Thursday, June 25, 2009

SAAS (Sewing at Any Size): Cami Variations

Welcome to my Series on Sewing at Any Size. You can access the rest of the SAAS series by clicking on the topic link on the side bar.

The series is a form of peaceful protest against the terrible, cheap, overpriced, ugly stuff that passes for plus size fashion these days. Anyone can make basic wardrobe elements to fit their body without trying to track down commercial patterns (a nightmare for anyone over a US size 24).

As this may eventually become a book, please do not reprint or republish this anywhere else. You may, of course print for your own personal use!

First a quick response to a commenter who asked about purchasing fabric online; I'd highly recommend that at first you use fabric from the store. Once you have made a study of what different fabric types feel and work like, then you can venture online. Personally I still buy everything in person, on a "I'll know it when I see and feel it" basis for selection. The same material can feel radically different as fabric depending on weave and thickness. The only fabrics I've bought online have been linen, broadcloth and quilting cotton since they're generally the same textures and weights across the board. For blend fabrics you'll want to go by feel. If you'd like, make notes on how various compositions hang. Some stores might even send you a "sample book" of scraps for a small charge. Dharma Trading, for example, will send you small squares of every kind of silk or cotton they offer for a small fee plus shipping (and you really learn how different the same composition fabric can feel when you're looking at pieces, all 100% silk, with textures ranging from gauze to burlap.)

PART 2: The Cami Top; Variations on a Theme

Starting with the basic cami design from the last post, you can do a lot of variations to add interest to the design.

Scoop Neck:
The easiest variation is to make the straight neck into a scoop neck. Adjust the original pattern as follows, adding a curve from the point of the shoulder to point A where you’d like the neckline to fall in the center.

The next easiest variation is to add a strip of lace either at the neckline, hem, or both. This is, of course, easier with a straight-neckline cami than a scoopneck. Add ½” to measurement “F”. Instead of binding across the top, simply fold over ¼” , then fold again to tuck the raw edge under. Stitch in place. Take the strip of lace and sew the bottom ¼” onto the wrong side (the side showing the seams) all the way across. When you add the binding, sandwich the edges of the lace along with the fabric for a tailored look.

You can add lace to the bottom hem as well. Before you sew up the sides, fold up the bottom hem of each the front and back pieces by ¼”, then fold again to tuck the raw edge under. Sew the top ¼” of lace onto the wrong side of this hem (the side that shows the seams). Stitch up the sides as usual, then trim the extra lace at the side seam to ¼”.

Remember to include the width of the lace in measurements “F” and “I” when cutting the fabric.

Gathered Neckline:
This adds a bit of ruffle to the neckline know...ruffles (shudder). Construct the original Cami pattern, adding 2” to measurement “F”. Get to where you’ve sewn up the sides but haven’t added any binding.

Next, hem the armholes instead of binding them: fold the fabric to the wrong side (the side showing the seams) by ¼”. Fold again to tuck the raw edge under, then stitch to secure.

Next, still working with the wrong side of the fabric, fold the top 2” of the front half over and stitch along the edge to create a long pocket. Repeat on the back half.

Make a long strip of binding per the instructions in this post, and stitch closed so that you have a long strap. Feed it through both the front and the back pockets (use a safety pin to feed it through, it’s much easier!). Try the cami on with the straps, and adjust their length until the strap on each side hangs evenly on the shoulders and the top hangs where you like it. You’ll be bunching it up a bit on the strap, so keep that in mind. Make sure the seam on the strap is hidden in either the front or back pocket.

With the cami on inside-out, push the fabric together to bunch up on the loops. Decide for yourself how much or little you’d like it to bunch. You may want it to bunch tightly to resemble a halter top, or just let it hang loosely across the front. Once it hangs how you’d like, pin it into place. Take it off and put a few stitches along the pocket every few inches to hold the gathers evenly in place.

Sleeveless Tee: I hate tee shirts, but love the slogans and artwork on a lot of them. Re-print sites like Cafe Press often have a men’s tee as their only plus size offering, when that funny quote would look so awesome on a plus size tank top....

One option for funny sayings is to make your own silk-screens, which I’ve done. The other is to chop that tee down to a tank. If you want to use binding, get about ½ yard of tee-shirt fabric from the fabric store, or (if cheaper) a tee shirt of the right color from Goodwill or garage sale to chop up.

Step one is to turn the shirt inside out and cut off the sleeves and neckband. If you’re starting with a tee that fits you well along the sides, you can simple hem the sleeves and neckline and have a wide-shouldered tank top. If you’re starting with a too large shirt or would like spaghetti straps, carefully lay the shirt (still inside-out) flat, then fold exactly in half. On the fold, trace out the standard pattern: Continue to construct the Cami per the original instructions.


Anonymous said...

I just found this series. Bless you. Like, serious.

mitch1066 said...

well i'm so happy i found you:)I was searching for plus size sewing blogs and tripped over yours:)I have put on weight due to having fibromyalgia and just walking around the block wih a cane is an accomplishment these days.I'm trying to accept and love this version of me.Thanks for being here and sharing!!!

Alix said...

Sewing question:

In your professional opinion, how "hard" is it to let out and take in clothes? And is it worth the trouble and expense, or is buying new recommended if you're talking about a complete wardrobe?

Mrs. M said...

I also just found this blog and thanks! I'm actually a trained pattern maker who worked as a theatrical costumer for many years. As well as I can sew, I'm often disappointed in how commercial patterns are sized and what's actually available.

As for whether or not it's worth sewing, it depends on how happy you are with what you can buy. If you can buy clothes you like, you should. If, however, you want something more interesting or if you can't find stuff in your size, make it! Armed with some manual dexterity and a few easy to learn techniques, you can easily make yourself some great things!

I just picked up a gorgeous piece of gold colored linen with a metallic gold flowered print on it and your cami ideas will be perfect for it.

As for alterations, taking in is usually easier than letting out, IMO. Most commercially made garments don't have enough seam allowance to let out. Shortening is easy.

Thanks again and I've got you on my feed, so I'll be around!