The plus size community is near and dear to my heart. I’ve felt big all my life – even in highschool when I weight 135 pounds! I’m 50 pounds beyond that now, but thanks to the supportive sewing community, I feel happier, prettier, and more body-positive than I ever have before! For me, it goes to show that size is all about perception, and feeling uncomfortable in one’s skin can happen at any size.
I spent a year and half as one of the editors at the Curvy Sewing Collective, a community that began in 2014 and now has over 100 000 followers! The Curvy Sewing Collective thrives on showing women of all ages and sizes looking fabulous in me-made clothes. After years of seeing beauty represented online in mainstream media, it’s incredibly empowering to feel normal!
That said, there is lots of room for improvement in the sewing world… as a size 18, I often sew the largest size available in indie patterns. I’ll be honest: it hurts every time I size out of a pattern, or see a new launch released with no one over a size 10 as a model. I can only imagine that it’s worse for people larger than me who are even more excluded. There are also very few options representing plus-size men, or anyone non-binary. My hope is that by sharing our experiences as plus-size sewists, we can inspire change!
Emma from @yankeeknitsinengland says,
To be honest it has all come together over the last year, I participated in the Women’s March in London almost a year ago to the day and as a knitter not only made my own Pussy Hat but also made others to be donated to the march. I didn’t know how to identify myself but I knew I needed to make a stand. At the same time I had hit a brick wall with buying clothes off the rack my top is much smaller than my bottom and I could make things work when I was a much smaller size but now as a larger size my option for where to shop and styles was greatly reduced and I decided it was time to finally sign up for sewing classes.
I was really lucky as a plus sized student to choose a class with a plus size teacher though I am sure there are may accomplished sewing teacher who can teach adjustments with out needing them, I do feel this put me in a good place to start with. I had also had the chance encounter a few years before with a woman teaching a knitting class who mentioned the Curvy Collective and I started stalking the sight and quickly realized I was looking for women who “looked like me”. I can’t tell you how important this has been in my sewing journey. I stalked the blog post and looked at measurements give especially on the throw down post and compared them to mine and this gave me the first indication that I too could look good in these patterns just like the women writing these post.
This lead me to Cashmerette patterns and what I have to say has been my salvation in sewing. I really had almost given up that I would be able to sew patterns with out major adjustments and multiple mock ups. Not only did I know have patterns that fit with almost no adjustments but I had a company that celebrated women of all sizes, heights, ages, and races. To see the models that Jenny chooses to use has been such and inspiration, to see their beauty beyond their dress size has begun to heal so many of the body image issue I have had all my life.
I know now that not only am I worthy of clothes that fit me regardless of my size but that there are so many beautiful plus size women out there working to make changes via the Curvy Collective and pattern brands such as Cashmerette and that other companies are hearing the call and making the change. Companies are going larger with their sizes and choosing to use a number of different sized models to showcase their patterns. I want every woman to be able to see patterns on women (or men) who look like them. I want them to know how and have resources to being able to make clothes that make them feel amazing. I want them to know they are beautiful just the way they are. They don’t need to loose a couple dress sizes or grade up every pattern or make massive alteration.
Another Emma (aka. @Emmaandhermachine) says,
For me sewing for my body is essential. I’m relatively new to sewing (about 18 months) but as soon as I started to perfect my sewing so that I had a good fit and I could alter patterns to ensure they fit well there was no going back. I found that so many fast fashion garments in shops aren’t made for me; some frankly ridiculous like cropped tops or mini skirts, others just uncomfortable like skinny straps or low waists. I found that I had to shop in more ‘sensible’ shops to get good coverage but then I often felt frumpy and old.
Making my own clothes means that I can tailor my clothes to fit my style so I can add sleeves to my garments to hide my arms and I can do full bust allowances which means my clothes actually fit across my bust. It makes me pay more attention to what I actually like to wear. I can take a classic shape or pattern and mix it with an amazing fabric so that I am not looking dowdy. To be able to have this much control over the way I look is so important to me and the way I identify as a curvy Sewcialist!
Hi! Meg here…My first foray into clothing was for my Barbies – poorly made and literally gaping at the seams. It wasn’t until I got to high school and became involved in the theater department that I began to learn about garment construction. Our theater teacher was adamant: if we had a job on stage, we also had to have one behind stage. Since I was already good with buttons and trim and had basic knowledge of a sewing machine, I began helping with the costume department. The fact that I had never followed an actual pattern meant there was a bit of a learning curve. I made a horrible mistake when cutting out my first pattern, managing to lop off a critical five inches from the bottom front of a dress. I tearfully owned up to my mistake, expecting to be kicked off the costume team. My teacher looked at it, took a deep breath, and then told me to find a way to fix it.* Thus began my long history of picking up a new skill, messing up horribly, and learning from those mistakes.
I’ve been sewing clothing for 22 years now. The past two years has seen me making mostly “regular” clothing, but costuming remains my first true sewing love. That’s probably where the seeds of my journey to body-positivity started, now that I think about it. One of the greatest things about Ma’am’s casting choices back then was her disregard of what a person was expected to play, based on their appearance (she cast chubby 5’3” me as an Amazon my freshman year)…and she loved to make unique costumes for her favorite students. My senior year, she made me a Tudor-style dress for a show without the use of a pattern. The dress made me feel beautiful – not only because of the fabrics used and the way the finished project looked, but because someone took the time and effort to fit something specifically to my body and make me feel like my size wasn’t a burden, a challenge, or something to be hidden under a shapeless sack of a costume. I stood out, but not in a bad way. I think that is at the root of why so many of us started sewing for ourselves in the first place.
I’ve tried to infuse my own makes with that same sense of “love your body, it’s beautiful the way it is” that my theater teacher shared with her students…though I’ll admit, some days it’s easier to love and appreciate other people’s bodies than my own. For more on my life as a curvy sewist, check out “It’s Never ‘Just Clothing’,” on my blog Nerf Guns and Bobbins.
[*Years later, long after I had graduated, I went back to my old high school to help with the costumes for another show. The dresses were all cut out, but the pieces for the dress on top of the pile had been cut wrong…at least five inches short on the front skirt. Ma’am handed them to me with a gleam in her eye and told me to find a way to fix it. It seems things have a way of coming full circle.]
We had too many stories to share in one post… so we’ll be back with Part 2 soon! Did any of today’s stories remind you of your own experiences?
I found Curvy Sewing by accident. I was just getting back into sewing, and I was thrilled to see it. It was very new. I bookmarked it and then forgot about it.
Once I really started seriously sewing again I read it often but never commented. It took a while to realize how it could help me feel better about my body. For many years, nothing else had.
Now I seriously feel that sewing my clothes, reading Curvy Sewing, and reading other sewists my size blogs; saved my self esteem as a large woman. I was never going to feel good about myself just shopping at places like Woman Within and Lane Bryant making do. I needed to sew what makes me feel beautiful in my size! I needed to realize I – could – do – it!!
And now I do!
Thank You for sharing your stories! I can so relate. We empower each other!
I’m so glad that Curvy Sewing Collective helped you see yourself in a new way! I’m so amazed by how well established the CSC community is, and I hope that one day the Sewcialists get there too!
Finding CSC was a revelation. It was right as I was getting into garment sewing and it gave me so much encouragement that garment sewing could be for me, too. It was how I found out about the whole wide online sewing community and the indie pattern scene and all the rest of it. Early on, I’d spend hours clicking through their list of plus-size friendly pattern companies and getting so excited. I resonate so much with this post. I started making my own clothes out of frustration at finding RTW that fit when I got bigger. I am right on the cusp in a lot of indie size charts. Sewing for myself has improved how I feel about myself and helped me pay attention to what feels good to wear. I want to see more models that are larger than a size 10 – it really helps to access if something will work for me. I always feel bad when I don’t see a plus-size model and think… “eh, I’m not sure that will work for me.” Connecting to the CSC community really helps because it shows garments on a ton of different figures and you think, well if it works for this person, I bet it will work for me too.
I”m right in the same boat, size-wise… I can sew lots of indies but not all! I agree, it’s so valuable to see someone my size-ish wearing a pattern – really makes me feel that the designer meant for it to look good on me. I don’t think all designers realise how impactful that simple thing can be!
I am curvy, and I struggle to feel good in the sewing community. I’m glad to hear people using sewing as empowering… For me it is a constant struggle to sew despite the fact that it makes me feel self-conscious and a bit ugly. Being sized out of patterns (indie) or sized between size ranges (Big 4 and one or two Indies that insist on split size ranges*…. Honestly I don’t know how it has happened but as a size 20-22 I feel more comfortable going to a shop and buying something than feeling welcome buying sewing patterns that don’t include my hip measurement. I love the community though. I love that people can be honest with themselves… I am just working to feel better about me.
*Split size ranges are the worst. I am a plus size who wants to have the option to be smaller in the future… I don’t want to buy a pattern of any kind that if I go down a single size I’ll need a whole new pattern.
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I’m a teen and I love it when I see people like you embracing the plus size trend!
Great write up✌