Who We Are: Tall Sewists, Part 1!

Who We Are (8)

We asked community members over 5’9″ to tell us what it’s like to be tall and sew. We had so many interesting comments and submissions from tall sewists that we are breaking it into two parts, with the second post coming soon!

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We asked: What patterns work best for you, and what adjustments do you need to make? Are you ever envious of short sewists (like me!) being able to squeeze a garment from less fabric? Is being tall normal in your country, or has it made you self-conscious? Does sewing help you dress the way to always wanted to? Please let us know!

Ebi from Making the Flame /@makingtheflame says, 

All patterns work for me, because I alter them accordingly! I do often lengthen things — just recently, I added 5″ (~12.75cm) to the Charlie Caftan in order to make it floor length on me — in flats, no less. I am never envious of short people because I absolutely love being tall! As far as squeezing a lot of garment out of a little fabric, I do that fairly well, actually, by cutting pieces close together and occasionally piecing them or otherwise cutting creatively. Waste not, want not. I live in the US, and am Nigerian, neither place being known for its giant people. However, my family is tall — so tall, in fact, that I’m on the shorter side among the women. Sewing does help me dress the way I want to *now*, which is always something evolving, but what I really miss is the ability to buy cute shoes. My feet are huge! That’s probably the only downside to being tall (though shorter women can also have big feet, and not all tall people do).

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Beth from Sew DIY has written about being a tall sewist on her blog here, which was really the first time I, as a short person, had ever thought about what it might be like to be tall, except to envy them! You can find her on Instagram as @sewDIYblog.

I’m 5’11” and have been since I was about 13. It definitely shapes how I see the world and is a big part of why I sew. For better or worse, being a tall woman automatically draws attention. Sometimes it can be really uncomfortable and awkward. And obviously shopping for clothes is incredibly frustrating. After almost 25 years of walking around in this body (and sewing for 20+ years), I’m happy to feel more at ease in it every year. I attribute a lot of that to being able to sew clothing for myself that makes me feel comfortable and confident.

Earlier this year, I was inspired by some fellow tall sewists to start the hashtag #sewingtall as a way to connect with other tall sewists and share fitting and pattern tips with each other. It’s been really incredible to see how the hashtag has been embraced. There are currently just over 1500 photos with it on Instagram. I’m continually amazed by this supportive and just generally awesome online sewing community (tall and otherwise).

No matter your size or shape, shopping for ready-to-wear clothing can be frustrating and make you feel like you’re not “normal.” I try to take every opportunity to remind people that there is no normal size. Most sewists have a little (or a lot of) experience with adjusting patterns for their own shape. And it’s not because your body is not “normal” or the pattern is wrong. It’s just that every body is unique. The more we can shift our thinking from what’s wrong with our bodies to the fun and satisfaction to be found with sewing, the better we’ll feel. Sewing is my favorite way to feel empowered and confident and I’m so glad that I found it at a young age (for which I should give 100% credit to my mom who always said “we can make that ourselves”).

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Freya from Handmade by Freya /@handmadebyfreya says,

I don’t consider myself to be extremely tall but I am 5’10”, nearly 5’11”. It was one of the reasons I started to sew. Not because I can’t find anything to wear but more that it fits better. Every time I have ever bought a RTW short skirt, I can hear my mum in my ears saying ‘can you sit down in that?’ or ‘I wouldn’t bend over in that!’. (And yes, my mum usually is right about this!) I love the trend for a short skirt and I also want to show off my legs but I don’t want to wear a belt. One of my biggest bugbears in shops is that you can’t alter the hem of skirts, as in order for clothing retailers to maximise profits, they minimise excess fabric. Sometimes I get so annoyed about it, I feel like starting a campaign to ‘bring back the excess hem!’

I’m pretty happy with being tall and I’ve never envied a shorter sewist. Growing up in both England and the Netherlands, I’ve never really felt out of place (except for when I wear heels next to my shortest friends wearing flats). Being half Dutch, whenever I go back to the Netherlands, I’m a pretty average height. I’ll usually buy knipmode (a Dutch dressmaking magazine) or Burda, which seem to have better proportioned dressmaking patterns for my size. (I hear Named clothing is pretty good for tall women and Style Arc aren’t bad either.)

Do I have to make loads of alterations just because I’m tall? Not particularly. I usually have to do an FBA anyway as I have a DD bust. So it’s usually just lengthening the bodice and skirt hem to be honest. Lengthening a bodice can also be a bit of a pain, because if you are adding a good couple of inches there, it can be difficult getting the proportions right at the waist.

Thankfully though, I can pattern cut. And there is nothing better than having a pattern cut to your shape and size that fits well. You can also use it to help alter commercial patterns!

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Next, Erin from Seamstress Erin / @seamstresserin says,

I hit 5’10” at the age of 12. This made me feel awkward, ungainly, and horribly uncomfortable in my own body. I couldn’t imagine that boys could ever like me since I towered over all of them. I still have struggles with feeling “big” and “unfeminine” though I’ve since worked hard to be comfortable and confident in my body (and I do wish I could go back and tell teenage me that I didn’t need to worry since some day I’d marry a short man who finds me and my height irresistible). 

For me, the most important legacy of being tall is the fact that I sew. I started seriously sewing my own clothing when I was 12 because I couldn’t find anything that was long enough for me. It helped me relate to my dad’s mother – she was an amazing sewist who sewed all her own clothes for many, many years because she was 6′ tall in the 1940’s. She helped me sew my first pair of pants. Sewing is one of the most important things in my life and I’m not sure that that would be true had I not been encouraged to sew so much because of my height.

What did you learn from these tall sewists? Did anything surprise you, or resonate with your own experience? Let us know in the comments below!