Plus size sewing with knits

Christine Jonson Designs Sizing for the Plus-Sized Woman
by Sarabeth Chambers

Reprinted from Life in the Little Black Dress

When I found Christine Jonson patterns I was very impressed with the simple style lines and straightforward construction.  I wanted to look like the drawings on the front of the patterns, so I bought them – all of them, to see what I could do. This was a bold choice for someone who is much larger than the patterns are designed for, and who has plenty of “big girl” figure flaws to hide.

Since then, I have made quite a few of Christine’s Patterns in much larger sizes than the patterns are designed for. I have found that sizing up exactly the difference in your measurements from the largest size works perfectly for most 100% cotton interlocks and LYCRA blend fabrics. For less stretchy the fabric, I add bigger seam allowances and spend a little extra time fitting the outfit after assembling it, so far, no problems.

I started with the Boyfriend Jacket and an inexpensive stretch woven that had previously been washed, my version of muslin. I used the measurements of the back of the pattern and found that I needed to add 7” to the bust, 8” to the waist, and 11” to the hip for the XL size to fit my body. I also wanted to add another inch because I was using a stretch woven instead of a knit. I found that the difference between the size medium (MD) and XL was 8” in the bust, 9” in the waist, and 8” in the hip. Just the differences I needed in the bust and waist, and a little small on the hip.

I traced the XL pattern lines on the fabric in chalk, including the line at the waist. As soon as I had the first piece traced, I went to each corner and moved the pattern piece so that the chalk tracings were lined up under the MD pattern lines and retraced the XL outline on the fabric around the corner. After I had completed re-tracing all the corners and curves, I connected the new lines smoothly for my new cutting line.

Please note that for the hip area, I re-traced by lining up the original chalk line under the small (SM) pattern lines to get the 12” difference I needed.

Once I had all the pattern pieces traced, I did a measurement check. I checked the length of the shoulder seam to my actual shoulder and the front and back shoulder-to-waist measurements. This verified that sizing the pattern up would still fit my body. I really didn’t have any changes to make, but I am kind of tall. I do this measurement check before I cut any fabric because I sew for different shapes of large women and waist length measurements are different for every body.

From that point on I followed the directions for construction without measuring or fitting until the jacket was complete. The pieces went together beautifully and the resulting jacket fit very well.
 

Boyfriend Jacket & Shell 311
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This method worked very well for the Tapered Pant, Shell, and Straight Shirt, 3 Tees and Swing Jacket. This method worked even better for the Fitted Jacket and Slit Skirt,
the two patterns that I really thought they were only for thin women.

I have a big tummy that prefers to stick out and pants just show it off even more. This leads to adding layers to hide it. I started wearing shirts untucked and big jackets to
hide it, but then I just looked bigger and bigger. I wanted to look as small as possible and very professional at work.

I made up the Slit Skirt in Christine’s Black Cotton/LYCRA expecting to have to wear it with something that covered me down to my crotch. But when I put it on and tucked in a white turtleneck, I looked like I had lost 20 pounds. (Note: A push up bra doesn't hurt this look at all) I wore the waistband flat to give a longer line and minimize
horizontal lines across my waist. Even when I walked around, my tummy was pretty well disguised no matter what length I made the skirt or what I tucked into it. (Knee
length out of ponte or Ottoman fabric is fabulous) That is when I made the fitted jacket to go with it for a professional look.

The Fitted Jacket is a big girl’s best friend. Whether you have a well-defined waist or not, you appear to have one. I decided that I like the feminine curvy look and started
making it in all different lengths and fabric weights. I made a coatdress, a short sleeve linen dress, a winter coat in polar fleece, a long fitted jacket, and a short, very
fitted zip-front jacket. The Fitted Jacket is very good in most any fabric and in whatever length you choose to make it. I like to interface the entire jacket if I am making
out of a real drapy fabric and want a more tailored look. This was the pattern that really inspired me to try different types of fabrics and pattern alterations.

Other surprisingly good looks for large ladies are: 

1) The 3 Tee’s pattern cut off at about the waistline and sewn to the top of the Slit Skirt waistband, just like the skirt is sewn to it.

2) The Straight Shirt cut off an inch or two above the waistline with the front slip stitched together and small darts that line up with the Pencil Skirt darts, sewn to the top of the Pencil Skirt. (Note: Add little extra ease to the Pencil Skirt and try it in a different color than the top, great for big hips) 

3) A Shell made out of the same fabric as the Slit Skirt or Cuff Pant, and tucked in, and worn under the Swing Jacket or Straight Shirt.

4) The Slit Skirt with a little walking ease added and the kick pleat removed, for a very feminine curvy look.

There is NOTHING frumpy or baggy about the clothes I wear now, or the clothes I make for other large ladies who can’t find nice business clothes to wear.

Finally, an important issue for big girls is undergarments and will a knit fabric hanging up on them, especially when used for the Slit and Pencil Skirts. I prefer cotton
undies and the skirts seem to hang over them without bunching up or sticking to them. I think that is why I am such a big fan of Cotton/LYCRA, Rayon/LYCRA,
Slinky and Ottoman.  I hate having to wear special undies and feeling uncomfortable, just to look good in the clothes over them. These fabrics do a lovely job of hiding all my
less than perfect lumps without making me look like I am wearing a large sack and the wrong underwear.

 

About Sarabeth:
I have made the Fitted Jacket, Shell, and Slit Skirt or Cuff Pant as a set for women with a bust measurement up to 68” and 70” hip, from 5’2” to 6’ tall, and with all
different body types and shapes. I am not a professional seamstress, nor have I been trained in anything remotely resembling design or pattern drafting. I just love sewing.

Length and Proportion in Fashion

How to make yourself look taller, slimmer and better proportioned by playing with length when sewing clothes

by Christine Jonson

Is it possible to develop a discerning eye?  Is it intuitive? Or can it be learned? Learning through experience is a long process. Is there a shortcut to “seeing” exactly how long your skirt, sleeve length or jacket should be to be most flattering? Proportion in garment making is the same as perspective in a painting. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not great for most sewers. For some it is best to follow the designer’s lead and just make small adjustments according to the pattern directions, but for others these decisions are opportunities to develop a critical eye for design.

 Jackets should hit the fingertip length and sleeves should meet the wrist bone. Shown here on Isabelle, our mannequin, this boyfriend jacket, an oversize style, still has good proportion and fit even though it's designed with casual, relaxed ease.

Jackets should hit the fingertip length and sleeves should meet the wrist bone. Shown here on Isabelle, our mannequin, this boyfriend jacket, an oversize style, still has good proportion and fit even though it's designed with casual, relaxed ease.

Cutting garments longer than necessary is the only way to have enough length to play with. Trying to make a length and proportion decision at the time of cutting is not possible. Expecting that you can shape a garment to perfection in tissue will only be disappointing.

On your next garment cut it longer than you would normally, even if you think it is fine as is. You may find that you don’t use the extra length or that you use every inch of it. Sometimes the extra length will make you see an entirely different outfit possibility. Make this a normal cutting process. 

In my pattern making and designs my aim is to make you look taller, slimmer and better proportioned. I can be in control of the design of the garment but you are in control of the lengths and proportions. For example, the Boyfriend Jacket, Boatneck Shell and Cuff Pant suit has 6 length decisions to be made and each of them is dependent on the other to give the perfect look. Stand far back from a full-length mirror and keep pinning the hems until you find the perfect combination. If you don’t have a full-length wall mirror buy an inexpensive freestanding mirror.

First of all the length of the jacket should be at your fingertips and the sleeves at your wrist bone. More importantly is the button placement. Because it is a loose fitting, straight cut jacket the distance between the shoulder and button should be shorter than from the button to the hem. The jacket should hit the pant leg below the widest part of the thigh and the cuff should just bend on the top of the shoe and be even with the top of the heel in the back. If the jacket is too short and the button is too high it throws off the proportion and shortens the torso.

The Shell untucked should just hit the seam where the waistband is sewn to the pant so when the jacket is open the eye sees the body divided not in half at the waist but higher so the hips and legs appear longer.

If you were making the Fitted Jacket you would want it to hit just below the widest part of the hips to hide them and because it is a fitted jacket, shape it enough to give definition to the waist so how you actually see the proportion of the suit is determined by the distance between the shoulder and the waistline and the waistline and the jacket hem and the waistline and the cuffs. Note that it is not the jacket hem and the cuff but the waistline. Interesting.

The Three Tees tunic length should hit your thighs at their narrowest point so that one would assume that they are that narrow all the way up! This is my favorite length for my tee because I have heavy thighs and no one would know it ;)

 Keeping the underarm area from the armpit to the waist open gives needed definition at the bust line.

To practice seeing the right proportions just look around you at what others are wearing. Think how you could improve the outfits you see by simply lengthening or shortening their proportions. Try on some of your finished garments and look at them critically with a sewing friend and ask if they could be improved by changing their proportion.

Sew Your Own Leggings with a Banded Waist

Sewing your own leggings is very satisfying! It's a quick project that is both fun and nearly instantly gratifying. Christine Jonson Sewing Circle members recently participated in a leggings sew-a-long on Facebook. 

 About the leggings pattern:

The BaseWearOne Pattern #622 offers a variety of workout and everyday wear. The legging pattern is a one pattern piece legging with no side seams. Choose your size based on CJ’s Perfect Sizing Worksheet and use this information to create an entire wardrobe of pull on pants with a variety of details. Learn to apply elastic like a professional using a serger or make a custom stretch banded waistband. Learn to recognize the perfect serger stitch and topstitch to be sure that your stitches don’t break when the fabric is stretched.

This legging pattern takes the best qualities of a pair of tights and a straight leg pant to create a flattering and comfortable to wear legging. The shape of the leg from the knee to the hem is cut a bit straighter and wider than the usual tapered shape that is common to tights. This does not mean that the pant won’t hug your leg; it will simply follow the shape of your leg with a bit of extra ease and length.

Choose your size based on your hip measurement. The measurements shown on the Finished Garment Chart is the measurement taken at the widest point at the hip of a sewn pair of leggings without stretching the fabric. So depending on the stretch and recovery of your fabric you can determine the fit “before” you cut the fabric.

Fabrics

Cotton, Rayon, Poly, LYCRA blends, and Ponte all make great leggings. Each one will have its own personality and perhaps its own pattern size for your perfect fit.

If your hips measure 38” you could use a size 12 and up to a size 18 and they would all fit you, just differently. The more stretch your fabric has the smaller the size pattern you can use for a comfortable fit. The “snappier” quality of the fabric the tighter they will fit. Combining the information of both the % of stretch and type of recovery will help in determining what size pattern to use to give you’re the exact fit you have in mind.

Determine the type of waistline you want for you leggings before cutting them out. Adding a band to the waistline in place of using elastic requires an easy pattern alteration before cutting out the pants. See the instructions below and the Tips and How-To page on the website

To choose a comfortable fit for your waistline with elastic I recommend starting with a length of elastic a bit longer than the measurement of where you want the band to rest on your body. Wrap it around, snug it up until it feels right and add 1” for the overlap to zig-zag a secure connection. If you choose to run the elastic through a casing it is easy to adjust the length once it is in place. The elastic can be whatever width you find most comfortable.

REPLACE AN ELASTIC BAND WITH A FABRIC BAND

  • The fabric for the band should have at least 80% crosswise stretch, 100% is best with snappy recovery.
  • Choose your band measurements based on the Band Measurement Chart.
  • Trim the top of the pattern pieces by 4-3/4” for the wide band or 3-7/8” for the narrow band following the curve of the pattern.
  • Construct the pants or skirt per the instructions, eliminating the elastic at the waist.
  • Serge the two short sides of the band together to form a tube. Fold the tube in half with the wrong sides together. Edge serge the raw edges together.
  • Quarter the band and quarter the top edge of the pants or skirt. Serge the band onto the garment with the band seam at the center back.
 These bands are explained in detail in our  Stretch Fabric Waistband  download!

These bands are explained in detail in our Stretch Fabric Waistband download!

Lycra blend knit fabrics make excellent waistbands that are both comfortable and figure flattering. Consider a smooth fabric waistband that can sit at the waist, hips or anywhere in between. This waistband can be folded, crushed or worn flat depending on the day’s desired effect.

This type of waistband helps achieve a wonderfully smooth transition at the waist, which has always been an issue with an elastic waist. No casings, pins or topstitching involved. Great!

Soft-hand, jersey type LYCRA blend fabrics with at least 100% crosswise stretch and good recovery work best. A simple alteration is all that is needed to make the change to your pattern. By removing a portion of the garment and replacing it with a band the garment will still fit properly, just smoother. Depending on the desired width of the band the pattern alteration varies. Calculating the band length is easy using the measurement information included here. The suggested patterns and fabrics work out great using this technique.

Happy Sewing!

Banded Waist Yoga Waist How To

 

BAND MEASUREMENT CHART

Wide Band

– Finished width 5-3/8”

Cut 4-3/4” off the top of the pattern

Cut the band 12” wide

 

Narrow Band

– Finished width 3-7/8”

Cut 3-7/8” off the top of the pattern

Cut the band 9” wide

 

Calculate Band Length

This is to ensure the correct “tightness” of the band (also known as

negative ease ).

These tips are an approximation. You’ll need to experiment with your band fabric, garment fabric and your body.

Measure your high hip/low waist (belly button level).

Multiply this measurement by 78% and add two seam allowances (5/8” x 2 = 1-1/4”).

Cut the band to this length on the crosswise grain.

(High Hip Measurement x 78%) + 1-1/4 =

 

Length of Band

Example: for a 36” high hip (36 x 78%) + 1-1/4 = 28 + 1-1/4 = 29-1/4”

For a wide band, the fabric would be cut 12” x 29-1/4”

  • If attaching a knit band to a woven garment cut the band slightly longer, about 2 inches.
  • If the knit chosen for the band has less than 100% stretch, for every 10% less stretch,  add 1 inch to the length.

Download the Banded Waist Article - including photo examples of stretch fabric waistbands.