The Extra Bits Thursday, Apr 19 2012 

Ok, so we’ve all been there.  We make something, like say a fuchsia wedding dress, and somehow we’ve got a ton of leftover, large scraps.  Now, generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of pink.  Especially for me to wear.  But I had made this skirt last year, and really needed something to wear with it.  I’ve got a couple of black tops, but I like to layer.  What I really needed was a pink tank top to wear under a black shirt.  But I couldn’t bring myself to invest anything into the project, since I’m no big fan of pink.  It just so happened that the famous fuchsia wedding dress was the same color as the accent splotches in that lovely skirt.

And while I was at it, I decided to try a Burda pattern I had picked up a few weeks ago.  I’ve always sewn with Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, and more recently, Vogue patterns.  Burda, with their odd pattern backs and multiple-languages-on-one-page instructions made me a bit wary.  But I flipped through their plus size pattern offerings, noticed that they offer more of their patterns up to their largest size, and their plus sized garments don’t look like tents.  So I took a chance on a pattern for a tank top and a basic button down that I could assemble without instructions if it came right down to it.  The first happy surprise when I opened up the pattern was that the size chart (which is not printed on the pattern envelope, it’s in the Burda pattern book, in the back) is printed on the pattern tissue.  And it’s not the simple bust-waist-hips chart that we’re used to seeing.  It shows ALL of the measurements you’d use if you were drafting a pattern from scratch.  So if you’re long from your shoulders to your waist but short from your waist to your hips, you can see just how far off from their model you are.

The next thing I noticed is that there aren’t all of the pattern markings like triangles/diamonds and dots every couple of inches that the patterns I’m used to have.  I’ve started only marking the ones that I know I’ll really need because most of them are just annoying.  The pattern instructions were well written and well thought out… almost as if a real person had sewn the garment and written the instructions rather than just re-purposing basic instructions from something similar.  And the drawings included with the instructions were clear, well drawn, and actually helped you make sense of how to put everything together.

So I’m very impressed.  Once I got started sewing, I was even more impressed.  As a larger size, I find that most patterns that have bust darts make the darts too shallow for women with larger bust lines.  I was happily surprised that the dart was just right on me, and at a G cup, that’s impressive.  I did make a minor adjustment as I was cutting out, adding about 3 inches to the hip area to give myself a little extra ease.

So for next time, I’m going to skip the side zipper.  There’s plenty of room to get in and out of this top without the zipper, and I’m not fond of invisible zippers in general (they’re a pain to put in).  I’m also going to try making it in a knit rather than a woven.  I’ve been working on making some work out wear that is comfortable, stylish, and well fitted for plus size bodies.  I think this basic style would be well suited to that transition.  And making it in a knit instead of a woven would give a little extra insurance when I take the zipper out.

So here it is, hot off the presses.  I took a quick cell phone snap while I had it on for my final fit check.  Yup, for the first time that’s me in the pic, not my faithful dress form.  And now that it’s done, I’m going to wear it out tonight.  Keep your fingers crossed that I don’t dump salsa on it! 🙂

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New Things to Play With Wednesday, Mar 21 2012 

I’ll start by apologizing.  I don’t have any actual projects to show you today, and I hate doing two non-project posts in a row, but sadly I don’t have much choice.  I had sat down and written the last 3 posts on the same day, with grand plans to get several things done in time to write a couple more posts… thinking that it would be easier for me to get something done with a little more time to work.  Well, I ended up with a nasty cold and sinus infection combo that knocked me for a loop for two whole weeks.  And so I haven’t really done anything.  But, I did treat myself to something very cool for my birthday, which is this week.

Now, you may have noticed that one of my big gripes with commercial patterns is that they don’t always fit very well on a plus sized body.  Take my lovely red coat for example… it fits, except that the arms were made too small.  It’s such a simple thing to overlook, but it’s not something that most pattern companies take into account when they’re grading (grading: making a standard pattern larger and smaller for various sizes).  And it’s something that even an experienced seamstress can overlook in the excitement of starting a new project.  Guilty, right here.

So what’s a girl (or guy, for that matter) to do?  (As an aside, guys have even fewer options when it comes to sewing patterns, a subject I plan to discuss in the near future.)  Some have gotten really good at taking a basic pattern and making lots of variations to use it for many different garments.  That’s all well and good, but there is some skill involved in making a pattern fit your body.  It takes an investment of time in learning how patterns work, how to make changes for your body, and then the time involved in applying that knowledge to a pattern.  And let’s face it, there’s some trial and error involved.  And time is the one thing that most of us do not have an excess of.

I found a solution, or at least a work-around while searching for something entirely different.  In my last post, I mentioned that the first phase of creating my dream dress would be creating the right foundation garments to wear under the dress.  In my case that will include making a strapless bra (probably a waist-length or long line style).  I read an article on bra making in the March issue of Threads Magazine (the same issue that provided the inspiration for the Ugly Duckling) and realized that bra making was no more difficult than some of the costuming, corset making, or formal wear I’ve made in the past.  Assuming I could find a pattern in my size, that is.

So I went searching, starting with the resources listed in the article.  I was able to find bra patterns in a variety of sizes, but I was sort of underwhelmed by the patterns offered in my size.  I am not simply a large woman, I am also top-heavy.  Thank you Mom, for that genetic influence.  After some searching, I stumbled across information on two different pattern drafting software programs.  I knew programs like these existed, but I had always assumed that they were prohibitively expensive for my meager budget.  And some of them are.  PatternMaster by Wild Ginger costs anywhere from $125-225, and each collection is it’s own, stand alone program.  I don’t like clutter, whether it be in my sewing room or my computer, and I also have an aversion to things that can only do one task.  But then I noticed something called PatternMaker.  The basic reader program is free, and each time you add to your pattern collection or want to upgrade the software for more features, you don’t have to download the program again, you just enter an unlock code.  The basic reader takes pre-designed patterns and draws them to your measurements.  A pair of pants and a fitting top are included with the basic reader for free.  The additional pattern collections average about $30 each.

So as far as trying out the concept of pattern drafting software goes, PatternMaker was obviously the easier choice.  I downloaded the program one night and played with inputting my measurements and using the program, to see if it was something that I could work with.  I ended up with a pattern for something that is always elusive for me, a pair of basic pants without an elastic waistband but with front pockets.  I’ll admit that I have not yet sewn using this pattern, but just from looking at it, I can’t foresee any problem using it.  Now for the downside… drafting your own pattern at home with one of these programs means you have to print on your home printer and spend a lot of time taping.  My pants pattern?  A mere 37 pages.  I just drafted a basic bra pattern and it took 6 pages.  Now, once I check these patterns for fit, I’ll transfer them onto Easy Pattern (a Pellon brand product, similar in weight and texture to interfacing, it makes durable reusable patterns) and won’t bother with the paper patterns any more.

The other downside is that this isn’t a super user friendly program to use.  If you’re not very computer savvy, it could be quite intimidating.  I’d consider myself fairly adept, but it took me some time to get used to how you interact with the program.  And the instructions for initially opening the patterns you purchase are about as clear as mud.  If there’s any interest, I’ll post instructions and screen shots another time.

Now I’m off to scavenge parts off of old bras and try this pattern out.  Wish me luck, I’m going to need it.  🙂

The Ugly Duckling Tuesday, Mar 13 2012 

I loved The Ugly Duckling as a little girl.  The idea that an awkward young one who was considered ugly by everyone around them would one day grow into a beautiful swan… who should never have been judged by the same standards as their former peers.  I often feel like that ugly duckling when I look at couture creations.  So many of the style elements that they emphasize simply don’t work on a woman of my build.  But every once in a while, there’s a dress or outfit that just screams ‘I’m perfect for you, just the way you are!’

I fell in love with this design, which is appropriately called “Swan”.  It was designed by an American couturier Charles James in the early 1950’s.  I first saw the design in the March 2012 issue of Threads magazine (p. 60) and I fell in love with it.  I kept flipping back to that design, and I knew that I’d have to create it for myself.  Now, granted, I don’t really have anywhere to wear a ball gown to.  But I think it’s perfect to be my future wedding dress.  In ivory, not black and purple, of course.  And I don’t even have a fiancee yet, so it’s not like I need it next month.  This is going to be a long term project for me, and will definitely stretch my sewing skills.  I don’t have a pattern to work from.  Just me, a few photos I found online and in Threads magazine, my dress form, and a few hundred yards of muslin and tulle.

I’ve been thinking about how I’ll go about making this design.  Stage one involves modifying my dress form so that it matches my figure exactly and making appropriate foundation garments to fit the dress over.  That will also involve making my own strapless long-line bra/corset.  Stage two involves making the bodice and figuring out how to make the pattern of tucks that covers the bodice.  Stage three is the underskirt and drape, which gets a little involved at the back as you can see here:

The dress is said to have more than 30 layers of tulle and 100 different pattern pieces.  Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it?  But what an amazing challenge.

I’m also excited about the things I’ll learn along the way.  I’m going to start with bra-making, because the bodice of this dress is going to need it’s own built in bra, and for a woman with “ladies” as large as mine, some serious construction goes into proper support.  In a few weeks, I’ll start sharing this process as I go along.  This won’t be my only project, I’ll keep sharing my other projects as I go, but I’ll be sure to reference this project when something I’m working on applies.

Image credits:

First photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Website

Second photo from Encyclopedia Britannica Blog

I <3 Jammies Tuesday, Mar 6 2012 

I have three copies of Simplicity 4889.  There are very few patterns that I buy multiple copies of, but this one I was happy to.  It’s unisex, so I can make jammies for everyone out of the same pattern.  And the size range is nice and large, so I don’t have to worry about sizing it up so that it will fit around my ample hips.  Having a classic t-shirt pattern in the mix too is a great bonus.

Mine, the crafty pants on the left, are the largest size the pattern goes up to.  And they’re nice and huge on me.  When I use this pattern again to make work out clothes, I’ll use the next size down.  On the right is the monster jammies I made for my roomie.  Pure awesomeness, I assure you.  She’s worn hers two days in a row now, picking them over her camo jammies.  Yup, that’s me, world’s most awesome roomie.

Cost wise, this was a very inexpensive project.  The flannel was on sale at major-national-chain for $2.49/yd (4 yards for mine, 3 1/4 for hers, and there were plenty of scraps left over).  $18.05 for two pairs of jammies?  Ah-mazing.

The most important thing to remember when making your very own flannel jammie pants?  PRE-WASH YOUR FABRIC!!!!  Flannel can shrink as much as 3-4 inches per yard, which can turn nicely fitted jammies into high-water hot pants, which are NOT comfy to lay around the house in.  Open up the piece of fabric and zig-zag stitch along the cut edge (or serge) to prevent raveling and fraying in the wash.  Wash in warm or hot water.  If the flannel is dyed red, you might want to wash it alone the first time.  And if there’s lots of different colors, you can pour about 3/4 c. white vinegar into the wash with the fabric to help set the dye.  (If you’re using vinegar, skip fabric softener).  Dry normally.

After pre-washing fabric, it may not fold in half as easily as it did off the bolt.  You may need to put the fabric on grain before going any further.  The easiest way to do that with flannel is to snip the fabric through the selvedge about 1-2 inches from the cut end and tearing.  If it doesn’t tear all the way to the other edge, snip again 1-2 inches from the first snip and try again.  Washing fabric snaps it back to straight of grain and fixes any distortions that it may have gone through in the process of putting the fabric on the bolt.

Before you buy flannel, though, it’s important to inspect the fabric before you buy.  Look closely at the wrong side of the fabric.  Does the weave look even?  Are the threads of the weave meeting at 90 degree angles?  When the fabric is rolled out on the cutting table, does it lay flat without a lot of creases or folds in the fabric, especially near the fold?  Avoid pieces that have uneven weaves, where the grain is slanted rather than square, or that don’t lay well on the cutting table.  These pieces, no matter how cute the print, are more likely to wear out faster, hang poorly as a garment, and distort your project.  If you’ve ever bought a pair of jeans where the side seam wanted to run down the front of your leg, you’ve been the victim of off grain fabric.

Another thing that most people don’t realize is that flannel isn’t always fuzzy when you buy it.  During the manufacture process, chemicals called sizing are used to help the fabric move through the machinery more easily.  That can cause the fabric to have a smooth feel in the store.  It can also cause stiffness and an odd, glue like smell.  That doesn’t mean the fabric is damaged, it just needs to be washed well before use.  And once the item is made, it will get fuzzier with washing and wearing.

Jammies are a very easy clothing project to get started with.  I hope my love of jammies, and a little extra info on shopping for flannel will inspire you to try jammies for yourself.

I thought I wasn’t going to do this again… Tuesday, Feb 28 2012 

I thought I said I wouldn’t do this again.  Oh, that’s right, I did say that, here.  But I did.  Except, in this case, the recipient of my sewing skills is a friend of a friend, someone that I at least know, and I did feel kind of bad for her.  She had to push up the date of her “real” wedding from June to February for personal/financial reasons, so she and her fiance decided to have a quick informal ceremony on February 14th and plan the main event in a year or so.  About two and a half weeks before the wedding, she let us all know about the change, and somehow my best friend and I ended up doing all of the work of planning the ceremony, making her a dress, and planning the reception.  I think the only thing she did on her own was get the marriage license, and only because someone else couldn’t do that for her.  But I’m grouching over something that’s over and done with.

 

The young lady in question is barely a size 3 in ready to wear clothes, so I was faced with a garment much smaller than I’m accustomed to sewing.  It took a little while to get her settled on a style she liked for the dress, but by some miracle she fell in love with a pattern I had picked up for a project that never got off the ground.  Yay, no cost for the pattern.  She initially told me that she wanted something fun for this informal ceremony, since she has a big white wedding gown already for the main event later on.  She said she wanted pink, or red.  I had visions of pastel pink running through my head.  Er… no, not so much.  When we went fabric shopping, she picked out fuchsia.  That’s right, bright almost-neon-but-not-quite fuchsia satin taffeta.  oooohhhkaaaay.  Moving right along.  Thankfully, there was a pre-made embellishment available that matched the color of the dress perfectly, so that made taking this dress from plain to special super easy.

A lot of love and good wishes went into the making of this dress.  And, to be honest, since no alterations were needed, I was also thinking ahead a bit.  Last summer I was very disappointed in the items displayed at the county and state fairs in the garment construction categories, but I didn’t have anything done on time to enter.  So why not make this one right, tuck it into my closet after the wedding, and enter it this summer?  She agreed, and since I paid for the materials and put in so much time, I don’t think I would have taken no for an answer.

There were a few things about this that made me want to pull my hair out.  I really dislike gathering, and you have to gather this skirt twice, once at the hem for the bubble skirt and once at the waist.  I wasn’t fond of the fact that if you follow the pattern, the side seams for the skirt end up on the front of the dress, so I shifted them to match the side seams of the bodice.  That also pushed more of the fullness of the skirt to the back, which seemed appropriate for a wedding dress.  And a lot of hand stitching.  Not a big fan of that, but it completely encloses the interior of the dress for a polished, professionally made look, so I suffered through.  And on someone as small as she is, it didn’t take quite as long as I’m used to.

Because of the weight of the skirt and the need for a good structure, rather than using a flimsy lining fabric, I used the fashion fabric for the lining as well.  It gives the skirt just the right about of “poof” without needing a petticoat to help it stand out.  It also lends structure to the bodice, which is always a good thing when it’s strapless.  The only other thing I wasn’t crazy about was the placement of the tucks in the skirt, especially on the front.  The middle front tuck hits in a place that almost makes it look like the dress is tucked between her legs, unless I’m there to poof it back out again.  If I made it again, I’d probably do two tucks in the front of the skirt, rather than one at center front.

Well, there you have it, the wedding dress I swore I wouldn’t do.

Coming up:

– Crafty pants and monster jammies… back to basics with some fun and cozy lounge-around-the-house wear.

– Designer inspiration for an upcoming long term project

– Blackout curtains… because I am very much not a morning person.

– Work out clothes… they don’t have to look dumpy or frumpy just because you’re a plus size.

Adventures in Shopping Tuesday, Jan 17 2012 

My local fabric shop had one of it’s periodical bargain fabric sales this weekend, and I couldn’t help but take a trip through and see what kind of gems I could find.  Low and behold, I stumbled upon…wait for it… 100% wool suiting heavy enough to make a new coat out of.  It’s chocolate brown, but at only $5.60/yd (on sale for $7/yd then a 20% off total purchase coupon they mailed me), I was able to inexpensively replace the fabric I used in my last attempt at a wool coat.  I paid $12.50/yd for the red.  It’s not the beautiful red that I had my heart set on, but it will turn out to be a much more versatile piece.  And you can be sure I’ll find a wild print to use as my lining!

I also got about 2.5 yds of silk dupioni in the same color of brown as the wool suiting.  I’ve had my eye on it for a while, and at just $4.80/yd (normally $20/yd) I just couldn’t pass it up.  I don’t have a plan for the piece yet, but I’ve got a few ideas bubbling in my head.  We’ll see what I come up with.  I also bought several pieces of rayon/spandex lightweight jersey knit and a piece of poly athletic knit, and I have projects in mind for those.  I just joined the YMCA and I’m in desperate need of new work out clothes.

I didn’t buy all that much this time around, because I was on a bit of a budget, and besides that I have a pile of fabric already that I need to get cut out for projects and get cracking on.  I considered not posting about this, but by the time I left the store I was so frustrated I couldn’t help myself.

You see, I expect stores to be a zoo close to the holiday.  I have some experience in retail, and I know what it’s like.  Despite the insurmountable odds, the staff at my local fabric shop remains pleasant, helpful, and downright resourceful when I need an answer to a difficult question.  I love that they only hire people who are knowledgeable about their products.  Other stores in their chain hire just anyone, but these ladies know their selvedge from their nap and aren’t afraid to tell you that tearing an extra wide fabric so that it’s on grain is a better deal than just cutting it.  Got a question about crochet?  Hang on, the girl cutting your fabric just dabbles a bit, but she’ll call over Sarah*, she crochets all the time.  Asking about something they don’t carry?  They aren’t afraid to give you a list of 3-5 stores in a 10 mile radius that might carry what you’re looking for.  Even their seasonal employees know a satin from a sateen.  Anywho, even though they’re bogged down dealing with all the yahoos making tie blankets for Christmas, these ladies are still all business about fabric and everything else.  I think they’re secretly happy to see me so they get to cut something other than flannel and fleece.  😉  So it’s not the store that got me up on my soapbox, it’s the yahoos who have invaded it this time of year.

So, in the interest of educating the public, here are some tips for shopping at your local fabric & craft store:

1) The store is NOT child-proofed.  There are tons of breakable objects, not to mention things-that-shouldn’t-be-ingested right at toddler height.  Anyone not old enough to drive to the store on their own should probably be supervised while shopping.

1A) Shopping carts are dangerous.  You know those little illustrations about where and how children can and can not ride on shopping carts?  They mean business.  I’ve actually seen an infant in a baby seat go flying when a 4 year old little girl tried to climb into the cart on her own.  No kids on the outside of the cart.  period.

2) Don’t ask questions if you have no intentions of taking the advice of the person you asked.  Want to know what kind of fabric to make pajamas out of?  Great, ask.  But don’t get all offended when they show you, you wander off and pick something totally unsuitable, and the employee rolls their eyes as they cut your fabric.

3) Keep your fingers (and your children) away from the fabric when the employee is cutting it.  Really.  Would yo go to Home Depot and “straighten” the lumber while they use a power saw on it?  No?  Let me tell you, those scissors those girls use are plenty sharp and definitely deadly.

4) Trust your fabric cutter.  Chances are they cut fabric 20+ hours a week, some of them 40+ hours a week.  They’ve been thoroughly trained to get you an accurate cut.  (How accurate?  One shared this math with me: if one average part time employee cuts just 30 cuts per shift, 3 days a week for a full year, and was only off by 1″ on each of those cuts, the company could easily lose 130 YARDS of fabric just from that one employee.  Let’s say that fabric is an average priced, $7.99/yd fabric… that would be a loss of $1,038.70.  And that’s just one employee.  My local shop has about 15 year-round employees.  Over the course of a year for a national chain, that number could easily be in the MILLIONS of dollars lost through a fairly small inaccuracy)

5) Have at least half a clue before you go in… and if you’re clueless when you go in, don’t be surprised when the staff is of limited usefulness.  I overheard one gentleman who claimed to want to buy a sewing machine for himself.  The employee tried to ask a few questions about the types of sewing that he would be doing and his prior experience, but the man wouldn’t give the employee any direction.  The gentleman ended up shouting at the employee because she was unable to sell him a sewing machine with no input from him.  Personally, I’d rather have a salesperson tell me honestly that I need to think more about how I’ll use a purchase before I make an investment than have a salesperson sell me whatever they want to get rid of knowing that there’s a strong likelihood that I’ll be unhappy with my purchase almost immediately.

6) Bring in pictures of your finished projects.  Sure, they’re asking you what you’re working on because they’re supposed to, but almost all of them are genuinely interested in seeing what happens with the materials that leave the store.

 

And on a final note, if you bring your reusable bags with you to the store, don’t use them until you get to the register.  Many stores prevent their employees from asking to see inside of those bags before you leave, so shoplifters use them to get things out of the store unchallenged.  Get a basket or a shopping cart, so the employees don’t have to keep an extra close eye on you while you shop.  They’ve got enough to do.

An Open Letter to Disney Wednesday, Jan 11 2012 

After the overwhelming response to my post the other day regarding the website for the Muppet Movie that came out this fall, I knew I needed to do something, rather than just complain about it.  Let me say first off, if you’re thinking about seeing the movie and are hesitant because you’re a long time fan, don’t be.  I fell even more in love with the Muppets with this movie than I was before.  I would caution you, however, to steer clear of the website for the movie.  Here’s what I have to say to Disney:

Dear Disney,

I am a long-time fan, from going to see Beauty and the Beast with my mom and sister at our local drive in theater as a kid to rejoicing the return of classic animation with The Princess and the Frog, I have always been a fan.  Imagine the joy of a bookish little girl as she sees a bookish brunette become a princess by seeing something in the Beast that others had not.  It’s a powerful message.  And more recently, how many girls learned that hard work AND dreams are the key to happily ever after with Tiana in the Princess and the Frog?  The work that Disney does profoundly effects generation after generation of children.

I was intrigued when Disney took the reigns on the Muppets several years ago.  And I waited in anticipation for the newest Muppet Movie that came out this fall.  Unlike the Smurfs who were “updated” to near-unrecognizableness by CGI animation, the Muppets continued to be unabashedly themselves in the new movie.  I was proud and happy to see that the people participating in the big dance numbers were of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  The Muppets, with a frog, a dog, a bear, a pig, and a … whatever (Gonzo), have always symbolized to me (and many others) a true picture of diversity.  That no matter the differences displayed in a group, they can all be friends and treat each other with respect.

With all that said, I was extremely disappointed and saddened by several of the elements on the Muppet Movie website, particularly pertaining to Miss Piggy.  In one of the bonus video clips called “Drive Thru Piggy”, Miss Piggy makes self-hating, body shaming comments about herself before drastically changing her food order to something more “healthy” (though with the lack of protein and good fats in her meal, it really can’t be considered a healthy, balanced meal.  But I digress).  Then on Miss Piggy’s character page, if you click on Rizzo and the Rats (dressed as tourists, on the left hand side of the screen) and scene plays out where Miss Piggy again makes insecure comments about her appearance, followed by Rizzo making a very insulting comment about Miss Piggy’s size.

Regardless of whether or not Miss Piggy herself needs to lose weight (because, the reality is that she is a pig, and is portrayed as a rather slender figure despite her species), I think we can all agree that shame, bullying, and self-hating are not things we want to be teaching children.  If this had been Rizzo making a joke about Kermit being green, or Fozzie making comments comparing himself to a mentally hadicapped person, there would have been outrage… assuming that the content was approved in the first place.  Body size is a hot-button issue, especially where children are concerned.  And as a society, we have accepted that it’s ok to bully, shame, and spout hateful comments at people simply because they don’t conform to society’s ideal body size.  Is obesity a problem?  Maybe.  There are so many factors the influence why and how a person gains more weight than is culturally acceptable, that the only person who can say whether one’s obesity is a problem is that person and their doctor.  Perpetuating comments like Rizzo’s “joke” and Miss Piggy’s self-hating comments only furthers the idea that a stranger can make judgements about a person’s health and well-being without any information other than their perceived size.

The other part of this that stopped me in my tracks is that Miss Piggy has never been portrayed in this way.  She has always been shown as a confident, well dressed, and even sexy character.  She thumbs her nose at diet and weight loss… just google Miss Piggy Snacksercise and you’ll find several vintage videos of Miss Piggy advocating snacking, napping, and opening gifts as opposed to the aerobics that were popular at the time (early 80’s).  Part of Miss Piggy’s charm is her unwavering belief that she is absolutely gorgeous just as she is, and absolutely deserving of Kermit (and everyone else’s) adoration and respect.

So I’m asking for two things.  First, remove the content I’ve described above from the website for the Muppets.  And secondly, make it a point to actively respect ALL of the characters (and by extension all people) with respect, regardless of their size, shape, race, ability, sexual orientation, age, or personality.  Because we’re all different in one way or another.  And everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.

Sincerely,

Rene

plus sized sewing blogger and woman of size

If you’d like to get Disney’s attention, please contact them and let them know why you’d like this content taken down and destroyed.  You can reach Disney by submitting your comments on their website here (please put it in as a comment on their website rather than a question, as the question section seems to direct to a technical support team).  Or email James Pitero (james.pitero@disney.com), Co-President of Disney Interactive Media, who’s executive biography lists that he’s in charge of Disney’s web sites.   Or if you’d like to go old-school and write an actual letter, you can direct it to James Pitero, Co-President of Disney Interactive Media, 500 S Buena Vista St, Burbank, CA 91521.

*UPDATE* It appears that the email address I found for Mr. Pitero is incorrect.  Please send comments in through their website or the regular mail.  I’ll let you know if I find a correct email address.

What Miss Piggy Taught Me About Fashion Tuesday, Jan 10 2012 

I went and saw the new Muppet movie in a theater a few weeks ago.  I’ve been sitting on this post for two reasons.  First, I’ve been horrendously busy with work.  And secondly, I had to think long and hard about a few things I found on the website for the movie (more on that in a moment).

I’ll admit that when I found out about the new Muppet Movie, I was extremely excited to see what Kermit and the gang are up to these days.  I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s watching Muppet Babies and the various Muppet Movies, and even a few reruns of the Muppet Show when we could find it.  Miss Piggy has always been my favorite.

As a chubby girl, it was amazing to see Miss Piggy turn a stereotype on it’s head.  She never seemed to identify as a “fat” character, though clearly as a pig she was heavier than her love interest, Kermit the Frog.  She didn’t shy away from the spotlight (understatement of the year!) and wasn’t ashamed to dress in beautiful and sometimes provocative clothes.  Always classy, always dressed to the nines, and never someone to mess with.  She stood out as the only “person” in my young life who was a powerful, beautiful, sexy, talented woman.  Who also happened to be a plus size.

So as I left the theater after seeing the new Muppet Movie, I thought about all of the things that Miss Piggy has taught me and other plus sized girls about fashion.

1) Life is short.  Wear a fabulous hat.

2) Pearls are for everyday wear.

3) Heels are for everyone.

4) Beauty knows no size limit.

I also made a few observations about how other characters react to Miss Piggy.  No one ever, in any way refers to her size.  In fact, none of the Muppets make fun of anyone based on their appearance.  Why is that?  There’s some evidence that Jim Henson saw puppets as a way to bring issues of equality and acceptance to people’s attention in a fun and easily acceptable way.

So after I saw the movie, I went to the official Muppet website to see if the Muppets were going to be in anything else soon.  There wasn’t any information about future projects, but there were some fun things to play with… and a few things that made me want to cry.  On Miss Piggy’s character page, you can play an awesome game where you design clothing for Miss Piggy based on the color and pattern preference she gives you in each round.  The dress form you’re designing on is very shapely, much like Miss Piggy herself.  It’s fun to play with, even if you’re not trying to win the game!

But I can’t get a couple of negative things out of my head, and they’re really bothering me.  First, there’s a bonus video clip (not shown in the movie, just on the web site) that shows Miss Piggy going through a drive through as she watches footage of herself.  At first, she orders what she wants, a double cheeseburger and a few other things.  Then she spots herself in one of the clips (they don’t show the clips, just her reactions to the clips) and she says “dear lord I look like a parade float!”  She then changes her order to a salad without dressing or croutons and a water.  The other upsetting thing is an “easter egg” bit you see if you click on Rizzo and the rats on Miss Piggy’s character page.  Miss Piggy walks across the screen wondering to herself if her outfit will make her look fat on the internet.  Then Rizzo walks across the screen making a comment about how “that pig puts the WIDE in world wide web!”

Why Disney?  Why did you do this to my favorite character?  Are we going to start making fun of Gonzo because he’s blue?  Or perhaps we’ll make Fozzie the butt of some mean jokes because he’s hairy?

Whatever your stance on dieting, health, and obesity, it should NEVER be ok to make jokes about anyone’s appearance.  And Miss Piggy’s sudden order change in the drive through?  Do we really want to send the message to little girls that they need to go on diets simply because of their appearance?  All kinds of evil flow from accepting these two bits as comedy and not taking a stand against their message.  Eating disorders, bullying, depression, body shame, discrimination, I could go on and on.

Kermit famously sang “It’s not easy being green”  which originated in the early 1970’s.  Maybe it’s time for Miss Piggy to go on record as accepting herself as she is and stop the self hating comments.

Until then, I think I’ll just take her exercise advise from Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life which according to the Muppet Wiki includes “napping and lifting mugs of hot chocolate. There are several step-by-step photographs of some exercises, such as achieving pin-up girl poses of increasing levels of difficulty all the way up to “The Garbo,” racing in place, and the gift-lift (how to unwrap a present).”

Baby it’s Cold Outside (part 2) Tuesday, Dec 6 2011 

So sorry for the delay in posting, dear readers.  It’s that stressful time of year again and I found myself so exhausted that when I wasn’t working, I was sleeping.  I did get a few small things done though, so there are more posts forthcoming.

On to the coat.

Every time I mentioned this project to anyone, I was met with disbelief.  And I talk about sewing a lot.  😀  I often got comments like “Oh, I could never make my own outerwear!  It’s so difficult!”  So I got to thinking about it.  What’s so hard about a coat?  It has many of the same design elements as a suit jacket, or more basically, a collared shirt.  In fact, the most difficult part, for me at least, is getting the blasted collar put in without having something wonky happen.  I once accidentally cut a hole in the back of a dress when trimming the seam allowance on the collar of the dress.  Thankfully, the fix made the dress look much better than it would have otherwise, but that’s a topic for another post.

Because really, a lined coat is just as accessible as the shirt dress I talked about a couple of weeks ago.  And bonus, there were no break-ups involved this time!  🙂

Now with all that said, there are some things I would do differently next time.  But let’s look at the coat first before we start talking alterations for next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left here is the coat on my trusty dress form.  Please excuse the messy shelf in the background, I was having lighting difficulties and this was the best place to get a good pic for you.  I love it.  It looks sharp and professional.  The buttons are amazing, but sadly I couldn’t get a good shot of them up close.

And on the right I’ve got the coat on a hanger so you can see it’s dirty little secret… the one little detail that you won’t see when I’m wearing it.

That’s right, it’s a zebra print lining.  I love it so much!

Now to talk about changes.  I’ve worn the coat once, and sadly it’s going to be tucked into my closet or given to a deserving friend.  You see, while McCall’s did a mostly-great job of grading the pattern to be fat-girl friendly, they missed one crucial problem.  The upper arms are too slim.  So the coat binds uncomfortably around my biceps.  So disappointing.  This my friends is why it’s a good idea to make a test garment out of muslin or cheap fabric before cutting into your $26-per-yard-OMG-expensive wool.  Because it kills me a little to think of how much I spent on this project and that I can’t wear it immediately.  (Disclaimer: I didn’t actually pay $26 a yard for the fabric.  I got it for about $10/yard thanks to a combo of sale and friends & family additional discount day at the local fabric store.  But still.)

The one other problem is that I felt that the sleeves were just a tad short.  I’m fixing that particular problem by undoing the sleeve hem, sewing some grosgrain ribbon around the sleeve and using the ribbon as a hem facing.  It gives me about an extra inch.

I’ll make another coat, of course.  I’m just sad that I put in all this effort on this one and that I can’t wear it.  Especially considering that I had to save up for the fabric the first time, and I’ll certainly have to save up again.  I doubt I’ll manage to get the same combo of sale and extra discount day that I got the last time around.  We’ll see what happens.

RIP Blue Camp Shirt Thursday, Dec 1 2011 

How many of you can say that you’ve worn a garment until the fabric it’s self fails?

I’m not talking about high wear areas like the inseam that I fixed a few weeks ago.

I’ve lived on a very tight budget the last several years, and as a result I haven’t done any major replacement of my wardrobe in about 3 years.  So some of the things in my closet have been there for 6 years or more.  My blue camp shirt is one of them.  A camp shirt (to me) is a light cotton button down blouse for everyday, utilitarian wear.  It’s not a dressy piece.  It’s something that you’d be comfortable wearing on a hike or a picnic or, maybe, camping.

This particular shirt became a staple in my wardrobe because it fit extremely well, even through weight fluctuations of up to 40 lbs.  One of the cool features was a smocked/elasticized strip that fell at the small of my back.  It was just enough to give some definition to my waistline without making the shirt uncomfortably tight.  And probably my favorite thing about this shirt: It never once gaped at the bust line.  I’m a busty gal, so to have a button down lie flat without showing the girls off is priceless.

After many years of washing this shirt weekly, the threadbare fabric finally gave up, right at the point of one of the bust darts.  It left a 2 inch hole.  I could mend it, I suppose.  But the reality is that the fabric is so fragile at this point that as soon as I patch it, I’ll have another hole somewhere else.

Despite admitting to myself that this shirt will likely never be wearable again, I haven’t managed to put it in the rag bag yet.  It’s been a week since the hole appeared.  I can’t decide if it’s in the hope that I’ll pick it up and miraculously the fabric will have regenerated, or if it’s just out of sheer emotional attachment to a garment that’s been with me for quite a long time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our attitudes towards clothing lately.  It’s become common for clothing to be expected to last no more than 6 months or a year.  Yet just a few generations ago, clothing was made and worn for years at a time.  Making clothing that lasts takes a significant investment in time and effort, an investment not required when purchasing ready to wear clothing.  I think that disconnect from the effort of making clothing has contributed to the disposable attitude towards clothing.  Why spent 20 hours sewing a wool coat when you can purchase one for $150 at your nearest bargain department store?  Why wear wool when there’s synthetic fabrics?

Why get rid of clothing that hasn’t stopped being useful?

In the almost 10 years since I graduated from high school, I can’t recall a time where a classic trench or pea coat was out of style.  It’s fairly safe to assume that this style will remain viable for some time to come.  Let’s say that I purchased a new coat every other year, because I’m poor and can’t afford a new coat each year.  And let’s assume I’m a great shopper and find my winter coat on sale for $75 each time.  Over the course of 10 years, I would spend $375.  I wear a winter coat about 3 months out of the year, so I’d get about 900 wearings out of my investment of $375.  To simplify, it would cost me about $0.41 per day I wore a winter coat.

Now let’s assume I’m a smart and savvy seamstress.  I create a winter coat in a classic trench style for about $75.  I take the time to ensure that the construction is sound, the fabric is of good quality,  and that it’s overall made to last.  I could easily wear that coat for all 10 winters.  But let’s say I make a second one, just to have some color or style options.  Now I’ve got an investment of $150 for the same 900 wearings, only $0.16 each time I wear the coats.  And really, with two coats, I could just as easily stretch their use out for 15 ($0.11) or 20 ($0.08) years instead.

The difference isn’t so much in the cost of the clothing it’s self, it’s in the attitude behind acquiring clothing.  When you’re buying clothing exclusively, it’s easy to buy into the hype that you “need” a new coat each winter, or at very most every other year.  But when you’re making the coat, you approach the subject of a winter coat with a lot more thoughtful planning.  So while there’s no upfront savings, because I respect the coat I made myself more than the coat I bought, I save money by using it longer.

What have you worn out, and I mean really worn out?  Is there something in your closet that you could breathe new life into and extend it’s usefulness?

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