February 23, 2017

Sprouts are good for you! Sprout Patterns Turner Dress

One of the things I like most about sewing is the creative potential. If you can think of it, you can make it! Compare that to Ready to Wear clothing… ugh. I remember a particularly enlightening trip home to Scotland where I tried to find a black wrap top in a size 18. NOPE. Sewing has saved me/spoiled me.

However. There is one teensy issue, sometimes: finding your dream fabric. It’s all fair and well to have an amazing idea in your head, but sometimes you just can’t find the fabric. Or, it’s only available for an astronomical price. Or, they’ve run out of stock. When I started sewing (and especially before I discovered my fabric godmother, EmmaOneSock) I used to get SO FRUSTRATED at the lack of good fabric – and especially high quality printed jersey for my beloved wrap dresses.

That’s why Spoonflower and Sprout Patterns are basically genius. Can’t find the fabric you want? Then make it yourself, woman!

If you’re not familiar with Spoonflower, it’s a print-on-demand fabric company – and it also prints wallpaper and gift wrap. They print on a variety of fabrics, including – HUZZAH! – knits. Their quality in terms of dye fastness and brightness has improved over time, although their modern jersey still remains my #1 pick. That’s because it has all the poly benefits of strong colour, no-fade, and amazing resilience to being washed, without the nasty, cold poly feel. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but it really feels just like cotton.

Sprout Patterns Turner Dress

Sprout Patterns is a new wing of Spoonflower which also prints your *pattern pieces* directly onto the fabric. Read more how it works here. It’s a fantastic idea if you fit into a “straight” size of a pattern – and with Cashmerette Patterns having 3 cup sizes for each base size, your chance is much higher than with other brands. If you have to make major adjustments however, it likely won’t work for you for now (hopefully at some point they figure out how to make that happen).

Lucky me, I can fit into a straight Cashmerette size (20 G/H at the moment, sometimes the 18; I do need to take the sleeves in on this version a little), so when Sprout started listing the Cashmerette Turner Dress too, I couldn’t resist making my own. I found this beautiful large-scale abstract watercolour print in the Spoonflower shop (yep, you don’t have to be an artist – pick someone else’s design), and played around with the 3D model to get the pattern placement just so.

Sprout Patterns Turner Dress

I went with the modern jersey option, and as usual it’s gorgeous to feel and wear. Maybe I won’t wear it in the middle of summer, but 10 months of the year in Boston it’s definitely do-able!

Sprout Patterns Turner Dress

And then, we discovered this blue wall out the back of our AirBnB in LA, and it was kismet.

So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to get back to a-swirling.

Have you tried Spoonflower or Cashmerette Patterns on Sprout yet? What do you think? If you want to try them, you can get 20% off (until 11.59pm EST 2/26) using code CASHMERETTELOVE at checkout. If you know curvy folks who’d like to design their own dress but can’t sew, you should also get them to check out the White Glove Service – for a surprisingly small amount of money, they can have their Turner sewn up for them!

February 20, 2017

Curvy Confidence Interviews: Mary Alice of Well Sewn Style

Today, I’m super excited to bring you the fabulous Mary Alice from Well Sewn Style. Love her style, her story, and her passion and I hope you will too!

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

I think as a child and teen my body image was relatively positive, although I did have a few insecurities.  I was already 5’10’ at 14 years old, significantly taller than nearly all my classmates (I grew another two inches in high school.) As soon as I hit puberty, I developed round hips and thighs but had a terribly flat chest when all I wanted was big boobs!  As a teen I became super self-conscious of my fair skin and actually used tanning beds and wore WAY too much bronzer. Despite these insecurities though, I was actually pretty self-confident as a kid and I think I can attribute that to my supportive, quasi-feminist mom and to being an athlete. 

As a kid my mom didn’t let my sisters and I play with Barbies as she didn’t like the image of women they portrayed. My mom was fanatical about my posture, always encouraging me to stand up straight even though I was so self-conscious of my height. As an athlete my thick thighs, hips, and long legs made me powerful and strong on the basketball court and eventually landed me a full-ride to college on an athletic scholarship.

I’ll say that whatever fleeting insecurities I had about my body were just that, fleeting. My friends were athletic and strong so I had people to identify with. Was I still the tallest person in my class, and did I always get paired up with the tallest guy, totally. But I think I faired relatively well in the self-confidence department. 

It wasn’t until I got older and my body changed after the birth of my daughter that I started having some pretty harsh insecurities about my own body.  My body was suddenly squisher, rounder, softer and I could no longer fit into straight sized clothes. As someone who had loved fashion and getting dressed this was an enormous adjustment and my self-confidence took a nosedive. 

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

All the women in my immediate family are curvaceous. So I’ve always been surrounded by plus-size bodies. As a kid I don’t recall my sisters and mom putting down their own bodies very much, but I also didn’t see them complimenting themselves very much. I think as a kid I always thought women’s bodies were “meant” to have curves including hips and breasts, but I didn’t know anyone who celebrated their body.

When I got to college I was pretty isolated in that my friends were basketball and volleyball players. So nearly all of us were tall with strong hips and thighs. I knew I was very tall compared to other women, but generally I was surrounded by tall women so it didn’t phase me. After college I attended graduate school in the Philadelphia area. No longer having a team to identify with, my height became super-apparent. Perfect strangers would stop be on the street and comment on my body. Men in bars were just awful. I won’t even put in to print some of the things men have said to me at the bar, it’s just hideous. I moved abroad to southern Spain in 2009. My insecurities around my height were magnified as on average Spanish women are shorter than American women. It was SUPER obvious that I was an outsider, which made assimilating to the culture and learning the language really challenging.

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? 

I think as a teenager and 20-something I was pretty pleased with my body, granted it wasn’t perfect but it looked good in clothes and was strong. I vividly remember getting pregnant with my daughter and googling “how to get your body back after baby” for HOURS. I was about to bring a life into the world and was obsessing over how I would erase the evidence that I ever carried her in the first place. After my daughter was born, despite 18 months of breastfeeding  I hadn’t lost the “baby weight.” I remember one night laying in bed before an important meeting and feeling ready to throw in the towel. I told myself that I would just wear boring clothes for a while until I lost weight, because I couldn’t find anything stylish that would fit my tall, curvy frame. I allowed myself to really feel bad for awhile, which is a shame and I wished I had acted sooner. 

It dawned on me that perhaps I could actually make my own clothes. I’d always known how to sew but I’d never applied it to making garments. After many hours of Googling and Pinteresting I found the Curvy Sewing Collective and realized there are a whole bunch of women all embracing their bodies and sewing their own clothes. I got back into Instagram and found a whole host of plus size models, curvy fashionistas, body positive bloggers, really a whole movement dedicated to women loving their bodies just as they are. This was the eureka moment for me. That I didn’t have to change my body back to the way it was to regain my happiness and self-confidence. I needed to accept my body exactly where it was in that moment and make the decision that I would love myself regardless of my dress size. 

What role has sewing played in your self-image? 

I can’t stress enough how big a role sewing has played in my self-image. I feel more confident, more creative, and more at peace everyday I sew (and I do make a point to sew at least a little bit everyday!). Sewing is a game changer, you go from making your body fit the clothes to making the clothes fit your body. Sewing my own clothes is this super-powerful combination of body-positivity, intellect and creativity, I just love it!  

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

My biggest challenge is staying positive and resisting the urge to compare myself to others. Sometimes I fear I am living in a fantasy land and that I should lose weight. Sometimes I wonder if my husband wishes I was thinner. Sometimes I can feel more body-meh then body-yay, if you know what I mean. 

I overcome these thoughts by 1. Sewing (better than therapy!) and 2. Reminding myself of how freaking awesome my body is. Through basketball, it paid for 4 years at a great college. It brought my beautiful daughter into the world. It gets me where I need to go each day. And it looks killer in a wrap dress if I do say myself. Being body-positive and having body confidence isn’t a final destination nor is it a linear process. It’s more a back and forth dance hopefully inching closer to the positive side. And I can confidentally say I spend 100% more time on the positive side than I do on the negative side. 

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

I look at the role of body-positivity as a two-way street. On the one side is women who are activity seeking to embrace a more body-positive self-image. Each day they’re putting in the work, trying to view themselves more positively, loving themselves for exactly who they are in that moment. On the other side is society including our partners, friends, family, coworkers, employers, strangers, etc. So while we’re over here working our hardest to feel good there’s a whole mess of people on the other side who are completely unaware of the struggle or who are actively fighting against us forcing plus size women (who represent 67% of the American population) to the fringe. They don’t notice or care when only straight-sized women are cast as leading roles in movies while plus-size women play the supporting role or the slapstick comedian. They don’t recognize their bias when they pass over the plus-size woman in hiring decisions and instead go for her slightly less-qualified yet thinner counterpart. They offer no support when you complain about the lack of quality clothing in your size and instead mumble ‘what about Lane Bryant’ (not throwing shade but I want more than one option, ya know?)  Being body-positive is an incredibly powerful tool in helping women attain a more equitable role in society but it doesn’t stop at the way we view ourselves. We have to constantly help others recongize their bias and their impact so that together we can demand more inclusivity. 

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

Say nice things about your body everyday. Look at yourself in the mirror naked, appreciate it!

While you’re working on the inside to feel better about your self-confidence it doesn’t hurt to do something nice for yourself on the outside. Make a new dress or buy something that makes you feel pretty. Take it to a tailor or alter it yourself to make it fit perfect! Buy a new lipstick. Give yourself a facial. Take a mental health day and relax. 

Take as much control as you can over the media you’re consuming including social media, websites, magazines, tv, etc. If you’re on Instagram make a point to follow only body-positive people who promote inclusivity and self-love. I follow tons of plus-size models, style bloggers and yogis. Some of the people I’m currently following on instagram who are spreading positive vibes include @mynameisjessamyn, @anastasiaamour, @bodyposipanda, @denisebidot, and @straightcurvefilm. Surround yourself with women who say nice things about their own bodies and if you don’t have those people in your life, go out and make a new friend! Or find some on the internet. Discourage others from putting down their own bodies. And above all else, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. This is seriously dangerous stuff. You are the only you and you better get to liking yourself because you’re all you’ve got! 

And lastly recognize that this is a process, and it’s not always linear and you’re going to have good days and bad days. People are going to say dumb shit. They’re going to want you to lose weight, or hate yourself, or conform– don’t listen. And don’t let it tear you up inside. Be firm in your decision, that you’ve decided to love yourself today and there’s no going back. 

February 16, 2017

Announcing the Cashmerette Curvy Sewing Retreat

I’m thrilled to announce the first ever Cashmerette Curvy Sewing Retreat, on 28  – 30 April 2017!

Cashmerette Curvy Sewing Retreat

Join me and a small group of curvy sewists for an incredibly fun and uplifting sewing weekend in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The focus of the weekend will be on fitting sewing patterns to your figure – making sewing patterns look amazing on curves is my specialty! Pick any Cashmerette Pattern to make – you’ll get a free pattern included in the retreat price – and I’ll help you make your garment with construction tips and fitting advice. In my experience, being surrounded by other curvy sewists is absolutely wonderful for the soul, and I have no doubt this retreat will be the same.

For the next 3 days you can sign up for the early bird special price of $595 (regular price $695), which includes two full days of the workshop, a Cashmerette Pattern, a cocktail reception, two lunches, one dinner, one breakfast, a gift bag, and and some special surprises over the weekend.

There are a very limited number of places available, so reserve your spot now!

Want to know more? Here are the details:

Learn in a beautiful studio space with top-of-the-range sewing machines

We’ll be hosted by the awesome fabric and sewing store Gather Here, located in the artistic and quirky neighborhood of Inman Square, Cambridge. Inman Square is home to many fantastic cafes, restaurants, boutiques and ice cream shops so there’s plenty to see if you want a break!

Image: Source

Gather Here is a pillar of the greater Boston sewing community, and it has a huge and well equipped studio space that we’ll have all to ourselves.

Highlights include:

  • The use of Bernina sewing machines for each participant, as well as several sergers. Want to bring your own sewing machine? That’s also fine, just let us know in advance.
  • All sewing tools provided – just bring thread, fabric, tracing paper, your pattern, and any personal sewing tools you love.
  • Break-out areas including comfy sofas when you need to take a break and great place for us to have lunch together.
  • The opportunity to shop Gather Here’s amazing selection of fabric (and yarn!), with a special gift included for attendees.

The workshop part of the retreat will run from 10am – 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, with a one hour break for lunch each day (more on that below!). In between providing one-on-one advice, I’ll be doing demonstrations of fitting techniques – and I’m also happy to take requests for demos for any fitting aspect on Cashmerette Patterns. We’ll also have my assistant Carrie McGowan on hand the whole weekend, and she’ll provide construction advice as well as help with any requests you have on the day.

Spend quality time with other sewists just like you

Meeting fellow sewing-lovers is one of my favorite parts of retreats, and we’ve set up lots of opportunities to spend quality time together. The following activities are included in the price of the Cashmerette Curvy Sewing Retreat:

  • Welcome cocktail reception on Friday night at Mercer’s Fabric in the historic Beacon Hill area of Boston (about 20 minutes from Inman Square). Sip on a cocktail, pick up some amazing fabrics with a discount, and meet your fellow attendees.
  • Catered lunch every day from our favorite café near Cashmerette HQ.
  • Three-course group dinner on Saturday night at an award-winning local restaurant (which caters to all food preferences).
  • See behind the scenes: coffee & donuts breakfast on Sunday morning at the Cashmerette Studio (a 10 minute walk from our workspace at Gather Here).

Students at a previous Cashmerette workshop in their gorgeous Appleton Dresses!

All the social activities are optional, but we encourage you to join the group!

Choose accommodation that suits you best

Whether you live locally, want to stay at a B&B, AirBnB, or a ritzy hotel, we’ve got you covered. We can recommend local places to stay near Inman Square, in downtown Boston, or famous Harvard Square (yes, you can totally park your car in Harvard Yard ;D). Once you sign up, we’ll send you a list, and can help you with questions you may have.

Traveling to attend? Our retreat location is just 20 minutes drive from Boston Logan International Airport and the Boston Back Bay Amtrak station.

Is the retreat suitable for me?

The Cashmerette Curvy Sewing Retreat is aimed at curvy sewists who are beginner, advanced beginner or intermediate level.

  • You should already know how to use a sewing machine, sew a straight line and use a zig zag stitch. Only made cushions or bags but no garments before? Never sewn with knits? Trying a new type of garment for the first time? That’s fine!
  • You should fit into the sizing range of Cashmerette Patterns: size 12 – 28, cup sizes C – H (see the sizing chart here). If you’re between sizes, that’s no problem – I’ll show you how to merge between sizes. However, I won’t be able to grade the pattern up beyond a 28 or down below a 12 in this workshop.
  • Not sure if it’s for you? Email us a and we can advise you personally.

I’m in! Where can I get more details and sign up?  

Head over to our Cashmerette Curvy Sewing Retreat listing page, and you can get all the juicy details and reserve your place.

Do you have any other questions about the retreat? I’m looking forward to meeting some of you soon!

February 13, 2017

Introducing the “Fitting for Curves” online workshop

Learning to sew when you’re curvy is a revelation – suddenly, you’ve got unlimited options rather than a rack of polyester cold-shoulder tops. But, it can be frustrating when you don’t fit into a “straight” size out of the packet (almost no-one does!), and the prospect of learning to adjust patterns can be daunting. That’s why I developed a new workshop, Fitting for Curves: Pattern Adjustments for the Upper Body, which de-mystifies fitting once and for all. And if you enroll now using code FITTING15, you can get 15% off the price (valid until 11.59pm EST Feb 18th).

Fitting for Curves

Learn to fit with videos + an eBook

Fitting for Curves is an online workshop which consists of two elements to help you master the techniques, whatever your learning style:

  • 21 clear and easy to follow videos which cover the basics of how to measure yourself, pick a pattern size to start from, and make a muslin, and then dive into sixteen common pattern adjustments to address fitting the bust, neck, shoulders, back and arms, including multiple types of Full Bust Adjustment.
  • A downloadable 45 page eBook accompanies the videos, giving step-by-step illustrated instructions which you can use to follow along and refer to at any time. You can view the eBook on your computer, tablet or phone, or print it out if you’d like a hard copy to keep by your sewing machine.

By the end of the course, you’ll feel confident in diagnosing fit issues in the upper body, and know how to fix them, so you can make garments that fit really well.

The online format means you can learn from the comfort of home, without having to block out time in your schedule or travel to a class. You can also go at your own pace, and because the videos are available to you forever, so you can refer back to them whenever you need to, as you tackle new patterns or sew for other people. There’s also a place to ask questions and get personalized feedback.

Watch the trailer

What you’ll learn in the workshop

You’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of plus size fitting, including:

  • How to measure yourself to make sure your garment will fit
  • How to choose a pattern size to start from
  • How to make a muslin
  • Multiple types of Full Bust Adjustment, including FBA on a 1 dart bodice, 2 dart bodice, princess seam, knit bodice, and dartless bodice. 
  • How to get a smooth bust fit by raising, lowering, splitting or rotating darts
  • How to prevent the dreaded gaping armholes and necklines
  • How to adjust shoulder width and position to fit your frame
  • How to fix fabric pooling caused by a hollow chest
  • Four approaches to back fit including sway back adjustments on patterns with and without a center back seam
  • How to make your sleeves more comfortable with a full bicep adjustment

I decided to develop this workshop after hearing from so many women that they struggle with fitting, and want advice that’s tailored to a curvy body, and results in contemporary garments (no more crazy muumuus needed, thank you very much). I hope you find it helpful!

And finally… 15% off Shirtmaking for Curves!

If you fancy learning how to make a button-down shirt that doesn’t gape but hadn’t signed up for our first online workshop, Shirtmaking for Curves, now’s the time! Use code SHIRT15 to get 15% off the price, together with a free copy of the Harrison Shirt (valid until 11.59pm EST Feb 18th).

Fitting for Curves: a new online workshop that teaches you how to alter sewing patterns for curves

February 9, 2017

Plus size bra-making… an odyssey!

Once upon a time, a wise woman said “sure I can make clothes, but there’s no way I can make a bra. I’m a 38 H for pete’s sake!”.

Any guesses? Yes, that wise woman was me. I’m not sure why after 6 years of sewing and quitting my day job to focus on it full time I still have categories in my head of “thing I can sew”  – that now includes jeans and swimsuits – and “things I can’t”. It makes no sense! And yet, until recently, the prospect of sewing a bra seemed ludicrous. Part of it was undoubtedly my not insignificant bra needs. Unlike clothing, which mostly just has to encapsulate you and hang on the right bits, bras actually have engineering work to do. And in the case of my Mighty Bosom, pretty advanced level engineering at that. Probably PhD structural engineering at MIT, let’s be honest.

And yet, bras are just sewn garments, with an added metal bit in them. So, when Norma at Orange Lingerie let me know, over one of our regular tasty dinners out in Boston, that she’d be expanding her size range to go up to a J, I knew that my excuses had run out. And when Norma then asked if I’d be the fit model for the 38H, I was officially on board!

First up, Norma developed the Marlborough bra extended sizes, and I spent some amusing evenings standing in restaurant bathrooms in the greater Boston area trying on samples. So, I decided to tackle it first, too.

There are two big things to learn when you start sewing bras: construction and fit. I decided to focus on construction first, especially as being the fit model would probably minimize the fit issues (HA! more on that later).

Anyhow, when you’re trying to sew something brand new, I think the “first pancake” philosophy is a good one to go with: the first bra/pancake is going to be tossed in the bin, and that’s OK. It’s best to just give it a go and see how far you’ll make it – and learn lots for next time.

So, here’s my first pancake bra. Not too bad, eh!

OK, so it *looks* pretty good. But trust me, it’s not awesome. I used a kit from Bra Makers Supply but unfortunately the lace was quite shoddy – it has very fragile areas where it is extremely easy to poke holes during the construction process. Hence, this bra is full of holes (and not just the lace ones that are meant to be there, smartypants). Second, when I tried it on, it really flattened the bottom half of my bust, rather than being rounded which is the shape I prefer under my clothes. Quite why it had this effect when none of Norma’s samples did, I know not. Such is the Mystery Of Bras.

Anyhow, undeterred I galloped on to a second version. Having received some wise counsel from Norma on the flat underboob situation, I added in a vertical seam on the bottom half of the cup – here’s a tutorial on how to do that.

The good news is, that helped a lot with shape – it still isn’t *quite* as rounded as the RTW bras I get from Bravissimo, but totally workable.

As modeled on my Alvaform, sparing my blushes and also the Google Searches of future employees and internet dates.

Unfortunately… it still didn’t fit. This is the point at which I got very confused, because I’d tried Norma’s samples on many times and they’d always fitted me. What I didn’t account for is… my bust got bigger. Bigger! Blimey days. Yep, recent weight gain has apparently added about 1.5 inches to my bust-line. Gah. So this bra *almost* fits… but not quite. I will however hold onto it because not only is it my first real bra, but I may well fit into it again at some point.

Construction wise, I was pretty pleased with my second attempt – the instructions are great, and it really is much faster than sewing clothes. I used more fabrics from Bra Makers Supply including the Large Notions Kit (for larger bra sizes), and a much more robust lace which doesn’t have big holes in it.

So my journey to bra-making started… not too badly! I may not have quite made it yet, but clearly there’s a learning curve (BA DA BOOM), and I’m looking forward to figuring out my size at last and then making ALL the pretty bras (mostly I just want to copy this one from Heather 1,000 times).

Any other mega-busty sisters making bras these days? Any tips for me as I dive headfirst into the fray?

February 6, 2017

Your Cashmerette Makes! January Roundup

You have all been making some amazing garments this month! I don’t know about you, but I find after the holidays I’m always excited for some selfish sewing time. Today, since the Turner Dress has been out in the wild for a couple of months, we’re sharing some of your great Turners from around the web and social media.


Classic black and white prints make for versatile Turner Dresses, and we love these print choices!


Because the Turner is such a classic shape, you can really have fun with the prints and fabrics you use. We love these statement prints!


Warm colors can be the perfect antidote to the cold winter weather we’re having here in New England, or if you’re in the mood for a Valentine’s Dress, the Turner could be a comfy and fun option!


And you really can’t go wrong with a classic navy backed floral! Love these chic Turners.

Keep sharing your makes! We love this creative community!

January 30, 2017

How to change a bodice with darts to princess seams

How to change a bodice with darts to princess seams

Once you have a bodice that fits you really well, it’s tempting to make it over and over again. So, when I wanted to make a princess seamed dirndl, instead of trying to hack a traditional princess seam bodice drafted for a B cup, I used the Cashmerette Upton Dress in a G/H and adapted it. Today, I’m showing you how to change a bodice with darts to princess seams!

How to change a bodice with darts to princess seams

I’m demonstrating on the Upton Dress, but this technique will work on any two-darted bodice. If your bodice only has a bust dart, you can also use it – just draw a vertical line down from the apex where a waist dart would be.

  1. Start with your darted bodice

2. Draw a line horizontally through the bust dart, and a line vertically through the waist dart. Where they cross over is the bust apex. 

3. Draw a curved line from the armhole notch to the bust apex, making it a smooth curve that ends at a vertical line by the apex. Using a French Curve ruler will help you get a nice shape. Then, continue the line down to the waist, ending at the right hand side leg of the waist dart.

Make three marks across this new line, twice at the curve, and once at the bust apex (these will be your notches later).

4. Cut along the curved line, creating a side pattern piece and a center pattern piece.

5.  Add seam allowance to the curve on the center pattern piece (in the case of the Upton, that’s 1/2″).

6.  Now we need to get rid of the dart on the side piece. Draw a line from the bottom leg of the dart to the bust apex (it won’t totally line up with the dart, that’s OK!).

7. Cut along the line you just drew, and then swing the bottom piece up to close the dart. Tape closed.

8. Re-draw the curve to smooth it out, also removing the remaining waist dart. Draw the seam allowance onto the curved side of the side bodice piece. Re-draw on the grain line.

How to change a bodice with darts to princess seams
And that’s it. Sew the side to the center bodice piece, matching the notches. And voila: you’ve change a bodice with darts to princess seams!


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