As a person of size at the far end of the plus-size spectrum, sewing my own clothes has been a liberating experience. The colors! The patterns! The freedom of choice! Give me a fun knit fabric and I feel like I can conquer any closet addition like a wardrobe wizard with +5 advantage.
But give me a woven, and I’m cowering in fear. Fear over fit issues, if the bicep will be roomy enough, how many adjustments I’d need to make, how do I even make those adjustments, what if I rip a seam or it fits differently sitting down as my body expands… Even four years into my sewing journey, I have yet to make a woven garment.
A lot of these fears stem from the negative experiences I’ve had shopping ready-to-wear. If I find a top in a woven fabric, it usually fits in the bodice and I am busting out of the hips or sleeves. If it fits in the sleeves, I am swimming in the body of the garment. There have been few occasions where I have found an acceptable fit in a garment that isn’t a knit.
One of my life mantras in 2019 is to be bolder. This encompasses my new role as president of a local young professionals group, but I also want to be bolder in bringing more of my life and leadership skills to my workplace, in conquering that small voice of doubt and anxiety, and in owning more of who I am in various aspects of my life. I was happy to see that the Sewcialists were diving into #SewBraveSewcialists in the month of May and decided that I would take this opportunity to jump into the deep end and tackle my fears of making a woven garment head-on.
Ruffles and gathers have been on trend for a while now, and I have zero tops that utilize this technique. I turned to my tried-and-true company for inclusive plus-size patterns and chose the Claiborne Women’s Boho Ruffle Top from Do it Better Yourself Club.
Just a quick plug for the DIBY Club: the owner and designer, Jessica Hooley, set out to make patterns that any and everyone could sew. She spoke about this earlier this year in a livestream on their Facebook and shared that, before they even started their sewing pattern business, Jessica wanted to be sure to run the full spectrum of sizing and teach sewists how to build better wardrobes. They have so many straightforward instructions, tutorials, and resources that make tackling scary or new projects less daunting. I believe in and back them 100%. To check out more of their designs, visit their Sewing Patterns site. <\glowing review>
On to info on the garment!
I got my pattern printed on the A0 size at PDFPlotting.com. I knew I wanted a loose-fitting, flowy top and I was concerned about fit around my waist and hips when sitting, so I kept my usual size 32 in the bust and graded out to the 36 at the waist and hips.
For this garment, I chose colors I don’t often wear because of their brightness — pink and yellow. I picked up this Crinkle Cotton in a floral print from the Spring Garden collection at JOANN Fabrics. I love the look of the texture, and it also gives the fabric a little bit more stretch to the grain. Because of that, it did shift around when cutting out the pattern pieces and I had to adjust them afterwards. The fabric lost its texture and spread out when ironed, but sprang back to its original crinkly goodness when washed.
The number one sizing issue I have in woven tops is the sleeves, and while DIBY Club had great drafted ones, even at the largest size I would have had to make a significant (4+ inches) full bicep adjustment or draft a whole new sleeve pattern, which is not yet in my skill set (I am open to resources if you have suggestions!).
I opted to make this a sleeveless top and utilized the Bias Bound armhole tutorial from Siân at Kittenish Behavior. I watched the tutorial a few times, and just went forth with reckless abandon. One of my armscyes is *slightly* longer than the other now, but you can’t tell when it’s on 😉
Sorry Sewcialists, ya girl apparently forgot to trim some threads…
One thing that I will be adjusting in future versions of this pattern is the length of the front ruffle. Using the empire cut line, the front of the hem lifts up higher than the back and sits higher than I would prefer or typically be comfortable with.
Knit patterns and fabric are so forgiving that when I have sizing issues or adjustments to make, they usually aren’t that big of a deal. For this pattern, I noticed a few things that I will be addressing in future renditions.
Firstly, I think I need to size down in the bodice to accommodate for the built-in ease. The shoulders are a bit too wide and far apart and utilizing a smaller size and perhaps a narrow shoulder adjustment (which they teach in the pattern instructions) could help.
The goofy pose below also illustrates the other adjustment I would make, which would be to size down for the bottom ruffle and lower bodice. It is nearly comical how much I thought I needed the extra room, because even with the gathering the ruffle is a bit much for me. I can definitely take this garment in 4″ on both side seams and still have plenty of room.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with how I was able to harness my inner boldness and complete a garment I’m happy with in a fabric I have been scared of for years. I charged ahead using construction methods I am unfamiliar with and tried some things for the first time and still came out with a garment I can wear with pride.
How are you choosing to #sewbrave this month?
Jenn is a twenty-something sewist who enjoys hoarding craft supplies she’ll never use and starting projects she’ll never finish. A Grand Rapids, Michigan native, Jenn works in the nonprofit sector and volunteers with the international Junior Chamber movement. You can find her on Instagram @handstitchedlife and at her blog, handstitchedlife.com.
Sewcialists is a hyper-inclusive editorial site. We recognize that all of us
make up an amazing and varied community. We ask that you take each
challenge as you see it fitting in your life, and express your involvement how
you like, at the given time. Our challenges are for the pure enjoyment of
participation and the love of community.
Strange fact: When I started sewing, for years I felt that sewing with wovens was “real sewing” and with knits it was “fun sewing”. I have no idea how I could have thought this because a) I too was afraid of fitting wovens – they are unforgiving and every woven pattern I made was a fitting misery! and b) everything I buy RTW has at least SOME stretch in it. One day it occurred to me that if I want to wear what I make, I should make the relevant things with a minimum of stretch woven. Best of both worlds. It is fantastic that you have faced your fear and your top looks great. Just remember – you can have all of the fun of a woven fabric with all of the drape and comfort of a knit 🙂 Also, totally off topic, your outdoor space is beautiful.
That’s beautiful. I love your bravery. Nice work, too!
Thank you Matti!
This looks airy and beautiful on you! Welcome to the world of woven fabrics – hooray for even more choices going forward! I recommend something super-stable next (a linen-cotton, maybe?) so you can really enjoy a fabric that wants to stay where you put it! Shiftiness and rolled edges are kind of my bugbear. And speaking of bugbears…fellow D&Der perhaps? 🙂
Thank you, it’s a new and foreign land, but I think I’ll visit more often 😉 I definitely want to try this pattern again with a more stable cotton. I do have a purple linen in my stash, or I think this could look neat with a chambray.
and yes to D&D! my interest in it has been piqued in recent months and I’m working on getting a group together to play in my area. I haven’t actually had the chance to play yet, just observe!
I hope you are feeling proud of yourself enough to have a go at wovens again, after you figure out how much cooler they can be in summer 😏. Wovens behave much more consistently than knits and adjustments are much easier once you figure out what you need. This first try is much better than wearable! Did you add to the bottom section? Because I think it doesn’t look exaggerated when you are just wearing it normally, and having enough sitting ease is not an unreasonable criteria. But it looks like the waist seam is coming up in front, and that usually means you need to make an fba (full bust adjustment). The curvysewingcollective.com site has some really good tutorials for that..
Thank you for the suggestion! I totally need to learn how to do FBAs. I’ve seen plenty of tutorials on them on YouTube because it’s still something I scratch my head at once it gets down to doing it.
Fantastic top! You did a great job. I am working on my first fitted woven top right now, too! It is such a challenge as I have asymmetrical broad shoulders that slope up instead of down. I also decided to skip the sleeves for now but I’m getting close to having a completed, maybe even wearable, muslin.
If you share it on Instagram, would you tag me? I’d love to see your wearable muslin!
I love those colours on you!! 😊
Thank you Susan! I’m glad I went out of my color comfort zone.
Love that print on you! It looks summery, comfortable, and fun. I’m sloowly trying to convince myself to sew more woven tops – I love wovens for skirts/dresses but something about fitting shirts makes me uncomfortable. Probably an echo of bad RTW experiences like you mentioned…
Congrats on trying and succeeding at something new!
You make amazing knit tees and your knitting looks so cool. I bet you’d totally rock a woven top!
Aw, thank you! I hope there are some good woven tops in both of our futures. 😉
I’m currently avoiding my next top because it’s a woven and the pattern needs the sleeves made bigger. Maybe I’ll frankenpattern and use a sleeve that already fits…
Do it! I’d love to see what you make so tag me if you instagram it!
I have upper arms 2 sizes bigger than my torso so understand the sleeve frustrations.
I like to add a little at the side seams before I cut the sleeve out, and find 2 piece sleeves particularly good as there are 4 places to add a bit more. I have also used the slash and spread method and sleeves with a dart into the armhole.
A puffed sleeve with a band at the elbow or wrist can be nice as can a relaxed Kimono style sleeve or flutter sleeve as these all have design lines which allow for a larger arm.
I did try the slash and spread method, but there was too little pattern to accommodate the adjustment I needed to make.
I do have several RTW chiffon style kimonos that I LOVE for layering over tees in the summer. They are fairly simple too, so I’d like to replicate them in my wardrobe eventually.
Congrats on facing your fear! Your top looks gorgeous on you; those colours really suit your peaches and cream complexion. I hope you get heaps of wear out of it. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Naomi! I’m learning that there are a lot of colors I should be less timid to wear. I’d like to try more styles too, perhaps a mermaid tuxedo is in my future!
Yes girl!! We can start a club x
Congratulations! Your top looks great on you, and I think that extra width might feel nice and breezy in the summer. I’ve recently started sewing with wovens for hot-weather conditions, and loose silhouettes to create airflow is a key consideration. My fave photo is the last one!
I love your top, and it looks super comfortable, I don’t like showing off the tops of my arms as the skin has gone horrible with age, so I’m delighted to find the pattern has a sleeve option. I have just bought it! Don’t have sleeve issues but I do have raised front problems so I second the FBA suggestion, I do it to almost everything because I like my fronts to drop to a certainty level. I’m going to look for you on Insta now.
You go! Give me confidence.