Sew Your Own Plus Size Clothing

It isn't hard for plus size women to sew their own clothing. New lines of patterns especially designed for the plus figure make fitting easy.

Now is a great time for plus size women to start sewing their own clothing. Plus size women are in fashion these days. The Council on Size & Weight Discrimination states that one-third of all American women wear a size 16 or larger and there are 38 to 40 million plus-size men and women in the United States today. It's finally dawned on designers and manufacturers that there's a significant market for plus size clothing. This trend has not been lost on the pattern making industry and they too have begun to target full figured women. For the woman who likes to sew it's easier than ever to sew her own plus size clothes.

There was a time when extensive alterations were required to make patterns fit anyone who didn't fall into the traditional pattern sizes, but no more. There are many resources available that did not exist five years ago. Pattern books and makers feature a significant number of plus sized patterns, with designer names prominently featured. Big names like Simplicity, McCall's and Butterick all have their own plus sized lines in a variety of flattering styles.

One innovation in fitting plus size bodies is that of the body shape. We all know everyone doesn't get bigger in the same way. On some women it goes to the hips and thighs, while others get larger in the bust or stomach area first. Simplicity Patterns' Mary Duffy was one of the first designers to work with this fitting fact by developing the HOAX system. In this system, the size of the letter is the size of the body it represents. H is even, top and bottom, with not much of a waist. O is round all over, A larger at the hips, and X is what is traditionally known as the hourglass figure. Simplicity's patterns are assigned one or more of these letters to indicate which figures they will most flatter.

McCall's Patterns features a half-size pattern for plus size women, which fits the needs of the mature but diminutive woman. Customers in this fit range swear by half size as the solution to their fitting problems. Butterick, the oldest pattern maker still in business has also honored the need for more fashions to fit a full sized body. Even Vogue patterns have graded their patterns up to sizes 20-22. In addition, the joint website for McCall's, Butterick and Vogue patterns offers a link to a specialized fitting service, Unique Patterns, a Canadian firm. This service could be a boon for the inexperienced sewer or a woman with unusual fitting problems. Unique Patterns, creates custom fit patterns using a combination of body measurements taken in person at selected sites which are used to draft specially custom fit versions of McCall's and Butterick ready made patterns.

In addition, a number of specialized smaller pattern manufacturers are also focussing on plus size sewers. One excellent resource is Petite Plus Patterns, which target the short, (5' 2" and under) full busted woman. This company features a practical mix and match line of looks for every day and dress up wear. Another interesting resource for easy plus size sewing is the Pawprint Pattern Co. Founder Dana Bontrager specializes in flowing wearable art styles, rather than rigidly tailored looks. She says she was constantly getting requests to make her patterns larger, and now most go to 3X and some to size 5X. Design & Sew pattern maven Lois Erickson offers sizes up to 26 in designs that feature special finishes, closures, and garment lines. Like all the designers discussed here, her website features fascinating pattern details that will inspire the creativity of the user.

Two other specialized pattern makers have made fitting the plus size woman their primary goal. Sewgrand Patterns features multisize career and casual designs in sizes from 12 to 26. These patterns have been graded up and down from a size 18, rather than only grading up from a smaller size pattern, which can lead to distortion around the neck and shoulder area. They are specifically designed to fit well on a full-busted woman. Coni Crawford worked professionally as a pattern maker for 45 years, and brings her special expertise to her company, Fashion Patterns By Coni. She uses European couture techniques to develop proprietary single size patterns that really fit. She tests all her patterns on a DD woman to make sure the fit is right.

Thus it doesn't have to be hard for a plus size woman to make her own clothing. Clearly there are plenty of resources to choose from when it comes to patterns, and whatever your needs you can find something specially suited to you. In addition, in this day when fashion fabrics are increasingly hard to find, many excellent fabric stores now sell over the Internet. A few to check out are,,, and this writer's personal favorite, All these resources sell patterns, sewing notions and fabric, and offer excellent service. There are numerous other sites available both locally and on line and they can be invaluable to you.

If you don't know how to sew but would like to learn there are several ways to locate an instructor or classes in your neighborhood. Try checking out local fabric and craft stores, attending sewing expositions, conventions or conferences or checking out the community college, college and adult education classes in your area. You may be able to find an instructor by searching the Home Sewing Association online at There are also many pages of detailed sewing instruction available online at a variety of sites.

The trick is to find a pattern style that you like and which is flattering to you. Get a friend to help measure you and then adjust the pattern fit to your measurements, using the grade lines on the pattern. If you aren't completely sure how to put it together, get some help in learning how to make it. You can then use the same pattern over and over using different fabric and altering details like garment length, closure, buttons and trims.

For example, a princess line cotton/linen blend blouse and a long flared rayon dress can both be made from the same basic pattern, but no one who sees you wearing them will think they are the same. Many patterns come with a variety of fashion possibilities already designed into them, so once you've got the fit right, you can make the variations and know that they will fit you too.

Making your own clothing doesn't have to be hard. It can be enjoyable and rewarding. As you gain confidence, you can fit and learn to sew another pattern. Soon you will have a wardrobe of custom designed, well-fitted clothes. The time it takes will be well spent, as you will find the clothes you make yourself fit better and are better quality and more flattering than much of what you can buy in the store.

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