Growing up fat taught me how to be resourceful. Determined. Dare I say…crafty?
Ok fine, I’m not a devious mastermind. I am, however, a pretty good seamstress. I started as many little girls do, making clothes for my Barbies out of scraps. Then I graduated into cutting up my own T-shirts. Then turning a pair of too-short jeans into a skirt – by hand. I think I still have the needle indentions in my fingertips from trying to pull that needle through 8 layers of denim. My middle school sewing class was a revelation – suddenly I could use a sewing machine and a tissue paper pattern to make my own clothing! In fabrics of my own choosing! No longer stuck buying whatever I found in my size! My excitement was palpable.
But my first few dozen garments were pretty lackluster.
Odd fits, weird fabrics. Subtlety wasn’t something I learned early. It was a long learning process, with lots of wonky seams. Obviously, I still wore them out of the house and proudly told everyone I could that I had MADE THAT. There were difficult lessons to be learned – quilting cotton shrinks when you wash it. Poorly placed darts can make for weird boob shapes. I still hate pants, even when custom fitted. Pattern sizing rarely has any basis in real life. But I learned. I persevered, I didn’t give up, I measured and cut and sewed and ripped and re-sewed. And soon, shit started to get wearable.
ENJOYING THIS POST? BE SURE TO CHECK US OUT ON PATREON! YOU CAN PLEDGE ANYTHING FROM $1+ A MONTH TO SUPPORT OUR WRITERS AND IN RETURN WE OFFER SOME AMAZING REWARDS!
Being able to sew my own clothes let me experiment with styles that were not fat-friendly.
Though my parents are very conservative, I could push the envelope more if it was something I’d made myself. I made a cherry print mini skirt that I wore for years. I tried out halter tops, backless dresses, crop tops. Sure, some of them weren’t allowed out of the house, but it was still illuminating to see my own fat body in a style I wasn’t “allowed” to wear. Sizing was no longer an issue. I taught myself how to grade up a pattern that wasn’t big enough.
Now that my style is more set and less fluid, I like trying out new pattern companies.
Gone are the days of having to work with whatever I could find from the Big 4: McCall’s, Vogue, Butterick, and Simplicity. Thanks to Instagram, it’s easier than ever to find new pattern companies, making great options in plus sizes. Some of my current favourites are:
Sew House 7 from whom I made The Bridgetown Backless Dress for my birthday. I found the sizing to be pretty generous on that pattern. I cut a size 20, but ended up cutting it down to about a size 16 by the time I was satisfied with the fit. The dress is gorgeous and every time I wear it, someone asks me where it’s from.
(The Sew House 7 Birthday Dress!)
Sew Over It who has a great mailing list with both new patterns, completed project photos, and fabric suggestions. Their plus size options are more limited, but I’m looking forward to trying out their Kimono Jacket pattern with a soft pink sweater knit. Kimonos are such a must-have and they’re simple to sew up. If you’re near any of their London locations, Sew Over It offer sewing classes!
(A Sorbetto top & a Beth Ditto skirt!)
My absolute favourite is Colette Patterns / Seamwork Magazine. Colette lured me in with their free Sorbetto Tank Top pattern. It had been several years since I’d sewn anything, and I wanted to start with a basic. Now I’ve made several Sorbettos, and they’re a staple for my work wardrobe. Seamwork is their monthly magazine. It’s a great deal at $6 per month, as you get two new patterns in each issue. They also include fitting and customisation features, but my favourite part is that they now show a fit guide for both Misses and Plus sizes! Their sizing goes up to size 26, and is pretty reflective of ready to wear sizing.
Sewing is my favourite form of stress relief.
There’s just something about the sound of my sewing machine that blocks out all my negative inner voices. And sometimes turns them into negative outer voices, as I curse and mutter while I rip out a seam. Seam ripping can be almost as cathartic as ripping into a person, though! It’s extremely rewarding to have a tangible, wearable garment at the end of all the frustration. Making coworkers jealous of your custom fitted clothing is just a bonus.