Today, I’m writing to not only share my love and admiration for Bootstrap Fashion patterns, but to also give you some tips and tricks that I have learned through trial and error so you can succeed from the beginning and learn from my mistakes. I’ve always been excited when someone else helps me and I’m thrilled at the chance to help other sewists find the happiness sewing and the wonderful fit that we all know is possible. Really, it’s not a unicorn. I promise.
(Please note: I tend to be very direct and somewhat humorous with my wording. This helps you get what you need quickly. So please, know I mean no disrespect, nor harm. Most of the time, I’m making fun of my own body or flaws in an effort to not be so serious.)
What is Bootstrap Fashion and What’s All The Fuss About?
Bootstrap Fashion is an outstanding tool for any seamstress. In short, you enter your measurements and out prints a pattern custom drafted to your exact size. Did you read that right? Exactly your size? Yeah baby. It’s all about you. Like, are you super excited right about now? No? You want some proof that it won’t be yet another pattern that you’ll have to make umpteen bajillion changes to get it to fit you? Yeah, ok. I did too. Let’s get started, then!
Getting to the patterns on the site can be a little confusing. They have many great options and their offerings continue to grow. What we are going to talk about today are the Custom Fit Sewing Patterns. Ed Note: Bootstrap Fashion also has some helpful videos walking you though their process. Combine that with Gwen’s incredibly helpful tips and tricks and you should be golden!
To get to this section, navigate as follows: Go to BootstrapFashion.com –> Sewing Patterns (pink button) –> Custom Fit Sewing Patterns (upper left corner) –> Now, browse the patterns until you find a garment you’d like to make.
My Experience with Bootstrap Fashion
Since being introduced to Bootstrap Fashion by Kelly Hogaboom in Spring of 2016 with her Tea & Crumpet Sew Along, my sewing world has opened up and I’ve rapidly been able to create excellent fitting garments for my highly curved body.
I am curvy and athletic. To illustrate how much Bootstrap has helped and why I’m such a huge convert, here are the most common alterations I have to make for any pattern are:
• full bust
• full bicep
• sometimes broader shoulders
• small waist (I’ve had as many as 15” difference between waist and hip)
• sway back (oh dread! This has been my nemesis and I avoided many patterns for years because of this!)
• protruding rear (which is also a bit low too)
• unusually short front crotch length
• full thighs (my thighs measure the same as my full hip)
• knock knees
• protruding calves
Whew! I’m tired just writing all those. That also made me tired to sew because it meant HOURS and WEEKS of prep and alterations, and muslins to hope that maybe, someday, if I was really good, something might fit. At times, things felt dismal. This was even after having taken a moulage class, drafting patterns for years, etc. I had plenty of experience. But still, it wasn’t coming together for me. I kept feeling like if I could get an accurate and precise fit, then I could adapt it to any pattern in my stash.
Thanks to the Bootstrap Raglan I just posted, which was a half success, I just did that on the Toaster Sweater Version 1 I just sewed up all over Instagram. And I didn’t even fuss over alterations! How great is that?!
Selecting a Pattern
Selecting the proper pattern to fit your curves is key to success. Choose similar garment styling that you know flatters your figure or better yet, that you *feel* good in. There is no better piece of clothing to wear than one you “feel like a million bucks in” as my Grandma used to term the phrase.
If you want to explore your own style, there are many people out there who can help you hone down what suits you best. I really enjoyed Colette Pattern’s Wardrobe Architect. It helped me figure out that I truly am an athlete at heart and I dream of living in clothes that emanate the surfer girl lifestyle. I spent years telling myself I couldn’t have such a wardrobe because brands like Roxy and REI didn’t carry cute surfer chick clothes in plus sizes. Fart on that! I deserve to dress any dang way I want. And the more I only have clothes I love, the more I feel good. The more I feel good, the better my life is and everyone around benefits too!
If you don’t know what is flattering to your body type, please check out the amazing and brave women I admire who have posted in the CSC’s “Sewing for Your Curves” series. In short, if you are an hourglass/pear shape like me, choosing a dress that has no shaping and no darts is probably still going to look like a big bag on you. They always do on me. I don’t like straight clothes because I am so short waisted that I just look wider. Check out this Bootstrap woven tank. It’s a total “ugh!” for me, but might be a “woo hoo!” for the gal who loves straight, loose lines in her garments!
I think that choosing the following in my Bootstrap garments has helped me succeed quickly: princess seams (I cannot stress how useful these are. Look back at corsets through history: There’s a reason they have so many seams! Seams adapt flat fabric to curve the best way possible!), bust and waist darts (these fall second to princess seams, but they too have worked out brilliantly for me), A-line or trumpet skirts, waist bands or waist seams (any style that accentuates my waist).
What hasn’t worked for me in Bootstrap are the same styles that don’t work for my body in Ready to Wear or other patternmakers. Things like… straight hanging, shapeless, boxy garments, lack of waist shaping, pleats in front of my belly (some bodies this looks amazing on, however, I kind of go in around that area due to my thighs protruding from years of swimming, so it adds bulk there on my body where I don’t need it) and low, low plunging necklines (see this v-neck dress for evidence of that). Even when they are drafted to my measurements, they still end up hitting below the bridge of my bra. I’m just not comfortable showing that much cleavage off unless I’m in a dance costume.
Taking and Inputting Measurements
Taking your measurements properly is super important! If you take them at the wrong height, wearing a different set of undergarments than you will wear with the finished garment, you may discover that your project isn’t working out for you. Use the Bootstrap diagrams and videos linked at the “?” on every measurement field to learn how Bootstrap is expecting you to measure yourself.
There’s no sense in changing how they want it measured. Because you’re ultimately putting data into a computer. So, garbage in, garbage out. We can debate with each other, but arguing with a computer is futile.
If you take your arm length from your shoulder and they say to take it from your neck, then your pattern will be all out of whack. I was using the “Pro-fit measurements” tab. Then, like I did, you’ll have to retake the measurement, go back the pattern, re-enter your measurements and reprint the pattern. Again. So, it’s worth taking extra time to measure properly and follow their diagrams. It helps to pay attention to those little details and not try to skim past them.
They have nifty adaptations for many of our typical alterations – belly, bust, etc. I highly recommend using them if your body shape is similar to their diagrams.
Use the fit adjustments (second tab). I have thought of myself as so far off the curve and so difficult to fit, that it took a long time to convince myself that these would even work for me. But guess what? 9 patterns out of 10, have been perfect for me. Why are these awesome? Because instead of having to be exacting about every single measurement, you can just say, “full bust,” “larger arm,” etc. How RAD and time saving is that?!
I will caution, using these generic adjustments doesn’t always work. On my rashguard, I tested a theory… First print I chose “standard” upper arm fullness and “balanced” shoulder width. Then I made the rashguard. The neckline pulls toward the shoulders. The sleeves are much tighter than I prefer. The second time I printed, I chose “full” upper arm fullness and “wide” shoulder width. I lay one pattern atop the other. This pattern is designed for knits. There was barely a scant 1/4″ difference between them in the aforementioned key areas.
The comparison tells me this is designed for significant negative ease and that the designer created the sleeves to be quite narrow. I can either increase my bicep measurement and my shoulder width by some rough estimation (20% increase) while leaving all other areas alone since they are working, then print a new copy and re-compare. Or, I could make pattern alterations with the already printed pattern.
I have attempted to print woven patterns using my measurements less 20% to account for a negative ease. However, my first attempt at that wasn’t quite what I wanted. I’ll blog about progress as I discover more.
Save your measurements with a date stamp. That way, should your body change, you’ll have an idea of where you were and if you need to update your measurements. I’ve been dancing for the last year and have actually seen some of my high bust measurement shrink a little. That can make or break a tight fitting garment!
Bootstrap makes this super easy! Once you enter your measurements and before you click purchase, choose “Save my Measurement.” Note, though, that this will take your browser away from the page and you may have to re-enter any non-savable things like “fit adjustments” and “seam allowances.” I found this out the hard way.
Be honest with yourself. If your bust is low, your bust is low. Don’t fight it. Don’t let society tell you it’s no good and don’t beat yourself up and choose some magical measurement that isn’t your body.
The beauty of Bootstrap is it’s printed to fit your body, your measurements. That means, when you find the right style and get the right measurements, you are gonna look outstanding. Girl, you are gonna shine like the diamond that you are! Every single one of us is a beauty. Every single one of us deserves to look glorious in her clothing. Every single one of us deserves to have a pattern that fits her body exactly as it is. Plus, think of the time you’re not going to spend in a dressing room or in a muslin beating yourself up! Choose to use your exact measurements and just suspend judgement for a little while. Take that leap of faith!
That’s super easy for me to say. It’s incredibly hard to put into practice if you’re still working through body issues. Know that I have spent years learning to love myself. It wasn’t until I made a paper tape double in Jan Bones class that I finally looked and saw my backside as beautiful. My first thought was, “Whoa, that’s what guys see in me. Huh. COOL! I guess I am beautiful.” And suddenly, I was able to look around a sea of other paper tape bodies and see just how beautiful they were too – old, young, curved, straight, hunched, bulging, one-side larger than the other. You are beautiful and worth sewing for just as you are right now.
Stay tuned for upcoming segments of this series on Bootstrap Fashion patterns. I’m planning on covering Printing & Taping, Fabric Layout & Cutting, Construction, and Fitting/Muslins.
Have you tried any Bootstrap Fashion patterns? When selecting a pattern and taking and inputting your measurements, how did your choices help you succeed or learn?
Thanks for reading!