Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time

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Outside the Fatosphere – Wake Up Call #812

For once the plea for help and justice may have been heard. I have been reading that plus size clothing made the runway at NYFW this year. This is very positive news, but more would be welcome.

I make clothes for one basic reason. Because I can’t find anything in the marketplace, excluding jeans and some bras, that doesn’t look horrific on my plus-sized frame. Usually the plus-sized clothes I see are made of incredibly cheap material, in patterns no one would want to wear and cut on the idea that a big dump of square cloth will fit someone who obviously doesn’t care about herself at all because she’s fat. None of these clothes take anything near style into consideration. Nor the fact that I clean up well, as my Dad used to say.

Fat is a word that has no good connotations at all. It either means stuff you eat which clogs up your heart causing you to die young, or it means that you are the opposite of the worshipped body of the eons, the thins. But there is a whole population of non-svelte women dying to find a great place to buy clothing. And the marketplace is keeping them out. Why would this be? Isn’t there just one or two or maybe even three companies that would like to make a lot of money with a built in repeat business? All it would take is clothing with exquisite construction and fit and that added ingredient of style.

This fat-thin complex has been going on in America for as long as I’ve been alive. There has never been a time in the roughly 55 years that I can recall where buying clothing made me feel good. Except for when I worked out at Nautilus and got my fleshiness into shape. I was still large by model standards at a size 12, but I was a compact size 12 and I certainly looked good. This wasn’t sustainable because eventually we moved, there was no Nautilus near me and I quit pumping iron and kept cooking.

The problem that I now face – and why I sew – is not only the incredible cost of decent, long wearing clothes, but the sheer impossibility of finding them. I don’t require much, but I do want to look stylish. And I do want the clothes to be made well. Designer made well, as in when you put it on, you feel fantastic.

When we first came back to the US, I did some in-the-mall shopping. I had to go up to the second floor of Macy’s (where it’s hidden away) to find the plus-size department.  I shuddered. The clothes were shapeless, made from polyester in bright colors. I could see someone who was in her 80s or 90s wearing these. I could not see myself in them.

To give you a general idea – look at this picture

Photo credit

Photo credit

Goodness. Square, no shape, gathers everywhere and guaranteed to make you look like a circus tent. And to top it all off? These blouses probably cost a fortune. I don’t know. I wouldn’t go look at these. The fabric is horrible. The colors are garish and I can’t imagine that the construction is worthwhile.

Similar tacky-looking clothes are out there on offer anywhere you want to look. I call it the Walmartization of plus size clothing. We’re letting someone in China make clothes for women with curves and they look bad. Although I will agree that even thin people can have a rough time buying clothing that fits their budget AND them at the same time.

Some of the companies complain that it’s just too expensive to make plus-size clothing because their patterns can only be sized up a certain amount before they need to draft new patterns and plus-size women don’t buy that many clothes. Ha. If you take a look at the above picture, you will see why. Why would anyone consent to wear something like that? And something like that can be found in almost any place that sells plus-sized clothing. It doesn’t have to be this way. We only need a few enthusiastic people to change course –

And it’s not just in the RTW sector of fashion that thin prevails either. Take a look someday at sewing patterns available for plus size women. They’re not a pretty sight. We could use some decent, complimentary patterns too ………….

If there are any clothing companies out there that want to design fantastic, flattering clothes for a real women with curves to match, let me know. I have a lot of good ideas –



The Thing I Do Best …………

I shop. I am very good at shopping. Particularly with the internet. I know there are lots of you who are too young to remember taking a bus downtown (that’s a place where they used to have stores and now they are bringing them back again because everyone’s sick of the mall) or going to the mall to find what you want. Or having to go to a store to get a music album you want. Can you imagine? How odd …….

I was doing my usual check of fabric at one of my favorite sites – and I came across this fabric that I must have or I will die – seriously. She has it in black and navy. I sighed because I have no money until payday to be shooting toward some lovely fabric. I have tons of lovely fabric that caught my eye earlier this summer. I’m just praying the fabric lasts on her site until I can get some ………… if not – I might have to make it myself.

Here it is


This is a merino wool sweater knit that is all puckered and has wonderful square areas and lots of poof. I hope you can see this on the photo. I immediately started to plan a fantastic loose top – and it could either be a great cardigan which I would wear over everything all the time or a nice boatneck loose tee. Either way – it’s fantastic.

I also checked out because of their unusual collection of digital prints. There are two now that I would snap up in a minute. One of them is a pictorial skyline of New York with the multitude of people and skyscrapers. The other is a pictorial knit panel of Venice. Both of these fabrics lend themselves to a simple style – nothing complex because the fabric speaks for itself.

Years ago, as part of my extreme love of textiles and dyeing and marking up and just generally playing with fabric, I would make textured fabric to use in my wall art. When I saw the fabric on Marcy’s site and figured that it would be gone before I can afford it, I thought about how I would emulate this fabric on my own. A needle, some embroidery floss or other strong thread and I could pucker navy jersey to my heart’s delight. I hopefully won’t have to do that – but if I do – who knows? It could be cooler than the original inspiration ……….. you never know ……………..



A Top that LOOKS Simple Can Drive You Nuts …………..


I really like this top. It’s a Katherine Tilton pattern for Butterick and it’s 5891. The only problem for me is that the pattern is too small. Hmph.

I spent a good bit of time yesterday cutting out the pattern pieces and measuring things up. Things being in particular TWO things that the shirt has to close around, if you get my drift. I humphed and mumphed and scratched my head. This top has 15 pieces. There are directions on the pattern pieces that if you alter it, move all the markings. Well shoot – first I have to figure out how to alter it. I mean I really do. Some of these pieces are parallelograms and just imagine slashing and cutting a parallelogram and adding inches to it. I quiver in dread. I am stymied by lack of pattern enlarging experience. I keep looking at it and deciding to slash it here and there and finally I folded it all up and put it back in the bag.

My concentration level is sadly diminished these days. So I marveled around at it and finally decided the top is too simple looking to be that much trouble. Which means I’ve ditched plans to make it for now. I need to wait until my brain is sharp again – hoping that won’t be next spring ……….

So now what to make? Of course I’ve found a great pattern that lives in Australia at Style Arc but I won’t be able to get that for a while. So I can either figure out how to take all of these different pattern pieces and increase this top by 4″ or I can find another pattern in the stash …………

Here’s the Style Arc pattern I crave


It’s called the Lizzie Wrap. This too will look simple but I think the construction on this will truly BE simple. I have a great teal jacquard, a black raised design jacquard and a cool multi-colored on brown jacquard. It will need lining so I’d have to decide on a color and get that too. That’s the bad thing about sewing ………. you always need one more thing …………

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For two+ hours today – I looked for this thread – the picture which you see above. It is not to be found. This is sad for me because I had planned to start my navy sheer shirt project today. I can’t. I looked everywhere I could think of for this missing spool of thread.

I did wade into the swamp this month and clean out the sewing room. I just hope I didn’t pitch this thread, not recognizing that there WAS a spool of thread in a mailing envelope, but I might have. So for now – I have to re-think things until Tuesday when I will haunt JoAnn Fabrics and buy myself some navy thread. I might just cut out the navy shirt and wait to get the thread – but I like to sew right away, after I cut something out.

So I’m spellbound again ———- looking through my fabric for more inspiration and through my six thousand or so patterns for the “one”.

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Beautiful Seam Finishes and a Sheer Shirt

McCall's 6605

McCall’s 6605


I’ve wanted to get to this project ever since I finished the “muslin” using the sari silk, which you see here:


I did totally finish this shirt with a tie at the neck and buttonholes. It fits very well and will be great under a cardigan for winter. The version in red above is slightly longer and has a nice collar. My only issue with this shirt is that I want all of the seams finished so they look great from the inside too. I didn’t have much luck with the Hong Kong seams on the silk as it added too much weight.

I’ve been thinking about doing french seams on the yoke gathers but I think that also will add more bulk than I want. I’m also going to add sleeves to the red version so it will be wearable with or without a sweater. And my fabric is sheer. Not too sheer, but sheer enough to need a nice finish on the inside.

I think I’ve finally figured this out! Whew, sewing involves so much thinking! I am going to line the yoke pieces which will very nicely cover all the seams and the shirt will look fantastic inside and out. I’m going to use a thin weight interfacing for the button band and some nice antique buttons for the front. I think it will be marvelous! Here’s the fabric I plan on using:


I will, of course, be wearing a navy cami underneath this. Gorgeous, don’t you think?


Sewing Block

You know how everyone is always talking about writer’s block? Where you sit for hours and just stare at the computer screen – it used to be the blank white page of paper for me – now it’s the screen. Well, I don’t have writer’s block. No. I have Sewer’s Block which looks like something in a sewer but it isn’t. It’s something in my sewing room.

Now I don’t have Sewer’s Block because I don’t have enough wonderful fabric. I sort of went nuts buying fabric in May, June and July – feeling sorry for myself – and I had a splurge. So I have wonderful fabric. And I have great patterns. And I can adjust them.

The problem I have is – I cannot decide what to do. I have looked at all of the patterns at least twice. I have washed the fabrics I could – patted them and folded them nicely. And sat at the table. And done nothing else.

I am awash in frustration. I want to sew. I just don’t want to decide what to cut out. I don’t know if I want to make a top, jacket, pair of pants or a tee. I just don’t know.

My fabric that has been calling to me is this one

This is a nice cotton twill. It will be great for fall and I think for winter too. I’m never too cold so wearing this fabric as a jacket with either a white or black tee-shirt would be great. I have a Flax jacket that I want to copy to make this – or maybe I’ll use a Katherine Tilton jacket pattern. Sigh. See what I mean? I also have other jacket patterns that would work and a couple of blouses. Here’s one:



I would seriously need to leave off the ties on the sleeves. They would drive me crazy. But I like the basic shirt style. It’s got the right feel to it. Also there’s this one:


You know – this is weird but I think I truly love the idea of that fabric in this dress. This is a Marcy Tilton Vogue Pattern. I made it the first time out of a knit and the knit was just too droopy for the pattern. I think it would be GORGEOUS in that print. And I could make the sleeves a tad bit longer because she has the option for a 3/4 sleeve. And I could wear it with leggings in the winter ……………. ooooooh I’m getting excited! Whatcha think? You know I think that’s it! I’m going to measure it out tomorrow and make sure it would all fit well. Wow. To think I almost made a simple little shirt out of that great fabric!!!!!!!

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Stitching and Sewing

I am going to be adding some pictures of the current work in progress today. This is what I am working on and it’s very sexy! Even for an old bat who by the way, doesn’t wear tennis shoes or things that don’t match —–

Gorgeous Silk Blouse  McCall 6605 Version B

Gorgeous Silk Blouse
McCall 6605 Version B

This was a super easy cut out. For all of us who sew, I think cutting something out is the hardest part. If you’re like me, you have to cut fabric on a flat surface that is NOT the floor. I clean off my sewing table which is 36″ x 80″. It is too low. Its former incarnation was as an old kitchen table. It has a “wood” grain formica top. This is great because I don’t care if I mess it up. Also I can paint, etc. on it and not worry about damaging wood. I have hungered for an adjustable height table but the cost is around $2,000 so that will not be coming to my house unless I win the Powerball.

I am doing a muslin of sorts for this shirt. I’m using old sari silk I purchased for $8 and there was quite a lot of it. It is magenta and gold with a border typical of this kind of fabric. I wasn’t able to include the decorative border in the shirt. At first I thought I could use it for the tie but it isn’t wide enough.

This fabric ravels something awful. I have to put in the gathers on the front and back yoke and a french seam wouldn’t work there. I have wrapped seam binding around the raw edges before I gathered them. This is a Hong Kong seam. It will keep the fabric from raveling and looking nasty. I overlocked the other edges with the #31 stitch on the Bernina 440 QE.

A word about sewing machines – a serger would be a wonderful thing to have. I don’t have one as I spent my allotted machine money on a Bernina – which I got really cheap at the time. Oil was $4.00 a gallon and no one in Maine was spending any money. The machine dealer had a special to get business in the door and I got my life-long dream of a Bernina.

If you have a serger you are familiar with how to use it. You also know you need a sewing machine too. I can sew clothing with just the machine but I do have to take extra steps. I think a serger is great for knits. For a fine woven like this I would also stay with the sewing machine.

I read a post where a sewist was having trouble with puckered seams on silk. There is a fantastic trick to sewing with silk or other slippery fabrics that tend to pucker after sewing. Take some tracing paper or other thin paper and cut strips – these can be an inch or just a bit more. Put the layers down paper first then the two fabric layers. Stitch. Then carefully rip off the paper which will have been perforated with your stitching. This will stabilize your fabric and it won’t pucker.

I purchased some great buttons from Waechter’s Fine Fabrics in Asheville. Also a great source of fabrics and you can find them at – check out the cool silks! These are the buttons for this shirt

Pink Shell Button Waechter's Fine Fabrics

Pink Shell Button
Waechter’s Fine Fabrics

Once I sit down and start putting this together it should only take a couple of hours. Basically because I sew slow making sure I get all the finishes right. Then sewing on the buttons and pressing and I’m done.

On pressing – read the blog at Gorgeous Fabrics. Ann is a pressinatrix of the first order. It is important that you press as you go – not just at the end of the construction. I press each seam after I sew it to set the stitching into the cloth. Then I press it open or not depending on how the seam will be finished. I’m doing french seams in this shirt so I will press the first 1/4″ seam then trim it and then do the seam on the wrong side and press it. Every step I sew will be pressed. This keeps the shirt from looking ah sloppy. It is an absolute necessity.

Pictures today of the actual fabric and seams …………. stay tuned!

or Hong Kong finish, a seam-binding technique

or Hong Kong finish, a seam-binding technique (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

French seam

French seam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)