Sew Brave: On Being Big and Bold

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.

Jenn stands on a deck, facing the camera with woods in the background. She wears blue jeans, a mustard cardigan, and a pink and yellow floral blouse. She smiles proudly at the camera.

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!

Jenn leans with her back to the deck railing, woods behind her, showing a profile view of her outfit. She wears blue jeans, a mustard cardigan, and a pink and yellow floral blouse with a gathered lower bodice. Jenn smiles.

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.

A woman stands against a deck railing facing away from the camera. Her brown hair is pulled back into a ponytail and she has bent her left knee casually. She is plus-sized and is wearing blue jeans and a sleeveless pink and yellow floral top with a gathered lower bodice. She looks off toward the woods and houses beyond the deck.

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 😉

Jenn stands in front of three large tree limbs on leaf-covered ground; more trees and a house are behind her. She looks at the camera and smiles slightly, with her right hand on her hip. She wears blue jeans and a pink and yellow floral sleeveless top with a gathered lower bodice.

Jenn stands confidently, right hand on her hip, looking at the camera. Some large tree limbs, woods, and a house are behind her. She smiles slightly. Jenn wears blue jeans and a sleeveless pink and yellow floral blouse with a gathered lower bodice. A few loose threads can be seen dangling at the right front hem of the blouse.

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.

A woman stands with her back to the camera, surrounded by fallen leaves and tree limbs and woods. Houses are visible in the background. The woman has brown hair that is worn in a high ponytail. She wears blue jeans and a pink and yellow floral sleeveless top with a gathered lower bodice.

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.Jenn faces the camera and holds the sides of her blouse out away from her as far as they will go. She is smiling widely and poses as though she is about to curtsy. Woods, houses, fallen tree limbs, and fallen leaves are all around her. Jenn's blouse is a pink and yellow floral sleeveless top, which she wears with blue jeans and black sneakers.

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.


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