Wednesday 30 July 2014

Honest garment sewing

As a Plus Size goddess woman, I find it difficult to find clothes that fit and that can also be considered 'trendy' for my age group.  I long to wear handmade clothes in the fabrics that I drool on in the fabric shops.

The minute I was contacted by Simplicity New Look (shortly after the #NYLon meet up) to see if I would like to sew a couple of patterns from their website, I jumped at the chance.  Once I started looking on their website for something that I liked and would possibly suit me, I discovered that they had Plus Size patterns!  I put 'plus' in the search box and there were loads of garments available - and at very reasonable prices (in pounds sterling).  I eventually chose "It's so easy it's Simplicity" pattern #1494 for unisex Pyjama bottoms [US sizes S-XXXL] along with a "Burda Style" Dress and Tunic pattern #6972 [US sizes 18-30].

These patterns were provided at no cost to me so that I could review them.  All my opinions are my own!  Thank you Simplicity for allowing me to try my hand at garment sewing.  I will definitely continue sewing clothes for myself and I will no doubt improve each time.  Everyone has to start somewhere, right!   

Here are some of my top tips when sewing a garment:
  1. Take really thorough measurements of your body and TRUST the sizing guide on the pattern!
  2. Before cutting into really expensive fabric, make a test garment in cheap(er) fabric to see if you need to make any adjustments.
  3. Buy a fabric marking tool (a tailors chalk or something similar) to transfer all of the pattern markings onto the fabric.  There are different colours out there so depending on what colour your fabric is, you can buy a colour that will show up.
  4. Read the pattern OUT LOUD if the instructions are confusing or if there is no diagram to follow. 
  5. If you trace the pattern, be VERY VERY accurate and mark all the pattern markings onto your tracing paper.  Label each piece as labelled on the original pattern.
Yes, this is a list of things I wished I had done!!  'Sew', with all of these tips in mind, let me share my garment sewing experience with you!

Pyjama bottoms
I did not measure myself for the pyjama bottoms - I figured that I was a XXL so I went for it!  I pinned the pattern directly onto my fabric, cutting through the printed tissue and then followed the directions to sew them up.  Before the waistband and hem stage, I could already see that they were going to be huge so I put them on to show Mr Crafty Shenanigans and we laughed and laughed!  They were about a foot too big at the waist and the 'waist' came up to my boobs!  Sexy pj's right?!   

So, I spent some time ripping out all the seams so I could re-cut the fabric to my size.  I sort of measured myself and still didn't trust the pattern (I am apparently a slow learner!) so I cut the Large size on the pattern.  However.... since I cut the tissue paper initially to the XXL size, some of the L size markings were now cut away so I had to make a few modifications to make them fit me better after they were sewn up.

Additional modifications I made were to narrow the legs slightly only because I thought they were a bit too baggy.  I also cut 5 inches off the waist before inserting the elastic and I double folded the fabric at the waist band where the elastic went to make it sit on my waist when the elastic was inserted.

I learned quite a bit from making this garment and I am happy to say that I will make another pair of these again another day, now that I know what 'size' I am and how they fit.  I already have the most delicious flannel for the next pair!  The most useful thing I did was label each piece of leg fabric in pencil near the waist area to show me which was the Front and Back.  This made sewing them together much easier.  When they were finished, I sewed a little ribbon to the front of the pj's so I can tell which way to put them on!

Before hemming.  Pixlr graphics. 

My opinion of the pattern would be that it was a great Beginner pattern but I personally needed a couple more diagrams (I am a visual learner) to make some instructions easier to follow or perhaps a few extra sentences in the written instructions instead!  The pattern was definitely suitable for Beginners and I eventually created a wearable pair of really cool looking pyjamas.  Success!!

Tunic top
I am sad to say that I have given up making the tunic top (in my chosen fabric anyways).  This pattern has beaten me despite being labelled as 'easy'.  The fabric I picked was a delicious Kaffe Fassett rayon, which the pattern said was a suitable fabric to use, but I discovered it was too slippery for me to sew.  As a beginner, I think that I should have definitely picked a different fabric.

The pattern did not have enough diagrams for me so I struggled from the beginning.  Like I said before, I am a visual learner so pictures or diagrams are more helpful than words.  Not understanding the written instructions made me quite frustrated which meant that I procrastinated and avoided completing it.  Each time I attempted to work on it, I felt overwhelmed and stupid for not understanding so I would walk away.  In hindsight, I should have made a test garment in cheap(er) fabric so the pressure of messing up expensive fabric wasn't always on my mind!  

One of my first mistakes was that I traced my pattern and I am fairly certain that I was not accurate enough.  Add that factor to the slippery fabric and I created a disaster before I even started!   This pattern had a lot of pieces compared to the pj's which only had two!  

One day I will attempt another version of this tunic and enlist the help of my clever garment-sewing pals.  Once I have someone helping me and explaining as I go, I am sure it will all make sense and I will realise how simple this tunic (probably) is/was.  Stay tuned I guess!

My opinion of this pattern was that it was not 'easy' as suggested.  Someone with more garment sewing experience under their belt would no doubt make this in a flash but as I have only followed two tissue patterns in my adult life, I found it difficult. 

Thank you Simplicity [] for sending me these patterns to review.  I look forward to sewing for myself again one day!

Readers: please let me know some of your top tips to follow when sewing garments - I need all the tips and advice I can get!

Happy sewing!


Sarah said...

Thank you for posting such an honest review of the patterns. As a plus size, I don't have the confidence to learn to dress-make in a public class and would need to start somewhere really simple if I'm doing it myself. I'm glad you said to TRUST the pattern sizing because I'd be always tempted to go larger. I might even give these PJ bottoms a go now!

Izzy said...

Amy - thank you so much for this review. I'm pretty confident I could make a pair of PJs because of the elastic band and the forgiving "fit", but I was really happy to read that i'm not the only who feel totally inadequate when trying to sew something a little more involved. I've gained a lot of weight lately and I HATE shopping for clothes now so I really wish I could make my own clothes.

JLVerde said...

Bravo to you for attempting the tunic or any clothing sewing. Your pjs look great!

Love the fabric (love lantern fish). Where did you get it?

Unknown said...

I like you have just ventured into garment sewing. I've also only done a pair of pajama pants. I agree with you on the directions. They don't really include enough pics. Lol. I learn much better with clear pics and very detailed written instructions. I have a tank pattern that I pull out ANC look at but can't bring myself to start.

Beezus said...

Gertie (who has a blog and sometimes writes patterns for one of the major brands) says that with slippery fabric, you can use tissue paper and just cut the paper with your fabric at the same time. It's probably not tissue paper exactly ... She getsit online somewhere and apparently it's what designers use. But the paper gives the fabric more stability and therefore makes it easier to sew. I always have more issues cutting slippery fabrics - my main tip is to pin the hell out of it!

Jess Burns said...

Look at the finished garment measurements and compare them to the clothes you have. I find that I will measure myself to be a certain size, make that size, and it will be HUGE on me. If I had looked at the finished size I would have realized that there was way more ease in the pattern than I liked.

memmens said...

Read out loud - so true, I do it often! Well done in your efforts, the pj's look great (in that smaller size!). I have used commercial patterns in the past but would not choose to use them now.
I would much rather use independent patterns where I can see that others have sewn the same garment and benefit from tips and advice and if necessary can contact the pattern writer directly. I made a Tova and while the pattern was ok I found it so helpful to follow Very Kerry's sew along posts.
However I'm not sure if many independent designers include plus sizes in their patterns so that might not be so simple. I'll check the patterns I have.

moira said...

check this out: I haven't tried it myself yet but hope to do so soon and it might be a giggle. Not sure what it does to the needle though. The other tip I have it pin it until it's dead. Again, something I am only just getting my head around. I hardly pin when quilting but I think it's a real must when cutting out the pattern.

And you are a goddess - no strikethrough required.

Loving your work #obvs

Archie The Wonder Dog said...

If you roughly cut out the pattern pieces (past the largest size) then you can fold the pattern to the correct size by following the right line - you'll need to snip into curves to get the line to lay flat. This means that you can use the pattern again and again, for different sizes and those who fall between sizes! Also, you can (dry!) iron a tissue paper pattern to make it lie flat on your fabric! Don't give up on the dressmaking!

P.S. Also, don't forget to read the finished garment size (usually on the pattern pieces) to see how much ease is in the pattern - this way you'll (hopefully!) avoid making something far too large!

pennydog said...

When I had dressmaking lessons I was told to stay clear of the Burda patterns as the instructions weren't as good!

Love the pirahnas!

Margaret said...

I sew a lot of clothes for kids and some for myself. Bursa patterns are the hardest to understand. They are designed for more experienced sewers even though it is marked easy. With slippery fabric you can use a little bit of glue baste to hold the pieces together or even some Elmer's school glue. Don't get discouraged. You should see some of the disasters I have made. One being a bright orange jumpsuit that I thought in my mind would be fun to wear. Not sure what I was thinking but ended up looking like a giant orange prisoner from the county jail.

Kris said...

I have to give you a WTG for trying garment sewing. It can be easy and it can be hard. No matter how experienced you are you come across hard fabric to work with and directions that are not clear. You just keep going. The sizing is hard to explain. You can trust the pattern if you make accurate measures of yourself and you look at the ease on the pattern. So say if your hips are X and the ease is 3" you know the pattern will give you those 3" to not fit so snug. Works great if you use a woven fabric and might be too big if you use a knit. Anyway, there is lots to learn and I am so glad you gave it a go. One tip I do is I don't cut off the other sizes I fold them back. You never know who else you might sew for or what size you will be next year. Also I don't usually pin. I use weights or anything that is heavy to lay on the pattern and fabric to cut around. Pins can poke holes and snag. Hope that helps for the future. Keep trying.

Charlotte said...

I love those PJs - I need some of that fabric (where is it from?). I'm happy to help you out at the Nintendo retreat if you like :-D

jeifner said...

I don't often trust the pattern size straight away for myself. A muslin is great for this. I also fold the size lines to the back instead of cutting. On curves you do have to clip them but simply reinforcing the line with a bit of clear tape before clipping means you can still fold and reuse for a different size.

On easy or beginner patterns they often try to simplify instructions to make them easier. I find it can make it far more confusing as they use alternate finishing methods rather than traditional ones. Forgetting perhaps that a beginner has to learn either way.

I wonder if I'd have a difficult time with the tunic as well. Maybe I'll try it and we can compare notes :)

LethargicLass said...

I haven't done any "real pattern paper" patterns yet because I am chicken but I have successfully made a few PDF ones... and I need to frame your PJ pic LOL!!

mammafairy said...

Amy, try using your walking foot for slippy fabrics, it may help a LOT!alternatively, ship the cut out pieces to me, and I will sew them together for you! ;-)

( yes, I do mean it)

mammafairy said...

PS, I love Burda patterns! So, try that shipping tip!

mammafairy said...

PS, I love Burda patterns! So, try that shipping tip!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your sewing projects! I have just started sewing for me and my larger body! For me it's hard to share when so much of the bloggers I follow are showing what they make in super skinny sizes. Thanks! :)

Catrin Lewis said...

Go you for trying! I really want to make myself a Washi but, alas, I'm too fat to be an indie sewer :0( it's a pity as I find the online sewing community so inclusive in all other areas!

Karrie said...

Hi Amy.
There is an awesome giveaway going on at:

I see that you enter giveaways sometimes, and one of the 5 things you can do, is pick one of their followers, and tell them about the giveaway, so I picked you. I was the winner of the Sherbert Pips. I won a few other things, but I think it's one of my favorite/cherished giveaway gifts I have ever received. When I saw Walk in the Woods, that is what got me sucked into "designer" fabric. I have to admit, most of the time the quality and prints are WAY better than my local store :) So Pips came along before me, so I'm so grateful that I was able to get a charm pack of them. One day they will go with my Walk in the Woods charms for a bigger quilt!! YAY! So I was just telling you about the giveaway, incase you want to enter. It has Aurifil thread and 30s repro fabrics. Take Care! It ends on the 4th, I believe, so you may want to get over there soon!

Hope you have a great weekend,
Karrie s

Leanne said...

I love the pjs and I bet you can get that tunic sorted yet. The standard language and format for garment sewing is a totally different lingo. A class, in person or on line is worth the time and investment and will make it a lot easier for you. Don't give up.