Thursday, November 26, 2009

plus size vintage and the daily wardrobe peek

There's an interesting discussion over on Gertie's blog about what is plus size anyway. You might want to check out her blog if you like vintage stuff, she's working her way through Vogue's guide to better sewing from 1952 and has done a few posts about fit and adjustment and sewing from vintage patterns. She's doing really well at including the plus size angle in an area notoriously small sized! (Thanks to Kate for putting me onto her!)

And while we are on sites I am currently loving, I am addicted to frocks & frou frou. Lilli posts great clear pictures of her fabulous and extensive wardrobe, plus info about where she buys and some shopping experiences. Already through her site I've finally found some really good reasonably priced leggings (sadly they are currently out of stock of larger sizes but I am sure they'll be fixing that soon). Lilli is not as big as me but I just love how she dresses and her extensive shopping knowledge. I'm hoping she'll head over here and do a few posts on Large for us. (Thanks to Kim for discovering this site for me!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

dress forms

You may recall the fiasco that was my attempt to make a duct tape dress form. Needless to say it hasn't been used and I have no desire to reproduce the experience or making it, even with the superior gummed tape. But my desire for a dress form just grows. In recent months I have been doing a lot of refashioning and making garments without patterns and this involves a lot of taking half finished and pinned pieces on and off and attempts to fit things in a mirror. Hardly ideal!

Previous attempts to locate a dress form in my size has proved pretty fruitless. All the ones I found online were overseas and offered by companies that don't ship internationally. I did find one, but the customer reviews about the quality of the mechanisms for adjusting it were so scathing I was convinced it wasn't a good idea.

I did find an aussie ebay seller who imports dress forms and sells them at a reasonable price, but their larger size was just a fraction too small for me. Despite supposedly fitting up to size 20, the measurements are smaller than mine and I wear a size 18. Yet another dead end!

And then it occurred to me to ask my local fabric retailer if she could order in dress forms in larger sizes. While she didn't have the size known as fuller figure, the manufacturer of the style she had on her books did make it so she said she'd find out for me. In the same instant it dawned on me that getting it back to Melbourne would be a bit of a pain so I rang a couple of places in Melbourne to make the same inquiry. Experience so far tells me that there is a lot of price variation (I have been quoted between $195 and $395 for the exact same thing!) so I decided to do my research on this one. Clegs came back to me fastest and they could get me a fuller figure, though at $395 I was looking at a fair bit more than I thought I would have to pay.

I also realised that while all the forms I have looked at are made by the same manufacturer, Clegs only carry the supafit model, while my local store and my favourite store, Tessutis only stocks the Diana model. In searching for reviews it seems the Diana is a sturdier and easier to adjust model with a better stand, and it was the short comings on the supafit that I had read about with the very first place I looked to buy.

But a side benefit of trying to find reviews and comparisons of the different models (through this fantastic sewing forum discussion site) I found a long thread about padding out dress forms. Not only does it seem possible, but most of the experienced hands recommend padding as a way of achieving a shape closer to your body. You see adjustability to the right measurements is one thing, but mimicking the distribution of those measurements on your body is a whole other thing. Those who hadn't padded their forms repeatedly posted that their dress forms never got used while those who had made their forms look more like themselves found them really useful. And of course if you are going to pad it out, you want the actual form to be smaller than yourself.

So now I am contemplating buying one in the easier to get smaller size and doing the work to make it look as much like me as I can! I'd love to hear from anyone about their experiences padding models out, reviews of different models or recommendations of places to buy.

Edited to add -

I just read through another tutorial on fitting a form to your shape (thanks for the link Nichola!) and found a couple of interesting things. The first is, the author recommends distributing your padding more evenly than you are in reality and claims this will make your garments look better. I'd like to know how, so I'm posting a comment and will let you know!

The second thing I found was that reading through the comments section there are recommendations for two form types I hadn't come across. Unlike the standard dial adjustable types I've looked at, the Fabulous Fit has a solid base with a padding fit system and removable cover. This means it is adjustable by size and shape and saves you the trouble of making your own padding and cover to fit. I gather this is the kind of form used by professionals and I can see why. Sadly, it stops at an American size 16, but the Uniquely You, which has many similarities goes up to a 50" hip with adjustments via the covering. And this company ships to Australia! Of course, while the form is only $139, the shipping here is $254.38!!

But aside from the issue of cost, another comment got me thinking about another problem. I hate how if ever I buy commercial patterns I measure myself accurately and find that the pattern size chart says I'm a size 26 or so. I know I may choose a size 18 or 20 in commercially made clothes, but the pattern says that for my measurements I need a size 26. If I make the garment in the size 26 (don't laugh - I've done this!) it is of course miles too big. I don't know why this is, but I basically don't use commercial patterns so I avid dealing with it. But it occurs to me - what if the dress form is the same? What if I buy one and find it is way too big? One commenter on the above post had exactly this experience and I can't imagine what I'd do if I paid $250 shipping only to have to return it!

Anyone else been down this road and know what I'm talking about?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

test knitting

Just a super quick post here to let you know that the lovely and talented Kate is looking for a test knitter or two in the 42-50inch bust range for a really lovely cardigan she has designed.

I have to say as a long time knitter who grew up knitting men's garments and mostly disasterous home designed knits because commercial patterns stopped at a size 14 I am thrilled to bits with how many pattern designers now take their sizing up to the loftier heights. And critical to this is good test knitting and feedback to designers.

So I hope someone here will take her up on the offer and get a great cardi and ensure the rest of us continue to have access to well designed and fitting patterns!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

shopping by body type

So a friend of mine who is in search of a dress for a special occassion has been spending quite a bit of time looking for ideas on line.

Now I don't wear dresses much (recent sewing notwithstanding) since I spend most of my time running around after children, doing domestic chores and generally being a graceless slob, but I so think a good frock can look stunning. I also think a badly chosen frock can make you look really awful.

Anyway, she found that the large US retailer Nordstrom has a really excellent feature for their online dress shop - that capacity to search by body type (see the drop down menu on the right hand side half way down the screen). You can also search by plus size or garment type.

I don't have plans to buy anything from Nordstrom any time soon, but I think this is a fantastic way to think about garments and feel a little more confident that the dress you like might suit you. I haven't explored the site in detail but my guess is we'll be seeing more and more of this kind of thing, assisted shopping. Anyone else know of other retailers or sites that offer similar features?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

another shirt renovation

You might remember a shirt I altered last year.

Well, I've done another one, this time in a quite different way. I started with the exact same linen shirt (except in black this time instead of olive) and ended up with a fancy shaped and detailed top.

You can read more about what I did over here (scroll down to the second half of the post.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

sewing with knits

For all those who wanted to know more about the sewing of the bathers, I did a post on my other blog with some info about sewing with knits. Happy to answer any questions!

Friday, September 25, 2009

new bathers modelled

new bathers modelled, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Thanks to Ellen here are some photos of me n my new bathers that I can bear to look at! Dry and wet.

Monday, September 14, 2009

before -> after

before -> after, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Another refashion from a classic fat garment to something a bit more stylish.

The photos aren't great, but I raised the shoulders, shortened the sleeves from elbow to mid upper arm and the length from almost ankle to mid-upper calf, added pin tuck detail to front and darts to back.

The whole job took less than an hour, was very quick and easy and has taken a classic sack to a nice dress. Still a little boring though. I may yet do some kind of embellishment on the front...

Friday, September 11, 2009

swim shorts

swim shorts, originally uploaded by Soozs.

So I think the shorts are going to be great. I haven't trialled them in water yet, but they feel great and meet all the criteria I had in mind before I set out. I think a big part of their success is that the lycra I used is really thick and hangs well in the non-cling way. Hemming without a coverstitch machine is a big ordinary, but I'm hoping they will settle with wear.

This lycra is actually inside out - the 'right side' has white dots and while they look cute, I think the shirt has plenty enough going on. But the reverse side has an interesting texture where the dots were printed and change the properties of the fabric.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

in the swim of things

I'm so seventies, originally uploaded by Soozs.

I know, I know. Summer time means dealing with swimwear. Few things fill me with dread quite like the annual reality check like no other.

Pass the choc chip cookies while I have a sigh and maybe a cry...

For years I did my best to hide in a black one piece, but it's always been hard to find a suit I liked and which fitted me and didn't squish my boobs down to my navel.

I can't remember when I sewed my first suit, but it was a long time ago and a move motivated by sheer desperation. How hard could it be? I thought to myself and set out with cotton lycra and lots of time. No pattern, just winging it.

Those early suits were really quite OK once I had recut, re-sewed and altered for a day or two. I tried making my own patterns, but since no two pieces of lycra are the same a healthy amount of fiddle is always required.

And then five or so years back I discovered the tankini and I was pretty happy to stay there. Nice boy leg black pants in chlorine resistant lycra and a tank top with an in-built shelf bra. I'm not saying I looked like a model or anything, but they were comfortable and serviceable.

But as the tank began to age and the straps began to loosen, the cleavage got a little deeper than I was comfortable with. In bathers as in most of my clothes I like firmness and any possibility of a wardrobe malfunction does not assist in relaxation.

So the tank remained in circulation, but wasn't really what I wanted. I was also increasingly finding it hard to avoid sunburn and was thinking perhaps it might be time to seek a little more coverage - a rash vest and board shorts were the next additions.

I don't know if it is just me and my shape, or whether this is a universal phenomenon, but I find board shorts really uncomfortable. I like the sun protection, but they seem to be loose and flappy and extremely unflattering at the same time as restrictive and tight whenever you are trying to move.

And the big black rash vest is eminently functional but somehow unsatisfactory too. Hopeless for feeling remotely summery or attractive and when sun isn't a big problem, unnecessary levels of coverage. Plus I really can't get over the need for a dedicated swim bra.

So now I find myself with no less than 5 pieces of swimwear, pretty much all of which are a compromise in some way or another. Now that I am spending a good slab of time living at the beach, swimwear is a daily reality.

Armed with a load of lycras in interesting prints I am setting out to remake the swimwear wardrobe. I'm boldly going away from black because I'm tired of it.

This is the first of the items I had in mind, a short sleeved rash vest. I used the same pattern that I use to make most of my T-shirts. After a trial wear this morning I decided it needs a bit of shortening and I might hem the edges instead of leaving them overlocked, but otherwise a much more pleasant garment to wear than the old rashie.

Next up, some hybrid bike/board shorts. I want something that looks more like regular shorts (ie less clingy), but has the stretch and comfort of lycra. I'm planning on using the jazz pants pattern I used over here.

After that I'm going to make a new tank and perhaps even a one piece just for the hell of it.

So how to you deal with swimwear? Do you make or buy? What kind of swimwear do you like? Where do you get it?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

seasonally inappropriate but...

I received an email recently from Annette at Subway Shoe Diffusion, a Melbourne based shoe importer. This coming winter they will be importing a range of reasonably priced boots with sizing for 'athletic' calves. The styles look nice and are really competitively priced. While I know most people are really not at all focused on winter boots right now, I'm mentioning it in case I forget to chase Annette up next year for a list of stockists! Now you can all feel free to remind me...

I also wanted to give all our blog authors and potential authors a giddy up! Come on guys, lets see some content! If you'd like to contribute in any way at all, please drop me a line - soozs[dot]com[at]gmail[dot]com

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

a lesson in fit

new clothes, originally uploaded by Soozs.

OK so this weekend I went to craft camp and I made a complete shit load of stuff. Woo hoo! (You can read more about the weekend here, and head over to flickr for better looks at the garments in the mosaic).

But aside from the obvious benefit of new gear there were some less expected wins. Firstly I made more than one style of pants in a sitting and that gave me a really good opportunity to think about the more subtle aspects of cut. I also made the same pants in three different fabrics and two different lengths, and that was an interesting exercise too.

And so much sewing time at a stretch made it easier to devote time to some riskier projects, knowing they might not work out, and a because I am in the dead of winter but will be in the heights of summer in just a few weeks I covered a really wide array of fabrics and garment types.

So just a few things really stood out for me like how much more flattering a firmer fabric in a more fitted style is - look at the short sleeve shirt in the second to bottom row on the right or the black tunic vest in the middle row on the left and compare them to the olive over top to the left of the shirt or the stripe top over jeans in the top row.

I also think my fear of pants and skirts in too light colours may be unfounded (second and third rows on left), but my general aversion to small scale prints may be best listened to (though I think the T-shirt to the right of the grey pants is OK - perhaps because it is more fitted?).

A jeans style of cut suits me more than a more conventional pants leg (look back at previous pants here) and lots of layers and pieces in variations of a greyish scale work well for me, though a splash of red does wonders (you can't see it here but I had a red scarf on in most of the shots).

I love the tunic - this was a no pattern experiment and I think it really worked. It is made out of a woven rather than knit cotton spandex two way stretch so it is firm and sits very well but is super comfy too. I started with a quite unstructured box and added in bust, shoulder and back darts and then did the front shaping with rows of fine pin tucks where a conventional front dart would be. I will definitely be making another of these - I want to wear one every day!

All over I feel quite invigorated on the wardrobe front as a result, and I think future sewing will be very influenced by what I've learned. As always I used an array of Ottobre patterns to great effect and continue to be very happy with them.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

clothes in limbo

My sister and I have for many years had an informal clothes swap thing going. As our weight goes up and down we've passed stuff back and forth, and I never get rid of anything without passing it by her first.

It's always struck me as a great shame there isn't a way to do this on a bigger scale - I'm sure there are lots of people who have clothes too good to give away that simply don't fit any more - well not now anyway - and why shouldn't someone else be wearing them while they are still fashionable? Of course I send my stuff tot he op shop when neither myself nor my sister wants them, but the plus size thing is so specialised, wouldn't it be good to be able to send them to some special place? I'd quite like to shop there for other people's cast offs too.

So I have been having a fairly major wardrobe sort in the last few days. Very soon I may well be packing all my worldly goods away for a while, and my experience of doing this last time is that when you get home you never even unpack most of it. I am determined this time not to pack away things I don't really want any more.

The first step in this process has been to pull out all the things that have been in storage since 2005 when we went to Thailand. It is nothing short of total disgrace that all this stuff has just been sitting for 4 years. Some of it was stuff I couldn't even fit into back then (pre baby bearing), and a lot of it was the clothing I wore back when I was a hard core corporate worker and fairly dedicated night time party-er.

A couple of things have struck me going through it all - and believe me there is a lot. Firstly is just that - what a complete shit load of stuff I've kept for too long. No less than 7 pairs of jeans, 7 tailored suits (all lined, 6 of them imported Italian wool, 3 of them with pants as well as skirts), a cashmere overcoat, countless blouses, tops, skirts, shorts and dresses.

Some of the clothes I had and wore for a long time, some are relatively new, most of them are in fine condition and eminently wearable. Most of them are made from very nice fabrics - wools, silks, linens, a few lovely spun rayon blouses and almost everything is lined, has nice buttons, pockets and zips.

And almost everything has been made by me. Not the jeans though.

And this kind of surprises me. When I look at it all stacked up in neat piles (waiting for my sister to come and sift through) I realise that an awful lot of work has gone into this collection. A lot of choosing, a lot of money on expensive fabric, a lot of time and attention to detail (all pre child days. Sigh). I feel quite proud if the truth be known.

But the other thing is, despite the way I feel about the things I've made, this is a collection of clothes that belongs to a different life. True, quite a lot of it doesn't fit me anymore, but I know if I set my mind to it I could re-fashion most of it. The fit isn't the primary problem. This is clothing that belongs to a suit and party life, not a school drop off and gardenging life.

And I am thinking what a shame it would be for all this stuff to be lost, when it could really make a big difference to someone. After my sister has had her turn what else could I do with it all?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

boots for freakishly large calves

Like many women with larger than average calves the hunt for a winter boot has been exhausting, disappointing and humiliating. I have tried on so many pairs of boots I couldn't zip up that I have resorted to simply wearing trousers all the time.

Over the last few weeks I have had this conversation with many other women, lots of whom are not particularly 'large' but still don't manage with conventional fittings. There has been lots of moaning and frustration. I have one friend who bought lovely and expensive boots and paid lots of money to have them altered. She's happy with the result, but that's a nerve wracking exercise and a bit of a financial risk for many.

But after sewing two really nice skirts last weekend I decided I just couldn't stand it anymore and spent yesterday in a last ditch effort to get me some boots.

It should be said that quite aside from the calves issue, I am pretty fussy about shoes. I walk a lot and I am big - my feet get a real work out and most shoes just aren't up to the challenge. I want style but never at the expense of comfort and durability. I don't like lace ups or overly manish shoes (except elastic sided boots which I wear all the time when not at work), I don't wear heels and almost always I prefer leather. My foot is broad so I prefer squarish toes.

My criteria is long I know, but none of it seems exactly out there to me. Sensible, reasonable, dare I say almost too obvious.

Anyway, here's what I have to say - I found my boots. They are made by Kumfs, a New Zealand brand which makes a really excellent range of shoes for people like me. There are plenty of daggy models in their range I won't pretend otherwise, but more and more I find stuff of theirs I like. Oh and that cowboy spur bit is completely removable! But they make two calf fittings (so sensible - why don't more boot makers do it??), so they fit me very well.

Now all I have to do it find some good larger size footless tights - can anyone give me a tip??

Monday, April 27, 2009

new clothes

new clothes, originally uploaded by Soozs.

I've been on a sewing jag and so very pleased with the lot. So unusual to have a wholly satisfying set of products! I realised when I'd finished that all these patterns are from Ottobre - I am definitely gaining a dependence on that magazine...

The top one is a fine wool knit rib - so fine in fact I think I may need a singlet underneath for modesty! I traced this pattern ages ago but was a bit nervous to make it - given as how I don't like puffy sleeves and all. But a little birdy recommended it and she was soo right. I love this top because it is simple and easy to wear but not boring.

Next another of the yoked skirts I've made a few times before. I slightly narrowed the flare and I love the shape. A stretch denim in oatmeal makes it look very much like linen only more comfy and without wrinkles. The machine embroidery was a breeze and I love it. A lot.

I made this shirt six months ago and I love it in this heavyweight stretch woven cotton too. Love the bold print and crisp line (with added spandex comfort. It will get a work out in the office. I think it will look great with black pants and maybe a black skirt like the one below.

The skirt is the same pattern as the oatmeal one, only a fraction longer and lined. A lovely check linen it goes nicely with both tops andwill be good for the office.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

winter approaches, out come the needles

I've just recently finished the Hey, Teach! cardi for myself, and I am really pleased with it. I think I could go for this short sleeve with long sleeve T underneath look.I mostly lack the confidence to knit myself garments beyond hats and scarves, since they so often fit poorly or look wrong in some way or another. It is such a huge investment of time and money I tend to play it safe. But this one has really shifted my attitude.

In part I think it has come from a better range of pattern options out there. As a knitting teenager anything plus size was generally from a men's pattern, with drop shoulders and too long arms. I'm much more skilled at altering patterns now, but so many more patterns come up to an over the 50" bust mark. And more of them have shaping and detailing that makes it a really worthy project.

At the moment I am really interested in lace detailing as a feature and also in 'top down' construction because altering shaping is so easy and with no bulky stiff seams you get a much more flattering fit, plus there's no sewing and pieces to fit together. This free pattern looks good, and quite a few of the projects in Custom Knits really appeal (though the styling with so many photos of slim chicks in undies is a bit off putting).

Have you got a knit garment pattern to recommend? I'd love to get a little list together of great plus size patterns...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bag Lady?

As a ‘larger lass’ I’ve always had trouble finding funky fashion to fit my frame so in an effort to personalise my style I add bling to pretty standard dressing via accessories.

My accessory of choice for many years has been the handbag. I have a different bag for every occasion and then some. They are a statement about my style, a ‘look at me’ piece, something that helps me to stand apart from the crowd (or at least that’s how it feels in my head).

I could never understand those women who had one bag, just one bag everyday, all day, all year. One of my girlfriends simply buys the same bag over and over as each gets worn out – she’s like that with shoes too…go figure!

It is tricky changing bags constantly, but I have staples that stay in each bag (lip balm, tampons, panadol & bandaids), so all I’m really swapping over is purse, sunnies, diary, phone, keys and lippy. Easy!

Because I get bored quickly I try never to pay too much for my bags, my motto is always ‘why pay $150+ for one bag when the same spend could get you five?’

It’s all changed a bit recently tho; as currently I seem to be using only 2-3 bags with very little/no rotation.

My weekday/work bag is the funky, yet functional Crumpler Barney Rustle Blanket Bag – this goes with me everyday on PT (public transport) and carries all my weekday stuff (if I’m carrying too much stuff then the overflow is carried in my Cotton On Kids Owl enviro bag). On weekends I can be spotted with my multi-coloured stripy bag.

AND I’ve lost the need to buy new bags. In fact I don’t even look at bags when I shop now…unheard of 6 months ago!. Not sure why this has come about really, just call it a faze I’m sure I’ll snap out of it soon.

Next time I’ll tell you about my neck ties and then there’s by brooches, earrings, necklaces, shoes, purses, scarves, hats….oh you get the picture!

So, do you bag…lady?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

new ottobre!

The new Ottobre 2/2009 for women is out now! (to see images click on the link, then click on the bottom right hand image and then on th cover image). No styling with plus size models in this edition, which is a bit of a disappointment, but some nice pants, tops and jackets and a well detailed pleated neckline that could be added to any kind of garment. I think Imight give it a go on a top.

I have been very quiet around these parts because I haven't been sewing or buying clothing (or even had my hair cut yet!), and I haven't made my new paper tape dress form (though it is definitely on my agenda).

But I think I will make myself some new pants with some very nice fabric I just bought. Since the one clothing oriented job I have done recently was to draft and test my pants block, I am going to do a little comparison. You might remember these pants I made last last year at craft camp, and how I though I should have had a bigger size. Since I really like the shape and all the detailing, I think I will trace it out int he 52 and compare the pattern to my block. Should be interesting. I will report back!

Oh, and the shirt from that post, the one I wasn't overly fond of is now black thanks to a little dye session. I might even wear it when I photograph the new pants...

Sunday, February 15, 2009


My favorite weekend sport is cruising for yard sales, and since I live in Southern California the opportunities are pretty much year round. (Except when it rains on Saturday morning!) I never used to look for clothing, figuring I wouldn’t find anything in my size. How wrong I was—once I started to keep an eye out for things to wear I was amazed at what I found. And the prices…ooh la la! Drop in at my blog sometime to check out my weekly finds (and the stories that go with them!).

I feel so fortunate to have all this thrifting treasure available here. But like many thrifters, I've been known to bring home great deals that weren’t so great because I never used the item. One of my goals this year is not to let that happen. So when it rained a couple of Saturdays ago, I used my normal garaging time to remodel this skirt and blouse I picked up last summer for a buck and a half.

They’re by Ulla Popken, and judging from her website would have been about $70 each retail. Rayon with embroidery and some tasteful sequins. The tag said dry clean.

I don’t dry clean.

I don’t like the smell of the chemicals, don’t think they’re healthy to be around, and I don’t like the cost. My frugal self can't quite see buying something for a dollar or two and then spending over and over to dry clean it. So any yard sale clothing that says dry clean, I hand wash. Almost never has this backfired, and the item or two that shrank just got donated. They weren’t ruined, just smaller!

The top on this set shrank selectively. After I hand washed and dried it on the line, it was a little snug, especially the sleeves. Heck, I thought, but then I started considering the skirt. I have short legs, so lots of skirts hit the tops of my shoes if I don’t shorten them or hike them up under my armpits. This skirt was quite long, and has a ruffled tier on the bottom—not a candidate for shortening at the hem. However, skirts can easily be shortened from the top.

I picked open the elastic waist on the skirt, cut off about 5”, sewed a new casing, reinserted elastic and voila, the skirt was a length I like. Then I picked open the side and underarm seams on the top and inserted the cut-off skirt material. I admit picking out seams is boring, but I did it while watching a movie so it didn’t drive me mad. Since the fabric is black, I fancy the addition is barely noticeable. And if anyone ever comments on it I'll just say yes, I did add in some fabric, aren’t you clever to have noticed.

So now I have this comfy and (I think) spiffy dress to wear.

Since I had a few scraps of the black fabric left, I was able to repair a bleach spot on the sleeve of another (twenty five cent!) We Be Bop shirt.

I appliqu├ęd a small heart over it. Yes, wearing my heart on my sleeve, as the saying goes. I’m easily amused.

I used the same shorten-from-the-top technique a while back on this Jones New York silk skirt.

It was a couple of sizes too small, but cut on the bias and very long. This one has a set-on waistband, which I removed. Cut off a few inches at the top, put the waistband back on, inserted elastic, and now it’s my size and length. Which made me very happy, since I paid a whole dollar for this one!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

on the diagonal

green linen top, originally uploaded by Soozs.

I started this top a while ago. I was super excited about the fabric - a loose pure linen knit - and set out full of hope.

But the cowl neck just didn't work and the front was all floppy and shapeless. I was inspired by the front pleat and tuck work a few people had been doing (see here and here), but it just didn't look right. The strong vertical centre line worked like a big arrow pointing to my belly. Ahem.

A friend helped me with this version, invoking the classic, can't go wrong shape for big chicks (especially those of us with an ample bosom) the diagonal.

Pretty much every top I have ever owned with a strong diagonal line between the bust makes me look good. It gets rid of the uniboob problem and draws your eye somewhere off centre.

So I'm very happy with this.

I've been asked for pattern, but there isn't one. I've written up a few details about how I made it over on flickr, so go look there if you are interested. Happy to answer questions!

*edited to add - yes, the fabric is fantastic. I bought it locally at cutting edge here in Melbourne, which is a great source of unusual quality fabrics. I have never seen a linen knit before or since and I would be more than happy to hear from anyone who sees more of it! It wasn't cheap (cool unusual stuff rarely is) at $28 a meter, but the top took 1.5 m, so that's $42. And I think that when I have clothes made from really good fabric, it lasts and even more importantly, people are always looking and commenting on the fabric, not me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recommended Pattern: McCalls 5768

The past two weekends I've made two very comfortable loungers from a current McCalls pattern that I recommend to those of you who are LARGE. It is available in sizes 18 to 32 (US). The drawing and photo of the pattern envelope, below, are from the McCalls website.

It is designated as a top, tunic and caftan. I am going to make a top out of this, as I found the lounger design so comfortable. I used a Minky like knit for both of the garments shown below. I made a few changes: I added an inch and a half to the top edge of the yokes to help with "warmth"; instead of a separate sleeve band, I joined it together for a single piece sleeve; instead of the side slits, I sewed the entire side closed. In the second garment, I raised the bottom of the front yoke slit by two inches. I did not make any other pattern adjustments - no FBA. I completed a Pattern Review, which you may want to consult if you consider sewing this pattern.

The result of these changes are two nice warm comfortable garments for our cold cold winter here in Ohio.

The Unvarnished Truth

Gulp, the title of this post is quite accurate. I am sharing with you the water tape double form I made in September. Of course, this means that you know exactly the proportions of your body, no hiding now - I now know how big my rear is!

I took a class at the American Sewing & Craft Expo in Novi, Michigan last September that supported you in creating one of these forms. It was actually a fun class, and I was partnered with two funny ladies from Michigan to each complete these forms.

The leader of the class was Jan Bones, who has led many many such classes. If you click on her name, you will go to the website. On the left hand column, the third title is "DRESS FORM INFORMATION". This provides views of other dress forms and info on purchasing Jan's instructions for making this form. Jan also designs the Lingerie Secrets line of patterns.

You need to purchase some gummed tape. I found this on an art supply website, so you should be able to find it where ever you are.
Gummed Paper Tape
2"x75' gummed paper tape. Brown "craft" color; moisten with water. Easy to cut with scissors or craft knife.
EDIT: 2/8/09 - the website states you need three of these rolls of tape.
Briefly, you need at least one person to assist you - two is better. You cut the roll of water tape into reasonable lengths, preferably several that will go around your hips and waist. You don a piece of plastic (from a dry cleaners) and start with a round or two of the tape at the waist. This sort of anchors the process. Just like the duct tape form, you the proceed to cover the entire neck to upper thigh area, building up two or three layers of the tape. Don't soak the tape - put some water in a flat pan, and a sponge in the water. You can then slide the tape across the sponge to wet it. Edit 2/8/09: Once it is covered as much as you think worthy, you can use hair dryers to blow dry some of the wetter areas.

When you have a good shell that is mostly dry, you must cut in as straight a line as possible down the back of slip the shell off of your body. Before you do that, make a line across the cutting area in several spaces, so you can match it. You should staple it together along about 2 inches at the top and bottom, and a few tape areas across the body that will hold that shell together. You then hang it upside down (important) from a couple of ribbons pinned to the form, so it will dry.

Once you are done, and it has dried, you can then cut smaller pieces of tape and close that seam at the back. You should also use smaller pieces to reinforce the arm holes, bottom and neck (I elected to "fill in" the neck). Jan said you can put it on a hanger and use it as a form in this way, put it on a pole, etc.

She also suggests covering the brown paper - paint, decoupage, a knitted cover, etc. I haven't gotten that far with mine as yet.

A few more points: this is sturdier than the duct tape, you don't have to "stuff" it, and it will hold its shape quite well. Jan said that because it was created on top of your body, it accounts for some of the ease that you would normally include in a garment. So you should consider that when using the form.

Sally's Introduction

Hello All Large Ladies and Gentlemen!

Sue was kind enough to add me to the contributors to this blog. I have sewn since I was a teen, and I explore issues of fit and style for the larger woman with great frequency.
I am very interested in the issues that Large explores - I've been up and down (oh gosh, haven't we all??), but at am my current highest weight, and, naturally, size.

I have a blog SallySews, that I invite you to visit at your leisure. It details all my sewing (clothing, bags and quilts), as well as other items I am interested in that are craft/sewing related. I am in Ohio, U.S.A.

I am in the midst of enlarging some patterns from smaller to larger, and promise to record this process so that I can detail and offer some suggestions to you. I also have a gummed tape body double that is supposed to be more sturdy than a duct tape double. I will get a photo of it and describe it for you later today. I took a class from a woman last September that guided the creation of this double, but the process is not difficult.
Here is a photo of me in my favorite project of 2008. It is the Xceptional Shirt, from a pattern from Dana Marie Designs (formerly Pawprints). Her patterns include sizes from small to 5x, so finding a good fit becomes easy with a bit of familiarity.

I am glad to be here and hope we can discuss our projects and the issues we all encounter here!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

duct tape dress form

I've just done a post over on my blog about making a dress form out of duct tape (read it here.)

There's a few things I thought I'd add about it here specifically as a larger size issue.

I absolutely love the idea of having a dress form. I think one of the things that really lets plus size clothes down is poor fit and for getting this right, shape is absolutely critical. And of course, buying a plus size dress form is virtually impossible.

Making my own, as I detailed on the blog, was a trying experience and I am sure a significant part of this was a size issue. The relative strength and structure of the form just isn't as suitable to a larger size, and when you upsize everything in the process, it all takes longer and has more room for error. I think too, bigger often means more wobbly, so it is really hard to acurately capture your size and shape - too tight distorts, too lose makes it too big.

But if I can I think I'll give it another go. I'll get LOADS of tape and do at least 4 layers I think (maybe more in some bits), and make sure it comes right down over my butt.

I'd love to hear anything else from anyone about dress forms - duct tape or otherwise. Maybe we could organise a duct tape party and get a thing going...

Friday, January 30, 2009

hair - not the musical

A while ago someone posted a question in the comments about hair styles on plus sizes. I think this is a really interesting question, and one I feel is paid way too little attention.

Not that I'm saying I have any answers here, just that I continue to view my own hair do in the particular light of my size.

Here's a selection of hair styles on me. The first dates back to 1985 (I can hear you laughing), and the last is a party wig, but everything in between slots between 2002 and now, in chronological order.
There are two types of hair in which I feel happiest, and they are oddly diametrically opposed. For most of my adult life I have had very short hair, for a lot of it almost crew cut short. I like it because it is easy and practical and a bit edgy. It makes my hair look thicker and stronger. I hate that I need to get it cut all the time, that a bad cut leaves you with nowhere to hide, and that it can amplify my (supposed) assertive and intimidating personality.

Equally I love my hair longer and fuller. The best I ever had was when it was spiral permed at the end of the 80s. I know, perms just kill your hair and grow out awfully, but those months where I had fullness without 'big' hair were a total joy. Somehow the fullness makes me feel more balanced, like the extra size on my head somehow works better with the extra size on my body, and more feminine to boot (whatever that means). But too often my thin limp hair goes, well, thin and limp, and then it looks awful. And you need product and clips and bands and brushes and you have to pull hair out of the drain all the time.

So for me it works something like this. I wear my hair short for years and then for some unpredicted reason (like losing my hairdresser or being overseas or not having time) I decide to grow it. And for a while I enjoy having the hair thing for playing, the hair styles and plaits and knots, each new cut and it's variations on where the layers fall and how the volume sits, short fringe, thin fringe, no fringe. And people say, oh, actually long hair really suits you! So I keep it.

And then one day I wake up and look at myself in the mirror and think, what was I thinking?! Who is that vain, trussed up person in the mirror? And I rush out and get it all cut off. And people say, wow, that's funky! that really suits you!

So I don't know. In this particular incarnation of the cycle I halted at the usual cut off point and just had my hair taken back to the shoulders. That was a few months ago and really, it is time I got it cut again, those top layers are long and limp. Looking back at this collection of photos I like none so much as the really long and the really short.

So maybe it is time I went short again?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hi I'm new here

hey lovely larges, I've just been addedd to the blog roll by the wonderful sooz and so thought I'd jot down a quick note to say hi...Hi!

I'm a little shy, this blogging thing is new to me and I'm still trying to get my own blog up and going, but I'm a large lady trying to live large (and brave) and I really want to share my adventures with some sharing, caring, likeminded peeps.

More about me soon, as it's 43degrees here and my brain is melting!

stay cool xx Dee