April 24, 2017

Curvy Confidence Interviews: Jennifer W

I’m so excited to have Jennifer here today for our Curvy Confidence Interviews. Jennifer became a great “internet friend” through her hilarious reviews for the Curvy Sewing Collective, but even better, became an “in real life” friend too! I was fascinated to hear her story – so much resonates with me, and I’m sure with many of you, too.

Make sure you follow along with her amazing makes on Instagram @weboughtamanor and on the Curvy Sewing Collective (here and here, for example.)

​Let’s start at the beginning! What was your body image like as a child and teenager? 

Three memories from my childhood clearly stand out:

  • One of my earliest memories is telling my dad that I felt fat. I was nine.

Figure 1: My school photos between 3rd and 4th grade. Obviously, I should not have been concerned about my weight.

  • The first week in high school (9th grade), I joined the tennis team. In the locker room they opened the box of tennis uniforms (for competition days) and the biggest was a size 10. I felt such dread and panic at the possibility that I wouldn’t fit into that skirt (I was most comfortable at a size 12) and that everyone would know I was too fat to be on the team. I squeezed into that size 10, even though I had to leave the top button undone — it never occurred to me that asking them to order a size bigger was an option, or that not fitting into a size 10 shouldn’t be a source of shame.
  • In 11th grade, that same tennis coach didn’t recognize me — he thought I was a new member of the team. When I laughed and pointed out that I had been on the team the previous two years, he made a HUGE deal in front of the rest of the team about how I looked so different and it was because I had lost a bunch of weight and looked so “in shape.” I hadn’t lost any weight, but it might had shifted around a bit — and I still needed that size 12 skirt. I remember being puzzled that someone that I saw on a daily basis for months each year wouldn’t recognize me because of a little change in my body.

Figure 2: School photos from 10th to 11th grade. Would YOU recognize me as the same person? Of course you would.

Throughout middle school and high school I consistently felt chubby, although I look back at photos and was absolutely not fat — not even “plus size.” I hit puberty almost overnight and was wearing a C-cup bra with stretch marks on my hips ​by the time I was 15 years old. I think being curvy contributed to a sense of unease about my body’s role in my life. Even though I played sports year-round (tennis, indoor track, and outdoor track), had a great group of friends and steady boyfriends, I was always cognizant of my weight and being “bigger” than my peers.

Figure 3: That’s me, front and center — and certainly not looking any bigger than the average kid on the track team.

In my senior year of high school, I experienced a round of clinical depression and lost 30 pounds and got down to a size 6. Even thought I was in the “dark days” of hopelessness, I felt a sense of triumph that I was finally skinny. Over the next five years, I gradually bounced back to a size 14/16 and now, approaching age 40, I currently wear a 20/22/24. I’ll admit that I’ve seriously questioned whether it would be worth being seriously depressed if I could lose weight like that again. Hint: it’s not worth it, no matter what your brain tells you.

Who or what most influenced your perception of what women’s bodies are “meant” to look like? 

​Learning to sew for myself has been a game changer, as has finding the Curvy Sewing Collective. I realized this summer that it had really normalized my view of “average” women’s bodies when I opened up Pinterest and scrolled through “women’s fashion” and was fascinated/appalled at the prevalence of the “super fit, super curvy-with-big-boobs-a-tiny-waist-and-skeletal arms, excessively thigh-gapped, and disproportionately bobble-headed” models that cropped up everywhere. It was the first time that I had looked at those kind of images and immediately thought “holy smokes that doesn’t even look real!” rather than “I wish my body looked like that”.

Figure 4: On the left, I am 24 years old and will shortly be told on a blind date that, while I’m really nice, I’m a bit “bigger” than women he’s attracted to. On the right: 60 pounds heavier (and 14 years older) and feeling like a sex goddess.

Figure 5: Skydiving, kayaking in Sweden, and climbing a mountain in Turkey — three amazing adventures in my 20s. II was exquisitely aware of my weight during each adventure. It never stopped me from doing things, but man I thought about it a lot.

 What is the culture like regarding body size where you live? 

​I know from demographics that I am among the heaviest 1% of the US population when it comes to my height/weight ratio. ​Looking around my community, I don’t feel particularly out of place. On my recent trips to San Diego, Bangkok, Japan, and Sweden, however, it became VERY obvious that the vast majority of world populations are skinnier than Americans. I don’t like feeling like the “fat American” but what are you going to do?

Figure 6: Preparing to be the fattest person in Paris, in a trip this past summer with my family. Look at me, hiding my angst.

Figure 7: Just kidding! While I was definitely the “curviest” person on the tour and on the streets, it didn’t impact my happiness one bit!

 Tell us about your journey to body positivity: did you have a “eureka!” moment that changed your self-perception, or was a it a more gradual process? 

​Are we ever really there? I think it’s an ongoing process that is two steps forward, one step back. Or sometimes, sixteen steps back. I struggled with infertility in my early 30s — I was otherwise healthy but according to my OBGYN could “stand to lose 20-30 pounds.” Dealing with all of the emotions and pressures and shame that comes with infertility and then to add a weight component — well, it was very hard. And after all of it, I gained 30 pounds as a result of the fertility treatments, hormone supplements, and emotional eating that came with the journey. That’s where I am right now — six years later, at my heaviest weight ever, and in general, I’m the least concerned today about my weight as an abstract thing.

I made a conscious decision after the infertility debacle to stop dieting and to stop looking at my weight as a thing to be “managed.” Dieting and weighing myself daily brought me no joy, it didn’t work long-term, and it always veered to obsessiveness. (Side note: how awful is an obsession that doesn’t work!?) Since then, it’s been so much easier.

Looking back, it was the decade or so where I hovered right between straight sizes and plus sizes that was the toughest – I was always worried about tipping over into “officially fat.” Oddly, there was something immensely freeing about just admitting that there was no question – plus size it is.

Figure 8: The day we adopted our kids. I’m wearing one of the first me-made tops I ever attempted. I look at this photo and feel SO happy — extra weight and all.

What role has sewing played in your self-image? 

​Ironically (or not, perhaps), having a closet full of handmade clothing has made me NOT want to lose weight. If I woke up tomorrow 50 pounds thinner, I would be sad that none of my beloved clothes would fit anymore. I’m sure I’d get over it (and what a wonderful excuse to buy more fabric!) but it’s an amazing accomplishment (to me) to actually *want* to have the same body tomorrow morning as the one I went to sleep with.​

Sewing has also changed my relationship with my body into something that is more objective. Sewing makes you really KNOW your body – not just the feel of it, but its actual dimensions and angles. Looking at my body, I now see an amazing array of geometry and proportions that are fascinating – not good, or bad – but absolutely unique to me.

Figure 9: Some of my favorite recent makes.

What do you say to people who criticize curvy women for being unhealthy? 

​I try not to engage the trolls on the internet, and I haven’t had anyone say negative things to my face or within earshot in years. My “force of personality” (e.g. I am a strong, Type A, speak with confidence person) ​probably helps keep people in check and I’d like to think that I could handle it with grace. Or at least, shut them down and leave them quivering with embarrassment.

What do you find are the biggest challenges to your body confidence today? How do you overcome them? 

​On a daily basis, I don’t feel particularly fat — if anything, the biggest “body” feel that I have right now is about getting older — I’m starting to see wrinkles and sagging skin. So that’s another journey of self-acceptance. ​

How do you think issues around body positivity affect women’s broader role in society? 

​I travel a LOT for work as a consultant and engage in lots of high-profile meetings with senior executives of large companies, and I will tell you that while there may be a lot of fat people in the world, few of them are at the upper echelons of the business hierarchy. I’m virtually always the biggest person on the airplane (especially in business class), and there are many times when it is clear that I am not a typical body type around the Board Room table. Over the last year or two, when I do think about my body critically, it’s been in conjunction with my career — recognizing that I would fit in better with most “senior leadership” if I dropped 50 pounds. That’s a tough one I’m wrestling with now at a conceptual level.

What advice would you have for other women who would like to find a peace with their body and self-image, but are struggling? 

​I hate the strain of body positivity that says “your weight doesn’t matter as long as you’re healthy.” Screw that. You are worthy of dignity and respect and empathy and kindness NO MATTER WHAT. Even if you are horribly unhealthy (or just enjoy a weekly trip to McDonalds), that doesn’t remove your inherent worth as an individual and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t ever let people tie your weight to your health as a way to manipulate you.

Instead, focus on what you’d like your body to DO FOR YOU. I realized this year that I had lost upper body strength as a result of my daughter getting too big to carry. So I recently started doing informal Crossfit sessions with my neighbor a couple of times a week — and we were both surprised to find out how strong I was right out of the gate. (Apparently, carrying around extra pounds is great for building muscles!) And after running across the entire Charlotte airport (about a mile) to catch a connecting flight, I realized I need to up my aerobic fitness — so I now try to push myself at least twice a week to “walk like I’m about to miss my flight home.”

Figure 10: I recently treated myself to three new handmade workout outfits. Fingers crossed that they fit six months from now!

Over the Christmas break I saw this amazing video of a curvy pole dancer — I don’t have access to pole dancing classes (I’m in one of the most conservative/religious parts of America so unless it’s “Pole Dancing for Jesus” I’m out of luck), but this is another thing I’d love for my body to do — not my “skinny” body — just my body as-is. And that is an incredibly freeing feeling.

April 17, 2017

Pocket time! Add pockets to the Cashmerette Turner Dress

We sewists have many advantages over poor Ready-to-Wear buying ladies, and surely one of the mightiest is: the pocket!

Yep, pockets are scarce in women’s clothes in stores; I do not know why (a handbag industry conspiracy?!). But, you can add them into almost any garment when you sew.

Turner Dress with pockets

So it was only natural to add one into my fave Turner Dress. Perfect for storing my phone while strolling around LACMA….

Turner Dress with pockets

I love this geometric windowpane Turner Dress that I made with ponte from Fabric Godmother. It’s gorgeous and thick and cosy, though watch out: it’s also really melty, so you need to use a very cool iron. That may or may not be a melted bit under my right boob…

And now, dear ones, you can have a Turner Dress with pockets too.

Turner Dress with pockets

To get the free Turner Dress pocket and tutorial on how to sew it, simply sign up to my newsletter below, and you’ll get the free downloadable PDF tutorial in an instant!

Already a newsletter subscriber? No problem, just re-enter your info, and you’ll get the download but we’ll make sure you only get the newsletter once.

Here is how the free download works

  1. Put your email address in the box above (it needs to be this box, not the general newsletter subscription one).
  2. You will be sent an email asking you to confirm you want to be subscribed: click the grey “yes” button.
  3. You will be sent a second email which has a link to download – the subject line of the email is “Cashmerette Turner Dress Pocket: Subscription Confirmed”.  Don’t see the email? Check your junk folder, and make sure you clicked on the confirmation email.

April 15, 2017

Reminder: last few days to get 15% off “Pattern Hacking for Curves”!

If you’ve always dreamed of being your own pattern designer, then make sure you don’t miss the chance to get 15% off our new online workshop “Pattern Hacking for Curves: 1 Top, 10 Ways” – there are just two days left to our launch promotion.

Get 15% off with code “1TOP10WAYS” until midnight April 16th – click here and the code will automatically be applied.

Here’s what our students are already saying:

“This is dynamite information… take advantage of this if you can. This could be your sloper from which you can make anything your heart desires!” 

“Amazing value!” 

I can’t wait to see what you all make!

April 13, 2017

A Lemony Turner in Havana

I’d be warned before, and never quite believed it. But it’s true: when you make your hobby into your job, something… shifts. Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE sewing! And I do it all the time. But it’s not longer my “ahhhhh now I can turn off my brain from work” activity, because whether I’m making one of my own patterns or someone else’s I’m always full of thoughts about what to do for you guys next! And while it’s still very much fun, it’s also different.

So, I decided last year that I needed to aggressively try out new creative hobbies to find something else that would get me into “non-work” flow mind-mode. The one that’s stuck? Watercolour painting. And that’s how I recently found myself in Havana.

Cashmerette Turner Dress

I’ve been part of a watercolour class in Harvard Square for a while, and the instructor, Laura Quincy Jones, now lives part of the year in Havana. When she suggested a sketching and painting holiday, I jumped at the opportunity – Cuba’s been on my list for a while (as a Brit it’s always been accessible, although even Americans can now pretty much go without restrictions, in practice) and I’ve also fancied an art holiday for a while. (By the way, if you’re interested in painting in Havana, Laura’s organizing regular trips – you can learn about them here).

Cashmerette Turner Dress

When I wasn’t posing in front of adorably colour-blocked walls in my new lemony Turner Dress, I was sketching and painting my heart out. Havana is an artist’s paradise: full of bright pastel colours, crumbling facades and beautiful people.

Cashmerette Turner Dress

What to say about this Turner? Not much – it’s sewn straight from the packet, using a lovely lemon print from Art Gallery Fabrics that’s been popping up on tons of sewing blogs lately. It’s not surprising: it’s suuuuper soft, opaque and lots of fun.

Cashmerette Turner Dress

The weather was pleasantly warm while we were there, which made for fantastic painting and expedition weather. One day we went out to the rural area of Vinales, where we had an amazing lunch at an organic eco-farm and drew the distinctive hills:

But I was most entranced by the old city of Havana. There’s so much to see, from astounding graffiti, to beautiful architecture and the ever-present 1950s cars (they truly are everywhere):

Do you have a secondary artistic hobby to sewing, or is sewing your main squeeze? I had so much fun immersing myself in watercolours for a week – I may not be super good at painting, but I enjoy it so much and I felt like my brain calmed down for the first time in months. Let me know if you have any questions about Havana!

April 10, 2017

Introducing Pattern Hacking For Curves (and, Springfield Top now in print!)

When I first learned to sew, I sometimes dismissed patterns for reasons like the hem length or neckline shape. As I learned more, I realized how foolish this was: the joy of sewing is that you can adapt any pattern to be whatever you want! In fact, that’s exactly how pattern designers work: they develop a great fitting base pattern, and then adapt it over and over again to make lots of different styles. The new Cashmerette online workshop, “Pattern Hacking for Curves: 1 Top, 10 Ways” will teach you how to take your well-fitting Springfield Top and turn it into ten different garments – and you can apply the techniques to any pattern, in any combination, which means the potential is endless!

Pattern Hacking For Curves

Pattern Hacking For Curves

Register now for 15% off – and extra bonuses

Register for Pattern Hacking for Curves now using code “1TOP10WAYS” and you’ll get 15% off (valid until 11.59pm EST April 16th) – and you’ll get extra bonuses including:

  • 30% off the Springfield Top pattern (PDF or print) – or any other Cashmerette Pattern, if you already have the Springfield.
  • A free downloadable cap sleeve pattern piece for the Springfield (which also works for the Upton Dress!).

Pattern Hacking For Curves

New Springfield Top printed pattern & new kits

Together with the launch of our new course, we also have two new things for you: the Springfield Top is now available as a printed pattern (no more taping!), and we have three new fabulous Springfield kits. All the kits are available with the printed pattern, with the PDF pattern, or as the fabric alone (perfect if you buy the course with the pattern discount).

Clockwise from top left we have: an amazingly drapey black and white rayon challis, a beautifully soft burgundy silk crepe de chine, a pink floral rayon challis, a grey and pink rose rayon challis,a fun blue and orange floral crepe, and last but not least a gorgeous arrow-print turquoise Pendleton silk.

Learn more about Pattern Hacking For Curves

If you dream of taking a well-fitting pattern and using it to create other garments you know will fit you – then this course is for you! Whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced sewist, this online class is full of techniques that will massively expand the potential of the patterns you already know, and grow your skill set.

In the course, I start with the Cashmerette Springfield Top, and take you step-by-step through how to draft and sew 10 new garments:

  • A swing knit tank
  • A ruffle-hemmed top
  • A princess-seamed top
  • A button-back or button-front blouse
  • A top with cap or tulip sleeves  – the course includes an exclusive sleeve pattern piece for the Springfield
  • A V-neck top with an all-in-one-facing which covers the neckline and armholes
  • A cross-over back top
  • A trapeze dress
  • A back keyhole top with a neckline facing
  • A top with a collar

Pattern Hacking For Curves

The techniques I teach can be applied to any sewing pattern, and include:

  • How to draft flat pattern alterations
  • Drafting a button placket
  • Creating a keyhole opening with tie
  • Drafting and sewing a neckline facing and an all-in-one facing
  • Converting darts into princess seams
  • Creating and sewing a collar of any shape
  • Adding a hem ruffle to any top
  • Adding cap sleeves to a sleeveless garment
  • Transforming a top into a swing dress
  • Converting a woven pattern into a knit

Once you’ve mastered these techniques, you can use any combination to “mix and match” and create totally new garments- how about a V-neck top with sleeves and a ruffle? Easy! Or a trapeze dress with a keyhole back and facing? No problem. Or a collared top with princess seams… done!

Pattern Hacking For Curves

Like our other Cashmerette workshops, Shirtmaking for Curves and Fitting for Curves, Pattern Hacking for Curves is an online workshop where I teach you in the comfort of your own home, at your own pace, any time. The course videos can be paused, rewinded or replayed at any time, and they never expire. There’s also the opportunity to ask me questions on each lesson, and get personalized feedback. It’s like having me with you at your sewing machine!

Pattern Hacking For Curves

I hope you enjoy the class! I’m excited about the wardrobe full of samples that I made… and I can’t wait to see what you make. What combination of features would be your dream top or dress?

April 3, 2017

How to transform the Upton Dress into an Upton Skirt

Hey, chaps and chapesses!

For my recent trip to LA, I decided I needed to whip up a skirt with some amazing burnt orange and purple “painted” Liberty lawn I got at the mysterious cheap Liberty shop. I’m not much one for a ditzy print, but these chunky tulips called my name from the back of the basement.

I contemplated the skirt patterns in my stash but none really appealed and then I realised I should take a different approach: hack the Cashmerette Upton Dress into a skirt! And here it is, a hack of Upton Dress view A, the pleated skirt:

Upton Skirt Hack

Pretty fabulous, non? I paired it with a chambray Harrison Shirt, knotted at the waist like the carefree LA chick I am (ahem).

Upton Skirt Hack

This was a super easy hack, and very quick to whip up. I’m planning another pleated beauty with some amazing Suno burn-out silk I got on Emma One Sock, and also a version using View B, to make a gored skirt.

Once you have your copy of the Cashmerette Upton Dress, making an Upton Skirt is pretty easy.

Before you start, consider the size: the Upton Dress has a high waistband, which sits on the lower ribcage (your high waist). If you want your skirt to hit there too, make your regular size. However, if you want it to hit at a more traditional waist height, you need to consider whether your waist is bigger than your high waist. Mine is, by about 2 inches (the narrowest bit of me is just below my bust, and then I get progressively bigger towards my hips), so I sized up from my usual 18 to a 20.

Upton Skirt Hack

To get step-by-step illustrated instructions, simply sign up to my newsletter below, and you’ll get the free downloadable PDF tutorial in an instant! (Note, you need to already have the Upton Dress pattern, no pattern pieces are included).

Already a newsletter subscriber? No problem, just re-enter your info, and you’ll get the download but we’ll make sure you only get the newsletter once.

Here is how the free download works

  1. Put your email address in the box above (it needs to be this box, not the general newsletter subscription one).
  2. You will be sent an email asking you to confirm you want to be subscribed: click the grey “yes” button.
  3. You will be sent a second email which has a link to download – the subject line of the email is “Cashmerette Upton Skirt Tutorial: Subscription Confirmed”.  Don’t see the email? Check your junk folder, and make sure you clicked on the confirmation email.

March 31, 2017

Dartmouth Sewalong Day 4: Side Seams and Hems

Today is the last day of the Dartmouth Top sewalong, and we’re almost done! We’ll start by sewing the side seams.

Pin the shirt together at the side seams, right sides together with the fronts on top to minimize any chance of missing a layer. Match the underarms and the notches.

Sew the side seam and sleeve seam in one go, starting at the hip, pivoting at the underarm, and ending at the end of the sleeve.

Press the seam allowance towards the back of the shirt and repeat with the second side.

The last step is to hem the shirt and the sleeves! Start by basting the two fronts together at the bottom edge. This is optional but makes hemming SO much easier, so I highly recommend it!

Next, press the bottom hem up by 1” and topstitch.

Repeat with both sleeves, hemming by 1”.

Give all the hems a good press and you’re done! We can’t wait to see what you’ve made. Share yours on social media using #DartmouthTop!


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