Plus Size Sewing

The plus size niche is possibly the single most indie-friendly corner of the fashion industry, just because if someone dares sew plus size and make it anything other than a mumu, we plussies will leap at the opportunity to try it out. While at this point there is no paucity of plus designs available, however, sometimes budget and vision interfere with what’s readily available — what did dedicated goths do before Hot Topic went plus? How about those of us who like fusion looks – 40s conservatism and modern punk (believe me, there’s far more artistry to it than pink hair, old heels and ripped shirts). What about us brave and few who just weren’t pleased during one of what I think of less-than-fondly as a Lane Bryant hoochie wear wave?

The answer is simple: those who were able, sewed. Those who were unable but darn lucky knew someone who sewed and was able to bribe well. Those who were particularly able, make their own patterns and sewed, some of whom are now the proud owners of the plus fabulous stores we plussie fashionistas frequent today.

So, in honor of the skill that keeps our industry going, I’m pointing to a few sources for the seamstresses and tailors of the world. As those who do sew already know, there’s no reason to feel threatened by the home sewers – we still buy clothing we adore, and in my case, I usually botch about every third project which really keeps clothiers in business.

First and foremost, plus size seamstresses need patterns to work from. Materials are basic: where most smaller garments require about 3 yards, it’s best to play it safe and order 5 yards of fabric. Sewing machines are available in Target these days, although it’s generally better to purchase from a licensed retailer specializing in the machines (my mother is in sewing machine sales). Tape measures and the realities they reflect are unavoidable. Rotary cutters are a fab alternative to the traditional shears, especially if you, like me, can never figure out what or where the fabric bias is. (Sewing is not a talent that has transferred well in my family).

There are even among pattern makers a few specialty retailers: Fashion Patterns by Coni offers sizing up to 6X, most of the selection is pretty basic, good for wardrobe staples, as well as fellow indie retailer SewGrand. The McCall pattern company is a collection of McCall’s, Vogue, and Butterick patterns – if you’re a regular at Joann’s Fabric, you can generally pounce on their $1.99 pattern sales. Of the bigg three, McCall’s is the most generous with their sizing, allowing for up to 32W, and predictably, Vogue is the least generous, allowing for up to a 24W, and being disguised under the term “Vogue Woman”. If you’re just starting out, Simplicity lives up to their name in terms of clear instructions on their patterns, and they have sizing up to 32W. Kwik Sew, another simplified sewing pattern retailer, has sizing going up to 4x (which translates to around a size 28). Burda, a quirky pattern provider, has always had some pieces I find unique and a little “off” in a good way, and their sizing system is one I don’t entirely understand.

Not that that should stop you. There are some good books on how to create your own patterns., which is becoming more the thing to do. Even if you’re not ready to take design pen and scissors in hand, clothing reconstruction is part of the new vogue of finding new ways to reduce-reuse-recycle, especially T-shirt surgery, something I’ve been doing myself to have clubwear on a very tight budget.

We wouldn’t have clothing without the crafty, so here’s to you – pattern hunting and all.

If you’re hooked on sewing, knitting, or crocheting a great plus size source is Big Crafty. Jen finds some great stuff in free and not-so-free plus size patterns in the craft niche.