Balancing Acts – leg width, crotch length, stretch and comfort

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It has been a long time between posts as I tend to craft for christmas and start in September.  There’s been lots of Christmas card crafting going on and not too much else.  I have made one dress which has been incredibly successful.  It was a copy of an old ready to wear that I cut up and not a draft so I didn’t post about it.  I wear that dress at least once a week and thankfully copied the original onto paper as well so can make another.

Comfortable pants are essential for me in summer weather.  I’m quite knock kneed and my thighs chafe badly in summer if I walk any kind of distance in a skirt or dress.   The balancing act between leg width and crotch length is particularly important for me.  If the legs are too wide, fabric will tend to bunch and ride up between my legs when I’m walking.  I also have to take into account how much I spread when I sit down.  Pants that fit beautifully when I’m standing are generally too tight when I sit down.  For a close fit in the legs I use stretch fabric. This kind of fabric tends to not wear comfortably in hot weather as it doesn’t breathe which means something like a stretch drill which is great for slacks is relegated to work-wear only as I’m in an air-conditioned office.  If the fabric I have doesn’t stretch then it means loose-legged casual wear that is going to tend to ride up between the legs.

It’s a case of constant compromise with my fabric availability and/or planned use dictating quite strongly what will happen.  Recently I’ve sewn both a close fitting pair of stretch pants and also a loose legged pair of shorts.

Way back in May I went to a sewing retreat.  I finished a pair of slacks there that ended up being fairly uncomfortable to wear because the legs were too wide.  I drafted my original pants sloper using Elizabeth Allemong’s drafting instructions.  As I mentioned before I really need to redo all my slopers as my bum has got bigger. The crotch curve wasn’t long enough and they pulled down badly at the back.  I didn’t want to waste the work I’d done so far on these (my pockets and invisible zipper were worth fighting for!) so I stitched the crotch seam a little lower and when I felt I had enough length there, I set about reducing the leg width.  They fitted pretty well around waist and hips though as I took the legs in I got drag marks around the knee.  I didn’t have the room to take in too much on the inner legs because of having too short a crotch curve in the first place.  It was very much a process of pinning, checking in the mirror, undo and repeat over a few weekends until I was happy with them.  There was a lot of unpicking! I’ve washed them to get rid of the pesky thread bits before giving them another trial wear.  Fingers Crossed!

My weekender shorts came out pretty well and are very comfortable.  The fabric is a cotton check with no stretch at all.  I added room by moving the pattern over to the side.  The legs were huge!   I took the legs in quite a bit as well as a bit in the waist.  The side seam isn’t remotely straight anymore but they are so comfy, who cares?  I’ve been living in them all weekend.  Another trial and error attempt and I didn’t take any kind of notes as to how much I added, took in etc so no way of quickly stitching up another pair.  Sob!

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Red Zipper Skirt

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I made this skirt OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwith an offcut of fabric donated when I belonged to a sewing group.  It was a suede fabric with a silkyunderside.   I have a skirt draft with 6 panels that I often use for making gored or flared skirts and decided to use that.  I had a couple of ideas in mind design-wise that my brain was playing with in relation to the pattern.  One was a skirt with a slit up the side and the other was to pick out a seam by adding some colour.  I ended up kind of combining the two.

I had thought of highlighting a seam by stitching a zipper tape into it.  When I went zipper shopping there really wasn’t much to choose from that went with the fabric I had.  Nylon zippers are definitely more available but that didn’t really provide the edgy sort of look I wanted, only metal teeth would do.  Zipper length was an issue as well.  In the end, the only zipper long enough with metal teeth that went with the fabric was this really long separating zipper.  Once I started putting things together, I realised I could have a “slit” up one of the panels by using the zip as it was, only upside down, with the separating bit of the zipper at the top of the skirt and leaving it unzipped at the bottom, as far as I dared.  This would mean that the feature zipper could also be the closure of the skirt .  I had been intending a short invisible zip in the side seam initially.

I was somewhat nervous of wearing a skirt with a zipper running the length of it and nothing underneath if the zipper ever broke so made an inverted pleat behind the zipper that ended at the knee.  Modesty preserved!  The area from the knee to the hem, has a facing either side so I could leave part of the zipper unzipped.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I hate having anything tight on my waist so often omit one of the back darts either side and add some elastic in the back waist.  Other construction methods I use at the waist are to face it rather than have a waistband.  I am very shortwaisted and if I use a waistband it ends up almost right under my bra when I sit down.  So I always cut the front waist lower and face it.  At the sideseam of the facing, I unpick a short distance so that I can turn the facing under at the back and stitch it down to insert elastic.  I find it much more comfortable to wear and use this method on both skirts and pants.

The length of the skirt was limited by the amount of fabric I had and looking at my photo finish, I’m really not happy with it.  It’s too short for my proportions, especially at the back, so I shall start again with another fabric.  I’m also rethinking that skirt shape.

It was interesting working out this design.  My last bits of sewing have been a basic T-shirt, a pair of pants which also didn’t work and copying a dress.  I haven’t really worked out a new design for quite a while and although I’m not happy with this particular skirt, I’m happy with the concept of the design and will use it again.

I really do need to re-do my slopers.  This skirt was a lot shorter at the back than usual and I had trouble fitting the last pair of pants I made.  My bum has got bigger!  I really hate redrafting my slopers, I’d rather be designing something.  I lost a lot of weight a couple of years ago and almost did it then but ended up just trimming bits off.  Now things have just plain moved and I need to come to terms with it!

Introduction

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This blog is for me to write about my plus-size designing and sewing adventures.  I have been interested in sewing as long as I can remember.  When I was in high school I was introduced to dress design.  I loved it and have been designing for myself off and on ever since.

Being short and wide with a short torso, I have a hard to fit shape.  I went into a designer dress-maker’s shop here in Perth city as I was trying to make a trouser block and not having much success without any fitting assistance.  She took one look and told me I was too hard to fit and to bring back what I’d done so far and she’d help me fix it but didn’t want to do anything from scratch.  I’ve been doing it on my own ever since.

One thing I’ve learned is that there is no perfect block.  If you haven’t changed shape, chances are a different fabric will change the fit anyway.  Be prepared to finesse or make-do with something that isn’t perfect.  As far as I’m concerned, that is dress design and sewing.  You can fit and muslin the perfect pair of pants and they still won’t fit the same when you cut that pattern out in stretch cotton sateen.  I have often found that something new I’ve made doesn’t feel right at first.  A little perseverance and a few wears and washes and it is a different story.  Suddenly, it fits beautifully and feels really comfortable.  I rarely sew the same design twice so am always fitting and fitting again.

While I appreciate couture, I don’t pretend to have either the time or inclination to take my sewing too far in that direction.  I’m passionate about the fit that personal dress design provides but don’t finish my seams or line things.  I live in Perth, Western Australia, it’s too hot for linings, well it is for me anyway.  I still wear sandals in winter!  One of the reasons I don’t finish my seams is that I make do without an overlocker, the other is that I read that in couture sewing they don’t overlock as it creates a ridge on the right side when you are pressing.  I agree with that and found that fabric generally only frays so far before it stops anyway.  I trim loose threads the first few times new clothes are washed and it’s fine.  So much time saved.

I also don’t do muslins.  If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.  I move on.  I cut seams wide to have space to fit but on the whole, I know myself and my blocks well enough by now to feel confident in what I’m doing.  I don’t bother sewing underwear but other than that, make all pants, skirts, dresses and tops.  Occasionally, I buy tops or exercise wear.  Like many craftsters I go through phases.  Sometimes I’m sewing every weekend, other times not for a couple of months.

A major reason I design for myself is to have clothes that feel comfortable and look nice.  They simply aren’t comfortable when they fit badly.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a dress pattern and it fit well.  In my opinion if you have to make more than a few minor adjustments, you might as well have designed your own anyway.  There’s loads of complaints about the Big 4 pattern companies and plus sizes.  I’m not going to add anything to that mix. Rather, I’d like to share my creative adventures and hope that others gain something from that to add to their own sewing experience.