and daisies and rainbows, oh my!

21 December, 2015

It’s been a year. A pretty good year. So good in fact I simply haven’t had time for blogging, but I’ve still been making things. Lately I’m wondering why I’m not showing them off more; so I thought I may as well get back into the blogging habit especially when I’ve made this incredible dress that I feel needs the Nobel Peace Prize.

This fabric is a guide to better living. Unicorns with pink and blue manes, rainbows, butterflies, flowers and the odd sparkle.

This fabric is a guide to better living. Unicorns with pink and blue manes, rainbows, butterflies, flowers and the odd sparkle.

I found this trippy unicorn fabric on a facebook destash group and snapped up 3 metres so quickly I got a nose bleed. I had no idea what I was going to use it for but every cell in my body craved it. A few months later I saw that Modcloth had a dress made out of EXACTLY the same print. So I knew I had to make a dress. But not that dress. My kind of dress.

I cobbled together my own pattern out of the SBCC Mimosa blouse, and a simple A-line skirt. The narrow width of the fabric (112 cm wide fabric is not kind to the plus size sewist) meant my skirt had to have a few degrees shaved off the A-line angle but in the end the difference was negligible. I didn’t quite have enough fabric for the raglan sleeves so I used a yellow cotton I bought from my work and trimmed the waist with some bias of the same fabric to tie it all in. I feel like the contrast sleeve works for me because the print is a whole lot of something that could easily scare off regular, boring people.

Your hero wears a magical unicorn dress with pale yellow sleeves, a beehive and a pink flower in her hair.

Your hero wears a magical unicorn dress with pale yellow sleeves, a beehive and a pink flower in her hair.

I wore it on my birthday yesterday to a casual family lunch. Of course.

Hands on hips, I'm dedicated to unicorns. (Oh have you seen my arm tattoo coloured in? That happened earlier in the year.)

Hands on hips, I’m dedicated to unicorns. (Oh have you seen my arm tattoo coloured in? That happened earlier in the year.)

Taking outfit photos is still mildly embarrassing. That feeling just doesn't go away, does it?

Taking outfit photos is still mildly embarrassing. That feeling just doesn’t go away, does it?

I told Nick I needed a new headshot for my internet endeavours and he kindly obliged.

I told Nick I needed a new headshot for my internet endeavours and he kindly obliged.

This dress was made for eating whole cakes with novelty oversized dessert spoons.

This dress was made for eating whole cakes with novelty oversized dessert spoons.

I really do need to formally document my crafting and making more. Perhaps I will make that my 2016 resolution.

sewing

A Mimosa and A Flamingo.

4 March, 2015

A while ago some friends sent me this adorable flamingo fabric and I held onto it for so long because I didn’t want to use it on a wadder (i.e. something so crap I’d wad up and throw in the bin for non-sewist readers!) Since I’ve been making a bunch of half circle skirts I felt very strongly that this fabric was destined to become a cute little skirt but was always bummed out by the narrow width.

When you’re a fat sewer you tend to pass over the 115cm wide bolts of fabric in favour of the 150cm statuesque beauties because, well, ya need more damn width. In this case I would have completely ignored an amazing flamingo print because of my “narrow width blindness”, so I’m really really grateful Caroline and Molly picked it out for me and sent it to me from Arizona! It just meant I had to solve a few problems.

Gored circle skirt layout

Gored circle skirt layout (Source)

I decided to split the skirt into 6 gores, and if I was using a solid colour or even a multi directional print I’d be fine to lay each gore out as shown in the above layout diagram and have leftover fabric for a waistband. My print only went one way. So I just managed to eke out the pieces but didn’t have enough for a waistband. NEVER FEAR! I asked social media to advise me. We went with cubes.

The waistband is a three dimensional cube affair which coordinates nicely with the retro 'mingos and odd swiss cheese holed button!

The waistband is a three dimensional cube affair which coordinates nicely with the retro ‘mingos and odd swiss cheese holed button!

Here I am, with my carefully engineered 6 gore half circle skirt! I'm also wearing a white blouse made with SBCC's Mimosa pattern.

Here I am, with my carefully engineered 6 gore half circle skirt! I’m also wearing a white blouse made with SBCC’s Mimosa pattern.

It turned out pretty well! A good approximation of a skirt, if I say so myself. I wore it on the weekend with a black broderie anglaise top made with the same SBCC pattern used for this white blouse, but I tucked it in so you could see the waistband. Half of a very breezy Coolangatta saw my whole arse about three times. You’re welcome, Coolie.

Check out my gams... I mean flamingos. (I always feel the need to point out my dented shin bone from my childhood swimming pool exiting technique which consisted of smashing my leg into the rim of the pool as I pulled myself out.)

Check out my gams… I mean flamingos. (I always feel the need to point out my dented shin bone from my childhood swimming pool exiting technique which consisted of smashing my leg into the rim of the pool as I pulled myself out.)

The back of the raglan sleeved Mimosa.

The back of the raglan sleeved Mimosa.

Looking pretty chuffed with myself.

Looking pretty chuffed with myself.

The white SBCC Mimosa is actually my fourth. I’m loving this blouse for summer, but surprisingly I haven’t actually blogged about it despite it being my work staple. I have made this top in a white and black broderie as well as the same coral eyelet used in yesterday’s crop top.

This fabric from my work is a woven cotton elastane with a raised squiggly texture. It’s VERY stretchy and the weird thing about it is that the stretch direction is lengthways instead of widthways, from selvage to selvage. I snapped up the very last of the bolt, or what I like to call “adopting” the end of the fabric. I have to be very careful, working at a fabric store, because I could very easily “adopt” a lot of fabric!

sewing

Coral and Scallops, my Jacaranda separates.

3 March, 2015
My as yet unnamed dress form (a gift from my mother in law!) modelling the coral eyelet crop top with black scallop hemmed half circle skirt.

My as yet unnamed dress form (a gift from my mother in law!) modelling the coral eyelet crop top with black scallop hemmed half circle skirt.

After sewing up my first Jacaranda I figured it’d look awesome split in two. That way I can make up a bunch of tops and bottoms and mix and match! So I threw myself into a frenzy finishing the first of these separates to wear to the beach with Tess Holliday when she was in town.

Tess Holliday and I at the height of bikini season on the Gold Coast!

Tess Holliday and I at the height of bikini season on the Gold Coast!

Pics or it didn’t happen? I actually spent more time in the water than I spent wearing my new ensemble!

Feeling fancy in my coral and scallop separates, based on Tenterhook Patterns' Jacaranda Dress!

Feeling fancy in my coral and scallop separates, based on Tenterhook Patterns’ Jacaranda Dress!

I’ve made three tops this summer in broderie anglaise/ eyelet cotton. I’m a little bit in love with how cool it is to wear; the built in ventilation system has gotten me through many work shifts in our un-air-conditioned fabric shop! Of course, these fabrics are from my work. The coral fabric is actually a remnant from another top I made that I will have to find time to photograph eventually! I lined the top with a sherbert coloured cotton voile which is so soft and cool on the skin.

Pockets! Well, just one. But still! Also note the scalloped hem, a last minute addition.

Pockets! Well, just one. But still! Also note the scalloped hem, a last minute addition.

From this angle you can see the arm hole gaping, I’ll figure out how to tighten that up in the next iteration of this top. I did a side zip on the skirt which meant I had to lose a pocket but I was ok with that because back skirt zippers are difficult for me to use. The skirt is made out of mechanical stretch: cheap, great to sew with, and easy to care for!

I love this coral colour. It's one of my favourites!

I love this coral colour. It’s one of my favourites!

An exposed zipper using a chunky metal tooth from my grandmother's stash.

An exposed zipper using a chunky metal tooth from my grandmother’s stash.

Of course the zipper is too short to allow me to put the top on and take it off without squashing my boobs and asking Nick for help. Of course. A more picky seamstress would match the zip better and install it better and so on and so forth but I’m perpetually in pursuit of instant gratification and this one was amongst my grandmother’s old zippers and I liked its brassy teeth.

The coral colour of this eyelet fabric sold out very quickly but it also came in an amazing turquoise and tennis ball yellow. I can’t see myself in the latter, but I have my eye on that turquoise!

sewing

My birthday Jacaranda dress.

2 March, 2015
The Perkinses on christmas day 2014 with Miffy and our new adoptee Jess!

The Perkinses on christmas day 2014 with Miffy and our new adoptee Jess!

It’s taken me a long time to get photos of this dress! I sewed it up just in time to wear it on my birthday on the 20th of December and then I wore it again on Christmas Day. I’m sure I’ve worn it to other places as well, I’ve just been working and coping with a back injury and hypothyroidism for the last couple of months so all non-essential primping and posing had been shelved.

Last year I had radioactive iodine therapy for Graves disease and my thyroid levels have gone down as planned but I wasn’t prepared to feel so terrible. It’s been shocking, I can’t lie. Coupled with my back, I’ve been living in Struggle Town but thankfully I have Nick and a couple of adorable dogs to keep me going.

Jess the cavalier/ maltese cross wearing a tutu I made for her.

Jess the cavalier/ maltese cross wearing a tutu I made for her.

Yes, our dog population has doubled! We adopted an elderly dog called Jess from a lady who moved into a care home that didn’t allow dogs. We don’t really know how old she is but her previous owner estimated she was around 13 years old. Jess doesn’t know how to play which disappoints Miffy a little bit but she has been settling in bit by bit, and her favourite things are dinner time and sleeping under the kitchen table.

So, on to the business end of this post! I had been waiting for  Tenterhook Patterns to bring out the Jacaranda dress for ages, watching Amanda’s instagram and quietly pining away!

Whimsically modelling my Jacaranda dress, a sleeveless princess seamed bodice with a sweetheart neckline and a half circle knee length skirt.

Whimsically modelling my Jacaranda dress, a sleeveless princess seamed bodice with a sweetheart neckline and a half circle knee length skirt.

I made up size G and had to add a little width at the waist, as well as make my half circle skirt a little less… half circular due to the narrow width of the nice linen print I’ve had in my stash for about 8 years.

I lined it with some cotton voile because poly linings have zero business being in my life right now considering we’ve had one of the hottest summers ever in south-east Queensland. As much as I love how cool the linen and cotton combination is, ironing this dress is a beast. I thought I’d pressed it well before taking these photos but you can’t ignore those wrinkles up there.

The dress from behind features a zipper that isn't long enough because I never plan ahead.

The dress from behind; featuring a zipper that isn’t long enough because I never plan ahead.

Next time I make this I’m adding more width across the back and taking a wedge out of the neckline to narrow it down. I’m also going to try the pencil skirt variation, split it into panels and try to Frankenstein some sleeves. I have an idea to combine an amazing digital glitchy print double knit a lovely reader sent me with black scuba.

Looking a bit moony!

Looking a bit moony!

I’ve made a separates variation on this pattern that I’ll post tomorrow, and I’ve used the skirt pattern to make a 6 gore skirt. In the Jacaranda comfort meets whimsy at a perfect apex and I don’t hesitate to recommend this dress. I feel fabulous in it. Also it has pockets.

 

Tenterhook Patterns “Jacaranda dress” –  in a nutshell.

 

 

Changes made to pattern

  • Added width to waist.
  • Tapered half circle skirt from waist to hem to fit fabric width.

Pros:

  • Plus size.
  • Based on a D cup.
  • Two skirt options.

Cons:

  • I wish it had a sleeve variation.

 

Three tiaras

If you like my tiara you can get one like it on Fancy Lady Industries!

 

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!