Plus-sized Fashion and Sewing Industry

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

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

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

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

It was already changing…

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

A short and incomplete history of “Plus Sized” fashion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My own experience of the plus sized fashion industry

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

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

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

A short and incomplete history of sewing patterns

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

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

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

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

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

A history of “sizing standards”

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

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

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

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

The absence of a history of plus-size pattern making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this have to do with fatphobia?

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

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

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

A call to action for home sewing pattern makers

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

In conclusion…

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

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

Feel free to buy me a ko-fi.

Top 5 2018 and #2019MakeNine

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

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

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

Top 5 Hits

Cashmerette Cedar Dolman with Long sleeves and Hem band

Simplicity 8096 crop top and pleated skirt set

Simplicity 8344 bodysuit

DIBY Club Gabriela Onesie

Simplicity 8140

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

Top 5 Misses

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Reflections

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

Top 5 Goals

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

#2019MakeNine

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

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

 

ChronicallySewn on Instagram

Hi Everyone,

I’m pleased to announce a new project I am starting. It’s a place for chronically ill sewists to ask questions, share inspiration, and also feel safe to talk about sewing issues that arise with chronic illnesses. This includes both physical and mental chronic illnesses.

Introducing @ChronicallySewn. For now, it lives on Instagram, but as it grows, I will explore other platforms for it, such as a facebook group or a blog. I want it to grow a bit first and then we’ll go from there.

If you are on Instagram and are a chronically ill sewist, please join and start using the hashtag #chronicallysewn or tag @chronicallysewn and I will repost to the account.

I hope you find it useful. I occasionally post about sewing as it related to chronic illness and decided it was time to create a community. Together we can share tips and tricks like erogonomic sewing tools,   new ways of installing a collar or elastic that work with arthritis or tendon issues, self-care tips, and dealing with anxiety and sewing, for some examples. And so much more.

Join me on instagram and share your #chronicallysewn tips, tricks and projects.

 

Me-Made-May 2018 Round up

Phew. I’ve been a busy bee and haven’t had the time to post my #MMMay18 round up until now. Yikes!

Me-Made-May was a success this year! I pledged to wear at least 3 me-made garments every day. I managed to take outfit posts every day even if a couple are of hanging garments. My undergarments are always me-made so I they are counted on top of the garments listed for each day and I live in my Belmont leggings these days so I didn’t always list them in the garments. Leggings for LIFE!

I’d love to have an “instagram-worthy space” (not that I get what that means) to easily take pictures for these but I don’t have that. My mirror is in my closet and my closet is packed full of stuff since it doubles as a linen closet and also has a bunch of bags ready to go to the charity shop for donations so you either get a view of that or my room which was likely in disarray…  I’ve learned to let the concept of displaying perfection go. I think the world would do better to not expect it at all because perfection is impossible.

Imperfection can be beautiful in its own right. If you see my ironing board in the background, you know I was sewing and that means self-care for me and happy happy Andie! If you see a pile of stuff, you know I let that go in order to recover from a migraine or rest myself from pain. A laundry basket in the background means that my husband did the laundry and it’s just waiting to be put away and that shows how our relationship is all about balance and love and making sure one person isn’t taking on all the household tasks. Let’s put it this way, if I spent the time and energy on making a space that is IG-worthy and has that “perfect” look, I wouldn’t have the time or energy to sew and that would be tragic. I also wouldn’t be as real as I try to be so that people know that I’m not perfect. I am me and I really can’t be anything but honest about that. So there ya go. Maybe if we ever move, I will set up a spot that looks a bit better for mirror selfies but maybe not.

Me Made May

Day 1: Simplicity 1459 and Muse Patterns Jenna Cardi

Day 2: Decades Everyday T.L.C. Caftan

Day 3: Burda Blazer, Cashmerette Concord top, and Blank Slate Forsythe Trousers

Day 4: M7094

Day 5: Nautical M6696 and Muse Jenna Cardi

Day 6: Hello Kitty Concord Tee and Prefontaine shorts

Day 7: M7094 and Cake Pavlova skirt

Day 8: Modified Cashmerette Springfield top and Cake Pavlova skirt

Day 9: Concord Tee and patternless dirndl skirt

Day 10: Cashmerette Cedar Dolman and Belmont Leggings

Day 11: Colette Moneta, Belmont Leggings and Swoon Scarf Neck Cardigan

Day 12: Concord tee, Belmont Leggings, and Cake Pavlova skirt

Day 13: Modified Cedar Dolman dress, M6614 hoodie

Day 14: Simplicity 8084 and Belmont Leggings

Day 15: Swoon Scarf Neck cardigan, Belmont leggings, M6887

Day 16: Concord tank top and Parisian Nights pj shorts

Day 17: Burda blazer, modified Springfield top, and Cake Pavlova skirt

Day 18: Concord tee, Upton skirt, and Belmont leggings

Day 19: M6614 hoodie, Concord Tee, and pj pants

Day 20: Concord Tank top and Itch to Stitch Belize Shorts

Day 21: Cashmerette Upton dress

Day 22: B6210

Day 23: Burda cowl neck top and patternless dirndl skirt

Day 24: M6696 and Swoon Scarf Neck cardigan

Day 25: Modified Concord tee and Cake Pavlova skirt

Day 26: Decades of Style TLC Caftan that I got popsicle over lol!

Day 27: Colette Myrtle dress and Jenna Cardi

Day 28: Colette Myrtle dress and Swoon scarf neck cardi

Day 29: Concord tank top and Blank Slate Forsythe Trousers

Day 30: Concord Tee and a Cake Pavlova skirt that I had just finished fixing earlier that week

Day 31: Simplicity 8084 dress and Belmont Leggings

#2018MakeNine and Top 5 Reflections, Highlights, and Goals

#2018MakeNine

For a few years now, Lucky Lucille has been running the #2018MakeNine hashtag on Instagram. I’ve taken part two years in a row. The first year, I failed miserably and last year I was able to get 4 items done which is still a percentage failure. This year I am trying something new by focusing not on patterns but on fabric meaning that I can be flexible about whatever I choose to make with my stashed fabric. I find the pattern focus fails me because a year can be a huge evolution in my style or I could end up needing other things to wear due to physical issues. The things that got made from my #2017MakeNine were far more on the comfort side of things than anything which is not surprising given my health issues all year. I know from my year of tracking my stash fabrics that knit fabrics are in and out of my stash very quickly. This year’s fabric purchases were definitely heavy on the knit fabric side. I would love to make the other projects planned from my #2017MakeNine but I am not sure when I will be able to get to them or want to make them. I also just purged a huge amount of clothing from my closet. I considered what I had worn and what I found comfortable and what issues I had with some things and bagged 4 large garbage bags for donation. I got rid of a bunch of old RTW that I wasn’t going for anymore plus a bunch of handmade garments that I just didn’t wear due to fit issues or not liking the fabric. A few got pulled aside for alterations that I will get to throughout the year. I definitely got upset over a couple due to loving the fabric so much, but I feel much better and finally have closet room and drawer room again for more handmade garments, of course! But enough talk, let’s look at the fabric plans

First up, 1.75 yards of a sparkly flannel cloud fabric. Of course, I could really put multiple flannels here, but this one is my favourite. It’s not quite enough (maybe) for a pair of pj pants for me. I could either go for pj capris or shorts, I think, or I could completely branch out and make a nightgown or a pillow case. Who knows?

Second on the list is this turquoise brocade with dragons on it. It’s one of my deepest stash items and purchased 6 plus years ago. I am thinking an Upton dress with pleats, but I could also see this as a long fitted blazer. I have 4 yards so the sky is the limit.

Third is the ever impossible to photograph black duoplex. I just grabbed the first duoplex fabric out of my lingerie fabrics drawer and it had to be black, right? I need new bras. I haven’t made them since 2016. WTF is wrong with me?! I may or may not use the black fabric specifically but I need to make damn bras already. In total, I have approximately 3 yards of duoplex.

Fourth is 4 yards of a mint cotton eyelet that I search high and low for and then got it for it to languish in my stash. Weird how these things work. I’ll need to line whatever I make, but top of my list is probably an Upton dress. But then again, maybe not?

Fifth is this beautiful light blue wool fabric from a friend. I have four yards. I also have thinsulate on the way to interline and a lovely fur to trim a new winter coat. My current winter coat is falling apart. I’ve learned a lot since then so I am hopeful this one will last for a really long time. I’m not sure of the pattern yet. I think I will actually hack a pattern I already own, because I don’t really want to go through fitting something. I know for sure the pattern doesn’t exist in my size and ones that come close would require a hood anyway so I might as well start with a pattern that fits well.

Sixth, the weirdest fabric in my stash, I think. I got it from Minerva Fabrics as a Monthly Stitch Indie Pattern month prize and at first was disappointed, but it’s a soft poly satin and so loud and fun that I have grown to love it. I have 2 yards of this bright orange leopard print. I also happen to have several yards of red fringe that might look amazing on it as a Designer Stitch Willow Kimono. I probably wouldn’t really wear it out of the house, but man, I would have fun wearing it.

My seventh fabric is a bit bluer than the picture is showing. It’s a super soft chambray from Fabricland. I have just over 4 yards of it so I could make anything. Part of me sees it as a lovely 1970s prairie dress with blouson sleeves and a pleated fronts. I could also see it as a casual shirt dress like Simplicity 8140 or I could just make a Cashmerette Harrison top.

Number eight on the list is 2.5 yards of navy blue polka-dots on white rayon fabric. I can see this looking beautiful as a Simplicity 8140 as well. If there were a bit more, I might make a Lenox shirtdress.

Finally, number nine is a antique gold stretch pleather. I only have 2 yards of it. Can you see this as a sexy pencil skirt or the bodice fabric for a biker jacket?

I’m pretty excited about these plans and see them as realistic. You’ll notice no knit fabric on the list, because I have no issues destashing that and, in fact, have a ton of it on the way from end of year sales. Oopsie!

I also want to finish up my Top 5 series with Reflections, Highlights, and Goals.

Top 5 Reflections

  1. I am resilient. This year has been a roller coaster of health issues, but I am more and more impressed with my resilience and ability to cope with all that has happened. I am hopeful for the future and hopeful that change will and can happen for me to be healthier and thrive with EDS.
  2. I have amazing support systems. My family, my friends, both online and offline, have been amazing this year. My husband is incredibly supportive and I love having him in my life. I am so grateful for his calm spirit in the face of the emergencies we’ve had this year. I truly am loved.
  3. I have made a difference. This one is a huge one for me and is the reason I write about my health so openly. The people who have reached out to me to thank me for my words are so wonderful. If I can help even one person with chronic illness feel less alone, I’ve done a good job.
  4. I am happy. As a person who has suffered from depression and attempted suicide many times, I can confidently declare that I am happy and my mental health is in a good state. I am able to compartmentalize the health frustrations and still enjoy every moment. Thankfully, the cognitive behaviour therapy I learned years ago to help me out of suicidal depression can be transferred to pain management. 2018 is supposed to bring me a referral to group therapy and mindfulness based therapy for patients suffering from chronic pain. I only see my happiness improving.
  5. I am grateful. I am grateful for my support systems and I am grateful that my words reach people. I am grateful for everything.

Top 5 Highlights

  1. Going to Cuba for the holidays. There is seriously nothing better than swimming in warm ocean waters and laying about on the beach when you are used to freezing cold temperatures for Christmas. I’ll talk more about my fun times there as well as a mini wardrobe I made for it in a separate post.
  2. A weekend of fandoms at FanExpo Toronto. In September, I got to perform with my improv troupe, the Dandies. We did Star Trek, Doctor Who, Buffy, Harry Potter and SuperFollies, our Super Hero show. I was unable to attend the SuperFollies show, but had a blast at the rest. It was such a great weekend.
  3. Card Retreat. I had a great time organizing a Christmas cardmaking retreat for a small group of friends. I made tasty foods and designed 10 different cards. I look forward to growing that aspect of my creativity in the new year.
  4. Embracing my inner unicorn. As a queer bisexual woman, it’s tough married to a man, looking very femme, and being erased by most of the world as queer. When I joined the CSC, we got a comment that there were no queer editors or people of colour and I got really upset about being erased yet again. I realized that it wasn’t in my bio, though, and it is becoming more important to be public about your identities to help repair this messed up world. I have on more than one occasion had to defend my queer label. I was once asked by a gay man to prove it and list my same-sex partners as if I were on trial. I have been eroticized by straight males and had a few friends ghost me when they found out I wasn’t fully straight or fully lesbian. I am so tired of feeling on the fringe of the queer community. I’m just going to be super loud and super proud about it now. I went as a unicorn on Halloween as a tongue in cheek on the bisexual female nickname. I enjoyed being more out this year in the community (it’s now part of my bio in IG, CSC, and my blog here) and look forward to some fun queer goals in the new year.
  5. Getting my Lit on. I’m a lit nerd through and through with a Masters in English Lit, but in recent years I’ve not been reading a lot at all for a few different reasons. I found myself in a mourning period after dropping out of my PhD in 2013. I had spent so much on that emotionally and financially that it was difficult to read afterwards. I was burnt out and exhausted and disappointed in the academic world that failed me (I dropped out due to supervisor neglect and, even after I got two new supervisors, realized I was done with the PhD as a result). I find holding books to be very difficult with my EDS fingers. I recently got myself a kindle and loaded it up with a bunch of books. It’s much easier to hold and I read three books last month! I have a related goal to share about reading.

Top 5 Goals

  1. Self Care. I’ve had this as my goal before, but I have to continue to make it a priority. I am heading to the YMCA sometime this week to start up my membership and get into the pool for some doctor-approved low-impact exercise. I have 2 swimsuits as a result of my recent vacation to share and a bunch more fabric on the way so that I always have a dry swimsuit to take with me. Other than that, I want to make sure I stop beating myself up on “can’t” and focus more on “can.” I literally cannot do everything I want, but I can do a lot and I need to focus on being a lot easier on myself. I spent the majority of last year upset with my body’s failures and refuse to do that this year. I will celebrate the successes more often.
  2. Get Lit. I want to read more.  For my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge, I set 15 books as my goal. I think I can do it. I plan on rereading Wrinkle in Time for the movie release. I cannot wait!
  3. Scrapbusting/Stashbusting. Last year, I did a whole lot of organizing of scraps, but didn’t use a lot due to my up and down health. I’d like to sew scraps up and get it out of those bins. I’ll still be taking part in the Stashbusting Sewalong. I love that group! 🙂 I started off the year with a bit of splurging on year end sales, but I will be back on track soon with my #2018MakeNine fabric plans. I am going to focus on buying on things that I need for specific projects.
  4. Knitting and Crochet. I have been finding myself needing other crafts to do on my lower energy days and recently got back into knitting by finishing a cardigan I started 10 years ago. I am planning on teaching myself crochet as well. I really want to learn how to knit socks and plan on focusing on that first.
  5. Queer sewing. I used to wear a lot more gender neutral clothes before I started sewing. Unfortunately, the selection was small and ill fitting for a plus sized and very busty person. I would buy larger men’s button up shirts and wear them with ties on occasion, but never felt comfortable in them because they were either tents or too tight across the bust. I never bound my bust so nothing quite fit and the shoulders were always comically large. As a teen queer, doc martens and men’s jeans were my uniform. I’d like to embrace more gender play and sew up some nice button ups, bow ties, and ties. I want to make a blazer/pantsuit that would make Marlene Dietrich jealous. God damn, I want that. I was recently inspired to make this a goal after Shannon from Rare Device launched her Sew Queer project. Follow Sew Queer on IG!

A final announcement for the post to help along my goals and your goals is the #curvyyearofsewing. Editors and Contributors at the CSC have created an inclusive sewing challenge for the entire year with themes every two months to give people lots of time to sew. We will be creating pattern suggestions for each theme, but you are not confined to those. Look out for discount codes and prizes. Share your makes using the hashtag #curvyyearofsewing. I cannot wait to see what you create!

SMH It’s been a while…

Luckily, I was not absent from blogging due to illness, but due to summer being busy and fun so far!

My main source of enjoyment has been my garden.

And my plants

I haven’t taken a recent picture of my garden. The tomato plants have grown to be 3 feet tall! The cucumber, red peppers, and beans are coming along too. Sadly, the amount of rain drowned my herb seedlings and made my lettuce turn from good to bad in a day. Oh well, lessons learned. I will buy some mature herb plants soon and just keep them inside, I think.

My jade plant sadly got a mold disease and looks really bad. I used a spray solution on it and all the diseased leaves are falling off. I hope I saved it in time. I have one little cactus that is looking poorly, but stabilized over the past month. If anyone has a clue what is wrong with it, please let me know. I know it isn’t bugs or too much water…

The big news is that I met Kat!

She came all the way from New Zealand and we met up and did some fabric shopping.

She brought me some tasty chocolate and lush merino from New Zealand. We also bought matching pink monkey jersey!

It was so good meeting her. We even discussed a Monthly Stitch meetup in Japan for 2018. I’d love to do that!

In the sewing world, I made three more Pavlova skirts. Cake Patterns is no longer, but this skirt pattern is a staple for me.

Unfortunately, I need to alter the black skirt since I mis-measured and need about another inch and a half. Luckily the skirt has pleats and a long waistband to let out.

The skirts have pleats in the front and in the back. They are meant to copy this Butterick skirt pattern by Gertie. In my version the pleats are a bit different and a bit more flattering on me. I seriously love the black and white skirt and wear it a ton in spite of it being made in a mid-weight suiting material. The blue one is pretty short and works great for a variety of casual cosplay, including Wonder Woman.

I made a new born outfit for a friend’s baby boy.

The E is totally covering up a serged hole. 😦

I have two dress cut out and ready to make for two different friends.

I have to get on those and send them off.

I managed to get a wicked good haul at the thrift store and add 30 yards to my stash…

I’m not doing great on stashbusting….

I still have UFOs and am slowly getting through them.

These Misty Jeans require topstitching.

This Harrison shirt still needs button bands and a collar:

I still need to redo this dress.

I think I will take the waistband off and add darts to the skirt. At first, I was just going to do fisheye darts, but now I want to do it properly.

My swimsuit is half done. The bottoms are all done. They look messy when laid flat, but are fine on me. I have to make the bra top soon.

This is an in progress picture of them:

Done now, but I didn’t take another picture after this.

I cut out and made a Concord T shirt yesterday.

I also have an Appleton maxi almost done. Here is a sneak preview.

I also cut out a Webster dress and two pairs of shorts in linen rayon fabric

The Appleton dress will be posted soon. I just have to put on sleeve bands and hem the dress and take pictures. It’s going to be gorgeous. I am trying to meet the dresses deadline on Friday (@ 8pm in Toronto!) for the Monthly Stitch’s indie pattern month. It’s also part of the maxi dress sew along. 🙂

Are you taking part in either of Indie Pattern Month or the Maxi dress sewalong? 🙂