It needs to be said …

I agree with Tim Gunn. Recently, he commented on women’s fashion and how designers need to step up to the plate and start designing clothing for women who aren’t a size 2. He said that the average American woman these days is a size 16 to 18, but really there is no one trying to design clothing for these women. And that’s crazy, considering that women in the “plus size” range spend more money on clothing than their thinner counterparts!

You can watch his comments here.

As you probably know, I fall in to the “plus size” category. Depending on the clothing and where they come from, I may wear an 18 – 24 in tops and a 20-24 in bottoms. That alone should give us some pause – there is a FOUR SIZE differential in my shirts and a THREE SIZE differential in bottoms! Even at my absolute thinnest, I’m a size 10, not a size 2 or 4. Anything below a size 10 and I start to look anorexic (no joke; it’s really pitiful looking). Granted, as it is right now, I need to lose weight – there’s absolutely NO denying that. And I’ve been working on doing just that. But I couldn’t agree with Tim Gunn more. Designers need to stop ignoring a third of the population (and more than half of women) and step up their game.

Thing is – and this would really piss off designers – I don’t think they know HOW to design for a woman who isn’t a size 2. I don’t think that most of these designers have what it takes to design clothing for real women instead of the imaginary women that are in their heads. I’m not in to body shaming, and I don’t want this post to turn in to that, But if we can be honest for just one moment – how many women do you see on the street that look like a runway model? On an average day, do  you see women who look like they can wear a 00 jeans? I’m not saying they don’t exist, and I’m not saying that every woman who can wear a very small size is anorexic. Some women are just naturally very small, and kudos to them. But why can’t fashion designers accept, if not embrace, the attitude of Viva la Difference? Why must they insist on cutting off their sizing at size 10 (and a lot of them do just that)? 
A while back, I saw an advertisement for clothing that trumpeted the arrival of “plus size” clothing at a boutique. The “plus size” in question was a size 12. SIZE 12!!! The last time I wore a size 12 was before I got pregnant with my daughter, and trust me, I looked good. I looked so good, I was practically beating men off with a stick (ok, maybe not all the time, but sometimes that was true). No one accused me of being fat or plus sized back then. I had curves. But I still had trouble finding clothing that fit well even back then. If it was big enough for my hips, my waist just swam. If it was big enough for my boobs, it hung off me elsewhere.
I know that the days of custom fit clothing are in the past for most of us, but wouldn’t it be nice to walk in to a store and be able to find clothing that at least got close? Now that my biggest fitting issue isn’t, “Will the buttons gape at my breast apex?” I find that clothing shopping is depressing. Clothing for women who are larger than a size 12 looks terrible. It’s not stylish, it’s not flattering. It’s depressing, drab and disgusting.
Tim Gunn said that designers say they don’t like making clothes for plus size women because it’s too hard, and one woman who’s a size 16 is different from another size 16 woman. My response to that is, DUH! You can’t tell me for one moment that all size sixes are the same. It’s a cop out, and it’s ridiculous. No two women of the same size are exactly alike, regardless of what size that might be, so why do we accept such stupid, insulting comments from designers?
I don’t really have an answer to how to fix this problem, but I see more and more women learning to sew so that they can fit their bodies.  So maybe that IS the answer – we have to start voting with our dollars, and stop spending money in places that aren’t willing to stock a wider range of sizes.
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Butterick B5215 – A Pattern Review … of sorts

This weekend, I managed to do something I haven’t ever done – I started and completed a garment! Sure, it was a t-shirt, but it was made by ME, and I got it done in just two days. I am totally psyched. I chose Butterick B5215, view B …

Butterick B5215

This is supposed to be a semi-fitted t-shirt. And I am very proud of the t-shirt I made, even though it’s way too big …

Butterick B5215 Black

 

When I tried it on after it was done, it was more of a tunic than a t-shirt, and I couldn’t figure out why. This isn’t the first t-shirt I’ve made from this pattern – I’ve also made view A, fitted, and view C, unfitted. View A fits perfectly, even though my tummy really isn’t cut out for a fitted tee, so to speak. It was the first one I made, so I thought, “Well, maybe view C will look better.” I was expecting a tee along the lines of a unisex t-shirt, sort of boxy and not all that flattering. I was looking for just a standard t-shirt. It was huge. I felt like I needed to put on leg warmers and start dancing to “What a feeling.” It just hung off of me. I was so disgusted with it, I didn’t even finish the neck binding (more on that in a bit). It’s still sitting in a plastic project box, propping open the guest bedroom door.

So when I finished view B and put it on, and it looks like it should have been labeled “tunic” instead of tee, I thought something was wrong with the pattern. So I went off to PatternReview.com to look for  reviews on this pattern. I knew there would be some, because it’s a very popular t-shirt over there. And sure enough, it looks like a t-shirt on everyone else. I couldn’t figure it out. Then when I was cleaning up and putting away the pattern, I happened to glance at the back of the pattern and I realized what I’d done. I made a 2XL, because that’s often the size t-shirt I need in ready to wear (RTW) just to fit over my chest. But in this particular pattern, a 2XL is the equivalent of a 26W-28W RTW! That’s why the shirt doesn’t fit. In this pattern, I need to make an XXL, which is what I did with view A. I think most people can see why that was confusing. I didn’t even realize that there was an XXL on the multi-sized pattern. I thought it was a XL. I suspect that’s also what happened with view C. So if you make this pattern, be really careful about the sizing, particularly if you wear a size 18W through 24W in RTW.

But still, the pattern went together pretty well. The only thing I don’t like about it – and that has killed my efforts every. single. time. I’ve made it, is the neck binding. On view A, I gave up and just folded the raw edge in and stitched it down. It isn’t great, but it’s ok. I can, at least, wear the shirt outside of the house. On view C, as I said earlier, I gave up on it, but I might pull it out and try to finish it a different way just to say it’s done. And on view B, this shirt, I followed the directions on the pattern exactly. It looks stretched out to me, floppy and too heavy. So I’m definitely going to find a better way to finish the neck on this one. My mom gave me a couple of tips, and I found a couple of tips on the internet that I’m going to try next time.

And even though this shirt is way too big, it is super comfortable, except for that floppy-ish neckline. So I’m probably going to wear it as a tunic. Surprisingly, there isn’t that much difference in the sizing in the shoulders between the XXL and the 2XL, so it’s a little big there but not horrible. I could put a belt on (if I wore belts, which I don’t) and it would be really cute with jeans.

If I had to grade the pattern, I’d give it a B-. The weird sizing thing aside, the problems with the neckline are just annoying. But despite the fact I’ve made this shirt three times and so far none of them have turned out perfect, I just cannot make myself give up. I’m going to give view B (and maybe view C) another chance sometime really soon. I mean, once I get this one right, who wouldn’t want custom-made t-shirts?!

This is going to be painful …

I have a great job, and I’m very happy and thankful to have it. Particularly right now, when my company is laying off thousands of people around the globe, I’ve got no complaints at all. But today I found out that after more than three years of working mostly at home, I’m going to need to be back in the office, it looks like probably four days a week if not the full five. That’s not SO bad, because you know, people and socializing and stuff. But when I heard the news, my heart sank a little bit because I was picturing my closet. You know, a closet with very few clothes for career wear, because over the last few years I haven’t really needed much, and so when my already older clothing wore out, I didn’t really think about replacing it because who needs a bunch of slacks & dressy blouses when they’re in the office once, maybe twice a week?

Good strategy, huh?

So I went up to my closet and took stock. Two pairs of slacks, a few blouses (that I’ve worn so often, I feel like they’re second skins), a single pair of work-type shoes. Ummm …. yeah. Great.

Since I need to start going back to the office most days of the week on MONDAY, I knew I wouldn’t be able to really make any clothing before I needed them. So I headed out to pick up a few things, and I’ll admit, I got some good deals – a couple pair of slacks, a few shirts and a cardigan for $160. But they’re so … generic. So … boring. So … lacking in style. But you know, at least it keeps me from going to work sans clothing. I hear they frown on that in the office these days.

I’m a plus size, and I’m not much of a garment sewist, but I’ve got to make an effort to make myself some clothes, because everything I saw today was just … eh. You know that feeling? You walk in to a store and you see some clothes and they’re ok, but nothing special, and you don’t hate them but you don’t love them. Eh. I haven’t worn skirts in ages because … well, because I’m not a thin girl, and … chub rub and all that, but I’m thinking that a couple skirts might be fairly simple and fast to turn out because I’m NOT a fast garment sewist. I can whip up a queen size quilt top in a day and a half, but a garment of any type? We’re talking a week, at least. Maybe longer, if I’m just not feeling it.

Frankly, I’m not terribly worried about fitting right now. I’m more concerned about construction and making sure I can actually put it together without too much hassle. Sure, fitting is important, but so is a garment I can wear. As I go along, I’m sure I’ll start working on fit more, but for now, it’s about garments that I can wear that don’t look terrible. I don’t care that others might judge me for that; they don’t have to agree with me. But I’m pretty sure that four pairs of slacks and eight tops will get pretty boring in short order, and I don’t really want to pay more money for clothes that are just … eh.

This is going to be painful, but in the long run, it will be worth it. Right?

Right???

At least, I hope it’s worth it …

Frustration Abounds!

One of my goals is to improve my garment sewing capabilities. I would probably rate myself as an intermediate quilter, but my sewing skills can best be described as … intermediate beginner? Is that even a term? I can sew a set in sleeve, but I’ve never done buttonholes till recently. I’ve never done a zipper. But I can make a pair of pants or shorts with elastic in the waist in about 30 minutes. Then again, who wants nothing but elastic waisted garments?

So, in an effort to step up my game, I’m making a serious effort to make myself some clothing. And in that spirit, I went to Hancock Fabrics with my mom and I chose Butterick B6070. It’s a very cute, allegedly simple button down shirt. See?

Butterick B6070

Butterick B6070

Now, I’m not exactly a small girl – that’s one of the reasons why I want to improve my sewing skills. Clothing for plus size often looks like a tent – it’s shapeless and the fabrics are more often than not just terrible. But that’s a post for another day. I chose this pattern because it was graded – or scaled to size – for plus size and I thought it could be a good basic top. It has a hidden placket, which I thought would further expand my skills, a collar with a collar band, and buttons. It’s really cute, isn’t it?

Things were going along swimmingly, and I was really enjoying the process of making the top. I traced off my pattern in my size, cut it out, pinned it to fabric that I got from my mom (I’m not sure if it’s considered “vintage” but it was bought before I graduated high school in 1986!), and cut it out. I was careful to mark all the notches and dots and everything. It was going great – until I got to the collar and collar band. I called my mom for advice, because I’ve never done one before, and she walked me through how to do it. And I got started on it, but I never got any further than sewing the collar pieces to each other and turning them right side out. You see, there are no NOTCHES on the collar to match to the collar band. The instruction sheet very clearly says to match the notches and other markings, but they don’t exist. 

So I got on the internet (the trusty internet, where I can find almost anything) and I sent an email to Butterick and explained the problem. I did neglect to mention I was using the plus size pattern, so when the reply came back that the notches were definitely on the pattern and I must have just missed them, I went up to my studio and took photos of the pattern pieces in question and emailed them back. The girl apologized and said she would have the pattern piece regraded and sent to me. That was yesterday. It’s been more than 24 hours and I’ve not heard back from them. But I figured, you know, they’re probably busy, and I don’t HAVE to put the collar in before I do the sleeves, because I wasn’t really following the instructions anyway. When it comes to sleeves and side seams, I never do them like the pattern says, because I think it’s a stupid way to do set-in sleeves. I did learn SOMETHING from my mom, after all. LOL

So today, after work, I went back up to my studio and started to inset the sleeve. Only guess what’s missing … a NOTCH!! Now I’m a little perturbed, because they have missed at least two notches that I know of … though, hopefully, there aren’t any more missing, because there really aren’t many pattern pieces left. But seriously, TWO sets of notches missing on a single pattern?? You can bet I’m not happy. I can set a sleeve, no problem, but with no notches? Well … Maybe I can do it, but it won’t be easy. 

And so, that’s why my frustration is out of control tonight. I am SO CLOSE to having this shirt done. I’ve got to put in the collar, put in the sleeves and put on the buttons. Hem it, and it’s done. But I can’t do any of that right now because the NOTCHES ARE MISSING!!

Sorry for yelling, but seriously … what does Butterick have against transferring all of the notches to the plus size patterns? 

Dr Seuss baby quilt

I was sooooooo excited to finish this quilt – the first quilt I’ve actually finished in 2014, I apparently forgot to post it. Wooooooow … This one was ridiculously easy, but for some reason it took me freakin’ forever to do the binding. The entire quilt could easily be done in a single weekend, but I managed to drag it out for more than three months, because that’s how I roll.

Cat in the Hat baby quilt

Yes, that IS my son holding up the quilt while sitting in bed, because he was too lazy to stand up and hold it up for me. Fortunately, he has ridiculously long arms, so it worked. And I don’t have to apologize for his funny faces he makes while holding quilts as I take photos. LOL

This week, though I’m on vacation, I have yet to spend any real quality time in the studio. However, that should all change today, as my only plans for the day involve sewing, although I suspect that at some point, I will end up leaving the house; isn’t that what always happens? But my focus today isn’t another quilt – it’s t-shirts! I am tired of the baggy, ill-fitting t-shirts that are just not really my style that I keep finding in stores these days. I’m certainly no seamstress, and alterations terrify me, but I am really not impressed with the RTW clothing I’m finding lately. The t-shirt pattern I’ve chosen seems to be a fairly easy one, that has some fitting already. I’m sort of hoping I can get two of these shirts made, if not today, definitely this week.

If this goes well, I may be ordering tons of knit fabric to make some t-shirts. I have lots of ideas, including some embroidery and other embellishments. 🙂

My next project – my wardrobe

When I was a kid, my mother made nearly all my clothing, except for jeans and undergarments. I remember falling asleep to the sound of her sewing machine nearly every night, while she made something for one of us to wear. But I have never really been a fashion sewist. Until now.

Why would a woman start sewing garments for herself when she is nearly 45? Well for one thing, I really miss the unique clothing I had growing up. No one else had anything like I wore, and while back then I wasn’t very appreciative of being different, these days I am ready to embrace something that isn’t off the rack. Secondly, I’m not the easiest person to fit – my measurements are not really “normal” I guess. Even when I was much smaller, I wasn’t really a size 8 or 10 or 12. My size depended on the cut, the fabric, the designer … Nothing has changed in the last 20 years. I’m still not one size all over. And finally, I hate today’s fashions. Either they are made for girls, not women, or they are made for senior citizens, not younger middle aged women. Apparently, designers think women only come in “Hollywood starlet” or “Driving Miss Daisy” … When I do manage to find a style I like, the fabrics are horrible. Or the price is ridiculous. Or more often, the construction is crap. I’m sorry, but nothing annoys me more than having to sew up seams that didn’t get caught when the garment was constructed – and it happens far more often than you’d think.

All of these complaints have led me to one conclusion – I must start sewing my own clothing and stop worrying about whether or not it will be perfect. As time goes on, my technique will improve. Heck, I’m investing in two, yes two, new sewing machines this year (maybe three, if I can talk Chris into a new serger), so it’s definitely time to put them to use for more than just quilting. Hey, quilting is and always will be my first sewing love, but I hear there’s this thing about running around town naked, and how that’s frowned upon. And I don’t want anyone to burn out their retinas because they saw me sans clothing!

My first projects are going to be easy, simple garments that will likely be useful during spring and summer months, since winter is nearly over here in Houston. I’ve not had more than three pairs of shorts at a time, and all of current ones at least five years old, in ages. So that’s my first thing – some simple shorts for the upcoming Houston hell … err, summer (I’ve been told it only feels like hell). I’ll post pattern reviews, and comments, and maybe even some cries for help. But mostly, I’m going to sew. Some of my posts here may not be more than just pictures. Some of them might be $*(@&%()* … I do have a temper, you know. But I hope you’ll join me for this adventure, because I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a heck of an adventure. 🙂

February has been crazy!

After posting a record breaking (for me) 11 times in January, I just disappeared, didn’t I? I’m sorry about that. Things got crazy busy for me – I spent last week in London for work, which meant that the week before I spent getting ready to go. But I’m back now and I’m here to tell you about what’s happening on other fronts for me!

First of all, I’ve taken to baking our own bread. It’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s so darn good, I can’t imagine why I didn’t start doing this sooner. Actually, I DO know – I could never find the right sandwich loaf, but I finally found it, and it is awesome. The recipe is from King Arthur’s flour, and it is by far the best loaf of bread I’ve ever baked – and I’ve baked many! You can find the recipe here … I highly recommend it. I double the recipe (don’t add any more yeast, but increase the salt by half) and it turns out wonderful every time.

The second development is that I’ve been looking at sewing machines and have just about decided on the Pfaff Creative Performance. Of course, if someone else has a rockin’ deal on a wide throat machine when I get ready to buy next month, that might change. But I’m loving the CP right now like you wouldn’t believe. It does quilting in the hoop, it’s an embroidery machine and it has a standard 9mm stitch width. You can also buy the embroidery unit separate from the machine, so the purchase can be broken into two separate transactions. My current plan is to buy the embroidery unit with the machine, but it’s nice to know that if my finances won’t allow that, I can save up the money for the embroidery unit while still enjoying the machine. I don’t mind telling you the fact that this machine is purple doesn’t hurt either! 😉

And the third thing is … with the idea of spending so much money on a sewing machine, I have decided it’s time to expand my sewing horizons into fashion and home decor. I have done some fashion sewing in the past – mostly for the kids when they were small, and all of it extremely easy. What I haven’t ever tried before – but seriously something I need to master – is a zipper. So, I have decided that I need some sewing classes, either online or in person. I signed up this week for my very first sewing class – Sewing Studio through Craftsy. I got a great deal because I signed up during a promotional special for President’s Day – I think I paid only $15 for the class. Don’t worry if you’re interested though, they run specials fairly often. Just sign up for their newsletter and you can get notifications on reduced prices all the time. Once I got enrolled in the class,  I found out there’s a book that is needed, called S.E.W. Sew Everything Workshop. I was lucky and found it at my local Barnes & Noble, but you can order it through Craftsy, Amazon or a number of other booksellers. I know that people were complaining about needing to buy the book, but my feeling is, you can never have too many reference books, and it does offer 10 patterns that can be altered to fit even plus size (the author is great; she was offering to help folks alter the pattern in the class!). So far I’ve only watched the first two lessons on making the envelope pillow, and tonight I plan to actually try my hand at it. I will pull some fabric from my stash (I have a few 16″ pillow forms, so I think I can get away with using a fat quarter), and I keep muslin (for the back) on hand all the time. The first two lessons have already taught me things I didn’t know – like how to make a french seam. That lesson will be very useful now that I don’t have a serger (I sold it last summer, like an idiot).

When I have my pillow completed, I’ll post a photo! Oh, and after I bake some bread this afternoon, I’ll post a photo of that too. 😉

Domestically yours,

Jill