Positive Body Image

Why we make our own clothes

Maeve Fanning

A lot of people get into sewing and making their own clothes because they can’t find well-fitting clothes in regular shops (RTW). I’ve written a blog post about why I got into sewing clothes for myself and a lot of it was to do with body image.

The ‘fitting room experience’  can cause bad feelings and instill a negative body image – we can start to tell ourselves there must be something wrong with us if we can’t buy clothes that fit us or we buy these clothes and feel uncomfortable or self conscious while wearing them. Clothes should feel like a second skin in my opinion.

Sewing empowers us to address these negative feelings about our bodies by allowing us to do our own thing and be in control. We can figure out our fit issues and preempt problems with new patterns after a little bit of practice and trial and error. We can find fabrics that we like to wear, patterns that suit our body shape. We can move away from aiming to be a size 12 or 16 or whatever average size is and pick our pattern size based on our actual measurements. (Pattern designers have different size charts – it’s best to always compare your measurements to the size chart of the pattern you are using).

If you are starting out on your journey, what do you need to know??


How to use a sewing machine:

Go to a few beginner classes if you can, to get to know the basics of how to use your sewing machine. We run classes suitable from beginners to intermediate and I have successfully taught quite a few people who had never touched a sewing machine before how to sew a cushion in their first class. (They then swiftly move onto t shirts etc..)  If you can’t get to a real class – Youtube has lots of beginners classes.

Know the basics of how to use a sewing pattern.

You don’t have to create and design the pattern yourself, there are thousands of ready made patterns for all sorts of styles and occasions. There are lots of free patterns and tutorials online to get you started. PDF patterns online are easy to access and if you have a printer to hand you can download, print and stick together within an hour. If you cant stand sticking 20 + A4 pages together there are a number of companies who will print them out in A0 or long sheets – Net printer, Patternsy and Print my Pattern (all UK – but as soon as I come across an affordable Irish company I will update). They cost about €3 – €4 per pattern depending on how many sheets.

Choose the right fabric for the garment

Its about picking the right fabric for the pattern / garment you are making. Different fabrics have different characteristics. Know the difference between a knit and a woven fabric, different types of jerseys etc.  All patterns will have a description of the type of fabric to use and how much you will need. If you don’t know what a certain type of fabric is just ask us – email me or post in our Facebook group we will point you in the right direction.

So even after following all the point outlined above – you are rarely going to get it right the first time – we all need to practice, practice, practice..

I have wasted many meters of good fabric before I could see the benefit of making a toile or muslin (a practice go at a new pattern) Old duvet covers or sheets are great for this.

Just look at the picture above (sorry about the quality) – I made this up really quickly in some dodgy fabric I had lying around to see if it would fit and in this case if it suited me. This is the Merchant & Mills Shirt dress Pattern. Its a new style for me and I was curious to try their patterns. For starters its probably a bit big but I really didn’t like it on me. It would look better in a lighter weight fabric like a linen or chambray but for me – our journey was to come to an abrupt end.

You may be using a good pattern but like RTW (ready to wear) clothing – they are designed for a specific body shape. I’ve found a quick way to rule out certain companies or to find what works for my body is to try the free pattern most companies offer.

Pattern Resources:

These websites list all kinds and styles of patterns from big 4 (Vogue, Butterick, Simplicity, New Look) and lots of Indie Pattern designers

Curvy Sewing Collective

The Foldline

Pattern Review

In the beginning when I started sewing properly in my 30’s I used crafting fabrics like quilting cottons for everything as it was the most accessible fabric in these parts. I learned that I needed to consider the fabrics according to the type of garment I was making. In those days I didn’t tell anyone (apart from my nearest and dearest) I made clothes as I was very insecure about them. That was before I discovered the online sewing community!

Join our sewing community

We have a great active Facebook group where the members post photos of finished projects they have made from our fabrics to inspire your creativity, you can ask questions and someone else out there will have the answer if I don’t. Its a lovely safe environment to chat about sewing, patterns and fabric recommendations even what sewing machine to buy or where to get it serviced.

Other resources:

I discuss Fabric pretreatment and taking care of your finished garments here.

Information on making trousers and links to helpful tutorials here.

Have a lovely weekend – hope you get some sewing done


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