November 24, 2007

Sew Far, Sew Good

In the last month or so (after I finished off the Hallowe'en costumes), I've been working on tailoring.

See, I learned how to sew by the time I was a teenager from at least four different people, and they all--collectively--taught me important pieces of the basics: how to sew a straight (or curved) seam; how to cut out a pattern; how to choose fabric; how to iron as you go. But somehow, I missed how to actually *fit* clothes to the person who was planning to wear them. The trouble with that is nobody is actually the ideal mystery person for which patterns are made. So I have several years' worth of clothes I tried to make that...worked....but didn't quite fit. Since I didn't have much time to sew, but did have time to read while I was nailed down under two little girls in process, I spent it trying to learn what to do.

Now, I've figured out how to fix things to make them fit me (amazingly--considering some other proportions--I have really, really, really narrow shoulders, at least compared to the size they are on patterns that fit me pretty much everywhere else. Also, I have this funny curve on the back of my neck--all the male Moores who've ever been fitted for a suit or tux are nodding knowledgeably now, because we all seem to have this weird thing that requires a tuck across the back--horizontally!) Anyway, now I finally know how to change the patterns so I can sew something that looks like it was made for me. This should save those of you who've always been so polite about my efforts--and I do thank you for your discretion!--from having to keep being so polite. :-)

This is exciting. There's not much worse than spending the time (not to mention the money) investing in building something, only to have it not look nice when you're done.

In case anyone's thinking of taking up sewing--and it still is the best way to get clothing that actually fits you--three books have helped me out a great deal in getting to this spot:

Fantastic Fit for Everybody: How to Alter Patterns to Flatter Your Figure, by Gale G. Hazen
If you were to read no other book, this one could get you there alone. Hazen details a whole host of fitting problems, and gives very specific directions--and pictures!--on how to repair them. She also gives copious advice on picking patterns and fabrics.

Sewing for Plus Sizes: Creating Clothes that Fit and Flatter, by Barbara Deckert
Obviously, this one might not be as useful if you happen to be built like Twiggy. Statistically, though, more and more of us aren't. Deckert is no nonsense, but is sensitive to the different needs of "larger" women. Again, there are clear drawings and explanations, and size-specific advice on fabrics and ways to change/choose patterns. An especially useful bit on how to "size up" patterns that stop before they get to Women's sizes.

High Fashion Sewing Secrets from the World's Best Designers: A Step-By-Step Guide to Sewing Stylish Seams, Buttonholes, Pockets, Collars, Hems, And More, by Claire B. Shaeffer
In spite of the name, this book has a lot of helpful information for your average sewer. I especially turn again and again to the second half of the book, which is full of inspiration for changing details in patterns--a new neckline, different sleeves--and advice on making your own patterns. My favorite chapter is all about how to take an existing garment you have, that you like, and making a pattern from it.

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