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Community Blog | How to: Seated Measurements for All Types of Bottoms (i.e., for wheelchair users) with Lolie

Hello, Lolie here (@lolieya on IG)! I am here today to show you my process to get measurements for panties that fit well for the permanent seated position, meaning for wheelchair users — but anyone that sits is welcome! You could use this tutorial for any kind of bottoms, but we’ll be focusing on underwear. I’ve been a full-time wheelchair user for 4 years now and getting panties/pants/bottoms that fit have been close to impossible. Let me guide you as to why and show you some solutions I’ve found.

Bottoms are complicated to fit for wheelchair users because we traditionally fit bottoms standing up. Every single book, tutorials, YouTube videos and blog posts on fitting seems to approach it that way. But since wheelchair users are not standing upright … it’s not useful for our fitting purposes. If each time someone would present a fitting problem with a picture, it were shown seated too, that would help to identify which existing technique would be best to improve the fit of the pattern. The same problem shown standing or seated will just not look the same, so it’s hard to draw parallels between them without being shown what it looks like.

The final result

Also, fitting bottoms for the seated position isn’t easy. We’re creating a different shape altogether, so we need, for example, to add shaping at the knee, elongate the rise in the back, shorten it in the front, elongate the inseam (pants will ride up), add shaping to the side seam at the hip level … The trickiest part, in my opinion, being to remove the shaped excess where the legs meet the torso at a 90 degree angle.

But for now, we’ll focus on the top part with panties. We’ll of course need appropriate crotch depth, crotch rise measurements, waist and hips and waist to hips, taken seated. Taking seated measurements is also good for anyone to ensure that, when choosing a size in a close fitting garment, you’ll end up with enough room to sit comfortably. 

In 2016, just before I had to start using my wheelchair all day long, I had just drafted a panties block for myself, and they fitted very well. I loved them and made a ton. They were medium-high rise, bikini style (low cut on the legs), really regular panties just like I personally like them. This pattern was literally drafted for me.

However, when I tried them again recently, they didn’t fit at all anymore. I had lots of excess fabric in the front (they went higher than my rib cage) and they were short in the back. Also, even if my measurements  were very similar, my body shape had changed a bit because of the year I spent in a hospital bed. My abdominal muscles were making themselves scarce, which tends to make the belly protrude. So, I had to go back to the drawing board on a quest for a comfortable pair of panties pattern once again!

Let me show you both patterns on top of each other so you have an idea of the difference. It’s impressive. It was drafted for the same person, with the same weight, the only difference is being seated vs standing.

The pattern on the bottom is the new one and the one in two pieces, off-white, is the old one.

At first, I thought I’d just get my lingerie pattern drafting book and make another pattern with my new measurements. But it didn’t work because I didn’t know how to properly measure myself while seated. I was at an impasse, as I searched the internet on how to take those measurements, and couldn’t find much (hence why I’m writing this).

Eventually, I came across Apostrophe Patterns and their MyFit Underwear pattern generator. It generates a pattern based on a number of personal measurements you input in the system. Once you purchase a pattern, you can generate as many variations as you desire, so I thought it was a safe bet. The pattern has many options, and thorough instructions. There is also a maternity option which would make it simple to tilt the waist forward, but most of the time these options offered will cover the belly and make a bigger waistband, which is not what we want, so I preferred to go with only measurements.

To take the measurements, you will need two strings/piece of lingerie elastic long enough to go around you, scotch tape (any kind), a wooden stool, a mirror, two rulers or one ruler and something very thin and straight.

First, for the crotch depth:

  1. Sit on a flat and hard surface, preferably a stool, to see all around easily, or adapt to your needs.
  2. Put a string (light blue) around your waist, in exactly the same place where you want your waistband to hit, and tape in place (orange). It’s very important to be as precise as possible about this.
  3. Your waist placement doesn’t have to be parallel to the floor, if that’s your preference.
  4. Take a big ruler and place it between your thighs, one end perfectly flat on the stool.
  5. Take the other ruler (or any straight object) and place it at the same height as of your waist string and perpendicular to the first ruler. Mark where they cross. This is your front crotch depth measurement. 
  6. Do the exact same but in the back, asking for help if needed so the rulers stay at a 90 degree angle to each other.

Tip: you can use a clip to mark where the rulers intersect so it’s easier to read.

The administrators on Apostrophe Patterns page suggested adding 1,5cm (0.5″) to the back rise and subtracting 3,5cm (1.5″) from the front depth, so I suggest the same to you. This method gave me great results.

Example:

Let’s say I have identified a front crotch depth of 21,5cm (8.5″) and a back depth of 21cm (8.25″): 

Front: 21,5 – 3,5 = 18 cm (8.5 – 1.5 = 7″)

Back: 21 + 1,5 = 22,5 (8.25 + 0.5 = 8.75″)

For the rise, stay in the same position. You will need to use a flexible tape measure. 

  1. Put the flexible tape (light beige) between your legs, as shown in the picture.
  2. For this measure, it’s useful to have at least three clips (hot pink) and string or elastic (light blue) on your chosen waist placement, well taped in place (orange).
  3. Clip one end of the tape measure onto the string.
  4. Put another clip on the tape measure where you want your inseam to be (the seam from hem to hem inside of the legs).
  5. Finally, clip the tape with a third clip on the waist string in the back, making sure you don’t tug on anything in the process. It’s supposed to be snug but not tight. Adjust if necessary by looking in the mirror.
  6. Once done, take the tape measure off while keeping the clips in place and note the measurements. Don’t mix up the front and back!

Now, our last step is to take our hip, waist and waist-to-hip measurements seated. 

For the waist, just take the measure on top of the blue string, while seated. It doesn’t matter if your waistline is tilted for this. I have no pictures as it’s pretty self explanatory.

For the hips, it is not complicated. 

  1. If possible, stand up and wrap the tape measure (light beige) around your hips, parallel to floor, making sure it’s in the widest part of your bum/hips. Tape it or hold it in place. 
  2. Just note that it will probably not be parallel anymore once you sit down and that’s ok.
  3. Sit down and let the tape expand around you to take the measurement. 

Tip: If you’re not able to stand, alternatively you can roll over in your bed, have someone tape the flexible tape measure on the widest part of your bum, transfer like usual, make sure the tape is still well placed and measure around yourself.

Waist-to-hip measurement

  1. Measure from your waist string to where your hip line (the tape measure) ended up on the side. 

Those are the measurements that I would start with and add in a pattern generator or use for pattern drafting instructions. Then, make a toile of your new pattern and adjust if necessary. Our bodies come in many different shapes, so there might still be some things to fit even if it was made to your own measurements. 

If you want to use an existing pattern, choose a your size according to the numbers you found, but know that it wasn’t drafted for someone sitting so there will be lots of other things to adjust. But with these and knowledge in pattern alterations, you can certainly do it. Trousers would be much more difficult than panties to adapt though.

About the MyFit Underwear pattern generator, if centimetres are not your jam, there’s the option to use both centimetres or inches in the pattern generator, so no need to worry! I usually use inches, except when I do pattern drafting. I find centimetres easier to calculate and more precise. 

And there you have it! Now, you only have to draft your underwear block using your preferred method or use a pattern generator system and toile your comfortable masterpiece!

Apostrophe Pattern offered me a 15% discount on their patterns for anyone reading this blog post and wanting to try their formula out! This is not an affiliate link, just a discount I asked for you guys because I want you all to be able to feel fabulous in your clothes, no matter your physical needs!

Discount code: SEATED15 

Come follow me on instagram @lolieya for more info on fitting for the seated position and all my creative endeavours! Thanks Sew Busty for having me 💗

Lolie (he/her) sews because she likes wearing comfortable, cute clothes and cute clothes that fit are a rarity for wheelchair users like her. Wearing garments that she feels good in is a way to care for herself, feel empowered and relax through stressful medical stuff and, just, life. You can find Lolie on Instagram @lolieya.

Community Blog | Planning a capsule wardrobe – aka thinking about sewing even when you aren’t sewing with Laura

I think we have all been there, we have a stack of patterns and a cupboard full of fabrics and so many plans for things to make with them. When our precious sewing time finally comes around after work is done for the day, and the house is clean, and the family are fed, and the kids are in bed, and we are paralysed by indecision.  What do we want to work on? We end up spending half of the precious allotted time just deciding which project to start.

This is why I take a pre-planned capsule wardrobe approach to my sewing. Hi, my name is Laura and I make plans. All the time, in every aspect of my life. I even plan in spontaneity! 

Why does capsule planning work for me?

I love sewing, in particular, having control over the way I dress. But left to my own devices I would have 900 pairs of jeans and nothing else in my wardrobe. They are my favourite thing to make but we all know that a pair of jeans is not an appropriate outfit on it’s own. There are also occasions when jeans might not be my first pick to wear, for example when the temperature outside is above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). So I need to make some other things too.

By planning a capsule collection, I can make sure I have pieces in my wardrobe that will definitely go together and can be worn interchangeably. I wear almost exclusively separates anyway because that is my personal comfort zone, so having tops and bottoms and toppers (think jackets, cardigans, overshirts etc.) that work together takes all the guess work out of getting dressed.

Some of my capsule collections have been designed with a particular activity in mind, such as summer holiday capsule or work wear capsule. Some have just been designed centring around a particular colour or print I want to include in my wardrobe.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

The answer to this is really whatever you make it. There are several established capsule wardrobe templates that you could use. For example:

  • a mini capsule, which I first heard about from Whitney (TomKat Stitchery on youtube)- 3 tops, 2 bottoms and 1 topper.
  • the 3×3 grid capsule – 3 tops, 3 bottoms and 3 toppers
  • the perfect 10 – 4 tops, 2 bottoms, a dress, a sweater and 2 layering pieces (jacket or cardigan).

If all of those feel like a lot to start with you could start with one bottom piece (trousers or a skirt) and two tops that will go with it. This is a capsule wardrobe in its most simple form.

For some people thinking more than one project ahead is too much, so what about a rolling wardrobe model? Start with one wardrobe piece, for example a dress in a print you love. The next thing you make will go with that item, for example a cropped jacket in a complimentary colour. The next item will go with the 2nd item but doesn’t necessarily go with the first, so in this example maybe a skirt in the same fabric as your jacket? and so on…. This method allows you to work spontaneously but will still mean you have a cohesive closet to pull from with items that go together. (If this interests you check out this pattern review thread where they are looking at this concept.)

Top tips for planning your capsule wardrobe

  1. Plan around existing pieces in your wardrobe – Do you have an item in your wardrobe that you love but it doesn’t get much wear because you don’t have much that really goes with it? Why not make it some friends? Remember that not everything in your capsule has to be me made. Why not buy a really great classic skirt and make three tops to go with it?
  2. Think about what you love wearing – maybe you need another one of that item in rotation? This might be a good jumping off point for planning a capsule.
  3. Plan around a theme – workwear, loungewear, formal wear, all wovens / knits, activewear, work to weekend, holiday wardrobe (etc. etc. you get the idea). No matter what your life looks like there is a capsule for you.
  4. If you are including prints choose one multicoloured print as a starting point, then pull in co-ordinating colours. Personally, I do not feel that comfortable with print mixing so I usually go for prints on the tops in my capsules and plains on the bottoms and toppers. That way I know everything will work together. BUT if you love print mixing then go for it! Just try and keep everything in a cohesive colour scheme.
  5. What comes first the pattern or the fabric? – I have done capsules both ways and both work so it really depends on your process and what you want to achieve with the capsule. Personally, I find I buy more new stuff if I start with patterns because I won’t often have the perfect fabric in the perfect colour in my stash. If I start with fabrics, I can usually find a suitable pattern that I already own.
  6. Know your neutrals and incorporate them into your capsule – this will help you make pieces that fit into your wardrobe as a whole. Remember that neutrals don’t have to be black brown, white, grey etc. Hot pink and neon green can also be neutrals, they are just colours you return to over and over. Mine are currently olive green, brown, ivory and navy
  7. Consider accessories – If you knit or crochet or do some other fibre art why not consider hats, shawls, gloves etc for your capsule. Shoes, bags and jewelry also change the way an outfit can look. Think simple white tee for a day at the beach but put on a statement necklace for an evening out.
  8. Step back – once you have an initial plan step back and look at it with an evaluating eye. Does this look like something you will actually reach for? If not, why not? Does the overall collection look too wild/ colourful/ boring etc? If you don’t like the way certain styles look together, make sure you aren’t including them. The example I always use for myself is cropped tops with low rise trousers. Your examples might be different. It is about understanding your own style preferences and honouring them.
  9. Plan in a spontaneous make – If you are the type of person who thrives on falling in love with something and just diving right in, but you also want to try your hand at capsule sewing, why not plan in some spontaneity? There is nothing that says because you have planned these 6 or 9 items that you must make them one after the other. Maybe make one thing from your planned list and then allow yourself to choose a project at random. Then go back to your planned list.

Capsule wardrobes for busty sewists

When Lindsey from Sew Busty asked me if I would write a community blog post about capsule wardrobe planning one of the questions she asked me was “how does being busty effect your wardrobe planning?” I have thought a lot about this in the weeks since I agreed to write this post. For me I am always aiming for items that I will wear and love. So perhaps the real question here is “how does being busty effect what you wear?” The answer is, it does affect it but not in the way you might think.

We have always been told that busty people should wear V necks and wrap dresses because less fabric on the chest will make you look smaller. In contrast I might be considered a modest dresser (for personal comfort reasons rather than religious ones). I choose high necklines because I have never felt particularly comfortable showing cleavage and like to be able to move naturally without worrying about showing more than I want to.

As a result, I don’t think my capsules are constrained by what will “suit” my body shape but more by my own personal style rules. Understanding your own comfort levels when it comes to clothing is key to creating a capsule collection, or even just individual items, that you will love and wear. Shapes, motifs, colours, silhouette, fibres, substrates and finishing details all feed into this. Sometimes the only way to really understand if something is really right for you is to try it. Experimentation is key and doesn’t stop. What you like and are comfortable with can change for different situations, different times of year, and develop over time. Just because I don’t choose to wear skirts now doesn’t mean I never have or never will.

I hope I have shown you how planning a capsule wardrobe can be exciting and help channel your creativity into core wardrobe pieces that will really earn their keep. If you decide to do your own capsule wardrobe please tag me on Instagram @sewnandshown I would love to see your planning.

Community Blog | Fitting Fancy Fronts: Full Bust Adjustment for Midriff + Princess Seam Top – Tia Dress and Peplum with Karey

Sew Busty has been doing an excellent introductory series on getting started on sewing for big busts, including introduction to doing Full Bust Adjustments (FBAs). While doing my two posts on doing an FBA on a wrap dress or top for Sew Busty, it occurred to me that because being able to do an FBA for various styles of garments is such an essential skill for busty sewers, it would be good for more experienced sewers who want to extend themselves, to do a series of posts on doing FBAs for less common or more challenging styles, for which standard FBAs won’t work.

Also, while Sew Busty has developed an extensive database of designers who provide patterns for a range of cup sizes, only a handful go up to my cup size. While of those that do have larger cup sizes, some only provide them for larger base sizes. In order to have a full choice of styles to sew, I had to develop skills in doing FBAs. Other members of the Sew Busty community are in the same boat, and learning to do a wider variety of FBAs will expand your sewing options.

Figure 1: Finished Tia peplum

This post includes the details of the tutorial for the FBA Laura Nash, Sew Chic Patterns, provided for the vintage inspired LN1312 Tia Dress (Figure 2a) in her Craftsy Class: Sew Vintage: The Flirty Day Dress. This dress has a princess seam bust section, and a separate midriff section attached to a skirt. To save fabric while testing the fit, I hacked the dress into a sleeveless peplum top – Figure 2b). I provide a simple skirt hack for drafting your own peplum below.

While this tutorial was developed specifically for the Tia dress, there are many dresses with similar bodices. The recently released TINAlisa jersey Vicky dress (Figure 2d) does not have the midriff section, but does have the princess seam bust section. This is one of the first designs TINAlisa has released with a large bust front, but the designer, Martina Blasius, also always includes an FBA instructions for the specific design (see Note* below), and all designs include seamlines that make large bust fitting easier.

Before I retired, I had planned to copy a Mix-It-Up hack by one of the Craftsy participants, which combined three of Sew Chic’s designs: the Tia bodice, the Beatrice sleeve and skirt, and the Phantom sleeve cuff (shown in Figure 2c)), but I don’t often have the need for such formal dresses anymore. Many other patterns have midriff panels, which may need to be adjusted if you do an FBA, and the Tia FBA instructions can also be used for any princess seam FBA. I think it is a much simpler adjustment than the one most tutorials provide.

Figure 2: Style examples of princess seam bust with midriff panel: a) Tia dress; b) Tia Midriff; c) Tia, Beatrice, & Phantom mix-up; e) TINAlisa Vicky

SewBusty has tutorials on the two main ways of determining the cup size you need, one is primarily used for sewing clothes, and the other used to be the main way to measure for bra cups, but some pattern companies mix it up, including Cashmerette.

While the Tia pattern doesn’t include cup sizes, the FBA tutorial specific to this style of bodice provides instructions for (sewing cup) A (cup reduction) to DD cup – calculated by subtracting high bust (HB) measurement from full bust (FB) measurement. Cashmerette, on the other hand. uses bra cup sizes.

Figure 3: My cup size(s)

Because the Craftsy class materials didn’t go up to my cup size, Laura of Sew Chic provided details for the adjustments I needed, and information for going up additional cup sizes. Unfortunately, that information was provided in the questions feature on a platform that got closed and sold on. So while the class is still available on the new platform, and the Sew Chic FBA tutorial is also available on their website, the information about doing a bigger FBA is only in my class notes, hence my wanting to share it here. Before making any adjustments to a pattern, follow the steps in Figures 4a) and b), and make changes to traced pattern, not original.

Figure 4: a) trace pattern pieces; and, b) mark every seam allowances (5/8″ for Tia) on each piece. I trace onto non-woven tracing Vilene, which is partly transparent, cheap, strong, flexible, and drapes like fabric, so is excellent for tissue fitting and adjusting the pattern..
*Note: all pattern adjustments are made from sewing lines not from cutting lines, hence the necessity to mark all the seam allowances (SA). It also allows for accurate pinning for tissue fitting.

Figure 5 shows the steps for making the FBA.
a) Mark a line through the bust apex at the point of greatest width on the pattern (a). You will need to adjust actual bust apex, and possibly find tune extension curve in tissue fit and muslin.
b) Spread the Side Front (SF), hinging at the side seam sewing line, and opening in a wedge at the bust apex, as per the amount specified in column 2 in Figure 6. Spread the Centre Front (CF) by the amount specified in column 4 in Figure 6. Note that as cup size increases, so does the amount the CF is spread increases by more than the SF increases per cup size.
c) Extend the curve of the apex on the SF by the amount specified in column 3 in Figure 6.

Figure 5: FBA illustrations

Figure 6 provides the amounts of spread and extending for SF and CF for a woven dress. The instructions for the FBA for the TINAlisa Vicky dress are almost identical, except amount of spread is for knit dress. See Note* below for details.

Figure 6: Bust adjustment guide: amount to spread and extend for each cup size
*Note: the amount the CF is spread/reduced is the same for the A cup, but for C to E the amount the CF is spread increases with each size. There is no B cup on the chart because the pattern was drafted for B cup.


Although the chart does not have any extension on the CF on the seam over the apex, I had to extend my CF apex seam by about the width of the seam allowance. This is just one of the things that tends not to extrapolate smoothly as you go beyond a DD cup. I have my suspicions that this is one of the reasons designers limit their cup sizes to DD because bigger than that creates distinct design and fitting issues. This is just one of the reasons for tissue fitting and making a muslin if you have to adjust for larger cup sizes, as we are getting in the realm of ‘honking great darts’.

Finally, you need to ‘walk’ the apex seamline of the SF along the apex seam of the CF. Threads Magazine has an excellent tutorial, if you don’t know how to do this, including a video. See ‘How to Walk the Seamline’. This ensures the princess seam on SF and CF match. If they are not the same size, adjust how much you spread the CF, then walk again to recheck and mark notches on both pieces.

Before I show you my fitting steps, I want to show you the scale test I did using my scale b-cup and FBA bodices, fitted over scale boobs. I found this test allowed me to distinguish the fitting adjustments that were specific to doing an FBA on this bodice, and additional adjustments due to specificity of my particular body proportions, separately from those due to my cup size.

Figure 7 shows how a facsimile of the Tia bodice (b) (namely princess seam and midriff section) can be obtained from a sloper transformation (a). c) juxtaposes my scale B-cup and FBA boobs, while d) shows the scale ‘Tia’ bodice looks folded over the scale boobs. This order reflects narrative convenience rather than construction order. I actually placed my unmarked B-cup and FBA slopers over the scale boobs in order to mark the UB and above bust seam locations, and then marked up and cut the seam lines.

Figure 7: drafting facsimile of Tia bodice from B-cup and FBA scale bodice slopers
a) bodice cup lines marked on B-cup sloper (left) & FBA sloper (right) b) Side & midriff darts closed, UB and princess seams opened & side darts transferred to them. c) scale B-cup boobs (left), FBA boobs (right) d) cut out B-cup & FBA bodice halves (from b) taped and placed over scale boobs in c).


What I discovered was that, apart from the FBA, adjustments I made to the pattern during tissue fit and muslin were not directly attributable to the FBA. Although some may be common for those needing an FBA. For example, I deliberately kept the apex of the large half scale boob at the same height, in order to minimise the number of variables I changed. But in terms of real boobs, while there are some high sitting large ones, they are more inclined to sit lower than smaller boobs, as gravity works its magic.

So although 7d) shows the height of the midriff the same for both B-cup and large boobs, that is more a product of the test set up design, than based on any reflection of reality.

Figure 8: tissue fit comparing size 8 B-cup bodice with adjusted bodice
a) size 8: back and waist too narrow; FBA bodice, with wide back adjustment & waist graded out
b) B-cup excess back length, UB seam too high on bust; FBA bodice, waist shortened

My tissue fit and muslin confirmed I needed to grade out at waist, do large back adjustment, shorten midriff, and lower bustline, as well as do FBA.

Whereas the midriff on the B-cup and large bust are the same height in 7d) of the half scale model, I had to drastically shorten the midriff as shown in the tissue fit in 8a).

Figure 9: a) fine tuning muslin; b) Front midriff, black size 8, blue adjusted midriff, graded out & shortened c)Tia size chart, with my sizes marked

While I traced size 8 and did an E cup FBA, I also needed to shorten the back and midriff, as I am 5’2”, rather than the 5’6” the Tia pattern is drafted for. My large bust and short stature meant the 1” to 1¼” neckline trim looked too large. A large FBA often means design lines and proportions on a garment no longer work, and need some adjustment. I trialled ¾” and ½” trim on the Sew Chic Facebook group, and I agreed with the consensus that the narrower trim looked better.

Figure 10: a) final dress; b) comparing ½” trim on left with ¾” trim on right

Bonus Peplum hack
Peplums are commonly drafted as a full or half circle, but my square hips don’t really suit either the circle skirt on this dress, or as a peplum. Instead I drafted my peplum from a straight skirt that fit. Folding out the darts and spreading along the hipline.

If you prefer a full peplum you can slash the skirt from hem to waistline and spread the hem more. If a peplum top comes with a more full skirt than you prefer, you can reverse the process, slash from ham to waist, and overlap at the hemline.

Figure 11 slash and spread peplum
a) straight skirt cut at peplum length b) darts folded out, and hem spread c) extra slashes opened out. Reverse to reduce peplum spread.

Note*: TINAlisa Vicky Pattern
TINAlisa patterns are in German and don’t have seam allowances included (common in European patterns), but don’t let that put you off. You can upload the instruction pdf file to this Free Online Translator site (screenshot shown in Figure 12a), which will translate the text to English (or whatever language you prefer) while preserving format and images (Figure 12b). For the large busted, it is easier to do an FBA without seam allowances, as they have to be removed from patterns that include them before you do the FBA anyway.

Figure 12: a) screenshot of document upload box (you may need to scroll down to find it);
b) sample translated document: Vicky FBA instructions

My next blogpost will feature a TINAlisa FBA for a more complex bodice.

Karey Harrison is a feminist philosopher of science and linguistics, environmentalist, retired academic, home baker, sewist, gardener. Karey also wrote the guest blogpost: #AllButtsWelcome: Unmentionables: Crotch Variation in Pantie Fitting. You can catch Karey on instagram @kareylea and see Karey’s academic profile here.

Community Blog | Quick Bust Friendly Sews for Spooky Season with Kerri

It’s that time of year, everyone is in crunch time to make their last Halloween items.  The question always lies, to costume or not to costume.  I myself tend to lean toward making a new costume every year but you can’t always go out in full costume.  For this reason this year I decided to make a few quick tops/dresses to wear for non costumed events.

I chose the Galena Dress from Little Lizard King, The Plantain Top from Deer and Doe, and The Vista Top from George and Ginger.  I chose these 3 designs because they were something a little special.  The Galena and Vista both have fun design elements and the Plantain offers a simple beauty.  Also so important both the Plantain and Galena are free patterns!

To make these spooky I chose fabrics to represent the season.  The Plantain is made with a star embellished black mesh fabric I picked up from The Bra Makery.  The Galena is made from a knit Art Gallery Bat fabric I picked up from Phee Fabrics.  Lastly the Vista I made with a fun forest knit I got from Jumping June Textiles.  These prints could put anyone in the spooky spirit!  Happy Halloween!

Kerri is a sewist with about 5 years of experience. She is a mom of 3, a lover of fashion and all things vintage. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does and that is why she is so in love sewing: She can make things that are uniquely her! Find all of Kerri’s makes on Instagram @sewsewwonderful

Community Blog | Vintage Style Tailoring with Carly

Vintage isn’t for everyone. I know this. But somehow or other I have fallen in love with the fashions of the 1930s-1950s, and it makes me really happy to wear these kinds of styles. For those of you who aren’t into my style of vintage, don’t worry – this blog post is really just about making a princess seam tailored suit jacket.

I volunteer at Bletchley Park, which, in case you don’t know, was the base from which the Allied code breakers worked in World War Two. When I’m there, I really like to wear my 1940s style clothes and imagine working there in 1941. I think this is where my desire for a 1940s style suit came from, and since I have long given up looking for true vintage pieces that fit me, I knew I was going to need to design, draft and make it myself. 

For me, that starts with a little biro drawing in my notebook. Nothing fancy, just enough to show the seams and style lines. I knew I wanted princess seams, because I’m not a huge fan of darts on my bust (37” high bust, 41” full bust and very short torso), and also earlier this year I made a cropped version of the Princess Coat from Charm Patterns and I quite liked it. I knew I could use the princess seams from this pattern as a basis, but wanted to change the collar, the length of the jacket overall and the back would need vents to accommodate my butt.


I pulled out my traced pieces from the Princess Coat and laid over my tracing paper, and started tracing the bits I’d keep and changing everything else. I didn’t change the armscye any so I also used the same 2-piece tailored sleeve. I also referred to other patterns I had already drafted to help me with the collar.

Then I made a mock-up/toile/muslin – test version, whatever you call it. The collar was way too big for my liking, so I went and re-drafted it and made a second test garment, which is pictured above. Still having doubts about the collar size, I popped a blouse on with it and suddenly it all seemed to make sense. Now I was happy with it, I finalised all my pattern pieces and drafted the facings. Time to cut into my project fabric! 

I started by making the bound buttonholes on my jacket front. I learned how to do these when I made the Princess Coat earlier in the year and they give a really nice finish to a tailored garment.

Buttonholes complete, it was on to the princess seams. Now I’m sure we all, anyone who sews for people with a large high bust/full bust difference, know exactly what I’m talking about – your side front panel has a huge bulge in it and the centre front is, at best, straight, and at worse, curved in the opposite direction. So when we put these right sides together to sew, it can get tricky, right?? 

This is my side front and centre front for this jacket. I struggled and struggled last year trying to perfect sewing princess seams with this kind of curve. I Googled and Googled and tried and tried and nothing worked. I would get puckers, the raw edges wouldn’t line up, one piece would end up shorter than the other. If you have experienced any (or all!) of these problems, the good news is I finally found a way to do it! Yes, even on that curve.

Now, I can’t really take any credit here because the method I use is the one recommended by Charm Patterns for the Princess Coat. The silly thing is, I figured that if I couldn’t sew a princess seam, I had no business getting the Princess Coat pattern or watching the “how to” video on YouTube. Oh, how wrong I was. I don’t remember how or why but I ended up watching said “sew a retro cropped jacket” video on YouTube. But the technique for princess seams which is explained in this video, in detail, is the answer to your large bust curve princess seam sewing prayers! I mean, go check out that video if you fancy it.

Here’s how: stay stitch your centre front at 1/8” shy of your full seam allowance (so ½” on a garment with a 5/8” seam allowance like this), then clip into that stay stitched seam allowance at ½” intervals, being careful not to snip your stitching. Then lay your side front right side up on the table in front of you, and lay the stay-stitched and clipped centre front down on top of it, right sides together. Match and pin the notches first, and then you will, like magic, be able to match the raw edges of the two pieces with the opposing curves by spreading the clips on the centre front to match the side front. Use as many pins as you need! Then you can just sew the seam like normal at your required seam allowance.

Then you need to notch the seam allowance on the side front piece. Cut out small triangles at ½” intervals, making sure the points of these triangles are between the clips on the other side. You don’t really want your clips and triangles meeting at the seam! Then you can press the seam open, using a tailor’s ham. 

Ta da! Obviously this is going to leave lots of flappy bits of seam allowance, which I think is why people prefer darts, since really princess seamed garments are going to need a lining to cover all this.

With my front and back princess seams sewn, I moved on with the rest of the construction. Shoulder seams, side seams. Collar, facings. It was starting to look like a jacket at this point, and I was excited to sew and set in the sleeves. I used a bias strip of my fabric to ease the sleeve cap (another Charm Patterns trick) and I love how easy it is and how it gives just the right finish for tailored garments.

I could really see the project starting to take shape at this point. Although I will say, it does not look great on the hanger. It took me a while to realise that this is because I’ve just spent all this time sewing a garment with a lot of room in the bust and sadly my coat hangers are less well endowed! Anyway, on to hand catch-stitching the jacket hems. I know not everyone is a fan of hand stitching, but it does have its place in projects like this. 

Time to start over! What?? Well that’s how I feel when I have to start making the lining. I can’t be the only one. I repeated the necessary steps to construct the lining, using the same princess seam sewing technique as on the outer. On the home straight now, I attached the lining to the jacket, and then hand finished the lining hems, the bound buttonhole openings in the front facing, and finally sewed on the buttons. Finished jacket!

I mentioned at the start that I wanted a suit, so here I am wearing the jacket with the matching pencil skirt I made. I love my suit, and am very pleased with how the jacket compares to my original biro drawing. 

Carly is self-taught and has been sewing since 2018. Her favourite thing about sewing is making whatever you want to fit however you want. Carly wears vintage style daily and this has helped to push her to design and sew her own as it is difficult to find true vintage garments for busty bodies.

Community Blog | Your Sewing Level and Why It Doesn’t Matter with Trudy

Spoiler Alert! You start wherever you are and learn what you need to as you develop your practice. Your current skill is irrelevant because no matter what your proficiency, there is always something new to learn or improve on.

I was recently asked during a job interview for a customer service position at an independent pattern company “What is your sewing skill level?” The interview was going quite well up to this point, I had nailed some fairly tough questions about leadership, teamwork and problem solving and I had a good rapport with the panel. This question, however, threw me off partly because I find it irrelevant without sufficient context. The answer I gave was something like … it depends on the scale my skills are being evaluated on. If this scale is dependent on what I’ve learned since I first started sewing 5 years ago compared to now, then I’m pretty advanced, but on the other hand if it evaluates my ability to apply couture techniques, then I probably am not even on the scale. Suffice to say, I didn’t kill the answer, and as interviews often go, it left me feeling like I could have flushed out the idea a bit more thoroughly. 

The better question to ask oneself is not “what am I capable of making with my current skillset”, but instead, “what exactly do I want to make and what skills do I need to learn to be able to make that thing?”

Now, your level of experience obviously matters if a sewing company is going to hire you, but the question was too broad, and a broad answer such as “beginner”, “advanced beginner”, “intermediate” or “advanced” does not provide much insight, and it left me thinking that these labels on sewing patterns similarly do not mean very much without context. I would rather see the breakdown of what skills are used in a particular pattern, what makes it beginner/advanced, is it a set in sleeve, inseam pocket, bias binding finish, sewing with knits, button placket, sleeve placket, darts, hem, invisible zipper, exposed zipper, fly? Or possibly a better categorization would be whether the garment is simple or complex in design describing the amount of details included.

For me however, the better question to ask oneself is not “what am I capable of making with my current skillset?”, but instead “what exactly do I want to make and what skills do I need to learn to be able to make that thing?” I can then refine my swing practice to include those specific skills. Like many things in life, your skill level in sewing depends on your experience level; knowledge comes first and proficiency follows.

My favourite things to sew are the things I can not buy. We all know the struggle is real for the busty bunch with certain categories of clothing; for me this includes bras and button down shirts.  Finding a nice button down that fits the chest AND shoulders  or a well fitting comfortable bra has proven impossible. So I’ve learned to make them. There has always been a learning curve for sure. I’ve made several shirt dresses and they range from having nice crisp collars, like the one to the left on the Closet Core Kalle Shirtdress, to this yellow Deer and Doe Myositosis with a sort of wonky collar, but a nice fitting  bodice.

My bra making journey has only started about 7 months ago, but it has been by far my favourite skill that I’ve developed. I’ve spent a lot of time, energy and money fitting myself, and I don’t regret any of it. The difference between sewing your own clothes and buying off the rack is that you have power over the process, it doesn’t feel like a hopeless search which ends in settling for a fit that is just good enough. When I sew for  myself  I know it’s within my control to define exactly what my expectations are and to continuously improve and refine my skills to execute my personal vision.

Here is the second bra I ever made, its the Pin up Girls Classic.

And here is my best bra to date, the Porcylenne Eve.

I’m eternally grateful for the modern sewing movement which has made the pursuit of and sharing of knowledge readily available. Long story short, your skill level is always in development, just try new things because actually doing things is the only way to learn how to make the things you want to be making. Also, if you’re wondering, I didn’t get the job, my rejection letter said I was a top contender, but they went with someone who had more experience sewing their patterns. Go figure.

Trudy is a retired military pilot now pursuing creativity and garment making while enjoying motherhood.

Amelie Sew Along Week F | Finishing, Buttons & Hem

For August and September at Sew Busty, we’re doing a button challenge! Post a make that features buttons on instagram with #sewbustychallenge by September 30 for a chance to win a prize!

As part of that challenge, we’re doing a sew along for the Untitled Thoughts Amelie Dress – a cute little number that features buttons down the back of the skirt, as well as an open (but bra-friendly!) back. (Check out the picture of the dress on today’s post, as I accidentally earlier shared a picture of the non-bra friendly! For the full sew along, including bonus content, click here!

I love this dress.

Let’s get this done, shall we?

Your dress should be nearly done! All we need to do this week is sew buttonholes, add buttons, and hem this baby.

Buttonholes

For the buttonholes, I would absolutely highly recommend you use a piece of scrap fabric to sew a tester buttonhole. Here’s my tester:

Make sure to test your tester buttonhole to make sure your chosen button goes through it with relative ease!

Different machines do buttonholes differently, so it’s tough to show a sew-along of how to do buttonholes. On my machine, I have a one-step buttonhole foot. I load the button into the foot, lower a lever, set my stitch to the buttonhole stitch, and voila! A perfect buttonhole.

Here’s my buttonhole foot, loaded with one of the vintage buttons I selected for my Amelie:

One thing I noticed while sewing the buttonholes: While the buttonhole markings on the Amelie pattern are horizontal, the buttons along the skirt should be vertical. If you put your buttonholes on horizontally, you’ll have your buttons pulling more.

At the bodice, though, a horizontal buttonhole is probably okay, as there’s more ease at the bust. Here’s my bodice buttonhole:

And my buttonholes along my skirt. I did the two waistband buttonholes horizontal, which is okay because of how close they are together. But then I switched to vertical buttonholes.

To open up your buttonholes, I like to use my seam ripper. I stick it in at one end and gently tear through the fabric to the other end of the buttonhole.

Buttons

If you’re a lucky duck and chose flat buttons and have a machine that will sew on buttons, you can do this step on your machine!

I, unfortunately, chose shank buttons, which means I had to hand-sew them.

Get your buttons lined up with your buttonholes by laying your buttonhole placket on top of your button placket and poking a marking tool through the middle of each buttonhole. This will show you where to sew your buttons!

Hem

Hang your dress for at least 24 hours before trying to hem!!!

If you recall, we let our dresses hang for 24 hours with the Roseclair sew along, and we’re doing the same here. This pivotal step prevents wobbly hems because it allows your skirt to stretch with gravity before you hem it instead of after.

Once you’ve hung your dress for at least a day, use a measuring tape to ensure it’s even all the way around:

Once you’ve done this, you’ll fold your hem up by about 1/4″ (0.6 cm) once, press, then fold up by another 1/2″ (1.3 cm) and press again. Sew, ensuring you capture both layers of folds under your stitch.

That’s it! Let’s talk fit and bra coverage.

This is my wearable muslin. I’m not a huge muslin-er when it comes to making clothing, so this dress does not fit 100% perfectly the first time, and that’s okay! My philosophy on making clothing is that, even without making a muslin, it’s going to fit better than ready-to-wear clothing would, so I’m alright with slight imperfections.

Things I need to change for next time include:

I need to shorten the back bodice. While the front bodice lays magnificently on me, the back bodice is a bit long, which you can see in how it wrinkles. (It might look tight, but I promise it’s not tight at the bust at all. The wrinkles disappear if I give a tug downward, which tells me it’s too long.)

I need to move where the back overlap is. I’m wearing a tank top in these pictures, so you can’t see it, but my bra does unfortunately show underneath the bra-friendly back. I wasn’t surprised by this, as bra bands land in different places on different people. Thankfully, Brittani from Untitled Thoughts has a brilliant tutorial on fixing this issue, and I’ll be sure to follow her instructions for next time.

I’d like maybe an inch more ease at the waist. This is probably because I drank too much wine on vacation, after I had cut and started sewing this dress 😂 Note to self: don’t start a garment before vacation … or if you do, add a bit of extra ease.

Overall, I’m super happy with this dress! I love the center front darts. They feel almost regal and very retro, and I’m here for it.

Community Blog | Star Struck Dress for Bust Support with Nicole

Anyone who has connected with me on my sewing journey knows that I absolutely love unique pieces and that my most used patterns come from George + Ginger. The first time I ever browsed their collections, I was blown away. It was a mix of excitement over how each piece was so different, overwhelm at how intricate all the little details were, and sheer terror at the idea of trying to jam my top half into these risque pieces. Would I be able to manage it? Would there be enough support? Or would I end up with way more chest exposed than planned?

The Star Struck was no exception. Stunning, unique, and with enough straps that I had hope for rigging it up to be supportive. I dove in and made my first one. It turned out to be ALMOST everything I had ever dreamed… Except for the supportive bit. Even after taking it in quite a bit, I was still left feeling like my bust was trying to meet my knees. Not quite what I had envisioned.

When I was given the opportunity to work with a beautiful Halloween panel I just knew it was destined to be another Star Struck. Do you ever get those prints that are just screaming at you? This panel was so loud and so perfect that I just knew I needed to give this pattern another go, and this time I was going to hack it to be everything I wanted.

I started out by taking the front bodice piece and the front waistband piece and lining up the center edge. I overlapped them by ⅜” and traced the pieces this way onto another sheet of paper, blending the right edge from bodice corner to waistband corner. I cut this out, traced it to create a second piece, and then overlapped both pieces to create one solid bodice.

Check it out:

This left me with two options. You can cut your fabric exactly as this piece looks, or you can omit the notch in the center, cutting straight across to make one solid bodice piece. Since I was using a panel I chose to cut straight across. Doing things this way also gives an opportunity to play with different fabric bases. My panel was bamboo spandex. My lining was cotton spandex, to give the bodice a bit more structure and support. You can also add power mesh or power net between the lining and the main to give even more support!

From there, it’s just a matter of lining up your straps. Instead of binding on the inside edge, the center straps meet at the center of the bodice and they end up a bit shorter. 

All in all, I will definitely be making myself more of these using this hack! It’s been the most requested sew I’ve made so far!

Nicole got back into sewing after her young daughter couldn’t find clothes that paired her unique style with her off-beat interests. In the process, she realized she could finally make clothes that fit her own body shape and started hacking every pattern in sight!

Amelie Sew Along Week E | Attaching the Skirt & Button Stand

For August and September at Sew Busty, we’re doing a button challenge! Post a make that features buttons on instagram with #sewbustychallenge by September 30 for a chance to win a prize!

As part of that challenge, we’re doing a sew along for the Untitled Thoughts Amelie Dress – a cute little number that features buttons down the back of the skirt, as well as an open (but bra-friendly!) back. (Check out the picture of the dress on today’s post, as I accidentally earlier shared a picture of the non-bra friendly! For the full sew along, including bonus content, click here!

We’re going to sew the skirt to the bodice and almost have a dress today, folks!

gathering the skirt

I’m not going to lie, I always find gathering tricky, and this was almost doubly true for this dress. So let’s take it step by step.

You’re going to lengthen your straight stitch to the longest it will go. For me, that’s 5 mm. Stitch 1/4″ (0.6 cm) from the edge of the waistline of the skirt. Repeat, stitching 1/2″ (1.3 cm) from the waistline of the skirt (1/4″ (0.6 cm) from the first stitch line).

Make sure to leave a long tail of thread at the end of both stitch lines.

When you have finished stitching, gently pull the bobbin thread of one of the stitch lines to gather. (If this thread snaps, despite you pulling gently, you have the second stitch line as a backup!)

This is where the tricky part comes: You want to gather so that the skirt will be equal to the length of the bodice, minus the length of the button placket. This can be kind of tough to measure. I held my skirt up to the bodice to get an idea.

Sewing the Placket

Now that you have the waist of the skirt gathered an appropriate amount, it’s time to sew on the button placket!

With right sides together, pin a non-interfaced placket to the center front of one side of your skirt. Sew this using a 0.5″ (1.3 cm) seam allowance.

Press the seam allowance of the placket toward the placket.

Again with right sides together, pin the interfaced placket onto the non-interfaced placket (which has been sewn onto your skirt). Sew this with a 0.5″ (1.3 cm) seam allowance.

Fold down 0.5″ (1.3 cm) of the edge of the interfaced side of the placket and press.

With right sides together again and being careful to catch the seam allowance and 0.5″ (1.3 cm) part that is folded inward, sew horizontally a 1″ seam allowance along the bottom of the placket.

Trim the corner that results at the bottom of your placket and turn your placket right side out. Press your placket.

Time to topstitch! You probably already know this, but I topstitch by aligning the middle of my foot with the seam and setting my needle 2.5 mm or so to the right or left (whichever side I want the topstitching to appear).

You’ll topstitch all the way around your placket, taking care to catch the under layer as well as the outer layer.

Repeat these steps on the other side to attach the second button placket.

Attaching the skirt to the bodice

To attach the skirt to the bodice, we’re first going to attach the skirt to the main waistband (not the waistband lining).

With right sides together, pin the skirt to the waistband main. Sew this at a 0.5″ (1.3 cm) seam allowance. You’ll have to avoid the very ends, but we’ll clean this up when we do finishings next week.

Once that’s sewn, flip that inner waistband over the skirt, fold the raw edge of the waistband in by 0.5″ (1.3 cm) and pin!

Topstitch, baby!

Your Homework

This week, you should:

  • Gather your skirt
  • Sew on your button plackets
  • Attach your skirt to your bodice

Next week, September 27, we’ll do finishing touches — buttons and buttonholes, clean up, and hem!

Amelie Sew Along Week D | Sewing the Waist Band and Skirt

For August and September at Sew Busty, we’re doing a button challenge! Post a make that features buttons on instagram with #sewbustychallenge by September 30 for a chance to win a prize!

As part of that challenge, we’re doing a sew along for the Untitled Thoughts Amelie Dress – a cute little number that features buttons down the back of the skirt, as well as an open (but bra-friendly!) back. (Check out the picture of the dress on today’s post, as I accidentally earlier shared a picture of the non-bra friendly! For the full sew along, including bonus content, click here!

I’m back!

Alright, y’all … I’ve been gone for a hot second, and we’re a bit off-schedule on the Amelie sew along. I’ll be honest: I was on the verge of burning out, and a week of vacation plus a week to catch up were just the ticket to put me back on track.

A lot of life happened for me in the last couple months. I’ve been busy at work (as a nonprofit lawyer!) and also dealing with some personal things, many of which I’m just not quite ready to talk about. I also hadn’t seen my family members in 2 years, so I really needed to slow down and take the week to enjoy my family. Thank you for your support and understanding while I took a pause!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming (though some info on changes coming soon!):

Let’s do this thing!

Here’s the new schedule for the sew along:

September 13: Sewing the skirt
September 20: Attaching the skirt and button stand
September 27: Finishing touches, including BUTTONS

This week is going to be the simplest and shortest week of the sew along, because skirts are easy-peasy!

Assembling the waistband

Your first step today is going to be to sew your main waistband and lining waistband together. I was exhausted (pre-vacation!) and forgot to take a picture of how these go together, but here, you’ll see with the pattern pieces how I laid the pieces together to sew:

The curves of your pieces should be going opposite one another.

Sew the waistband as shown with the pattern piece for your main and your interfaced lining.

Now, we need to attach your waistband (main and lining) to your bodice. For this step, with the right side of your waistband main facing the right side of your bodice main and the right side of your waistband lining facing the inside of your bodice lining (the part that faces your body), you’re going to create a sandwich. The bottom of your bodice (main and lining) should be the “filling,” lining up with the “bread” of your two waistband pieces.

Sew this with a 0.5″ (1.3 cm) seam allowance. When finished, it should look like this:

Now, we need to topstitch! So many people hate topstitching, but I honestly love it. I just align the seam I’m topstitching with the center of my foot, move my needle to the right by about 2 mm or so, and go!

Now for the skirt!

It’s time to conquer the skirt! We’ll start by sewing the center front seam. Lay the front skirt pieces together, right sides together, and sewing with a 0.5″ (1.3 cm) seam allowance.

Finish this seam the way you prefer. (I like to use a zigzag stitch over the edge, as seen below.)

Triangle skirt extensions

Now, we must attach the “skirt extension” (godet-ish) pieces. Right sides together and matching the darts as seen below, pin these triangles onto the skirt front and back pieces:

Sew with a 0.5″ (1.3 cm) seam allowance. Don’t worry if the godet-ish piece is a bit too long – this will work out when we sew the skirt seams. Finish this seam with your preferred method.

Sewing the side seam

The last step for the skirt is to sew the side seams. With right sides together, place back skirt pieces onto the front skirt piece along long seams. Pin and sew with a 0.5″ (1.3 cm) seam allowance.

Finish this seam with your preferred method, and get ready to make magic happen next week!

Your Homework

This week, you should:

  • Sew and attach your waistband
  • Sew your center front seam
  • Attach your “skirt extensions”
  • Sew your side seams

Next week, September 20, we’ll add the button stand and combine the skirt and bodice!