Tag Archives: sewvangelism

Confessions of a (sewing) pusher

Kathleen of Little Hunting Creek is right. I feel like a pusher.

Recently, my Stylish Sister-in-Law finished her first ever sewing project.

So Stylish!

Ok, I maybe helped a bit.

By, y’know, casually mentioning making this, or that, every time I’ve seen her since we moved back. And possibly by shoving my phone (with pattern-tracking app) in her face at every opportunity. You know how fun it is to dig through your patterns, virtually or otherwise? Well, it’s even more fun to do it with someone else. (Or two someones… I’m working on my other SIL, too, but she works full-time so it’s a slower process) Anyway, finally a week or two ago she cracked, and went through my entire pattern catalogue and presented me with the list of her choices.

Most of them were lovely sundressy things that, while they might or might not have been good beginner’s projects, are just heartache waiting to happen, as we perch here on the cusp of the Canadian winter.* I didn’t want her first project to languish unworn in a closet for six to ten months. So we negotiated, and she opted for the tunic version of New Look 6789.

This pattern, humorously, is the same pattern I helped my friend Trish make last summer. Which, I might add, I still haven’t made up for myself. /pout. Stylish has expressed interest in making up the skirt and maybe even the pants, as well… but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Stylish already had fabric, salvaged from a long-abandoned “old fashioned dress” project a family friend had apparently started for Stylish long and long ago, which has languished, half-draped and loosely basted, in a bag in Stylish’s storage. I’ve never draped anything, so I don’t want to comment on the quality or lack thereof, except that it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t anywhere near done.

Anyway, Stylish acquiesced to my tracing neuroses and traced the pattern all on her own. I took a back measurement to confirm my hunch that some waist-shortening would be in order, but otherwise had her trace a straight size twelve. We’re much the same size, but very different in shape, so I didn’t want to jump the gun on a bunch of alterations.

And then, I made her iron her sadly-crumpled fabric, quite possibly the first time she’s ironed anything in her life. She did it quite well, and may even have enjoyed herself.

The sewing itself was a joint effort, particularly since I elected to have her follow the pattern instructions and begin with the front princess seam. Was your first seam of all time a princess seam? Yeah, mine neither. I did the bust part and then let her do the rest of it (other than the zipper). The serger is at my MIL’s, so I made her finish the seam allowances with a triple-step zig-zag. I feel pretty mean for doing that; I don’t think I finished a seam in the first fifteen years I ever sewed. But it’s a pretty ravelly fabric. She’s most satisfyingly particular and precise in her sewing. It makes me pretty jealous, frankly.

So Stylish.

And, voila! Not perfection; it could use a little more shaping in the back, I think. (But then that might also cause more ripples and necessitate that swayback adjustment and stuff.) And the band gapes a bit and we should’ve placed the straps a little closer together for her narrow shoulders. But still pretty smart for a first try, I do think. I am grinning ear to ear every time I see her in it. And it’s not too hard to throw a sweater over, either, since it’s, um, not exactly sleeveless season here anymore.

And she wore it out to her birthday dinner tonight, so I’m pretty sure that counts as a win.

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Spreading the bug.

Teehee

I have a lovely friend here in town who is creative, crafty, and has one of those unique figures  that makes buying clothes off the rack an experience that ranges from frustrating to soul-destroyingly brutal. She is well-rounded,  busty, and very, very petite. Needless to say, it was glaringly obvious to me that she needed to start sewing.

Of course, persuading her (a busy puppy-mom with nowhere near enough hours in the day already) of this took a bit more work. In fact, it wasn’t until a month or so ago that I finally managed to get her to pick a thing to make, and we began the adventure of fitting her.

Booyeah

As I mentioned before, the pattern she picked was New Look 6789. This had lots of things going for it, from our perspective. Aside from being intensely cute to start with, it has princess seams, no waist seam (a feature she’s about as fond of as I am, with even better reason), and broad, bra-friendly straps.

The main downside is that the pattern only goes up to a size 16, and we really should’ve been starting with an 18, even before the FBA.

I started with measurements. Full bust, high bust, and back waist. To give you a small sense of what we were dealing with—standard Misses sizes are drafted with a back length of 16″ or so. Mine is around 15″, resulting in my standard, moderate petite alteration to the bodice.

My friend’s is 13″. If she’s standing tall.

What followed was not an elegant sequence of well-practiced fitting. Rather, it involved a lot of measurement, followed by pattern alteration, followed by trying on, followed by further tweaking, and that’s without going into all the stitching and unpicking and swearing. My friend did, far and away, the bulk of the work herself, while I directed. This worked pretty well for me, and hopefully for her.

Having determined based on measurements, roughly what we needed to add to the pattern, both all around and for FBA purposes, I put my slave labour friend to work tracing out her pattern. We added width. And I did a Y-type Full Bust Adjustment a la Debbie Cook, except with less precision.

Now, my dear friend, having picked an excellent pattern, had decided on a very cute, black with white polkadots knit for the fabric. Yes, you are absolutely right, this is a pattern for a woven. Ahem. Never one to be dissuaded, I figured that making it in a knit should make it possible to omit the zipper, so away we went. To start off, after she’d block fused a portion of fabric, we cut out the top yokes and straps, and did some quick test-fitting with these. All seemed well, so I set her to cutting out the rest of it. Which was not block-fused. Which was not fun in this fabric. Nor was it the kind of stuff that liked to be sewn. But she soldiered on, hampered mainly by the fact that our days off during a week don’t coincide, and she lives on the far side of the city (which is the better part of an hour’s drive even when traffic isn’t ridiculous). Obviously, it’s not perfect—some spots the angles are a little off, and in particular there’s some issues with the vertical seams where I should’ve had her use a stretchier stitch, and hemming the lining nearly drove her over the edge—but the fit, the fit.

Rear fit

I don’t think I can explain to you how triumphant I feel over this dress. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it’s leaps and bounds above anything off the rack.

It fits her bust.

It fits her back.

We could probably have shortened the waist even more (I wasn’t sure how much should come out below the armpit, as opposed to above it, which was easy to adjust with the straps.), but it’s much better than storebought.

With a little bit of princess-seam tweaking, we seem to have achieved skimming fit. Woot, woot!

Rawr!

So, bear with me while I wax philosophical here a moment. I’m a big fan of body acceptance. A fan of finding what’s beautiful about yourself, whatever your size or shape may be, and running with that.

And watching my friend go through the fitting process has been illuminating on so many levels—the physical challenge of fitting a body so different from mine, sure, but also the body-negativity she struggles with, having a body that not only isn’t the model ideal, but doesn’t even seem to be in the same universe, as dictated by the clothes on the rack. Like most of us, she knows what works for her and what doesn’t, but—like most non-stitchers—she doesn’t quite know the difference between what doesn’t work because it’s not flattering for her shape, and what doesn’t work because she’s never tried on a version that actually fit. (I have a similar problem with tailored shirts, frankly). And she’s still trying to digest that it’s not a problem with her—it’s a problem with the clothes, and the system that only caters to shapes within a certain standard deviation of average.

I hope she does absorb it. I hope she learns to tell the difference between a bad fit and a bad body. And I hope (maybe a little selfishly), that she’ll keep on sewing, even if it doesn’t become a major obsession hobby, and will have at least a few things that make the body that she has look as beautiful as it actually is.

And I think that she looks like a bombshell in this dress. 😀

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