It’s time for some more peculiarities. Today, I want to make a bit of a bold claim: plus size sewists are better at adapting and altering patterns. Or at least, plus sized sewists learn advanced skills more quickly, and perfect them out of necessity. Ladies, we are brave and bold and fearless because we have to be.
Now I know that everyone has fit issues. I don’t think that anyone, anywhere actually fits a straight size out of the packet. Does anyone know anyone who does? Even if a person matches the vital statistics for a Simplicity size 12 perfectly, it is highly likely that they will need some kind of sway back adjustment, or narrow shoulder adjustment, or something. The art of fitting is by no means reserved for us chubbies; however, it is significantly more fundamental to our experience of sewing. If we want to sew at all, we need to learn how to grade up patterns, do FBAs, and get creative. More often than not, we can’t actually sew anything without some major fitting adjustments. It’s not that we are being picky and fretting over a slightly tight armhole here, what I mean is, unless we learn some grading skills well and fast, we won’t even be able to get the thing we’ve made over our heads. There are increasingly some great plus sized patterns available, and I don’t want to disparage the brands who have extended their size ranges. Believe me, I am SO grateful. But many brands do still release gorgeous patterns in a very small size range and I’ll be darned if I’m not going to make them. I want to wear ALL THE COOL THINGS dammit.
We need to learn these formal, advanced skills properly, because if we don’t, we end up with something like the picture below. My uneducated attempt to make a pattern fit my bust led to something that not only fit over my head, it hung right off my shoulders too. I needed to learn how to alter patterns almost as soon as I had learnt to thread my machine.
So pretty much as soon as I learned to sew, I learned to do an FBA. Or at least, I attempted one. The second thing I ever made was this Colette Sorbetto, and it was bad. I don’t know about FBAs, so my solution when it pulled at the bust was to chop down the middle of the back and add a three inch panel in, as well as making the centre front pleat narrower. Instead of making this fit my bust, it just made it fall off my shoulders. However the internet is a wonderful thing, and by the time I made my next cotton dress I was doing an FBA.
I am by no means an accomplished sewist yet, I’ve only been sewing at weekends and in the evening after work for about 18 months, but I have already mastered some skills that some sewists who fit fairly easily into the size range of a particular pattern will never need to master. Often the only adjustments that people need to do when they start out are grading between a couple of sizes for hips and waist. I have learnt different types of grading from simply adding a bit extra on the side seams via slash and spread to pretty much redrawing pattern pieces. I am proud of this, and I don’t think I would have bothered to learn these things if necessity hadn’t made it so. I’m not saying that smaller sewists can do these things (far from it, I am often in awe of the amazing grading work people do for single sized vintage patterns), nor that we are better sewists in general (I’m certainly not: you should see what I did to the neckline of my latest make!). I am however, convinced that as patterns so often do not really cater for our shapes, we have to be a little bit braver, a quite a bit more creative, rather more resourceful right off the starting blocks than those who at least can get into a straight size from a pattern even if it doesn’t fit perfectly.
As a group of plus sized sewists we have taught ourselves some really ingenious and creative and canny fixes for apparently insurmountable problems that might have put a lesser person off sewing altogether.
a little bit braver, quite a bit more creative, rather more resourceful
The CSC and this series are a great way to celebrate our communal knowledge so tell me: what skill did you need to learn early in order to take up sewing as a hobby? What trick of the trade are you proudest of? Do you agree that we get better, quicker than other sewists?