Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thoughts on Plus Size Sewing from a Fellow Blogger

Do you read Carolyn's blog, Diary of a Sewing Fanatic? You really should. Hers is one of the first sewing blogs I discovered, and I love reading about her sewing obsession/journey and admiring her meticulously constructed garments. Recently Carolyn wrote something that caught my eye and made me think. She's participating in the SWAP (Sewing With A Plan) Contest, and she wrote this about her reasons for entering the challenge:
This might be controversial but what the h*ll, my blog, my opinion. I've never seen a plus size woman win this contest anywhere. I don't know what's up with that, but I'm of the firm belief that I can't win this contest due to my size...so I'm making a wardrobe FOR me!
Given my interest in the intersection of body image and sewing, I was pleasantly surprised by this brutal honesty . . . and I was dying to hear more of Carolyn's thoughts on the issue. Luckily for us, she agreed to answer a few questions! Her responses were so thoughtful and impassioned that I decided to post them word for word here.

GERTIE: Do you think that plus size women are less likely to win any sewing contest (like those on Pattern Review) or do you think this is specific to SWAP?

CAROLYN: My answer is yes to any sewing contest...and that even applies to women who are not plus size but a little heavier than the norm. I seriously don't get our nation's fixation with being thin. I have no problems with people who are heavier and healthy but why does every skinny woman now quote obesity statistics like that is the one and only reason why people should lose weight? Why don't people own up the fact that there are fat prejudices and it shames heavier women into hiding, wishing they were different, and into the endless diet cycles that so often messes up their health more than remaining heavy would. Women who are trying so hard to be something that they are not or were not meant to be.

G: Do you think plus-size women are wary of putting their work out there for fear of judgment? Also, do you think the online sewing world is unfriendly to plus-size women?

C: Yes most definitely! For example Gaby Sidibe was recently featured in Bazaar magazine. She is confident in who she is but she is obviously plus size. I had to stop reading the comments in the online article because they were so offensive regarding her weight. So if most of the patterns reviewed on PR and blogs are predominantly featured on thin women, wouldn't you feel a little self-conscious about reviewing your garments? My garments are like children to me...special creations that I want people to ooohhh and aaahhh over, not nitpick and criticize AND especially not if your only criticism is about how fat I am!

Then there is that whole issue about plus size women being fashionable. How many times has a pattern been drafted only up to a size 18 (McCalls) when it is a style that clearly can be drafted for larger sizes? How often do you look at patterns either online or in the books at the store and the plus size patterns are just huge rectangles with a lot of gathering and a drapey neck? How often have you pulled out a pattern where the pattern company has enlarged the shoulders along with the bust and waistline - like plus size women are just huge, fat rectangles? What about this process makes you feel stylish and beautiful!?

How many times have I taken a style and used my TNT (note: "tried 'n' true") pattern to make my own version of it because the style or a pattern for it is not available in plus size patterns? We are definitely an underserved market and if you don't have the ability to restyle or even the fashion sense to see a plus size garment in a skinnier size, the plus size woman is on the bad end of the stick!

How many articles are there for plus size women that give fashion advice? How many sewing magazines address the fitting and sewing issues that many plus size women have? How many articles on taking measurements include the fact that if you are plus size that you should take your measurements sitting down because fat spreads? Where is this information given to enable a plus size woman to make a successful garment? When is this addressed? Even some of the books and patterns that are made for plus size women don't address these issues...I know...I own the books and the patterns!

I understand that we are a "niche" market in a bad economic climate. But the last I checked, we still have to dress everyday like everyone else on the planet...it's the law! And there are instances of companies realizing this fact and do a really good business selling patterns to this market - Simplicity's Khaliah Ali line was awesome and really reached an underserved market. Kathleen Cheetham's Petite Plus line and book are other examples of wonderful garments that can be made stylish for the plus size woman. I'm not that sold on the Butterick version of Connie Crawford's patterns...I think they are just getting to the meat of the styles that Connie was selling on her website...but it is good to see patterns available for women up to a size 6x.

But again where is the information that helps a plus size woman sew a wonderful garment? Articles about fabric choices? How to line a garment that won't chafe your thighs? How to pick a pattern fabric where the pattern isn't too large, small, etc on a plus size woman? I've learned a lot of this by experience...and some things even I still struggle with!

But then again, I like me! My big breasts, bodacious biceps, big booty and thick thighs. I don't believe that I am any less for being built this way...actually on a good day I believe I'm a lot better looking than some of those skinny chicks who look like they are dying for a good cheeseburger anyway! *LOL* But my confidence is not typical for the plus size woman because there are just too many damn Jenny Craig ads on TV telling you that if you buy these overpriced, unappealing meals you too can drop 50 lbs and look like Valerie Bertellini. Okay, if that's the truth, how come Kristy Alley is fat again? I have a life to lead, not a life spent dieting...now this is not to knock the women who have successfully lost weight and kept it off. If it's worked for you...power to the people, right on! This is to encourage the ones where it hasn't...maybe you are supposed to be, where you are supposed to be!

G: So maybe plus size women less likely to enter sewing competitions to begin with?

C: Most definitely! The environment is not conducive to putting yourself out there! Even I don't believe that I can win a sewing contest and I think I can sew a little bit! *LOL* I'm not a separate but equal kinda girl...I think we should all be integrated and learn to celebrate our differences and see how all of it adds up to make us a better whole...but that's not reality of the situation.

So those are a few of my thoughts. I'm sure that many of them are unpopular or are a little off the beaten path but it is what it is.
A big thank you to Carolyn for agreeing to answer these questions and for doing so with such grace and honesty. And now, readers, I would love to get your thoughts on the subject. Have you experienced similar problems while trying to sew plus size? Do you agree that the online sewing world can be unfriendly to heavier women? Please share!

Update: Carolyn e-mailed me this morning to make a little amendment. It turns out that a plus-size woman, the beautiful Rachelle of Smoking Needles, has indeed won a mini-wardrobe contest on Pattern Review. Go Rachelle! Great news, but I think all the points here still apply. But good to have this info!


  1. ...

    I am not plus-size, but a proportion of students in my fit class are. They raise a lot of those concerns, mainly the desire to wear clothes that aren't suited for a fat rectangle. I learned (and then taught) how to grade a size 10 pattern (high bust) to a size F cup, to a size 20 waist to a size "I don't have a number" on the hips. Perfectly happy to. She was perfectly happy to have a "real" dress for once. Did I ever judge her on her size, or growl that I had a hell of a lot of extra work to figure out how to fit her?


    I'm not a stick insect, but I am by no means plus sized. I love sewing, I love being myself, I could care less what someone else measures and I hate being projected on. This happens a lot. I think a lot of the negative feelings that plus sized women have come from themselves. That's the attitude I find off-putting, more so than the actual size of the person.

    Or the implication that I need to eat more. That one's positively threadbare. Let's just all be ourselves and quit blaming everyone else for how we feel. If you don't like what you see in the mirror, change it. If you do, fantastic. You have found a secret to happiness.

  2. Hi Gertie,
    I am not very far into plus size, but as a onetime size 10 that over my years in college became a 14, I often have a lot of trouble finding patterns to sew as well. Most pattern drafters cannot seem to come to the conclusion that a difference in bust to waist to hips of 10 inches is something a woman can possibly have.

    I may have another aspect to offer on this. In high school I did a stint modeling, and as a size 10 was too heavy to be a "regular" model, as they put it, so I was put in the plus size category. I was happy and am happy to be there, but I can't tell you the amount of criticism and hate that you receive in both the fashion industry and yes, sometimes even from those close to you when you try to express that you are happy with yourself and your weight. I am twenty years old and I went on my first diet at 10 years old because my father (a doctor) believed I was too big. Now, ten years later, I walk in the door of my family home at Thanksgiving and get to see him wince. It's pretty much like that when I walk in the door for a job interview at a magazine as well, and I was even told once straight up that I was too heavy. To do what, stuff the copier? LOL.

    There's no hate or resentment here for thinner women. I just don't think that there is a lot of understanding between women in general, which is almost as sad as the weight and body type stereotypes that exist.

  3. Hear, hear! I love Carolyn's blog, and love her for putting herself out there, and helping the rest of us that don't necessarily fit into the size-8-mold understand what it is that we need to do to make flattering, interesting clothing.

    From a fellow fluffy girl, thank you Carolyn!

  4. I'm a plus size woman. I've read Carolyn's blog for a long time and she has addressed this issue before. Every time she addresses it, I stand up and applaud (figuratively, of course). I'm happy her message is now traveling through this blog. The more people who hear it, the better.

  5. To Bellelass:

    I think that the way that you helped your student design her dress is a great example of how the sewing community should treat plus-sized sewers and, really, people of all sizes. It's respectful, it's practical, and we could use more of it.

    I also think it's important to point out that Carolyn did not say that every sewer - and certainly not you, personally! - harbors prejudice against people of larger sizes. Responding as if Carolyn had accused you of acting judgmental, rude, or bigoted isn't helpful.

    Furthermore, the prejudice and discrimination that Carolyn does point out (nasty comments on sewing and fashion blogs, pattern companies that simply don't make plus sized patterns - despite the number of people they might fit, pattern companies that draft plus size patterns badly or assume that fat people don't want to wear stylish clothing)are real, and she isn't projecting. She is certainly not projecting on you personally!

    Finally, I think that you're right to object to language like "looks like she could use a cheeseburger." As the Fat Nutritionist points out, all women are real women.

  6. I've just discovered Carolyn's blog and I did note that post with interest. I think this interview is fantastic. Since I started sewing (very recently) I've learned that every body deviates from the standard. That's the great thing about sewing - it allows you to wear clothes perfect for you (as long as you have the resources to learn the skills to make the adjustments).

    I've only been dealing with my own body, so far, so I don't know much about sewing in plus size or mini size - just me-size. But I love to learn tips like "fat spreads, sit when you take your measurements" - um, I can benefit from that nugget.

    Carolyn is obviously a great, passionate sewist and a hilarious, insightful person. I'm so glad she's entered the contest.

  7. Lots of thought-provoking stuff here; I'll be interested to see the responses.

    While I am completely non-entreprenurial when it comes to myself, in reading Carolyn's answers I kept thinking, "With all her expertise, if she could convince pattern companies to hire her as a consultant (on fit) and/or columnist (on choosing fabrics etc) she could really be a catalyst for change."

    ps Carolyn, love the dress on you.

  8. Hi. New to your blog and loving the sewing+feminism. Plus or petite, the challenge should be to make something well for a unique body. The fact that we are all different requires respect, and killer patterning skills.

  9. I used to be a size 8. I know, poor me, right? I have been struggling with my body image since I hit perimenopause and put on 50 pounds overnight. I don't think of myself as a plus-size, at size 14, but it's amazing how many things you CAN'T find above a 10 or 12.

    I just finished a dress and posted pics on my blog. I felt fat, but everyone was telling me how great I looked. I need to let that sink in. I seem to have bought into the hype way more than I thought I had. That bothers me. A lot.

    I have a friend who did some plus-size modeling. I *never* looked at her and said, "She's fat." She's curvy, confident, and sexy. Now if only I can remember that I am, too...

    I'm glad that women like Carolyn and Gertie are talking about this issue, straight-up with no sugar-coating. We *all* look fabulous, especially when we're wearing something we designed and tailored for ourselves! The fashion industry needs to get a clue.

  10. Loved this interview, I'm happy you followed up on your curiosity and made this thoughtful post. Personally I think Caroline has a point.

    After 30+ years of hearing over and over again that:
    To deserve love you need to be a good woman,
    To be a good woman you need to be desirable
    To be desirable you need to be thin,

    it's hard not to equate thin=beautiful, whether you are small or big yourself, imo. Sewers are not immune to this.

  11. I have been borderline plus-size in the months after giving birth to my babies and so thought this was really interesting. My perspective is that the online sewing community is actually MORE friendly to plus-size women and the idea of beautiful fashion for everyone, regardless of body type, than the non-sewing fashion world. Many of the good sewing blogs are written by plus-size women, or like yours, with a perspective very sensitive to body issues.

    At the same time, Carolyn may be right that it is very hard for a plus-sized woman to win a contest like SWAP. I think our preference for thin bodies is so culturally ingrained that many of us harbor unconscious bias that clothes on a thin woman look cuter, prettier, better. It's a good thing to contemplate.

  12. Great interview! And what a lovely blog she has! It seems strange that the size of the garment would be more important than how well it is made, esp for a sewing contest.

    I'm not a plus size, but has at some occasions attempted altering toilles made for me, to fit some of my friends who draw a bit larger sizes. And I totally agree; fitting advices for plus size should be a bit easier to come by! In this case, the patterns didn't have to be upgraded many sizes, but it was still rather tricky.

    Thank you for a great post!

  13. Thank you thank you!!! Carolyn, I love your blog and your sewing has been so inspirational to me. I'm somewhere around a size 16 with a VERY large bust. I love vintage clothes but they just don't make them in G-cup sizes :) It's so frustrating to feel uncomfortable asking for advice about a garment because I feel like people will say, well, you're just too fat for it, lose weight. And about all those missing patterns/books/instructions about sewing for plus sizes? Get writing, woman!!!

  14. I'm a huge fan of Carolyn. I like her honesty and impeccable sewing skills. I am plus size and I do post reviews on patternreview.com. I do feel overall that the community there is very nice and polite as opposed to the general internet world. That being said, while I do post photos of my finished garments, I'm not at the point yet where I feel comfortable posting pictures of myself in them.

  15. I've asked Gertie to add an addendum to my post, and I'm sure she will get around to it shortly, but PR has had a plus size woman win a contest.

    Rachelle, who authors the blog, Smoking Needles, won the Mini-Wardrobe Contest last year! Who knew?! *LOL* I saw "The Winner's Trophy" on her blog this morning when I was reading her latest blog post...so please lets give credit where credit is due!

    ...and when I'm wrong I'm woman enough to admit it! *LOL*

  16. Ok so I won 2nd place of a PR contest a few months ago, the Embellishment contest. I'll consider myself an exception to the rule. Last summer I entered the 'One fabric: knit' contest and finished 4th (if I remember well). Before the voting started, I received a private message from a PR member who advised me to take better pictures of my dress because it would help me place higher and perhaps even win. She also said that she would really love, for once, to see a plus size girl win a contest, as the winners are usually on the thin side.

    I must say that I haven't entered any other contests than these 2 and I haven't been active enough on the site to notice any pattern (no pun intended) in the size of winners. But there might be something true about it. Or not. Maybe it's the pictures that don't show the garment(s) properly, or the reviews that aren't as detailed. I know for sure that when I vote for an entry, I want to see clear and BIG pictures (with close-ups) of the garment(s) that really show me what is so special about it. And I want a detailed review of the process learning to the final item, not just short telegraphic answers to the template questions...

  17. I agree wholeheartedly! I'm plus sized and make my own clothes for ease of wearing, fit and style. Love Carolyn and her blog. Every plus gal should read "Life is Not a Dress Size" by Rita Farro, and if she comes to your area, GO see her!

  18. Awesome! I love Carolyn's honesty. I am plus sized but I haven't come across any negativity (yet) on the stuff I sew. Quite the opposite, actually. I have had several people thank me for posting so they can see what a garment looks like on a larger body.

    I do admidt to being lazy though. If I know that I'm going to have to do a lot of fitting with a certain pattern I just won't do it. I'm not that patient.

    I do wonder if pattern companies steer away from the larger size ranges simply because as humans get larger their fat distribution is so widely varied. I have large breasts and a large abdomen but a kinda flat butt. Some women have no bust but large hips. The variations go on and on. Maybe they are just taking the easy route?

  19. I did not know about Carolyn, and thank you so much for posting this. I will be a dedicated reader from now on!

  20. This isn't so much related to sewing for plus sizes, as it is to finding inspiration in fat fashion and size acceptance. I've been a member of the Fatshionista livejournal community for 2 years, and I would say it has definitely expanded my personal fashion choices, to see other fat girls looking great. For more size acceptance blogs, checkout www.fatshionista.com, Shapely Prose (http://kateharding.net/)

  21. Carolyn makes some really interesting points there, and thank you Gertie for passing them on.

    I do get wound up by those articles that marvel - ooh, look! fat chick dresses well and looks sexy! - like it's the most extraordinary thing... Then again there should be far more of them, as they might help shift public perception, and all those bitchy people who like to leave comments might lose interest and move onto something else to be rude and morally superior about.

    I'm sure Carolyn is absolutely right about larger sized women never winning the pattern contests, but I think there may be reasons for that which aren't only to do with the negative preconception - skinny = beautiful; fat = not. There's the fact that, as Carolyn says, very few pattern companies make the effort to tailor their patterns so that they might also look good on people bigger than a size 14. I'm always impressed with Colette Patterns for that reason. You go on her site and see women of all different sizes who actually look good in her clothes... Yet on Pattern Review I've lost count of the number of women wearing dresses which really don't flatter them one bit. That might be because the pattern isn't drafted properly for their size and they don't know how to make the necessary alterations, but I'm afraid it's also because some women really don't know how to dress to their strengths. They sew up patterns that look good on the skinny model on the cover without taking their own body shape into consideration. While I'm not trying to go all Mary B Picken about it, vintage sewing books did like to tell women what shaped clothes would flatter what body types and how to go about achieving that result. Obviously people should sew whatever makes them happy and if they're pleased with the results, then fine. But when you enter a contest, it's no longer about whether you're happy with something or not, you open yourself up to the esthetic judgement (and prejudices) of others.

    The above comment is in no way aimed at Carolyn by the way and I hope she does win for a change, because that's what the prize should be about - making clothes that fit you beautifully, whatever the size. And to come full circle in my argument, we need as many of those as we can get if we're ever going to move away from the size issue always rearing its ugly head.

  22. Great interview! I think one of the statements that irritate me the most and that I see on PR of the time: "Oh, that will only look good if you're tall and thin." Sigh...

    I think it all boils down to just being comfortable in your on skin. I know it may sound cliched, but it's the truth.

  23. I've been following Carolyn for a long time and find great inspiration from her sewing and great explanations of her sewing and life in general. As a former size 8 and model, I know the pain of society's prejudices now that I'm a 22 -- there's no couching it, it is pain. And now that "they" in the media have started chasing the "fat" cash cow, it's only going to lessen any chance of our acceptance. Carolyn absolutely nails the problems of fashion for the larger woman. So glad you shared her excellent blogs as well as this interview so more people can find her. Kudos to you and Carolyn!

  24. I am not plus size, but I was quite heavy as a teenager, and can understand the plight a bit of finding sewing patterns that flatter and feeling like you are equally represented!

    As someone who dabbles with pattern drafting (and dreams of having my own pattern line one day! ;), I know for me, it's a bit confusing to figure out the difference in proportions when grading a plus-size patterns. The fit model changes and I still haven't gotten my head around that. Honestly, right before I saw your post Gertie, I was just thinking about how many size ranges I'd offer if I had my own patterns. I definitely feel there is a huge gap in the market with catering to stylin' larger gals! Does anyone know of any good books/resources on grading/drafting for sizes larger than the standard 18?

    Thanks, Carolyn for sharing your thoughts with us (and your great attitude on loving yourself the way you are! We could all--no matter what our size--take a page from your book on that! ;)!

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  25. /Why should body size matter in the fashion world? There are people in all sizes and shapes out there, so there should be fashion for people in all sizes and shapes.

  26. I follow Carolyn's blog and love her attitude to fashion and sewing -- she really makes things her own. Fit makes the fashion, and she's a master of it!

    That said, I think I'm in the minority here when I say that fit is hard for anyone who isn't 5'6" and a size 8, *including small people*. I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum, short and thin. Luckily for me I am height-weight proportionate, but even so I still often have to scale everything down from a normal sized pattern. I think that it's just as much hit or miss as with adjusting a pattern for a plus size. Will you lose all the cute details in a dress pattern when you have to squeeze 2" out of the bodice? How can you scale pleats down so that they don't completely overwhelm your frame? How much do I need to taper in the A-line of a skirt or the flare of a pant leg so that it doesn't look like I'm a cartoon character? There aren't good resources that explain this either. You have to be good at experimenting if you're somewhere outside of the magic size 8-18 range that the pattern companies ascribe to.

  27. Gertie and Carolyn,

    I am SOOO darn ecstatic about this interview and post. I posted on Carolyn's blog that I knew that Gertie would have a "go" at this subject. Thank you so very much!

    Now, I have been a regular reader of Carolyn's blog for the past 3 years and I have learned so darn much about sewing and sewing for body type. Carolyn always gives tips and she always challenges herself and her readers to THINK about matters: fabric, cut, technique, etc.

    I have learned which books she value and why. I actually purchased books that she recommended because I understood that by learning from these authors, I could become a better sewist with a thought process that to produce a better garment.

    All of this has really made me think: It's interesting that I learned to sew from women who were large and beautiful and generous. A neighbor taught me to sew while my aunt and grandmother sewed garments and quilts for all of us (and themselves). And, I never had the foresight nor insight to ask them about fitting to body type. What I could have learned!

    May there be a return to reality of body type, sizing, and body acceptance. And, who could be better teachers than folks who sew for clothing for real folks, like Carolyn and Gertie.

    Thank you!!!!

  28. Great thoughts! I think its hard for all of us to find great info on fitting ourselves better, using better fabrics for our size and such. I don't know that its so much about how much info is out there, but what we do with it. Sometimes its just trial and error. I'm not plus sized, but I've had problems with sewing techniques and pattern grading just because I have certain things out of proportion.
    Totally agree that there should be more patterns that cater to larger sizes. But then again, what about men's patterns? There's nothing out there for them.
    I do agree with Bellelass in that we need to be happy with what we see in the mirror and if we aren't then change it. If you can't change that, then change the way you think about it.
    Carolyn, you make gorgeous creations. You have fabulous taste and you know how to fit your figure, you are a gorgeous woman. Thank you for your great comments!

  29. I'm not going to start in on the size discussion, but I must say the idea that larger people don't win the contests never occurred to me - I was always frustrated at the photography quality being a primary influencer, followed by colour and whether it was something the voter would wear ;). But without being able to see the garments in person, and feel the drape and see the internal construction, it's all about how well you can portray those elements through fashion photography - and that's really, really hard with a basic digital camera on always-overcast days.

    But I will certainly be on the lookout now for size biases as well - thanks for pointing that out!

  30. Excellent, thoughtful dialogue. Thank you, Carolyn. And thank you, Gertie, for opening up the conversation. This is why I’m a fan of both your blogs!

    I'm plus sized and have struggled my way through many of the fitting issues Carolyn describes (learning that fat expands cleared up a whole bunch of issues for me!). I've also felt judged. Very judged. I eat healthier than most people I know. I am more active than most people I know. My body's response to that is to be strong, full of energy, curvy, lumpy, and bumpy. It is difficult to overcome the sense that as a fat woman I should somehow disappear. I mean, I should wear black and hide my size and shape under many pleats and gathers, right? I most definitely shouldn’t wear fitted or clothes in fabulous colors that show my curvy rounded bits. Lately, though, I do. I just do. I wear what I like and try not to freak out if I notice my rolls showing while sitting in a meeting.

    The most frustrating thing I encounter by far is advice on my health. I don’t eat chemicals (seriously). I don’t eat refined sugar. I am very well acquainted with fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. I raise my own chickens so I can have fresh, chemical-free eggs and poultry for crying out loud! I hike, I garden (tell me that’s not being active after you’re removed sod and turned clay soil for an afternoon), I haul wood, I carry feed bags. I don’t need information on the fat content of my avocado and I don’t need a gentle reminder that exercise helps boots immunity when I’m struggling with a nasty cold and I don’t need to hear about how worrisome it is that I don’t take better care of myself.

    I do believe that in this culture (ya know, the one where a size 10 is plus sized and if you aren’t thin you must be unhealty!), being fat is a no no. It is something to be avoided at all costs. That creates an aesthetic that equates thinness with beauty. And because of that, I’m guessing most sewing contests will continue to have winners that are thin.

  31. I've been reading Carolyn's blog for ages (not quite as long as it's been online, but shortly after, I think). Carolyn, I'm not plus-sized, but you are an inspiration to me. You have the BEST sense of proportion of anyone I know.

    I think that many of the contests for SWAP (or whatever) end up being popularity contests. If you're "in", your chances of winning are better than average, regardless of your size. I'm totally with Carolyn - do the contest for yourself, not the prize. If you win, bonus!

    There's an interesting article in Jnauary Vogue. It's also online. It's about a plus-size model, Lara Stone. Plus size? She's a size 4. Plus size???? My reaction reading it was WTF? What does that make anyone else on the planet? It really made me want to go to Vogue's offices and clock some well-coiffed heads.

    Thank you, Gertie and Carolyn, for a great, thought-provoking post.

  32. I'm back again--this discussing is fascinating me!

    Gorgeous Things said: I think that many of the contests for SWAP (or whatever) end up being popularity contests. If you're "in", your chances of winning are better than average, regardless of your size. I'm totally with Carolyn - do the contest for yourself, not the prize. If you win, bonus!

    Agreed. The more I thought about it after reading Carolyn's thoughts and reflecting on contests I've been involved with of this sort, it's usually depressingly in favor of who is the most popular out of the group. (Gertie: did you see any of this in the Threads contest you entered?)

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  33. Thank you so much for putting me onto Carolyn's blog. As a recent convert to sewing I have been doing a lot of research before my first attempt at clothing. As a plus sized girl I was shocked to discover the patterns in my most recent magazine were restricted to sizes 8-16 (British,which if I have my conversion is right is the equivalent of US 4-12.
    One of the reasons I want to begin sewing is that I feel that the clothing styles available to me are restricted and I often have to chose size over style.
    I have therefore been cheered up greatly by both Carolyn's blog and
    the comments read by your readers, to know that I am not alone in my predicament but also that there are plenty of women out there making their own clothes regardless of body size and that using their tips and advice I should be able to do the same.

  34. I've been size 8, 12, 16 and am now a 14. I have never been well and truly plus size but I have never been skinny by any means. I do know for sure what it's like to walk into a department store and realize that neither the "normal" sizes nor the "plus" sizes fit you. And what a relief when I went back to 14 where generally most stores do carry a few pieces. I wish I knew how to sew + had the money to learn.

    This interview as dead on. I love it!

  35. Great interview! Carolyn's blog is great and I love reading about the beautiful garments she makes. While I am not plus-size, my mom is and I know how much of a struggle it is for her to find clothing that is still stylish and modern, in her size.

    I have to say, I've only been sewing since last year, but I feel like the sewing community is a bit kinder to all body types - at least moreso than the general fashion world. It's not perfect, but the support and good wishes for people of all shapes and sizes is much more evident in the sewing world than in the realm of RTW and fashion magazines.

  36. Thanks for the interview! I love her blog. I agree that PR contests can be a bit of popularity vs actual talent. I tend to vote for the SWAPs that I would want to wear and what I think works together as a wardrobe. As for PR in general, the larger ladies never seem to get as many comments as the slimmer women. I make it a point to say something nice in all the plus sized reviews. It takes a lot of confidence to post pictures of yourself.

  37. great post Carolyn and Gertie!

    "measure when sitting down" - never heard/read that one before. It's things like this that are missing from my sewing knowledge, along with the lining so your thighs don't chaffe. I never used to think about such things, but, yeah - menopause took care of that for me.

    I've been reading both of your blogs for a while now, and enjoyed each. I've never joined a SWAP or PR contest, not because of my size, but because it takes me so long to get something made.

    The only book I can recall that shows modifying patterns for someone over size 18 is the Fit For Real People series, but it don't get into construction hints like linings, etc. There are ladies with several different fitting woes (none of them are thin) and I admire their courage to be in the book. But then, I wouldn't have had the courage to be in a book wearing a leotard no matter what my size!

    I think pattern companies are taking the easy way out with their sizing. If they can make patterns with different cup sizes, they can come up with a way to make different butt sizes.

    Ann - thanks for the Vogue article. I have a feeling most designers *could not* design a garment for Marilyn Monroe today, let alone for someone of my size. They haven't a clue how to deal with curves.

  38. I think plus size is a ridiculous term. Why do some sizes need to qualified as plus? Whereas other sizes are just sizes? This label, with its ubiquity, insidiously feeds into the thinking that if you're not a size x, you aren't normal... you need to be qualified with a plus. scary.

  39. Well said, well said!! One of the things I love about reading sewing blogs is the variety of women and bodies out there. It's so reassuring to know that my size 16 is more normal than the magazine ads would have me believe. I sew because I love being able to make my clothes fit me - rather than having to force my body to fit the clothes. I think both pattern companies and clothing manufacturers need to get a grip on what REAL woman looks like.

  40. I remember the day clearly that I realized that well-tailored clothing makes a person look great regardless of their size. I was at the recital of a friend who was plus-sized and she came out in a bias-cut flowing dress and looked so majestic and beautiful. I had never seen a dress so beautiful and it was transforming. I paid attention to her wardrobe after that and noticed that all of her clothes and accessories really brought out her natural beauty.

    After that I was hooked on figuring out how this was possible and I sure wasn't finding it at your run of the mill plus-size stores. I also run into the issue of being a half size body type. Half size is a vintage term for someone who has a shorter than normal torso. Even ready-made clothes were offered in half sizes to allow women a better chance at a better fit. We just don't have that anymore and it is a shame. Perhaps petite, but rarely do you find a petite 20 as an option.

    I am always interested in what other people have to say about the plus-sized conundrum. Personally, I got to the point where I stopped relying on commercial businesses to create for me and worked to obtain the skills I need to make the clothes I like. For me, that was the best way to stay sane.

    I would love to be a part of a movement that taught the tailoring skills necessary to no longer rely on mainstream patterns or clothing manufacturers. In my mind, nothing shows a business that it needs to change like the prospect of losing a client.

  41. As usual, stimulating and thoughtful discussion. I will be mulling this over for some time, I am sure.

    Casey asked: Does anyone know of any good books/resources on grading/drafting for sizes larger than the standard 18?

    I have found Barbara Deckert’s Sewing For Plus Sizes: Design, Fit and Construction for Ample Apparel good resource for plus-size alteration, and I believe she does address issues like fat spreading and chafing. It’s not perfect, but I think her approach is realistic for basic alterations and I believe she discusses grading. I believe the author is herself a size 32, so at least she understands the needs of plus-size people. I think it’s OOP, but looks like it should be easy to find used.

  42. Interesting....

    I know this isn't going to make me very popular, but...

    While I whole heartedly embrace every woman's right to feel good about herself and her body, why does it always seem that we do so at the expense of the opposite body shape?

    I love hearing woman being accepting of the hand/body that was dealt to them. But I feel like they lose a little bit of my respect when they compare themselves to "skinny chicks who look like they are dying for a good cheeseburger"

    Just as there are some people who are born curvy, there are some people born thin. To assume that they're starving themselves to be that way is just as prejudiced as assuming that larger meatier women have no self control and gorge themselves.

    I guess it just makes me sad to see that sometimes, in order to boost ourselves up, many women seem to denigrate each other in the process.

    As for pattern making, I'm sure the small chested, narrow hipped boy-ish physique women are just as much of a niche market as the larger, curvier girl.

    Pattern makers draft for the lowest common denominator, ie: what will fit the majority of people.

    Heck, I have pretty standard sizes, and I still have to adjust!

  43. I feel like the sewing community is pretty inclusive and caring and generous. That's why I am hooked on Carolyn's bog and Gertie's blog and all the others out there.
    When I hear such frustration, it resonates with me. My proportions are just weird enough that I can't buy any RTW jackets or tops that fit unless they are knits. I am tall, with small forward rotated shoulders, etc, and well... I NEVER got a decent fit regularly until I bought Bernina My label software. Now I use those BML patterns over and over as my basic TNT's. When I want to sew a style from Burda or Jalie or whatnot, I graft the design elements from the commercial pattern to my TNT basics.
    It's all about learning your own body, your own style, your best proportions.
    Now, how to win a contest? I do not know :)
    Carolyn, you look FAB in that dress!

  44. As a plus size gal (about a size 20 RTW) who loves clothes, all I can say is "Thank God I can sew". If you are above a 16, the "pickins are slim" at the store. Most of the patterns made by the big 4 go up to a 22/24 (not all - but most). That means I can pick almost any pattern I want. I usually find that the patterns specifically designed as plus size are pretty scary (why would plus size gals want to wear dropped shoulders?) Nobody looks good with dropped shoulders - NOBODY. And for God’s sake, nobody over a size 2 looks good with a band around their hips. This basically makes a plus size gal look like they have a tummy in a bag. Honestly, I don't want "plus size" patterns, I just want the same patterns as everyone else - in my size. I love burda mag, but I wish all the patterns went up to my size. I am a big proponent of fitted clothing for everyone, but especially plus size women. Mu Mus are not your friend. I spend hours fitting multiple muslins just to get the right fit. I (and Stacy and Clinton) firmly believe that loose and flowy makes you look much bigger than you actually are. And guess what, most RTW in my size are loose and flowy. Again, "Thank God for sewing". I would love to see more plus size sewing blogs. I enjoy Carolyn's blog and several others from ladies of a certain size. I love seeing the pictures of other people's creations be they fat, thin, short, tall, old, young, or whatever. I wish everyone would post full shots of their outfits with their face showing(not just on a dress form or the floating headless shots I often see) OK, I know it's your own "d**m" blog, blah, blah, but I can tell you that I have never once seen a picture of someone's creation and thought, "Oh my God. If only they hadn't shown their face! I'm blind, I'm blind”....Look, If I have enough nerve to show MY face and body and actually pose (my husband finds this endlessly amusing) in my creations at a size 20 on my blog, well I'm just saying... Gracious don't get me started on plus size sewing...

  45. Thank you for the interview! I love Carolyn's blog. I'm new to the sewing world, so I never thought much about the issues Carolyn raised. I guess I thought of sewing as the great equalizer - finally there was a place where my size didn't matter because I had the opportunity to craft garments custom-fit to me. I'm slowly being pulled from this utopia - the newest Vogues really don't have much for a 24. Why can't I have some of the designer patterns?

    I'm surprised to hear the theory on the sewing contests. It saddens me that anyone could even perceive a pattern of discrimination. I'm even more concerned that plus size women may be less willing to enter their garments.

    Clearly I didn’t get the memo because I plaster pictures of my hips and butt fitting issues all over my blog and link them to pattern review! Seriously, I hope your posts opens up more dialog on the subject.

  46. Thank you so much Gertie and Carolyn. You have helped me so much with article. I hope you don't mind me mentioning it in my own blog.

  47. great, great blog. Carolyn is an inspiration to me. I love her blog site. I have found that sewing blogs in general show women in different sizes and shapes. To me its all an inspiration. Yeah I'm a plus size women! I comfortable in my skin.

  48. The is one of the reason why I'm not addicted to patterns. The reason I sew is because I'm bigger than most but I expected to look stylish. It is hard to find nice clothes in my size... It is hard to find nice patterns in my size. This is why I sew and usually without a pattern. I copy in my size.

  49. Of course I read Carolyn's blog, even after she stopped posting the New Sewists Thursday Q&A columns (grumble, grumble, kvetch, grumble...). I'm not new to sewing, but I still loved reading those Thursday posts. :-)

    As far as the contests go, I do respond to quality photography and layout design in judging PR sewing contests, because I *can't* turn those garments inside out and look at the construction quality. I can't even objectively evaluate the fit in many instances due to the way the model is posing. (I disagree that you can't put together a competitive photo layout with an inexpensive camera, though - plenty of people do.)

    I try to give lots of weight (no pun intended) to the written reviews that describe the garment, especially when someone details how they adapted a garment for specific fitting issues, or writes a humorous or otherwise engaging review. And as far as popularity being a factor, if I recognize someone's screen name because they post a lot (or have a fabulous blog) and tend to offer helpful advice to others, yes, I'm probably likely to let that influence me as well. Which is why I'm betting Carolyn may have this SWAP sewn up in more ways than one. :-)

  50. Gertie and Carolyn, thank you for this post. Carolyn's SWAP post hit close to home for me. I was a chubby child and have been many sizes, although normal for me as an adult is about a 12 in RTW.

    I think that women of every size are judged on their looks by both men and women too. Having experienced this as many different sizes, I know that the verdict in our society is most certainly that thinner is better (younger is also better). And there is a whole diet/fitness industry to remind us of that.

    A few weeks ago, the NY Times Style section ran an article on the cover called "The Triumph of the Size 12s", about the top earning plus model, Crystal Renn. I'd be eager to hear others thoughts. Here it is: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/fashion/14CRYSTAL.html

    I can't see the triumph in a size 12 modeling clothing for a woman who may be a 24. There is something just as wrong in that equation as there is in a size 0 modeling clothes for "normal" sized women when the average woman in the US is a size 14. I just don't see how this is a triumph for any woman of any size.

    I have 4 sisters and we are all very different sizes and shapes from petite to extra tall, A cup to DD, and from xs to plus. And I look at my sisters and think they are all beautiful women. In an ideal world, all women would have sisters to tell them they are beautiful just as they are.

  51. I'm a huge fan of Carolyn and her blog! She is so supportive and generous with advice, knowledge, and experience... and the genius behind that treasured concept, the sewcation!! After reading this post I am thinking wistfully, wouldn't it be great if Carolyn were the one to write that book that needs to be written about sewing for plus sizes? I know, writing would steal valuable sewing time. But how great would that book be?!

    Also, I'm super excited to read that Casey is planning a pattern line-- fantastic!!

  52. I'm posting again. About a month ago, I found a book that really stood the typical notion of body image on it's head: Curves Rule & Flat is Fabulous. I'd never seen anything like it before. It's available on Amazon and I reviewed it on my blog:


  53. I haven't read all the comments so this may have already been said - but Bellelass got me thinking. How can the pattern companies make plus sized patterns to fit the enormous variety of "plus sizes"? Some are plus in the bust, some in the tummy, some in the front, some the back...etc. Some are plus size in the shoulders but this area does not increase in the same way that the other areas can. So the only way the pattern companies can fit "all" plus size is to make a sack and hope it covers all bases (and curves).

    Perhaps a better option would be to have more info in the pattern sheets to advise how to size up from upper chest downwards. That is what we non plus size people have to do too. We shorten for length, widen at the hips (for me anyway). My size varies from 6 in the shoulders and upper chest to a 14 at the hips. We all have to make pattern alterations (unless you are perfect according to the Pattern cos measurements). Carolyn has done this and keeps using her TNT's to save doing it over and over. Good idea!

    In summary, maybe Carolyn does have a new career - advise the pattern company on styles. Start out with shoulder sizes and then have heaps of instructions how to fit your own unique shape.

    And finally, I love Carolyn's blog due to her creativity and it wouldn't matter what size she was. She doesn't complain about being fat but gets on with the job - making beautiful clothes :)

  54. I am a big fan of both Carolyn's and Gertie's blogs, and I had a sneaky feeling when I read Carolyn's comment (which has now been corrected--I know)that a plus size sewer had not won a contest, that a blogosphere conversation would be happening! And kudos to Gertie for making it happen!

    What resonated most with me was Carolyn's comment that she has a life to live and does not have time to squeeze herself into someone else's ideal. For all of us who have struggled, whether it be with weight or other issues, what a refreshing and healthy perspective. I have wasted hours and hours (and probably days and months) of my life warring losing battles. And then I decided to live my life. And things changed. And then I had time to do other things, like learn to like myself, and-no joke- learn to sew.

  55. I thought this was a timely post and the subject matter warranted having a discussion. I agree with you and other posters on Gertie's blog that the "Plus" size market is totally under-served. If you add to that the factor of being tall (5'10" and above) the issue is even more compounded. It is so frustrating going into stores and trying to find an outfit when you are a size 16 and Tall. For some reason the fashion consultants for major department stores think that just because you are tall you are heavy as well.

    The selection of fashion can be down right depressing at times. I'd say even more so for women who are size 20 and up. I can't figure out why the fashion industry equates large/tall with boxy and ugly!!!

    The same can be said for fashionable shoes for ladies with large feet. Oh you see such beautiful shoes in the size 6-8 range but go up a few sizes say an 11 or 12 narrow and your selection of fashionable shoes drops considerably. When you do find them you pay $$$ through the nose for those shoes.

    Pattern companies are just as bad. I will look through the pattern books and mumble to myself at what they offer the plus sized woman. Their offerings are slim at best and always have some kind of flowy, square type cover up...large women want fitted clothes as well...what is society trying to say...

    If you are large you need to be covered in a rectangle and hidden!!!

    Our society needs to adjust its' thinkiing on what a "real" woman is. Take a look at paintings by the masters...you see voluptuous, well rounded models not the stick, emaciated figures we see as models today.

    ...I digress...any who...great comments on a subject that needs to be brought out and talked about. Hopefully we can change societies perceptions of who a "plus-sized" woman is and what she wants.

  56. I can't stop commenting :-) @Vicki if Lane Bryant can figure out how to accomodate different plus-size figures in pants, surely the pattern companies can do the same. Check out LB's Right Fit line. The fact I'm not able to wear my damn-near-perfect fitting Right Fit jeans anymore has been the only downside to losing weight.

  57. I have always admired Carolyn's blog,her well made clothes and confidence. It's one of the blogs out there that has encouraged me to sew for myself. I have to agree with her on most of the points she raised on plus size sewing:
    1.) that although the sewing community has been very generous with sharing their expertise in the craft, I found it lacking of techniques on fitting, finding the right styles of clothes to sew and patterns for plus-sized individuals like me;
    2.) I've been afraid too of putting my work up for other people to see for fear of being laughed at. One time I made myself a skirt and somebody asked why it was so big? It didn't stop me of course, but it's a bit discouraging. Instead of noticing how well made the garment was, they noticed the size.

    The reason why I am just so adamant to sew my own clothes is that there is nothing for me out there to wear that fits me and that is enough message for me that the outside world is unfriendly to people my size. Like Carolyn, I just want to be myself, and I don't want to change any bit of myself even if it will make other people like me.

    Thank you Gertie for asking the questions no one has dared to ask before! I love your blog!

  58. There are lots of interesting comments here and they on the whole have shown great tact and decorum in discussing a very difficult subject for many.

    I really appreciate Carolyn's understanding and honesty in dealing with this subject, and would love to see her write a book on the subject. I am sure her knowledge of pattern alterations and appropriate styles for the more rounded figure would make and excellent reference, I know I would be standing in line to buy it.

    I have been reading Carolyns blog for some time now and love seeing what she is creating and how she is doing it. This blog however is new to me, rest assured it will be added to blog lines immediately.

    Thanks for talking about a subject a lot of people would rather ignore.

  59. Thanks, Gertie. Carolyn's blog was the first one or close to it that I read when I got back into sewing. Even though I am not plus size, I learn so much from her. One of the things (besides her wonderful sewing) that I love so much about her is that she loves herself the way she is and makes no apologies (as she shouldn't) for her bodacious body. And, I love that she is so creative with her TNT patterns. I hope to have some TNT patterns and be able some day to do as she does. And, I totally agree that the plus size woman is underserved. I am older now and have a pot tummy, love handles and all sorts of figure issues but I do not want to wear tents to camouflage myself. I'm with Carolyn. If you've got it, flaunt it!!

  60. I just got home from another fit class, this time I had a range of sizes from a size 6 stick insect to a size 18 (and beyond) new mother. You know what? Both of them had the same amount of alterations to do. And stick insect was nearly in tears when I mentioned a small busy, petite alteration. She hates her body so much, it was palpable. Meanwhile New Mother was not phased at all, was happy to learn to grade out for her hips that were well beyond Vogue pattern Co.

    Look, if you want clothes that fit you well, learn to alter. We almost all have to alter. The great thing about alterations is that once you've done the same ones several times, you do them automatically. And quickly. This weekend I got out a "new" 1930's blouse pattern and altered for - Narrow Back, Sway back, Short waist, Full bust, small waist, and full bicep in a manner of 45 minutes. Now I have a blouse pattern that fits gloriously (I muslined later that afternoon). Previously, all those alterations would have taken me days or weeks. Just learn your alterations.

  61. LOVE Carolyn. She's my hero.

    What I find really ironic, being plus size myself, is that larger, curvier women often turn to sewing to create the beautiful, well-fitting clothes that they can't find in stores. We've been lamenting the dearth of patterns available in larger sizes, what about the near complete lack of cute, fashionable CLOTHES in RTW in plus sizes?? I know many women who learned to sew directly because of this. How frustrating then to find out that you face the same lack of choice in patterns.

    I have learned to grade up down and around to get what I want. I don't know if I'll ever be truly "happy" with my size. I yearn for that peace, but haven't quite found it yet. What I do know is that I'll keep sewing whatever fashions strike my fancy and i'll grade it to death if need be to make it fit.

    Thank you Gertie & Carolyn for the wonderful post.

  62. I am a gorgeous, glamorous, big woman who loves to make my own clothes and every single thing that is in the article IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE! I am sooooooooooo disappointed in pattern companies for cutting me out out the most beautiful patterns in the "Misses" section! I do not WANT to dress like a couch! I want clothes to show curves and not hide them. It is apparent the same thing I tried to escape in the garment industry is in the pattern industry! I want waist darts and bust darts and for heaven's sake, SHAPE! Great job on this interview! -Backseat Betty

  63. This post has certainly hit a sore point with everyone! A size 4 is fat in the modeling world? No wonder so many women have body image issues. I am at the upper end of 'regular' sizing, but I used to be a plus sized woman. I was still buying rtw then, and going into Bloomingdales and having the plus sized department in the basement between rugs and housewares was upsetting and demeaning.(It's changed now, the department is even attractive, not the cramped unattractive quarters it formerly had) Walk into Barneys and you don't have to be plus sized not to be able to buy anything. A large is about a size 10. Look at some of the fancier clothing websites, and the sizes rarely go above a size 10. In fact, that's large. Is it just easier to only design for a narrow range of sizes? Do they think that larger women don't want to wear great clothing or is it just cheaper? I don't know, nor do I care anymore because I sew almost all my clothing these days. I have learned to fit my body and I am a lot happier, let me tell you! Going shopping and not being able to find chic clothing that fits is harmful to self esteem. Try and find a 'cool' pair of jeans if you are in that no woman's zone between plus and the jeans sizing, which I can't figure out anyway.
    Great post Carolyn and Gertie.

  64. Nicola: thanks for the book recommendation!

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  65. I'm really glad you posted this. I've been interested for some time in the intersection between sewing and body image issues, as well... it seems like sewing is for many people a great way to escape from restrictive fashion norms, but the problems of finding patterns that fit can sometimes just replicate the problems of RTW clothes shopping.

    I think for me that one of the things that I feel as a somewhat larger than average poster (I'm kind of on the border between plus and regular sizes in a lot of patterns) is that I feel like a lot of the advice for larger sized sewers is about disguising flaws, flattering your body shape, etc. Some of this advice is useful, but a lot of it tends to push people in the direction of more conservative, full coverage, less form fitting clothes. I do sometimes feel like there's an undertone of "oh, she really can't get away with that," or "hm, kind of makes her look big" when I sew up patterns that supposedly only look good on skinny people. Advice about fitting and flattering your figure shouldn't turn people off of actually wearing form fitting clothes if they feel comfortable in them. Personally, I don't want to dress to look "skinny." I want to wear clothes that I feel excited about wearing!

  66. Wonderful interview, wonderful comments.

    Because of Carolyn's blog (I've been reading it for some time), I started sewing for myself again.

    I owe her LOTS.

  67. Thanks to both Gertie and Carolyn for talking about this! I have entered quite a few contests at patternreview and lost. I always knew in the back of my mind it's because I'm fat. I didn't want to admit that my fellow sewists were sizists, and it made me really sad that they couldn't recognize all the time and work I put into a garment even if it is a size 18.

  68. Check out this blog- a gorgeous curvy young Australian woman who knows how to make the most of her assets shares photos of herself looking fabulous in outfits put together from inexpensive chain store RTW
    cheers, Mae

  69. Anonymous, I looove Frocks and Frou Frou. She's on my blog roll if anyone's interested!

  70. Hi Gertie

    By no means do I disagree with the expressed frustrations of plus size women. I work in RTW, I personally know quite a few designers who would really like to address the needs of this market better but there are many less obvious barriers. Some of these were discussed in these two entries on my site:

    If you or your visitors have any suggestions to resolve these difficulties and limitations, we'd love to hear them.

  71. Just thought I'd mention this for those new sewers/sewists out there who are curvy and may not know it. Both Burda Style (the magazine) and Hot Patterns offer fashion forward cool styles that work well on us curvy types. Ottobre Woman (the magazine) also have some very well drafted patterns for curves. Guess most of the readers here know that already, but just in case ... (NAYY of course)

    Regards from Vibeke in Oslo

  72. Oops did not mean not knowing if you're curvy, I meant not knowing about the patterns mentioned.

  73. Gertie, thanks for bringing this interview to the fore. Good points were made although I cannot believe a handful of commenters literally think that fat / plus-sized women's issues stem only from their own low-self esteem and do not have a social element... you know, years and years of messages that we're all too fat (or in some cases, "too thin" - I personally dislike the "real women have curves" and "eat a cheeseburger" stuff - thin women ARE real women!).

    Carolyn wrote:

    We are definitely an underserved market and if you don't have the ability to restyle or even the fashion sense to see a plus size garment in a skinnier size, the plus size woman is on the bad end of the stick!

    Are plus-sized women really a "niche" when the average American woman is a size 14 - roughly a size 18 in patterns? That doesn't sound too "niche" to me... Sounds like plus-sized women really are being underserved. I look forward to things improving.

  74. Thanks for mentioning my book Sewing for Plus Sizes: Design, Fit and Construction for Ample Apparel. You also might like my second book Sewing 911: Practical and Creative Rescues for Sewing Emergencies.

    If you'd like to see images of my work you can visit my website at www.barbaradeckertcouture.com or my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Elkridge-MD/Barbara-Deckert-Couture/180157724721?ref=ts or my blog at http://barbaradeckertcouture.blogspot.com .

  75. Carolyn's work and the way she wears it should definitely win many prizes! I loved hearing her thoughts on this.

    My weight has fluctuated 60 pounds between my heaviest (as a teen) and lightest (as an adult), and my experience has been that it's just easier to make clothes hang nicely when there is less fluff in the way. The topography is less complex.

    Isn't that one reason designers use such terribly thin models? No troublesome breasts to accommodate! As long as all the models are super-thin, they all pretty much have the same shape and are very similar to fit.

    I have started sewing for my mom (who sewed so much for me when I was younger!), and even though we wear similar sizes, she is a million times easier to fit. She has standard sized shoulders, a small bust and is evenly proportioned. It would be a lot easier to sew an award winning wardrobe for her than for me (shorter, busty, sway backed).

    So maybe one part of the bias in the sewing competitions is that the sewing and fitting are easier to perfect for the less-curvy seamstress.

  76. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  77. I just recently found your blog and love it!!!! I'm both plus-size and tall, which makes finding nice fitting clothes pretty damn hard. I used to sew most of my clothes when I was a teenager, but got out of the habit. I just recently bought a couple of simple patterns to re-acquaint myself with sewing again, but admit to feeling a bit intimidated as it looks like I will have to do quite a bit of adjusting to patterns to get them to fit.

  78. I've been sewing since 1966. For years, YEARS, I used a size 8 or 10, even in the 'old' sizing. Well, I've blossomed! I still love sewing, although a 22 pattern, now, needs, upsizing.

    What companies and manufacturers fail to recognize is when I was a smaller size, I had a VASTLY smaller budget!! Now I can treat myself to better fabric and finer notions, and still keep my bills paid. But now I'm 'not the target market." Their loss..........

  79. I have never entered a sewing contest, but it isn't because I am plus sized. I love to sew, but seldom have the time. The main reason I do sew my own clothes is that the cute clothes don't usually come in my size. Great article. I enjoyed reading it.

  80. Hi Neighbor,
    I live in Beacon as well. Bought a place in 2006. Love your blog and can't wait for the book. I too take what ever size pattern and make it my own. I was a size 4 (before babies), then 6,8,10,12 then 14. This has happen through all the babies(5), but then i got sick and ballooned to a size 20 in 6 mos. I am very happy in this skin. I'm learning more what clothes look good on me and which one's to shy away from. I'm having the most fun fitting a smaller pattern to my shape and maybe making a few changes along the way.

  81. Cheers author for your nice blog and fantastic discussed about sewing

  82. I find it depressing to clothe shop. Usually the things I like in my size are stupidly expensive and more often than not in horrid fabrics. people still believe that fat=rich which it did back in medieval times but not now! I am a size UK 24/26. I also have a chronic illness Fibromyalgia that means I cannot do much activity or walking without agony and lethargy, not to mention my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Tourette's, Depression etc! So for me being a bit big is a-the least of my worries and b-doing pretty well not to be double this size which would have been really easy to do! So I hate people who judge people on their size because we all have different reasons which are all valid both for fat and thin. My triumph at the moment is that I am maintaining my weight during this horrid long term illness, you see to me that is the same as loosing weight at the moment because I am not putting it on which is all I can achieve at the moment when you consider that getting out of bed is a major achievement for me with Fibro! I want to loose weight when I am able but even then I only want to get to a UK 16 - I don't want to loose my curves plus at this size it lessens the skin sag after! So at the moment I have decided to sew my own. Now for the big problem - finding styles in my size that I like. I will find a pattern I like, it will even say up to plus size, that is if plus size is within the healthy BMI range which a 16-18 is! (Don't even get me started on the history of the BMI chart! What a scam!). What gets my goat is that sites say that upsizing their patterns can be very difficult to do. Ok on some patterns may be, but the ones I like could very easily be done by them! The Plus size sections on some sites are pathetic. You get 100 normal size patterns and then 5 plus size like we don't care what we wear. You think we are a small market? It's only a small market because of what you do. I have worked for shops that say oh this product doesn't sell well anyway - well if you actually marketed it, advertised it properly us big girls would know it exists! That's the thing companies will do it but not advertise it properly so they can then claim well it doesn't work anyway lets get rid of it now-which is an excuse. Ok, unexpected rant! I actually have some Khalia Ali patterns to try they look nice!


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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