January 19, 2017

What to sew when your weight fluctuates

If you’re anything like me, your weight probably goes up and down quite a bit. Over the years I’ve come to accept it as a natural process, affected by different things going on in my life and body. That said, one thing that can still make it frustrating is sewing: no-one wants to spend countless hours sewing beautiful things only for them not to fit over time! Thankfully, I’ve learned a few tricks that help me sew garments that will fit whether I gain or lose a few inches, so I thought I’d share them with you today. These approaches for what to sew when your weight fluctuates work for when you change around 1 – 3 clothes sizes; much beyond that, and you may well need some new garments (which, looking on the bright side, means fabric shopping, yay!).

What to wear when your weight fluctuates

1. Sewing with knits

This is perhaps the most obvious tip, but: sew with knits! Because they stretch, knits are inherently much more accommodating to changes in body size and shape, not to mention super-comfortable to wear. In fact, I’ve found there are knit garments I made when I was 3 or 4 sizes different that still fit me now.

If you haven’t sewn with knits before, don’t worry: they’re actually very straightforward to sew on a sewing machine (simply use a zigzag stitch and a ballpoint needle), and if you do have the luck of owning a serger, they’re super fast to sew, too. They’re widely available online: if you want to be sure of quality, either buy from high-end stores like EmmaOneSock, or choose branded ranges like Art Gallery Knits or Robert Kaufmann.

Knits are often associated with casual garments like t-shirts, but you can also make very professional or even fancy clothes with knits – my sheer overlay polka dot Turner Dress is a great example of an incredibly comfortable dressy knit garment that would fit me over at least 3 sizes.

Here are some of my favorite knit options (left to right): the Cashmerette Concord T-Shirt, the Colette Moneta Dress, and the Cashmerette Turner Dress.

What to sew when your weight fluctuates

2. Go for a wrap

If your torso changes size and shape a lot, then buttons and zips are going to be uncomfortable and constricting. But, if you wear a garment that wraps around your body, you simply wrap to fit whatever size you are right now. The most obvious example of this is a wrap dress like the Appleton Dress – I’ve found that women across 3 – 4 sizes can all fit in the same dress (assuming their shoulders are the same size). But there are also other wrap garments, like the Tilly & The Buttons Miette wrap skirt, the Papercut Patterns Coppelia wrap top, and my free pattern hack of the Appleton Top. To add extra “insurance” to your wrap, you can add a little bit of extra length around the body – in the case of the Appleton Dress, simply cut two pieces of the wider side.

Left to right: Cashmerette Appleton Dress, Tilly & The Buttons Miette Skirt, Papercut Patterns Coppelia

What to sew when your weight fluctuates

3. Add elastic

If you don’t want to wear knits all the time, a great approach with woven garments is to incorporate elastic or shirring. I tend to lose or gain around my waist, so a waistband with some stretch is essential; my free flat-front, elastic-back skirt pattern saves the day on this front, as it has about 5 inches of extra stretch for when I’m a bit bigger (get the free download here). Another really popular pattern with an elastic waistband is the StyleArc Barb Pant; in fact, it’s pretty easy to give any stretch pants an elastic waist – even jeans! – as demonstrated in this tutorial by Gillian. Shirring with elastic thread also gives a lovely amount of “give” in a woven pattern – one classic example is the Washi Dress by Made By Rae which is woven but has elastic shirring at the back.

Left to right: free Cashmerette skirt pattern, StyleArc Barb Pant, Washi Dress

What to sew when your weight fluctuates

4. Increase your seam allowances

Finally, an approach which involves alterations later on, but can work for many garments: increase your seam allowances. Most patterns have a seam allowance from 3/8″ – 5/8″, which is economical on fabric and fairly easy to sew. However, that means there’s very little wiggle room for making the garment bigger later.

Instead, if you sew with a larger seam allowance (such as 1″), you give yourself the option at a later date to unpick and resew some seams and make the garment bigger. This technique is often used in couture sewing (if a garment is worth thousands of dollars you want it to be alterable!) and in costume departments at theaters who have to adapt the same costume to different bodies. It works best on simple garments without too many seams – ideally, you’ll just be adding at the side seams of the garment.

So there are four tips on how to what to sew when your weight fluctuates, and how to make sure your hand-sewn garments get as much wear as possible over the years. Have you used any of these success fully? And do you have any more to add? I’d love to hear your ideas!

January 16, 2017

A couple of Turner Dresses in the sun

It’s funny: product development takes so long, that I’m often wearing the next Cashmerette Pattern months and months before it’s launched! The main challenge is keeping them off Instagram (although the eagle-eyed among you may occasionally spot a future design…) but last year just after I developed the Turner Dress I went on a little trip to Palm Springs – and I couldn’t resist taking these pictures in amongst the amazing retro desert architecture.

I made both dresses from some gorgeous Art Gallery Fabrics jersey, designed by April Rhodes. This first dress is made from the Path Marker Slate design, which you can still get here. My one tip is to pre-wash the fabric – alas I didn’t (these were initially  meant as samples!) and it did shrink quite a bit after washing. The weight is beautiful – just heavy enough, and really soft to wear.

I dolled it up with a tan belt and shoes from Target which I ended up wearing constantly through the summer. Sometimes it’s my “throwaway” purchases that end up being my favourites. Funny how that works.

And here’s my second Turner Dress – which ended up making it onto the cover of the pattern! It’s another Art Gallery knit – the Painting Morale from the Bound collection, available here.

And who’d’ve thunk it, but I found another co-ordinating belt from Target.

I love the Turner Dress because it’s just so easy to wear – and though these were perfect alone for the warmth of Palm Springs, I’m still wearing them layered with tights or leggings and cardigans through the winter. Honestly, most days when I wake up I want to wear a stretchy dress with an elastic waist that still looks good – and the Turner is it!

Have you tried making a Turner Dress yet? What do you think?

January 10, 2017

How to add sleeves to the Harrison Shirtdress

If you want to add sleeves to the Harrison Shirtdress, that’s totally do-able!

Your first thought might be: easy, I’ll just sew the sleeves on from the Harrison Shirt. However, the Harrison Shirtdress is drafted with a sleeveless armscye which means it isn’t quite as simple as that. Sleeveless armscyes are drafted differently to sleeved armscyes, coming up higher under the arm, and narrower in the shoulder. However, if you have a copy of the Harrison Shirt and the Harrison Shirtdress, then you can make this one adjustment and then add sleeves without a problem.

How to adjust the Harrison Shirtdress armscye

To add sleeves to the Harrison Shirtdress, you’ll need a copy of the Harrison Shirt, and the Harrison Shirtdress pieces (either the expansion pack or full pattern).

Alter the front

We’ll be altering pieces 1, 2, and 3. You can see from the image below they’re very similar, but the armscye shape is a bit different (as well as the length).

Add Sleeves to the Harrison Shirtdress

Start with piece 1 (front side). Lay the Shirtdress pattern piece (in black below) on top of the Shirt pattern piece (in red below), lining up the princess seam notches.

Place a piece of tracing paper over the two pieces. Now trace off the armscye of the Shirt piece (in green below), but for the rest, trace the Shirtdress piece. So your final piece is shaped like the long shirtdress piece with the Shirt armscye.

Add Sleeves to the Harrison Shirtdress

Repeat this process with the middle piece

Add Sleeves to the Harrison Shirtdress

And then the center front piece

Add Sleeves to the Harrison Shirtdress

Now you have your new, altered pieces (remember to transfer the notches, too!):

Add Sleeves to the Harrison Shirtdress

Alter the back

Now, we need to go through the same process for the back pieces. First, create the new side back piece:

Then for the yoke, it’s easy: just use the Shirt yoke rather than the Shirtdress yoke! No adjustments needed.

And here are your revised back pieces:

And that’s it! You can now sew up your Shirtdress using the Harrison Shirt sleeve pieces and instructions from the Shirt pattern.

January 9, 2017

Introducing the Cashmerette Harrison Shirtdress!

There’s no doubt that the sewing community loves a good shirtdress, so I’m thrilled to be able to introduce you today to the latest Cashmerette Pattern: the Harrison Shirtdress!

Harrison Shirtdress

Based on our best-selling Harrison Shirt, it combines the double princess seams that you love with a flowy silhouette and no-gape sleeveless armholes.

Want to make a sleeved version? No worries! A simple tutorial will be following tomorrow.

Harrison Shirtdress

Harrison Shirtdress

The Harrison Shirtdress is available in two formats:

  • Expansion Pack ($7). If you already have a copy of the Harrison Shirt, you can buy the expansion pack which has the additional pattern pieces you’ll need to make the Harrison Shirtdress, and brief additional instructions.
  • Full pattern ($14). If you don’t already have a copy of the Harrison Shirt, you can buy the full pattern which has all the pattern pieces you need to make your Shirtdress, and full instructions for making the dress.

Harrison Shirtdress

The Harrison Shirtdress works fabulously in flowy fabrics like rayon, cotton voile or even silk, and has a more structured look if you choose something with a bit more weight like chambray or linen.

The double princess seams combined with the cup sizing from C/D to G/H mean you can get a great fit through the bust, and the additional ease and shaping at the waist and hip mean you can sit down without having to worry about gaping (make sure to measure yourself sitting down to ensure you sew the right size).

Harrison Shirtdress

This pattern is available as a PDF only, which includes files for printing at home, or taking to a copyshop (in US and A0 sizing). As always, it’s available in sizes 12 – 28, and cup sizes from C – H – and with our PDF files you only need to print out the cup size you need.

Harrison Shirtdress

Finally, we also have a kit for you! This beautiful Japan-inspired dark purple/blue rayon has tiny dark and light blue flowers, and has a great drape for the Harrison Shirtdress – and no pattern matching required. The kit comes with fabric, interfacing and 18 co-ordinating buttons, and you can buy it with the expansion pack pattern, or the full pattern. You can buy the kit here.

Harrison Shirtdress kit

Whether you wear it out in the sun, with a cozy cardigan, or add on sleeves, we hope you love your next Shirtdress!

Harrison Shirtdress

January 6, 2017

Join me for a Very Curvy Sewing Celebration!

Do you follow the Curvy Sewing Collective? One fun new thing we have is a community Facebook group where thousands of curvy sewists compare patterns, share their garments and get inspiration. And out of that amazing group, comes a A Very Curvy Sewing Celebration!

The Very Curvy Sewing Celebration is a global virtual get-together where we’re all going to be sharing fancy garments we’ve sewn for the holidays – and there are already some great ones being shared.

And, we’re also doing some in-person get-togethers too. I’m pleased to be hosting a little party together with Mercer’s Fabric in the gorgeous Beacon Hill neighbourhood of Boston on January 14th from 2 – 5pm. So if you’re in the New England area, I would absolutely love to meet you!

January 2, 2017

Bringing in the new year with a Concord Tunic

Happy New Year, funsters! And what better way to kick it off with one of my most-worn garments from late 2015: my Concord T-Shirt Tunic hack.

My steely determination to mostly wear tunics and leggings has already been documented in this space right here, and when I spied this amazing Japanese waffle-knit at Mercer’s Fabric, it had to be mine, and, a Concord tunic.

Cashmerette Concord Tunic

The fabric has a slightly curious texture – it’s soft on the back like french terry but slightly coarse and rough on the right side. It also has minimal stretch, so I knew I’d have to make a few alterations.

Given the lack of stretch, I sized up to the 20, and added a little extra on the side seams, which ultimately I ended up shaving back off once it was constructed.  I lengthened the pattern to a tunic using this method I’ve outlined before, and initially, I also drafted a hem facing. However, terry – and this knit – have an awful tendency to stretch out, and the hem facing was El Disastre! The whole thing flipped out like some crazy 60s hair flick. So that got chopped off, the tunic got a touch shorter, and after interfacing the hem I re-did it by simply turning and stitching.

Cashmerette Concord Tunic

The lack of recovery also means a traditional t-shirt neckband (like the one the Concord T-shirt is drafted with) won’t work, so instead I made a neckline facing. I raised the neckline a little because I wanted a bit more coverage for winter, and then traced a facing from the pattern. To stop it flipping out, and also for a fun touch, I top-stitched it with gold jeans topstitching thread!

Cashmerette Concord Tunic

I used the same thread and topstitching for the sleeve and bottom hem to tie it all together, and I love the final look.

Cashmerette Concord Tunic

So my tunic wardrobe continues to grow! I’ve been wearing this one non-stop since I made it – the only weird thing with the waffle knit is I have to stretch it out when it comes out of the washing machine to stop it shrinking every time. But it’s a small price to pay for a Concord Tunic I love! Have you ever sewn with this type of fabric? Do you have any tips for working with it?

December 30, 2016

Your Cashmerette makes! Holiday Roundup

If there’s one thing that brings a smile to my face, it’s seeing women around the world wearing their Cashmerette Patterns garments – and it’s been doubly fun seeing all your creative and beautiful makes for the holidays!

Cashmerette Patterns

Let’s kick it off with three gorgeous Upton dresses: Tanya in lovely sateen, Pearl used a border print to absolutely wonderful effect, and Sumiko used metallic Cotton+Steel cotton to make a fabulous maxi version.

Cashmerette Patterns

Next up, the Turner Dresses. Andie whipped hers up in an hour (!!!!) for Xmas lunch, adapting it by using a scoop neckline and neckband (want to alter your Turner neckline? Here’s a tutorial). Laura used a stretch burgundy velvet to make a super festive dress, and Kenna hacked hers to make a cross-over bodice.

Cashmerette Patterns

Hannah made not one, not two, but three Cashmerette dresses for the holidays! Here’s her burgundy Turner Dress. Laura made a beautiful purple Upton dress, which goes fantastically with her cardi. And Margo made this novelty Christmas Harrison Shirt to entertain her grandkids – and reports back that it did!

Cashmerette PatternsHere’s another one of Hannah’s lovely makes – it’s an Appleton Dress, and it’s actually her first ever hand-made dress, if you can believe it! Mary Alice wore her maxified Appleton and is looking gorgeous as always. And Katie made a really creative Concord T-shirt hack for a totally different look – so clever!


And finally, I wore Cashmerette too. My black polka dot Turner Dress, which is probably my favourite thing I made all year. We still also have a handful of kits left, if you’re interested in making your own.

Happy holidays from Cashmerette Towers! Did you wear Cashmerette for the holidays? I’d love to see what you made.


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