Does that pattern come in my size?

For those of you here for the sewing, I ‘ll have some dresses up soon. But first I wanted to look at something that I discussed in my last post on why it makes economic sense for indie pattern makers to extend their size ranges.

In my last post I showed a couple of distribution curves that illustrate what percentage of the population could use a pattern with a given size range. But I thought it would be interesting to see what range of sizes existing indie companies are actually offering.

I figured I would just choose the top pattern makers, but how to choose? The ones on someone’s list? The most blogged? The ones I like the best? The hippest style, nicest drafting or most clever instructions? So I hopped over to pattern review.com, and looked at some of the patterns that have made their top ten patterns of the year, over the past few years. You may or may not agree that these are the top patterns, but they’ve been sewn by a large number of people, and have obtained many good reviews.

A reminder: In the following charts, I’ve shown size range in the general population, across a normal distribution. Then I’ve charted the sizes offered for specific sewing patterns as the area under the curve (the green area) to calculate what percentage of the population could use the pattern. See my previous article for a more detailed description of these concepts.

Indie pattern range
A common indie pattern range.

First shown is a range of pattern sizes (6-18) used by some indie pattern makers. About 43% of the population can use these patterns.

This is the distribution curve for the Burda Magazine 04-2009-101 "Skirt with Front Pockets". Only 31% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers offered 5 sizes to cover that range.
This is the distribution curve for the Burda Magazine 04-2009-101 “Skirt with Front Pockets”. Only 31% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers offered 5 sizes to cover that range.

Next is a pattern from BurdaStyle magazine: 04-2009-101 “Skirt with Front Pockets”. Only 31% of the population can use this pattern. Considering this is a simple straight skirt, that would look good on a wide range of figures, it’s surprising that the pattern is offered in so few sizes.

This is the distribution curve for the Cambie dress from Sewaholic Patterns. About 49% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers used 9 sizes to get that range.
This is the distribution curve for the Cambie dress from Sewaholic Patterns. About 49% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers used 9 sizes to get that range.

The Cambie dress is similar to the curve used by indie pattern makers, shown above, with a couple extra sizes near the middle. However, since Sewaholic patterns are drafted for pear-shaped figures and I’m comparing pattern sizes based largely on bust measurements, in reality this curve is probably shifted a little to the right and probably covers a slightly larger percentage of the population.

This is the distribution curve for the Archer shirt from Grainline Studio. About 53% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern maker used 10 sizes to get that range.
This is the distribution curve for the Archer shirt from Grainline Studio. About 53% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern maker used 10 sizes to get that range.

The Archer shirt uses a curve similar to the Big4 pattern companies.

This is the distribution curve for the Anna dress from By Hand London. About 61% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers used 8 sizes to get that range.
This is the distribution curve for the Anna dress from By Hand London. About 61% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers used 8 sizes to get that range.

This is the Anna dress from By Hand London. Although their sizing system is slightly different, this dress goes up to the equivalent of a size 24. It’s a curve similar to that of used by the Big 4 pattern companies, but shifted up slightly.

This is the distribution curve for the Peony dress by Colette Patterns. About 61% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern maker used 10 sizes to get that range.
This is the distribution curve for the Peony dress by Colette Patterns. About 61% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern maker used 10 sizes to get that range.

Here we see the distribution for Colette’s Peony dress. It covers 61% of the population, just like the Anna dress above, but the pattern maker offers 10 sizes to cover the range, instead of 8.

This is the distribution curve for the Moneta dress by Colette Patterns. About 80% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern maker used 7 sizes to get that range.
This is the distribution curve for the Moneta dress by Colette Patterns. About 80% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern maker used 7 sizes to get that range.

Colette recently extended their size range with new patterns for knits. This is the size range for the Moneta dress. It covers 80% of the population, in only 7 sizes. This isn’t one of the top patterns on pattern review.com (it’s too new to be considered), but I think it’s interesting to look at, compared to the previous size range for this company.

This is the distribution curve for the Tiramisu dress by Cake Patterns. About 85% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers used 5 sizes to get that range.
This is the distribution curve for the Tiramisu dress by Cake Patterns. About 85% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers used 5 sizes to get that range.

The Tiramisu dress is also a dress for knits. It covers a slightly larger percent of the population (85%), but this time with only five individual sizes.

This is the distribution curve for the Jalie 2919 "Pleated Cardigan and Vest". About 8% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers included 27 sizes (including children's sizes) to get that range.
This is the distribution curve for the Jalie 2919 “Pleated Cardigan and Vest”. About 8% of the population can use this pattern. The pattern makers included 27 sizes (including children’s sizes) to get that range.

Finally there is Jalie. Their large size range is part of their marketing strategy and their patterns are often drafted for both kids and adults. Jalie 2919 can be used by 88% of the population. It’s the largest percentage, and they definitely have the largest number of sizes per pattern (27!). But, compared to some of the other companies, Jalie doesn’t offer the largest sizes.

Some Caveats

These numbers are only approximations based on the model I described in my previous blog post. The same statistical caveats discussed in that article apply to these curves. Keep in mind, I’m using bust measurements, based on this chart, to do a comparison across various different companies, all of which use their own sizing systems. I used bust measurements because they are always listed, and because there is a historical precedent in vintage patterns. Using a different measure (waist, hips, etc.) would result in slightly different curves for each pattern. Overall, though, the differences between companies should be similar.

I’m choosing patterns from patternreview.com. It’s possible that there is a sampling bias. Maybe the people on that site prefer patterns of in a larger range of sizes, for example. There are probably many more patterns out there that have curves that look like the BurdaStyle skirt, than ones that look like the Jalie top.

Covering the entire ranges of sizes may not be the goal of a given pattern maker. In some cases, certain pattern companies may be marketing to specific niche markets, and so they may not intend to cover the largest range possible. In other cases, resources are limited. Nevertheless, I think it’s interesting to look at examples of what specific, successful pattern companies are doing.

Comments are always welcome! And I promise the next blog post will include actual sewing 😉

What size am I? Rough size equivalents for sewists

While I was writing up my list of Independent Sewing Patterns for the Plus-Sized Sewist, one of the things I noticed was how different everyone’s sizing system was. And the larger the pattern sizes available, the more the systems varied from pattern maker to pattern maker.

I looked online for some sort of chart that would link up all the sizing systems. There were some good ones. The Named Patterns size chart includes lots of sizing systems, but it only goes up to size EUR 46. There is also a cute online clothing size conversion tool, but it doesn’t include measurements or pattern sizes. And there is a fabulous list by Cashmerette, that compares the sizing systems of some of the most popular independent pattern makers.

But overall, there wasn’t what I needed, especially not in the plus size range, so I made my own.

This is a rough guide to how clothing sizes and sewing pattern sizes match up across the most commonly used clothing systems. Please click to enlarge. For more details, please read the notes below.

Rough Size Chart Equivalents for Sewists
Rough Size Equivalents for Sewists

Download the Rough Size Chart Equivalents for Sewists as a PDF (450 kb)

How This Chart Was Built

Where does this information come from?

I used the combined available size charts from major pattern manufacturers, clothing manufacturers and international size standards. I didn’t include independent pattern company size charts, which vary a great deal. And for some indie pattern companies, that is part of their marketing and their charm. Pear shaped? extra curvy? petite? Some indie pattern companies are intentionally catering to that demographic and their size charts reflect that.

Should I choose my pattern size based on this chart?

Probably not. It’s always a good idea to read the measurements that come with a specific pattern for a better fit.

Why are some sizes greyed out?

The greyed out sizes are purely fictitious. They don’t exist on the size charts of major manufacturers. But since human beings do come in those sizes, I extended out the available sizes myself, using the same approximate measurement intervals. I made educated guesses. I know that is not exactly how sizing or pattern grading works, but since these sizes are not actually available, I figure my approximations are better than nothing. Since some of the larger “official” sizes are rarely, if ever available, my approximations are about as useful.

Why did you only include EUR sizes 28-64?

I stopped at size EUR 64. Again, human beings come in larger sizes, so the size chart could easily be expanded (and should be!). However, this includes all the sizes that I could find in my list of Independent Sewing Patterns for the Plus-Sized Sewist. I also found it extremely difficult to find consensus among clothing manufacturers about what exactly constitutes the 6X to 10X+ size range.

What’s the green bar?

The average bust size in the USA in 2004, according to Size USA was 40″. The green bar, therefore, is the average size of women in the USA. I found it very interesting that for many independent pattern companies, this was the largest size they made. Even Big 4 pattern companies often stop at size 18, and sometimes 16, for individual patterns.

What’s going on with sizes XL, 1X and 2X?

In theory, XL and 1X should be equivalent and XXL and 2X should be equivalent, but those sizes are very approximate, and vary greatly among clothing manufacturers.

Is the sizing for 1x to 5x accurate?

Maybe. There doesn’t seem to be a clear standard for those clothing sizes, at least not one that I could find. However, this chart best approximates the  reported sizing used by significant number of large clothing manufacturers and distributors. It’s also quite close to the KwikSew size chart for sizes 1X to 4X. I wanted to include that information as well, but I couldn’t see any easy way to incorporate those sizes and still keep the chart tidy and legible.

Do you have suggestions? complaints?

I hope you find the chart useful. If you have any comments or would like to suggest improvements, I’d love to hear about it! Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

At The Clothing Swap

This weekend I spent my Sunday at a clothing swap. My friend K. is one of the organizers, and she and a friend hold one swap in the spring and another in the fall. It’s a great idea, so I thought I’d blog about it, in case you’ve never been to one.

How does a clothing swap work?

Everyone goes through their closet and collects any clothing that is in good condition, but that isn’t being worn. Sometimes, it’s because it’s no longer the right size, sometimes not the right style, and sometimes it’s one of those regrettable purchases that happens to the best of us. At this swap, we’re welcome to bring clothing for women, men and kids, and accessories too.

Then every one brings their swap clothes to the swap, shows them to the crowd, and hopefully the clothes find a new home. What isn’t snapped up goes to charity. What doesn’t fit goes to charity. What doesn’t suit goes to charity too. Also, did I mention there are snacks? Yummy ones? Yes, It’s a potluck brunch too. Fun!

The concept is really great because it gathers people who are friends (or at least friendly acquaintances), who are approximately the same age, and who have similar tastes. That means that more clothing gets a new lease on life, and that in turn, means less clothing in landfills.

My new-to-me outfit, all from a clothing swap.
My new-to-me outfit, all from the swap.

Why is this a big deal?

American each discard 82 pounds of clothing per year. About 70 pounds of that ends up in a landfill. According to the the US EPA, 5 per cent of all landfill production is textile waste. And about 90 per cent of that could be recycled.

Donations to charities are a staple for getting rid of unwanted, but usable clothing. But thrift shops are only able to resell about 20 per cent of the clothing they receive. There is just too much of it.

According to Waste Couture, “There are nowhere near enough people in America to absorb the mountains of castoffs, even if they were given away.”

The rest is downcycled, sold by weight as textile scraps for various industrial purposes. However, recycling clothing uses even more energy and resources, so anything that can divert used clothing earlier on is great at reducing waste.

T-shirts I got at a clothing swap.
My oldest two kids each got a t-shirt at the swap.

What are the benefits?

These are my own personal thoughts of course. Your experience may vary.

  • You clear out your closet. Just being able to see the things you can wear, because they are easier to access, helps get the things you like back into regular rotation. It is very freeing. And it is easier to part with me-made clothing, since it’s going to a “good home”.
  • You pay attention to how much you buy. For example, I apparently, have three long-sleeved, v-neck red sweaters, which really, is two too many. Regularly reviewing your clothing purchases is very eye opening. A lot of things that are brought to the swap have never been worn. Some still have the tags on them.
  • You start to become better at knowing what you like. For a long time I liked turtlenecks, but I just don’t think I’m a “turtleneck person” anymore. But someone at the swap might be! And once, I got an amazing long Uniqlo cardigan, because the person who bought it had decided they weren’t a “long sweater person.” Everyone wins.
  • You save money. You get new clothes for free. You buy less. Enough said.
  • You gain a better appreciation of your own shape. Seeing six real-life women in the the same t-shirt is useful. People come in so many shapes in sizes, and nothing looks the same on them all, and that’s great! And it is the exact opposite of the message sent by every glossy magazine ad that you have ever seen. It’s too easy to compare yourself to the implausibly photoshopped and end up feeling somehow “less than”, instead of appreciating yourself as a unique human being, warts (or in my case, four pregnancies) and all.
  • Free fabric. As someone who sews, I also see opportunities to repair, refashion and upcycle some of the fabric. If you can sew, and your crowd buys clothing made of quality fabrics, there are some cool finds in the clothing reject pile.
  • Fun! (I did mention the snacks and friends, yes?)

So what did I get this weekend?

Glad you asked! I got a two shirts for my husband, a couple used DVDs, a t-shirt for each of my two oldest kids, and a really pretty enamel bracelet for my third. (Kid No 4 had snacks at the swap, so she wasn’t too sad to not get anything later). I got a knit shirt and a new-to-me pair of jeans, just as my favourite pair are nearing the end of their usable life, a scarf, and three sewing patterns from the 90s. Overall, a pretty good haul!

Patterns I got at a clothing swap
Patterns I got at a clothing swap. These are New Look 6343, 6576 and 6603. There could be a shirt dress in my future.

Do you have any other suggestions for diverting clothing from landfills? Leave it in the comments!

Someone Is Learning to Sew

Check this out! Can you believe that this adorable bunny was made by Kid No 1?

Bunny
Ack! Too cute!

She’s learning to hand sew and she made the whole thing by herself. I may have helped just a little with the face. She’s only seven, after all.

Bunny
See how tiny!

It was a homework assignment. All the kids in her class had to bring something homemade to school for a gift exchange. This was what she made.

Bunny
I may have helped with the face, just a little.

There was no pattern, and it was made of scraps of polar fleece leftover from the mittens I made earlier this winter. The bunny is quite small, only about 10 cm (about 4 inches) tall, including the ears.

Kid No 1 was so happy, that she made another for herself, right afterwards. I’m so proud of her!

Top Five of 2013

Top 5 of 2013 blog series
Top 5 of 2013 blog series

It’s been a crazy year. I’ve been sewing for years (let’s not count!) but I’m pretty sure this year has been one of my most crafty ever. I think I completed 54 projects, though some were made in quadruplicate versions. That includes a couple of projects that were never blogged, and there is still some Christmas sewing to come.

Add a fall full of sick kids (and parents), the end of my maternity leave and return to work, and all the general ups and downs that a year in a family of six brings, and suddenly I see that I have been busy indeed.

I thought I’d join in the Top 5 of 2013 blog series, organized by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow, so here are some of my very favourite projects of 2013.

Baby dress made by The Finished Garment using the Geranium Dress sewing pattern from Made by Rae and Floral Meadow fabric from the Storybook Lane collection.
It’s hard to up the cute factor, but a bonnet will do it every time.

1. The geranium dress and bonnet.

Red Xs and Os quilt by The Finished Garment
Love the colours (or lack thereof).

2. The Red Xs and Os quilt.

A pile of bucket hats.
A pile of bucket hats.

3. A stack of reversible bucket hats.

Kelly Skirt
Kelly Skirt by Megan Nielsen.

4. My linen Kelly skirt.

I like the length a lot. Lots of room to grow.
I like the length a lot. Lots of room to grow.

5. This simple sundress.

Honourable Mention: Starting a blog! I know that isn’t really a sewing project per se, but this blog was only started in 2013. I definitely have some things to work on, but overall, it’s been a really fun experience. I’m glad I finally got organized enough to get my sewing online.

As part of the blog series, we’re also supposed to list our top fails, but I feel like I beat myself up over my failures enough as it is. So instead, here are some areas where I have room to grow.

1. More clothes for me

When I looked at my stats (in an über geeky spreadsheet), I found that about 75 per cent of my sewing projects are for my kids. However, part of the reason I’m sewing is to get myself a decent wardrobe for my post-baby body. That means I need to do some more sewing for myself. Sewing for myself is more challenging, and, more time-consuming. If I want to keep posting regularly, I’ll have to blog more than just the finished projects I complete. So my plan is to post more works in progress. 

2. More clothes for Mr Garment

I also feel I need to sew a little more for my husband. He only got one thing this year! But, I’ve got a shirt on the way, and what look like some good patterns for some upcoming projects. I think I’ll be able to get a couple small projects for him completed before Valentine’s day.

3. More complex quilts

I made four quilting projects this year: three quilts and a table runner, and I have another quilt almost finished. I’m not sure that time allows for more, but I would like to make better, more interesting quilts. I might also make some projects with quilt blocks, like bags, since those are a little quicker.

4. Keep doing the things I like

I like sewing because it’s fun, so I have to remember to keep doing the fun things. Some of the things I liked doing this year: using indie patterns (87% of my projects used indie patterns this year), trying new fabrics, collaborating with my kids on clothing plans. I have to try hard not to get discouraged when things don’t work out quite as planned.

5. Use what I have

I now have a really good stockpile of patterns. I started the year with about 20 patterns, some years old and hopelessly out of style, and most the wrong size or style for my post-four-kids body. But now I have a really good selection. Luckily most were bought on sale, or were gifts, so I didn’t spend a crazy amount on patterns. But, I really shouldn’t have to buy more. Of course, I will probably buy more, since there are gaps in the type of patterns I have – no leggings, for example. But I need to keep things reasonable.  I also have a good stash of fabric now – or rather, a collection of fabric for specific projects, at least for myself. I need to complete those projects, before I get more fabric for myself. I don’t have as much for kids, and I find that what they need changes often, so fabric for kids’ clothing will still have to be bought.

So that’s my 2013 roundup, and my goals for 2014. What about you? Do you have any sewing goals for 2014?