So I got a sewing machine not too long ago, because I am a huge crafting nerd. It’s a Pfaff Expressions 3.5 (in case you’re curious, and ALSO a nerd), and I pretty much love it to pieces. It’s easy to use, clear when something is wrong, and has done everything I’ve asked it to do.
I’ve been learning a lot - my friend recommended a great beginning sewist book from Colette which I’ve devoured, and google and youtube have held my hands all along the way, as well. Thank you, internet crafters, for sharing your wisdom!
So far I’ve made 2 quilts, a pair of shorts, 2 dresses (one knit wrap dress, the other a woven button up shirtdress), a pair of fleece PJ bottoms, a full summer-weight tank & shorts set and one pair of jeans. I’ve quickly learned that when you’re sewing for yourself, you have the opportunity to make a lot of different adjustments so that things fit you particularly well. This can mean cutting along the “lengthen/shorten line” to take that extra 3” of leg out of things - I’m short, dammit! - to grading between sizes if you need to adjust in just one area of your body, to doing what’s called a full bust adjustment to allow for more space in the chest.
A lot of these adjustments require you to take a good hard look at yourself as you are, not as you may wish to be. It can be hard, and I squirmed the first couple times I took a tape-measure to myself, but putting on that shirt-dress the first time, and having it fit, button smoothly down the front, was an amazing feeling. I wore that dress to a party and got an overwhelming amount of attention for it. VICTORY!
The dress patterns I’ve made have come from Cashmerette, which is a sewing pattern company founded by Jenny Rushmore and focused purposely on clothing designed to flatter the curvier ladies out there. Their patterns have multiple bust sizes per clothing size, and make it much more likely to be able to use a pattern without having to make significant changes.
Recently Cashmerette released their first Jeans pattern, Ames, and my mind was immediately captured. I’ve been avoiding going jeans shopping for literally 18 months now. I’ve been wearing tights & skirts almost solely because I’m down to 1 pair of pants. Shopping for off-the-rack clothing SUCKS, when you wear larger sizes. Designers design for a 5’6” woman (whyyyyyy??? the average height of a woman adult in the US is 5’4” according to Wolfram Alpha!), and tend to peter out about size 16 or 18, in my experience. Which leaves me, with short legs and pelvis, m muscular thighs and round stomach, in a pair of pants that don’t button but stick out past my feet by at least 3”.
Pants that fit me??! FUCK, YES!
So, I went to Joanns, bought some cheapish denim, some obnoxiously yellow thread, and set to work! And oh, it was some work. I learned a lot about how to adjust the tension of my machine - topstitching thread is a finicky piece of shit - and about how much denim I really COULD stitch through without completely overloading the motor in my machine, which I did just once, when I was backtacking over a beltloop. I finally figured out how to deal with my pfaffs distinct dislike for starting to sew too near the edge of a piece of fabric where the feed dogs can’t quite grip on right, I took a TON of notes on what I did, what worked, and what didn’t.
This morning I went to pull on my brand new pair of jeans, sized just for me!
They did not fit.
I am disappointed. Which is all on me, and not on the pattern or the design, which are well-written, easy to follow, and clear. This was my first pair of jeans, and other than a brief bit of confusion setting in the zipper, there wasn’t anything I wasn’t able to understand and follow.
What misled my sizing decisions was the way that the clothing sizes are described - based on waist and hip dimensions. So, your waist is quite a bit higher than you’re thinking right now. If you stand up and lean to the left or right, the point where you fold marks your waist. Yes, way up there by your belly-button. Your hips are, generally, your largest point, and sit pretty low. This is where your butt size comes into play. The ratio between these two sizes is meant to guide which kind of pelvis on offer (a more apple or pear shape) you should use, and which size in particular.
My measurements suggested I choose the less curvy apple-shaped pelvis, but implied that I needed a bigger size at my waist than at my hips. In the end I used the rise, waistband, and yoke (everything from the pockets up, basically) of the larger size, and then graded down for the hips and legs. The result was a pair of pants whose rise was too tall and waistband is too big. I really don’t understand how that happened, especially after I took the top in when I sewed the side-seams. I pulled an inch or more out of EACH side of the hips (more from the back than the front), and can still get a hand into the waistband with me.
I haven’t yet figured out exactly WHERE I went wrong, and if anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. I’ve thought perhaps I need the curvier shaped top, maybe my belly is throwing off my waist measurement but not my hips and low-waist as much, so the lack of a more significant difference between my waist & hips isn’t actually an indicator fo an “apple” shape, so much as my own idiosyncratic body. That said, waistband gapping at the center-back of my pants isn’t a problem I face, which is the main indicator I’d want to use that more curvy styling. So then I’ve wondered if I should just leave out the size grading and try a straight 18, and see where that gets me, since it seems to fit in the hips & thighs, and I obviously don’t need as much extra room in the waistband as I’ve done. If I go that route, do I still need to take a bit of depth out of the pelvis to lower the rise? And what about my perpetual Saggy Ass Syndrome!?!
Things to think on, as I try to convince myself to undo all that bloody topstitching on the waistband to adjust things further, and see if I can get a good fit!