Tailor made – dress form

Made to measure dress form neckline

It is quite a process to create a dress form that follows the contours of your body exactly. I have developed a fast and easy method that does not include duct tape or plaster casts.

Made to measure dressform

It is not for the feint hearted, to be faced with your body from the outside, all its lumps and bumps is quite distressing at first. Having been slim and lithe for most of my life, middle age is definitely spreading. However, once that shock is over, it gives an opportunity to really assess the body in terms of what I want to enhance and what I want to hide.

made to measure dress form

The dummy in this picture is not straight on mostly because I feel rather exposed showing this shape, but you get the drift. I do have some lovely fashion fabric to go over the dummy, but I find white is less distracting.

Made to measure arm hole

Having a dress form makes sewing so much easier, you can do alterations without stabbing yourself with pins, and given my sway back, I can ensure that the back sits perfectly.

The whole process took me approximately two days to do, but it is worthwhile… it really is key to getting good fitting garments.


A round peg in a world of square holes – learning to love my curves


It is thanks to my lovely pen pal (the old fashioned letter writing sort!) that I feel I have had a bit of an epiphany recently. She was new to sewing, her letter was so full of the delights of dressmaking, I wanted to pick up my abandoned pencil skirt five minutes after receiving her letter. The epiphany began with the question why I had stopped doing something I really enjoy, in the first place?- I have put on weight and I simply could not bear to look at myself in the mirror.

Size is a personal thing, to some my dress size would be their ideal, but I don’t like what I see – but why? I am a healthy woman, with curves with a little bit of a tummy if I am honest – where did this self loathing come from?

I am an hourglass figure – big busted, big hipped, clothing just doesn’t fit and when I look at all the pattern illustrations what I get looks completely different. For years I have felt a round peg trying to fit into a square hole!

When do you see women with hips and boobs in films or the media? Yet a with a few clicks I was thrilled to discover there are many beautiful women out there.



When I see these images, I feel better because they reflect my body shape and exude style and beauty. I hope that it isn’t long before we can see curvy women take roles in movies and advertising, the Fashion industry still has a long way to go.

One of the great things about sewing, is that you have the power at your fingertips to create outfits that fit and flatter your shape, whatever it is.

We don’t have to wait for the fashion industry to change, we can make up our own minds about what is good for us, there are some great blogs out there who are doing just that! Big women who challenge the trend – who are beginning to change fashion. They are creating their own fashion lines, writing their own magazines – clothing manufacturers are listening!


Christina Mendez

But in the meantime, there are things I can do!

So here are my eight tips I intend to follow to help me learn to love and accept myself:

1 – Embrace who you are, measure yourself accurately, don’t suck your tummy in or judge the numbers, just accept them.

2 – Know your body shape and work with it, for example I know that anything without a defined waist will make me look enormous, so I choose patterns that have princess seams, or empire waistlines. If you aren’t sure of  what suits try on lots of different clothing styles until you get an idea of what you like.



3 – Wear the right underwear: I make french knickers because they go round the waist there is no such thing as a muffin top! A well fitting bra not only  supports the bust, but takes care of your back as well.

4 -Don’t hide your curves, while fashion mags might be full of size zero models a survey of men revealed that size 14/16 was the ideal body shape in mens eyes. Women’s bodies are supposed to be different, so intend to learn to love my soft body, be voluptuous.


5 -Wear clothes that makes me feel good! Soft velvet, floaty chiffon or cotton jersey. When you make clothes, you can use comfortable seam finishes that don’t chafe the skin. You can add a small section of elastic into a waistband to snuggle the after lunch tummy bloat.


6- Take care of yourself – eat well and move a little! I work with 90 year olds, not one of them has ever set foot inside a gym, but they take a regular walk every day, which is why they can still do it! Find something that you love and do it every day, even if it is playing a few tunes and dancing round the room! (I love dancing round the room!)

7-Take control, advertising might bombard me from every street, but today I discovered body positive images to counteract this – I am reading articles and fashion advice from those who make me feel good!

8- Spend time on my appearance every day – I have been putting my hair in a ponytail, not putting on any make-up or lipstick – and the beautiful scent bottles are gathering dust. Today I sat back and brushed my hair, put on  make up and also discovered I can still wear earrings after nearly a year without them! Needless to say I feel so much better already.



So that was me yesterday in the garden with the dog – no make-up, hair up hiding in mostly black.

Look out world – here I come!

Here are some blogs and websites  that may interest you:

Secret Plus Size Goddess – this lady is awesome!

Fashion and styling 

UK fashion blogger:  the arched eyebrow has an urban style

Curvy and Chic






Note; I have provided links where I can for the pictures when available, unfortunately some of the Pinterest links are dead. If you can help me give the right credit please let me know.





French knickers

satin and silk french knickers
I have been experimenting with French Knicker patterns. There are a number of them available on ebay but I can recommend the Vintage pattern company. 

Vintage pattern instructions

The instructions are very clear, and the pattern is a good quality copy and far more robust than an original pattern.

Vintage pattern copy

You can see from the little circles that the pattern was from the 1940’s these circles indicate where the pattern pieces should meet. Darts, grain line markings all came later and give us much more details than early vintage patterns.

Cut on the bias

The important thing to remember when making lingerie is to cut on the bias, which is 45 degrees from the selvage edge. It is what will make your lingerie cling to you.

light weight fabrics

These were an early experiment and they are cut on the grain, when I wear these it feels as if I am wearing shorts!  French knickers are really just fancy shorts! You can use any short pattern as it is the fabric you use that makes it lingerie rather than outer wear.

The Vintage pattern creates a skirt that you cut along the front and attach a gusset

cut on the bias

Which is far more flattering than shorts and they flow around the body better than short patterns do.


I love the idea of buttons up the sides, but for my initial practise garments I decided to use an elasticated waistband, its kinder to wear as my tummy size alters quite a bit during the course of the day.

Zig Zag Stitch for attaching elastic

Attaching elastic is relatively easy, you have to select a broken zig zag stitch on your sewing machine, the gaps allow the elastic to move. An elasticated needle is essential as it is blunt it finds a way between the elastic threads rather than piercing them.

attaching elastic

I firstly stitch the decorative knicker elastic along the top edge with the frill facing downwards and the right side of my fabric facing. Stretching the elastic slightly as I sew along the waistline.

Top stitching elastic

Once attached I turn the edge over and top stitch – it makes the most of the decorative edging.

Adding lace trimming

Lace trim is easy to add to the bottom edges, simply stitch along the middle of the lace and then re-stitch following the contours of the lace.

French Knickers vintage patternIt is difficult to photograph these – and while they look enormous, when you wear them it is similar to wearing a miniskirt! It looks beautiful – no more muffin tops and elastic cutting into the top of my legs causing bulges! It simply skims my body, flows and caresses my skin with no chafing! No panty lines!

Edge lace enhancement

Try them yourself, using different luxurious fabrics, bows and trims. Once you wear these you will never go back to shop bought briefs!

ttfn x

Talking French – Flattering Lingerie – no more muffin tops!

What a warm lovely summer! I am still plugging away at the vintage elements – will be posting soon, but with the hot weather I thought I would talk Lingerie!
The photograph above illustrates what is frustrating about the underwear widely available – it is just so unflattering! It distorts the model’s rather lovely shape her cheeks are poking out from the bottom, they cut across the widest part of her body in a band -these knickers sabotage your sexiness  no matter what your size. It does make me wonder just what manufacturers are thinking and why we put up with it. It is nigh on impossible to buy anything else, so fortunately being able to sew means I am not restricted to what is available in the shops.
You can buy these from ‘What Katie did
French knickers on the other hand begin at the smallest part – the waist, and follow a woman’s curves gently to finish just at the top of the leg. This makes everyone look beautiful it works with the lines of the female form rather than against them.
You can buy these from ‘What Katie did’
Of course what comes as a shock when you pick up a pair or make your own – is that they seem huge!
Used to these mean strips of fabric, the volumes of lace or satin are a big difference but stick with it.  Once you have something around your natural waistline and not cutting across your hips, you will find your ‘muffin’ top becomes a distant memory.
It feels wonderful to have knickers around the waist again, that you might find you never go back. Make them out of stain or silk, and you have a whole beautiful sensation as it flows round your hips.
They are bliss to wear under a summer dress as they are cool and have no visible panty line. Of course your man will find it irresistible, all that wonderful accessibility will be on his mind!
Available from ‘What Katie Did’
The French knickers here are from What Katie Did, they ship world wide, but they are very easy to make.
You are simply making light, airy shorts which in the warmer weather make summer dresses a pleasure to wear.
Especially if you are a little more generously proportioned as I am.
Last year on holiday the temperatures were very high, I had put on a little weight and was shocked at how my thighs rubbed together and became extremely sore.
French knickers are perfect for solving this problem as the fabric takes the ‘rub’. In addition if you suffer from Thrush or cystitis they really do help prevent these occurring.
I will be sharing my knicker making adventures next time.
afternoon! And the fabric requirements are not big at all.

Finding Peace with our Bodies through Sewing

Dressmaking, sewing, body confidence, self love, self esteem-6

I turned to sewing out of sheer desperation.

Changing rooms in clothing shops were woeful experiences – seeing my body under harsh shop lighting; mirrors creating multiple reflections of parts of me that I did not usually see. The clothing either stretched out of place across my hips or it simply slipped off my shoulders. Trousers gaped at my waist and sometimes would not pass beyond my thighs.  I would leave clothing shops downcast and empty handed.

There is no standardisation for clothing manufacturing, with the increase in internet shopping companies experience huge returns for clothing mostly because women have to order a range of sizes. The industry identifies four main body types, most women in the UK are considered pear shaped yet manufacturers use a standard hourglass figure size 12. Some movement has shifted towards using body shapes with ease created in the style and use of stretch fabrics.

Women are graded by numbers – its quantifiable, smaller is better, size 10 used to be desirable now it is size zero, but hold on isn’t zero nothing?

Dressmaking, sewing, body confidence, self love, self esteem-5

Women blame their bodies for diverting from unrealistic standards. Talk to any woman about buying clothes and she will tell you what she believes is ‘wrong’ with her body: broad shoulders, narrow shoulders, or a small bust, or she is too busty, or her hips are too big. It is the cause of so much loss of self esteem in women and it is responsible for so much misery.

size diversity will become the norm

Thankfully times are changing, there are small rays of hope. Wasn’t Marilyn Monroe the icon of beauty –  a size 16?Manufacturers recognise that in order to sell clothing and reduce returns, they have to change.

Women are using blogs and social media to challenge the system of the ideal, the internet has given every woman a voice and the ability to speak in huge numbers.

Dove’s advertising campaign embraces women’s differences but imagine advertising where all the body shapes must be represented in order not to cause offence!

Dressmaking, sewing, self acceptance and self love

You no longer have to fit into a standard. If you are turning to sewing you will discover similar blocks in patterns, but with a little skill and knowledge, you can overcome them.

The dressmaking industry has used a method of standardisation that was last reviewed in the 1970’s and only 1% of women studied were over the age of 55. Women bodies alter as they age, but patterns were designed for a 20 year old woman before childbirth.

Standards are set using a B cup bra, most women today are a DD – so if you have to do a full bust adjustment you are in good company. Its a great idea to use the upper bust measurement rather than the full bust measurement to determine the size.

To sew your own clothing is to go on a journey of discovery about the wonderful home that serves us faithfully every moment of our lives.

As we begin measuring, adjusting, altering,  refining the patterns we use, we are learning to work with our bodies.

We learn a new language, there is no part of us that is wrong any more, certain parts that need a little more fabric or a dart here and there.

We begin to understand how particular styles make us feel good about ourselves – and then we can create these in an infinite number of ways.

Dressmaking, sewing, body confidence, self love, self esteem-4