Thursday, August 11, 2011

Body weight and sewing

Weight is a touchy issue for most people. I know it can be for me. Right now I am struggling with mine and it's effecting my desire to sew. Keeping my weight in check through our home remodeling has been challenging. I am not into looking paper thin or anything, but I like to maintain my weight. Fast food has been my "friend" over these last few months and the expected pounds came on. So now there is a choice to be made, do I sew for my bigger size or squeeze into my current clothing? Everything within me says "don't make the next size up". The hours that I have invested in making "tailored" clothing were happy hours and I don't want to leave those beautiful garments behind for a plate of fast food. So, today I am starting to look more closely at what I am eating, with the hope of losing the extra pounds.  Along with that, I had a revelation during me made June that is changing how I sew.  During June, my weight was still okay, but I realized that I was avoiding wearing some of my handmade garments because they were so fitted.  Looking back, I was sewing with the idea that I was going to lose a little more weight.  Lesson learned, stop over-fitting sewing projects and build into place a level of comfort for a healthy weight. I know my weight will have it's up and downs in the future, but my reality is this, there is a number range that my body likes to stay in. My dream size is in my mind, but my body says we are staying  here. So I am making peace with that and will be sewing for a more "normal" weight in the future.

Here are a few tips for making weight friendly garments.

1. Adding EASE!  Ease is defined as those extra inches in a finished garment that one can pull away from the body. I am finding that I really like having lots of ease in my lower hips and legs. When clothing is tight, it's uncomfortable. In Fit for real people , Pati Palmer suggests having a certain amount of ease for different garments. Here are her guidelines. You can easily add ease with a french ruler by drawing in a line outside the cutting line. Check out this book for more details. It's wonderful!

As I look at this chart I see that most of my skirts have about 1/2 inch of ease in the waistline. I will be adding a bit to that for comfort.

2. Considering the design/lines of a garment before sewing will tell you a lot about how your shape will fit into that design. This can be helpful in decisions of making a fitted skirt or an A line, or a boxy jacket verses a fitted one? Remember if you gain weight a boxy jacket may still fit when a fitted one get snug. A wide variety of styles in your closet can be a saving grace when the scale is moving upward.

3. Fabric selection is so important. Fabrics with a small amount of stretch go a long way for shoulders, bust-line and hips. As I use some of my non-stretch vintage fabrics, I will be adding more ease to the pattern at the lower hip-line for comfort. This will ensure freedom in movement.

4. I have given this tip before, it's worth repeating. Adding one inch seams instead of the standard 5/8 to the outer seams of a garment can be very helpful. If you need them the extra fabric is already there and can be let out pretty easily.

5. Resist over-fitting a garment. When fitting your garments. Baste the seams together. Now sit in your car. Can you reach everything easily? I say this because if I can sit in my car and be comfortable, then I know I have enough ease. Or stand in your kitchen and make a simple meal, can you reach the top shelf without splitting a seam? Test drive your garments before truly sewing up the final seams. Anyone can stand in front of a mirror and hold their breath in for a fitting, but can you pick up the baby and carry her around the house while wearing the garment, that's the question.

6. Consider adding a little elastic in the back of pants or skirts for those monthly times where the scale is going upward.

Sewing a wardrobe has become a way of life for many people, and let's face it weight loss or gain can  happen a long the way. Considering weight changes is good insurance of great fitting clothing for the future.

Have a wonderful vintage day!



  1. My most worn sewing project this summer has been my Pendrell blouses and they are nice and blousey. I've realized that a lot of my rtw wardrobe is knits and that makes them comfy. So I've been into less fitted items. Belts are also my friend for a fluctuating waist line.

  2. What a great blog post. I really need to get that fitting book. What you said was very realistic and to tell you the truth I never would have thought to test the garments doing everyday things. It is funny how sometimes the obvious is not so obvious. Again great post!

  3. Great post! I have only noticed after fitting clothes how important fit really is. Many of my RTW clothes just don't fit right, and it becomes glaringly obvious when pounds are added or dropped. I will try to keep these tips in mind on my upcoming projects; I really want to enjoy the fit of my clothes, handmade or not.

  4. I totally understand what you mean about understanding your body and being comfortable in it. I'm watching what I eat and maintaining my weight to, but I had to come to terms with the fact that I still weigh more now then I did 5 years ago.

    Let me just say, you look great at the weight you are now!

    I feel good at the weight I am after realizing that, at my stage in life (motherhood), I am not going to be the same weight as I was before having children. I'm not overweight according to the charts, but I'm not what I was before having my babies!

    My goal is to maintain my current, healthy weight and not gain any, keep active, eat good food, etc. and stop feeling like a failure - because my body has a right to change with it's stages.

    I'll stop preaching now ; )
    Love reading your blog!

  5. excellent tips! I really need to pay attention to that over fitting one! I do that all the time, sewing something together thinking I did it right only to have to bust out my seam ripper. *must baste more often!* :)

  6. Great post, and great tips! You are definitely not alone having these issues.

    One thing I usually try to remind myself of when feeling less than in shape is that our bodyweight goes up and down, depending not only on what we eat but also on our mood, the current weather season, hormones and so on. This is in our nature. Mum always says that +/- five kilos is nothing to worry about. I try to stay in that range, and if I not, the problem is usually fixed by just eating home cooked food and less sugars.

    Also I find it's important not to look so much at others and how they look and then compare that to what the numbers on my scale are saying. Some look really thin and weigh a lot more than what you think, others are the other way around. Not many are willing to say what they actually weigh. (I'm 70 kilos, but everyone says I look thinner than that. There's my truth!)

    When it comes to the clothing and sewing, I like to make things that can change a bit in size, like using folds and ribbons/buttons to fit dresses in the waist, or putting in some extra fabric in the skirt or pant waist and having two buttons beside each other, maybe an inch apart so that you can button it looser or tighter! That way I don't have to feel like I'm pulling out my 'fat-clothes' whenever I've gained a bit. :)

    Anyway, sorry for babbling away - it's a subject I'm very passionate about...

  7. I know how you feel - I was struggling with that too during MMJ. I had gained weight in the winter and some of my shirts were not looking so good! I was feeling frustrated because my measurements didn't change that much, but it still made a marked difference on fitted garments. I don't just want to wear sack-like garments (I could just buy RTW!) but I definitely need to accommodate the weight fluctuations somehow. Thanks for sharing your pain!

  8. Thank you for raising a very real topic. I can relate completely! I'm in my fourth year of running and I've definitely lost my hunger for pounding the streets - and it shows on my waistline. I've signed up to the gym, starting on Monday - eek! - and I'm hoping that will reinvigorate my interest in exercise. A very real challenge is that I'd prefer to be at my sewing machine in my spare time! Thank you to Ewa for her comments - a great, sensible approach handed down from her mum. Ewa, you look fabulous!

  9. Gina, I'm sure this post will strike a cord with most sewists! As some of your commenters have said, it's hard to reconcile the weight you think you ought to be with the weight you actually are.

    I use my wide legged trousers as a barometer: they have a fitted, but not uncomfortable waist. They're also the most worn handmade garment I own so I can't afford for them not to fit! I'm lucky in that I know what makes me bloated (bread), so as soon as the waistband starts feeling too tight, I just stop eating so much toast!

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. x

  10. Firstly Gina, I wanted to say that you always, always look fabulous to me!

    But you're not alone in your body issues, that's for sure! I know for a fact that the reason I'm not the most productive sewer is because I am constantly hoping to lose more weight and change my body shape. I excercise a lot, but I also eat a lot, so until I get the eating under control, I'm at a standstill.

    This is sad, as it prevents me from doing what I love, but I can't shake off the feeling that I don't want to make clothes that won't fit me properly.

    Recently though, I'm trying to be more accepting of the way I am and I've taken part in the Lonsdale sewalong. Your tips (and the tips others have shared above) are fantastic and I will bear them in mind when sewing.

    I also think that sometimes we get obsessed with the number on the scales, when it's actually your shape and inches that really matter!

  11. A very useful post that I'm sure I will get back to!

  12. ah, i hear you on the weight fluctuations! i love bread & beer - like, eternal-forever-love - and when i consume too much of either, i can easily gain an entire inch at my waist within a couple of days. and i prefer to wear my clothes with veeeery little ease (i'm gawking at the idea of a fitted dress having 3" of ease - mine usually have about 1/2", if that!), so when i bloat out, nothing fits. it's definitely a bummer!

    i've been working to maintain my current size by cutting back on the bloat-foods & also riding my bike to work a few days a week, to at least make up for *some* of it.

  13. Overfitting is definitely an issue for me. I do prefer garments that show my shape, but there have been a few times when I over-tailored something and the garment ended up being uncomfortable. And then I had no way to adjust the fit because I had no extra room in the seam allowances. Boo.

  14. Quite right, as usual. Resisting the urge to overfit is v. important, and as you say, what looks great in the mirror can look and feel awful five minutes later when you're trying to pick your dog up off the floor! I've been making a lot of knit things lately, as I've realised they are what I always grab from my wardrobe - fitted, non-stretch things tend to stay in there!

    I know knits don't really fit with a vintage wardrobe, but you might try double knit for skirts or even a dress - they sew up like wovens and stretch is minimal, but v. v. comfortable to wear and forgiving of little fluctuations!

    Best love, xxxx

  15. Most of my outfits I have sewn lately in my new smaller size are very close fits without any easy in them and not all that comfortable to wear I'm finding out. Honestly ever single top I make I struggle getting my broad shoulder area between my arms the right fit. Next I'll be cutting some expensive velvet for a bolero so I'll definitely make a go by first as this is a vintage pattern and who knows with those. Well I've never been one to make larger clothing but stick with loosing the extra inches, I pretty much don't give on that one.

  16. Wow, great responses. Stephanie- belts are wonderful for taking things in. Seeks- I agree enjoying and feeling good in your clothing can even change your mood. Ewa- Thanks for sharing! Your tips are wonderful. Extra buttons can come in handy for sure! Jane- I totaly understand. I have a pair of brown shorts they are a pretty good gauge when I need to drop some weight. Every woman needs a garment like that. Marie-I am right with you on the hoping to lose and then not sewing, waiting til the scale drops. Time to sew anyway and do the things we love. Stacy- that's a big boo, done that too, hopefully we can start adding more ease in the future. Mrs. Exeter- Thanks for the tip, I am going to try double knits! I do the same pulling out what's comfy in my closet. Nan- You are such a pretty lady, You inspire me to not give up on the weight thing but try to keep it off through out my life. Thanks for all your great comments. I have enjoyed learning from you all.

  17. Eva girl- Thanks for your sweet comment. I too am leaving a number go that was what I weighed when we got married. I was working out 5 days a week and eating little. Sometimes reality has to set in and being content with all things is a good way to let it go, but still being at a good weight is a lovely thing and brings a smile to my heart.

  18. Some maternity patterns have over 5" of ease... it's awful for fitting. I am low carb right now due to gestational diabetes, and that has really helped me control cravings and actually stop gaining weight (OK by my doctor!). I feel much better now, and I'm not craving everything in sight, which I did even before pregnant. You look GREAT now, and I hope you reach your goals, whatever they are. :) Happy Sewing!!

  19. "My dream size is in my mind, but my body says we are staying here."

    I can so relate to this quote because it's very true. Although I don't sew (at least not yet :), I think you've given some good advice about being realistic in making garments that not only "fit," but are comfortable to wear without "rips and tears."

    The "thin look" might be nice if you can stand around like a "statue" all day and hold your breath, but when you get tired of "playing statue," those ultra "fitted clothes" aren't going to realistically work with your true body type.

    I'm actually learning to like clothes that are a little more loose and comfortable. That "tight stuff" just doesn't do it for me anymore, and I am quite fine with that. :)

  20. This is a marvelous post, Gina. I'm forwarding it to my Dana who is into sewing hot and heavy this summer! Great, GREAT advice, dear!

  21. I'm a bit late with commenting, but wanted to say that I really appreciated you writing this post! :) This summer has been a bit tough for me; between being stressed about some things going on in my persona life and my usual "summer swelling" that hits every summer I've been in FL, I haven't been able to fit into several of my favorite pieces I've sewn. This year has been a lesson in letting go of my hangups (e.g. I am still being healthy, but do not obsess over things like if my mid-winter skirts fit or not right now!), and applying that to my sewing. I've been making a lot of things that are a bit less fitted, or can easily be taken in if needed. After years of wearing fiddly outfits, I've finally decided I like being comfortable in my clothes--which means they have to be workable for both times when I feel I'm in shape and fit, and the times when I'm not. ;) Right now I'm loving pieces that I can cinch with a belt, or loose-fit blouses. Both are my best friends! lol.

    Anyway, I just want to say that I really liked this post, and it was a great reminder to always be mindful of making my sewing work with me--rather than against! ;)

  22. You're so right! Leave some extra sewing addiction within the sewn garments always been a rule of thumb for me, this is a safe weight changes we all have on the road. Great post.

  23. What a great post. I recently gained 7 pounds and everything is tight right now but I'm hoping to get it off by running. I'm terrified of the over forty spread that happens. Yes, unless you use a stretch woven ease is important and the vintage patterns don't have a lot of it. What I love about them though is the roomier space in the bust. New patterns are always too small in the bust and doing a FBA is drag. But even still, home sewn clothes still fit better for than store bought if, and only if you make a muslin. I like the idea about a 1 inch allowance .Thanks.