Wednesday, November 26, 2008

but you can call me Taph

I'm Taphophile. It's Greek for 'lover of cemeteries' and is not my real name. :)

This is a fairly typical scene - unwinding with knitting and a glass of wine at the end of an exhausting day frugalling (op-shops, garage sales and fetes). Out of shot is my fella, known in blogland as the Old Flame, and my mate The Shopping Sherpa (she took the photo). They love a bargain as much as I do and we make a formidable team. They may well pop up in future posts.

Knitting is my natural resting state.

I cannot remember a time when I did not knit and sew. My earliest memories are of "helping" Mum by organising and reorganising her button jar and knitting needles while she crafted our clothes. Nowadays I knit because I love it and sew because I have to.

The fabric stash used to exceed the yarn stash by a very large factor, but with a bigger disposable income and the greater availability of larger-sized clothes (and the follow-on effect for op-shopping) I haven't needed to sew as much. There is still a considerable amount of fabric lying around just itching to be garmented (totally a word), though. Lately circumstances have changed and I need to alter some old clothes and make some new ones. Rummage -Renovate - Refashion is my new motto.

My main blog is Unravelled (mostly knitting) and I contribute to the Canberra op-shopping blog I Op Therefore I Am. If you're on Ravelry, I'm Taphophile over there as well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Introducing Christy

An Introduction:

Hello out there! My name is Christy, otherwise known as MommaOnTheMountain. I have been married for years now, and we have 4 gorgeous kids ranging from 14 to 4. I have sewn crafty stuff and basic kids clothes for years. I started attempting to sew pants for myself last spring when planning a vacation. That went fairly poorly, and I didn’t take the pants I made with me.

When I first made the decision that I would like to be a contributor for this blog, I was excited…then nervous and a bit scared. I have had my own blog for nearly two years, and enjoy writing about all things family, crafty, and important to me. However the one thing that I rarely address is my size. I don’t like to talk about how hard it is to find clothes that fit right, and when I do they really are out of our family budget so once in a great while I will splurge.
I am going to write a four part series about sewing for myself. I have sewn things for my daughter (who fits standard sizes and is 6 years old) and have tried sewing pants for myself without much success. So my first order of business is to choose a pattern that that will best suit my body type. I truly want to find a pattern that will cover my backside all the way up to my waist, be wide enough in the legs to accommodate my thick legs (I am on the average an American size 22 waist with a size 26 leg) and be comfortable and look flattering. That is a tall order!
I have intermediate sewing skills, and look forward to a challenge. If you have any suggestions, I would welcome them! I have a Baby Lock Crafters Deluxe sewing machine, am about 30 minutes drive from a decent sized town, and 90 minutes drive from Portland, Oregon…so supplies aren’t too far off.

Here is my plan for postings with Large:

1. Pattern Choice (and all that encompasses)
2. Fabric decisions (function, price, and availability)
3. Sewing process (fumbles, foibles, and successes)
4. Final product and pattern review

I hope you will travel with me down this road, share your thoughts, provide tips, and offer advice. I don’t think that clothing oneself should be so darned difficult! Even though we are large, we are beautiful…and I don’t think we should ever forget that!
ta~ta for now!~

Saturday, November 22, 2008

hello from bunnybum...

i don't like being the center of attention. never have. birthdays, anniversaries, graduations all freak me out. that's why i want to get this intro over with and get on with things.
i have been meaning to post on this here bloggy blog for a while now, only, um, i can't write. i am quite self conscious about my undeniable lack of writing ability. my blog relies heavily on photos, tutorials and recipes (don't go over there, it is boring and i hardly ever post anymore). seriously, just skip my posts here on large if you are generally offended by extra commas, overuse of parenthesis (i like them) and abrupt changes in tense. however, i can sew, i can craft (i must craft, actually), i am a mama, i am sarcastic, i am a photographer, i am a good cook, i am a great friend, i am excited, i am large (extra large as a matter of fact) and i am really looking forward to getting to know this large community.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

more from my wardrobe

Not much news today, just a glimpse of what I was wearing as I rushed off to work this morning all fuzzy headed from a cold.

I am totally in love with this shirt. I made it from the latest Ottobre magazine (can't remember the issue number maybe 5/2008?), size 52. I like that the collar makes it look smart and a bit more professional, but the thick knit fabric is really comfy and T-shirt like. I like the print too. I bought the fabric at Joy's Fabric Warehouse in Geelong and apparently it is an run off from a designer. The pants are from TS 14+ and I like them too. I had to alter them a little to lower the sides of the waistband, but otherwise they are a good fit. The fabric has some stretch, but also the vertical stripe you can see is actually textural and contracts the fabric too (you can see it a bit at the hem line in the top photos).

The shoes are yet another pair of Josef Seibels bought from Mountfords - same brand as the red shoes in the previous post everyone liked so much. These are medium priced shoes that are built for comfort and durability (I walk a lot and that combined with my weight makes for hard wear on my shoes).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

puff sleeves

I am not one for puff sleeves. They look awful on me and always have. And then a few months ago I started noticing them everywhere. On everyone. Large and small they seemed to always look great. So I decided that maybe it was time to re-examine my attitude.

I made the puff sleeve T from Ottobre 2/2007 (design 4) size 52. I slightly lengthened the sleeves since caps scare me a bit.
And the result was truly awful. Wearing it, I looked like a full forward in drag (to borrow a line). I chastised myself for thinking I didn't trust my well honed instinct and figured it must just be my body shape, rather than size that made them so wrong.

And then a few days ago while I was out with a friend looking at clothes I went into Autograph to have a look around. This store is more miss than hit for me, a lot of the clothes are poorly made and not really for my shape. Plus I am usually between two of their sizes. But occasionally I find something or other in there that makes a good plain addition to my wardrobe. I noticed for example that they had very nice and inexpensive rash vests for the beach (where were they when I was forking out a premium for mine?).

Anyway, I decided to try on a whole stack of their tops, including a number with various types of puffed sleeves and different shoulder constructions. Although this seems like a really smart and obvious idea, I've never really done this exercise and it was really interesting.

All the puffed sleeves looked reasonably awful on me, except for one which looked totally fabulous! Sadly the top had other aspects which weren't so great, so I didn't buy it, but I took a good long look at why the sleeves on that top were better. The puff was minimal (more puff=more awful) and the fabric was soft, so the sleeves sat flat, not elevated. The sleeves were also loose and set into the shoulder quite high (ie closer to the neck). This somehow made my shoulders look both slimmer and yet somehow in proportion to my body, giving an overall pleasing effect.

So I felt a bit of hope, came home and pulled out the disaster T. I cut off the sleeves, narrowed the caps, cut in the shoulder and reset sleeves in. This reduced the overall size of the top of the T-shirt since I cut the previous seam allowance off rather than unpicking the seams, and the volume on the top of the sleeve (and hence the puff factor). I also made the neck opening larger.

And the result is great. The sleeves make it a bit more a 'top' and a bit less a 'T-shirt' so I could get away with wearing to work (the antique dollies care of my grandmother help too!).

With lessons learned I'd make the pattern again, perhaps cutting the top half of the T in size 50 and the hips in 52, trimming a bit off the sleeve cap and taking a lot of care with the gathering on the necka nd sleeve to get them sitting exactly right.

shirt renovation finale

So I did end up putting in the bust darts and now the shirt is really a lot better. It took an extra half hour because I had to re-hem the back to make it shorter and while I was at it I deepened the front and back waist darts. Here's a final shot of the before and after.
Conclusion? With an hour and half's effort you can turn a crappy cheap shirt into a passable garment. I don't think I'd bother for a lot of clothes, but the real difference here was the starting fabric and the fact that the loose and long design gave me some fabric to play with.

Friday, November 14, 2008

investment pieces

I try and sew as many of my clothes as I can, and I tend to buy fairly plain and inexpensive clothes when I do shop. But every now and then, well once in every two or three blue moons, I buy something special.

Earlier this year I learned about Towanda, a shop full of amazing, gorgeous, interesting, edgy designer wear just for plus sizes. I had to check it out, just looking. Because, you know, that's expensive stuff.

I'd never been in a designer shop where anything fit me before and to be honest I was quite dumb struck. Racks and racks of clothes I had only ever dreamed about suddenly made real. Lack of sizing no longer an excuse I was really unsure how to proceed. Like a lot of plus size people I am used to buying what I can find to fit me rather than what I actually like.

When I tried on this top I was totally in love. It is made by the New Zealand brand Euphoria and is a light semi transparent top, hand screen printed across the front cross over panel. It goes with everything, can be worn over a long sleeve top in winter or a singlet in summer and feels totally great. When I wear it I feel like I am in designer duds. It was totally worth the high price tag. And even if you can't afford to shop there, anyone can look and get inspired by their amazing stuff.

edited to add: The pants are from TS14+. I love the hem detail and the way they make their trousers without closures that add bulk to the waist and tummy by clever cutting and good stretch fabrics. I buy most of my 'good/work' trousers there. The shoes are from Moutnfords and are made by Josef Seibel, my current fav in really good shoes that aren't totally out of the question on price. The black singlet under the nice top is from Target's organic cotton range (love that range).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

shirt renovation

I think most large ladies have a big old boxy sacky shirt in their wardrobe. I’ve had a few. I buy them in moments of weakness but really, I don’t much like wearing them. Too classically fat wear.

This one came from Target a while ago. I was seduced by the pure linen fabric, the go with anything green colour and the reasonable price tag. It promised cool and loose wear for a hot day.

But I’ve never liked that it is overly long (so when I sit for long periods it all bunches and creases up above my hips), that the sleeves are not quite the right length and the cuff on them a wee bit tight, and the utter absence of shape makes the whole thing sack like. Like I say, classic fat wear.

But I recently sewed a linen skirt I absolutely love and since this shirt was the best possible colour match in my wardrobe I set out to rehabilitate it.

I started by adding darts to the front and back so it had at least the impression of a waist. I pinned up about where I thought they should be and then tried the shirt on, adjusted their location and sewed them in.

Next I cut off the cuffs and shortened the sleeves to elbow length. A while ago I was given the tip that eyes are drawn to the horizontal line across your body where your sleeves end, so it is ‘slimming’ to have sleeves finish at your narrowest point. For me this is about elbow length. I did plain old double turned hems because I just didn’t have time to remake cuffs.

Lastly I shortened the whole shirt by a good 10cm. Again, plain old double turned hems.

The whole exercise took about an hour and even if the photos don’t quite show it, it is a vast improvement. It is still a long and loose shirt, but it now has a bit of shape.

Despite my work the shirt still has some fundamental flaws. There are no bust darts, so the front kicks out and hangs short, and the sleeves don’t sit flat against my body because the sleeve cap isn’t well fitted. These are basic fittings that make a great deal of difference to how good a garment looks, and sadly the shortcuts so often taken in plus size and cheaper clothes. Sleeve caps are hard to get right, and because people are plus size for a range of reasons, the differences in fits are much greater than for smaller people.

If I had more time (and the shirt wasn’t so old and thus unworthy of larger scale rehabilitation) I would have unpicked the side seams, added a dart at bust level, sewed the sides up again and evened the bottom hem by taking more off the back than the front. Now that I write that, I really wish I had…actually I think that might be on this weekend’s to do list.

This has given me a bit of motivation for a few more home renovations and I am eying off some other items in the wardrobe. Have you renovated any clothing?

beth ditto 101

Let's face it - to have a blog about fashion, larger lives, and people who are firmly stomping outside whatever boxes our culture may set, it wouldn't make sense not to have a quick cheat sheet about Beth Ditto.

Lead singer for the Gossip, she's also been very vocal about the fashion industry - check out her advice column for the Guardian, her reply to Topshop wanting to use the band, and featuring the likes of Yves St Laurent, Louis Vuitton & Prada, an amazing fashion spread for Pop magazine .
(Sidenote - if anyone knows what the heck Prada are doing to mohair to make it come out with that laminated look, do tell in the comments!)

Words to live by:
"Just remember - fashion is something that is prepackaged, bought and sold, but style, like art, is a primal instinct. My number-one theory in life is that style is proportional to your lack of resources - the less you have, the more stylish you're likely to be."

Rock on, Beth Ditto.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

dressing room try on. yes? no? nup.

Greetings & salutations,
I'm kylie, and I should start by saying that I'm no super organised fashionista. I have a floordrobe, and wrestle with the question of what to wear on a daily basis.
Getting back to basics - something that I find handy is a digital camera, which gives a great unbiased look at how you look in something. Shown is a recent dressing room experience - it's kinda cute, but stayed in the (vintage, smith st melbs) shop.

One of the reasons why I signed up to contribute to large was after seeing the following from sooz:
In real life I find feedback and advice, inspiration and community invaluable but often limited. I want to see more images of big people looking good, I want some role models and some advice from people who are unafraid, practical and innovative.
So, it's going to be fun to do a little hunting!

Monday, November 10, 2008

woaw nelly

OK. Clearly I've hit a spot here!

I haven't installed a site meter here (next job!) but I can already tell that large is clocking up a lot of traffic.

How exciting!

But guys, I am really needing some sign ups to make the blog run. I need posts! Despite my appearance of being full of good ideas and having time to implement them I am seriously flying by the seat of my pants.

These pants to be more precise.
Made by me at our last craft weekend in lightweight slightly stretch denim and I love them. The pattern is from Ottobre magazine (2/2007) in size 50. I should have cut a 52, but the 52 tends to be a bit big on me and I figured since the fabric had some give, I should go the smaller size. Next time I'll go the 52 even though I might need to slightly narrow the waist. Next time too, I'll do the fly topstitching in a dark colour even though I like the contrast on the pockets.

The pattern is great otherwise. I used the longer of the two lengths the pattern comes in, and very slightly narrowed the section below the knee which had a very slight flare. It has a wide shaped almost yoke waistband that works really well for me because I have a big and low belly but relatively narrow hips.

I really like Ottobre magazine (I get the kid ones as well as woman) and in Australia I subscribe through Crafty Mamas instead of direct from Ottobre, because Lisa at Crafty Mamas is totally lovely and helpful and because she doesn't roll over your subscription without telling you like the publishers do.

I don't need to alter the Ottobre patterns too much (I take a bit off the the sides of pants and skirts just under the waistband to compensate for the hips thing) and I like enough of their clothes to make it worthwhile subscribing. I really like that they use real looking people as models, including older and larger women, and the clothes suit my lifestyle without being too daggy.

When I have more time (and the day is fast approaching) I'll go back to drafting my own patterns like I used to. If you are considering learning this skill I can but encourage you. For an upfront investment of time to create your base blocks you can make patterns you know will fit you perfectly every time. Magazines like Ottobre still have their place mind you, inspiration and finer pattern details are always a great addition to your base.

I learned drafting here in Melbourne at the CAE and the same class is still taught with the same tutor and he's excellent and there's a range of related classes too. Hmm perhaps time I considered a refresher...

As for the shirt, I'm not really in love with this. It is a hand me down from my sister and it isn't really my colour or general style choice, and yet somehow I seem to wear it anyway. The fabric is nice, a kind of thickish but loose weave naturalish cotton that seems to give more in areas that need it, making it a bit less sack like. Maybe.

Okay gotta go. Please oh please contact me and sign up to do some posts. Even if it is just a little thought or a photo. I'd also be way happy to post questions here on behalf of readers to solicit advice and tips from other readers. So, you know, drop me a line! Now!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

open for business


I started this blog not because I have a great desire to write it (I'm busy with my main blog over here) but because I want to read it. I'm large, and so is my life and it is a constant disappointment to me that the blogs I read, the forums I search and the pictures I see so often don't apply to me.

My main thing at the moment is fashion. Like lots of plus size people I seem to oscillate between wanting to be invisible and wanting to really stand out. I find it difficult to determine the line between finding what suits me and wearing the clothes I feel my culture dictates fat people should wear. I worry about taking fashion risks and about being a middle age matron before my time (or at any time at all for that matter).

In real life I find feedback and advice, inspiration and community invaluable but often limited. I want to see more images of big people looking good, I want some role models and some advice from people who are unafraid, practical and innovative.

And because I sew a lot of clothes, I want more than just advice on what I wear. I want to talk about sewing experiences for big clothes too. The stylish sewers tips and tricks, the pattern and fabric wins and pitfalls, the tried and true methods and finishes that make people feel good about their clothes.

Knowing where to buy stuff is good too, especially down here in Oz where there are less clothes for plus size people and they are harder to find. Experience with individual brands, retail stores and online buying can really help other people size up their choices.

What I don't want this blog to become is one big whinge about being fat. I'm sure this blog will evolve and there's lots of stuff beside fashion that's worth talking about, but views and life choices about size and diet are too complex and personal for this forum. Neither do I want it become a place where people are harshly judgemental, humiliating and taking delight in other people's bad choices. A little bit of fashion disaster posting is always fun, but the main game is what we like, not what we don't.

I'm going to have to be braver than I usually am to post some of the stuff here I think it would be good to post. Sewing clothes in progress for example would be a great feature but you'll get to see some wobbly bits I usually keep out of view. I hope all those who post here will be brave too and I hope readers will respect that. A lot of us find it hard to step out into the harsh light of public scrutiny, so even those of us seeking feedback want it to be constructive and delivered with sensitivity and humour.

While I hope to post here often and retain the role of administrator for large, this is designed to be a community blog. The more people who post, the better it will be. I encourage you to contact me ( if you'd like to be involved, either to become a regular poster, a one-off poster, or even just to email me a tip, link or suggestion for something you'd like to see posted about. Equally, commenting on other people's posts and photos is really important so I urge you to make the extra effort to do so, feedback and community are two way streets.