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.  🙂