How I Got A Brand New Wardrobe

Or, “How I lost 26 pounds in 14 weeks”. I wrote this article last summer. I intended to publish it here, but then, panicked a little, and just posted it for a smaller audience on Facebook. But if you share nothing with the world, the world shares nothing with you.

How I lost 26 pounds in 14 weeks

Don’t really care? Move along then, nothing to see here! The rest of you (maybe like the two or three people I have been ranting to all summer), read on!

Kids, this summer I lost a lot of weight. In a way, it’s part of a plan for a happier, healthier me and it’s also a way to cross a couple things off my bucket list. Incidentally, so is this post.

My bucket list is not actually that long (this post is though, sorry!), but along with the not-very-original travel destinations, a second tattoo, and the dream of swimming in the ocean at night, I have written down: uber-personal blog post. Here it is.

How much did I lose?

Over 14 weeks, I lost 25 pounds (or 12 kg for most of the world), 6 inches off my waist, 5 inches off my rib cage, and 4 inches off my hips and chest. (All my curvy friends just looked at those numbers and said “Damn girl, that is going to be expensive!”). F&#$in’ eh! I went down from about a size 14 to a size 8 (just barely). In the sewing world, that means 1/2 my patterns are in the wrong size range.

I am almost at the point where when I plug my details into an online BMI calculator, a message does not come up in giant red all-caps saying “Overweight. Take action.” Also whoever programmed that thing is an a$#@#$!

That’s a pretty steep weight loss over a really short timespan. Most people don’t lose that much weight so quickly. So if you are also trying to get into shape, my results are not necessarily typical. Don’t get discouraged!

Shannon (before and after)
Counterclockwise from the top: An old before photo from 2014, a little over half way there, and down 26 pounds. Anyway, in progress people, so try not to be all judgey. I realize I am ridiculously far from perfect!

Girlfriend, what happened?

I was pretty thin in university – maybe a size four or six. But my weight slowly inched up (as it does). Then, I had four beautiful kids, and four unremarkable pregnancies. But I never really took off the weight afterwards, and each pregnancy was followed up right away by another. And for very good reasons, for a long time, my weight just wasn’t a priority. Life was busy!

But then, slowly, life got a lot less busy. Being a mother took slightly less time. My older kids were in school. I wasn’t breastfeeding anymore. I got more sleep and I had a little more time for myself.

And then I had a truly terrible year in 2015. I had the busiest workload I’ve ever had. I applied for, but didn’t get, the job I really wanted. There was a data breach involving some very private information that I really didn’t want to talk about, or even think about. It turns out that trying not to think about horrible invasions of one’s privacy is not especially effective, however. One of my kids had a serious medical incident (which luckily, resolved quickly). But more generally, a large number of things were just not making me happy. It was one of the reasons I took a blogging break. I felt ridiculous posting photos that made my life look happy and perfect when I felt exactly the opposite.

Then things got worse. Christmas was incredibly stressful and I procrasti-baked (and ate) the whole way through. My birthday is right after Christmas, and that was tough too.

And then in February I had a miscarriage. I hadn’t wanted to be pregnant and I wasn’t pregnant for long, but it was unexpectedly devastating all the same. Some days (most days?), I would put my littlest down for her nap and then just sit in the kitchen and cry. Dealing with the miscarriage was really hard. It was hard to deal with. It was hard to talk about. And for the few people I did talk to, it was probably hard to listen to (Sorry!). I felt very alone.

By the beginning of of May I was at my heaviest (non-pregnant) weight ever, and about 50 pounds over my ideal weight.

Hopey-changey stuff

Even though by New Year’s Eve, things were not going especially well for me, I had already decided that I really needed to make a concerted effort to be happier to get more joy in my life. I know, a non-linear narrative, but work with me here! For my New Year’s resolution I wrote up a bucket list and a mini-manifesto to change my life for the better.

By the time February came along, I was already doing some things to make myself a happier, healthier person. I was getting out to see people more often, being more sociable even when it felt awkward, trying hard to make new friends, and taking dance classes for the first time in my life. All things that had been so tough before, with so many kids at home. In the spring I started doing slam poetry (I used to do performance poetry in university).

I also stopped doing some things that just were not working for me (speaking engagements, sitting on boards, organizing events). I am a pretty intense person, but even for me, something had to give. There just wasn’t enough emotional energy left in the bank. So in May, I made room for a new project: me. I know, I wrote that and even I think it sounded cheesy, but what can you do?

The Plan

I wanted to make healthy permanent lifestyles changes, that made me stronger and healthier, and not just skinnier. Every change except one (more on that later, but spoiler alert, it’s carbs!) is sustainable over time, I think (It’s only been 14 weeks though…). I didn’t go to the gym or count calories or limit my food. But I increased my exercise dramatically and changed everything about how I eat.

I also checked with my doctor and had a full batch of blood and hormone tests done beforehand. I am no health expert and you should probably consult a professional (which I am not) before starting any exercise program. And all the lawyers can stop reading now, ok?


1. Don’t pretend you will do stuff you hate
I would love to be one of those people who can lift weights at the gym, but I’m just not. I hate every minute of it for 100 reasons. Once upon a time, swimming would have been my go-to exercise. I used to swim competitively, but getting in a swimsuit when you weigh 50 pounds more than you think you should is very, very tough on the soul. I kept saying I would do it. I never did.

2. Find something you like
Eventually, I found exercise I really liked. I’ve always wanted to be a fly girl, so I started taking hip hop dance classes. I am not a good dancer. I suck. But it really doesn’t matter. I might be the slowest learner in the class, and least successful at the moves, and sometimes the oldest in the room, but I try hard and spend the entire class sweating. And it is fun. I walk to every class, and double my workout time.

3. Do it all the time
I go every week for two hours. Even when I’m sick. Even when I’m tired. I even went the week I had the miscarriage (and cried the whole walk home). But in May I started to work harder and get stronger. I’ve been doing two hours of dance class, practising at home (another two-three hours), and doing one or two hours of speedy walking every week.

4. Mix it up
I also started hiking. I think I have asked everyone I know who lives nearby to go hiking with me at one point (and yes, the invitation is still open!). I tried to get two to four hours of hiking in every week, at least in the beginning of summer, before it got too hot. Hopefully when the kids get back to school I’ll be back to doing that again. It is outdoors. It doesn’t feel like work. There are pretty things to look at. I also looked at online classes, Zumba, planking. I’ll probably try some other things soon.

5. Move as much as possible
I started tracking my steps, and trying to get in 10,000 steps a day. I just use my phone to do the tracking, and it isn’t especially accurate – I don’t have any fancy gadgets. I take the stairs. I have kitchen dance parties with the kids. (Justin Timberlake was my DJ this summer – not even sorry about that). I go for a walk after dinner.

6. Do something that builds muscle
Although I didn’t really think about it at the time, both hiphop dancing and hiking are body lifting exercises that build strength and muscle in a way that is similar to weight training. Research shows that strength training speeds up your metabolism, which makes it a lot more effective than just cardio for losing weight.

There are other non-gym activities like this, if you also don’t like the gym: calisthenics, planking, street workouts, climbing, parkour. I, of course, do none of these things, but they exist. You could Google them.


1. Make a plan
I decided to try the the Plate Method, which is used to treat diabetes (which I don’t have). It’s also called the Athlete’s Plate and used by U.S. Olympic athletes, apparently (I honestly have no idea if this is actually true). Basically, divide your plate in four. One portion should be lean protein, one portion carbs, and two portions vegetables and fruits. Then cut all the sugar and most fats from your diet.

I picked this plan because it involves eating real food and is really easy to follow without a lot of calorie counting, or food restrictions, or a nutritionist, or a personal chef, or anything involving powders or shakes. There are many other healthy eating plans, but this one worked for me. It is also free and I am broke, so there is that.

Food plan
Ugg. The fonts! The layout! Still useful though.

Ugg. The fonts! The layout! Still useful though.

2. Cut the junk
I cut out all the junk food, and just stopped buying stupid things like chips, cookies and candy. I cook at home whenever I can. I try not to eat out too much and to make smart choices when I do. Rocket science.

3. Double the water
I also doubled my water intake, and cut all beverages that contained sugar or tasted sweet, including juice. Did you know that Adriana Lima drinks 3.5 litres of water a day? I have no idea if this is true, but the internet said it was, and I want to get into a swimsuit, one day, so this is good enough for me! But sometimes dehydration feels like hunger, so it is a really good strategy. I mostly just drink water, coffee and some skim milk.

4. Reduce the carbs (and cut the sugar)
I cut all added sugar – I still eat fruit. I skip dessert. I cut all white carbs, and try to reduce my carb intake below 1/4 of my meals, whenever possible. After about two weeks, I stopped craving carbs and sugar. Limiting carbs this much is sometimes tough and it’s the one thing I might not be able to keep up. We’ll see!

5. Cut the fat
I cut all the fats I could that don’t contain any nutrients (no mayo, no salad dressing, no butter, but avocados are fine). I make my own cajun spice mix and put it on everything that tastes boring. I add two vegetables to every meal, that I hadn’t included before. I eat my fruits and veggies raw or lightly cooked whenever possible, so I get a lot of fibre. A high fibre diet also means that you ingest fewer calories from your food.

6. Make a small calorie reduction
I reduced my portion size, but not by a huge amount. And if I’m still hungry after I eat, I eat more veggies. I never skip meals. I’ve been doing between 3 and 8 hours of hard, sweaty exercise a week and that takes fuel. I eat a lot more protein than before and I don’t worry about eating healthy fat. I’ve just been really mercenary about cutting all the empty calories I can, especially sugar and unhealthy fat. And I stop eating when I’m full.

I eat around 1800 calories on days I work out and around 1500 calories on lazy days. But I don’t actually count them up on any kind of regular basis, mostly because that would suck the life from my soul but also because my kids would never give me the time to determine whether the coffee I just made was closer in calories to the Starbucks non-fat venti no whip, or the Tim Horton’s medium mocha, no whip. I honestly don’t even have time to scroll to those options in my app before someone empties the entire box of cereal onto the table.

I could cut my calories more, but then I would spend more time juggling my moods and my hunger. In any case, I’ve been losing a steady two pounds a week for 14 weeks (except the one week I ate an entire box of chocolate), so it’s hard to argue with success.

7. Have treats
After a couple weeks on this eating plan, I ate a lemon tart and it tasted like the best thing I had ever had in my life. Life is no fun if you never, ever, get the things you want. But, at least for me, it has to be much, much less often, and it has to really count. I don’t waste my imaginary treat points on a crappy chocolate bar. I buy the one thing I really, really want and eat it sloooooow. And I Instagram it cause that’s how we live now and it is fun, and I will not apologize for that.

Basically, this is common sense eating that I can do for the rest of my life. No gimmicks.


1.Heartbreak can be very motivating
Not that I think you should organize an emotional crisis in order to lose weight, but if you happen to be completely devastated, it is a great time to start a weight loss plan! If you feel nothing at all, exercise feels like, well, like something. It doesn’t feel like joy, but it gives you hope that you might feel joy again.

Feeling completely alone makes monotonously walking just a little farther, a whole lot easier. And anything that sort of approaches anger or that sort of angsty frustration that the world is horribly unfair can get you a lot of motivation, and energy for your workout! In any case, once you get started on an exercise program you can sort of just keep going without really thinking about why the sky has fallen in and the distraction is good change of pace from despair. Or so I hear (ahem).

2.Measure things
I started measuring and tracking my weight. I used an old mechanical IKEA scale that barely worked. Recently, I got a better one, with decimal places even! It cost 24$ (I’m such a big spender).

One day I measured my waist, and was surprised to see I had lost inches, so I started measuring my waist, my hips, my rib cage, my chest. I made an Excel chart. I am an intense person, so it has trend lines, projections, and confidence intervals, but these are all unnecessary. Did I mention I used to be a statistics TA in grad school? Hmmm, well, yes. If you want me to like you more, you can ask to see it.

I also took some terrible bathroom selfies so I could see how different I looked, and eventually I posted one online, and probably only some people were annoyed. Those people will never read this far, so I feel pretty ok pointing out their indifference to my well-being. I figure as long as one of the things I am measuring keeps changing, things are going well.

3. Find new rewards
Food tastes good and makes you feel good. I needed other things that do that. I bought some new clothes. I bought new makeup. I got some pricy hiking boots. I cut my hair and went blond. I took a million selfies to make up for that 10-year period when I was always on the other side of the camera and barely had time to brush my hair – judge me if you must. I went to a hipster bar and drank a fancy cocktail that cost 10$ and tasted like soap. I read my poetry to strangers. I organized a trip home to Vancouver for the first time in 7 years. I did more of the things I like to do.

4. Set goals
I had a couple of big events over the summer, so I set weight loss goals for each one. I missed them both. But it didn’t matter. I came really close. I felt a lot more confident. I got a few great compliments (Thank you!). I kept trying.

I have no idea if I will actually lose all 50 pounds. I like having some curves, ya know! I hear some guys like those. (I’m married, so I can’t confirm, but my girlfriends tell me this). And I expect that all the exercise will eventually make me more muscular and I will gain weight, while losing fat, but we’ll see! Life is not actually an Excel spreadsheet! (My spreadsheet is super hawt though, so this would not be the worst thing ever.)

5. Get the fear
I have diastasis recti, which is when, often after a pregnancy (or four), your stomach muscles don’t quite join up again. It’s pretty common. It makes you look a little pregnant, even when you are not. There are two ways to fix it: surgery (a medically warranted tummy tuck, essentially) or by strengthening your core muscles.

So naturally, I did a very, very thorough Google search of all the truly horrific complications that the internet says can, and will, occur from the surgery. I even read the comments. They were traumatizing. After that, the related image search seemed like complete overkill (literally! ha!). For good measure, I also did an equally horrific Google search on doing absolutely nothing for diastasic recti. As you probably know, all medical searches end in “you are already dead!” Strengthening your core is definitely the way to go!

Anyway, this is all the way at the bottom, but having my body work properly is important and this is probably the single biggest reason I decided to lose weight.

6. Find people who support you
Tell everyone you know what you are doing because some people are just good at helping you and you need to know who they are. How else will they know you need help? And it will not always be the people you think.

Change scares people, and some people just won’t or can’t support you and that is just how it is. I try to be generous and to think of them the way I think of my preschooler who does not always deal well with change either. At the end of the day though, no one else has to live in your body and you only get one, so you may as well improve it, if that is what you want to do (loving it the way it is is also a good call, though).

7. Get more sleep and reduce your stress
Just like that. Honestly, I have four kids and run my own business, so I have no idea how you do this. But when it happens, it is very helpful.

Anyway, that’s it. I still have a lot of weight to lose, so we’ll see how that goes.

Me, hiking.


So that was a really long preamble for a sewing blog! But now that I have no clothes, and the weight has stayed off these past eight months (I’m down over 30 pounds), I guess it’s time to start sewing.

I sized out of all of my me-made wardrobe, and about a third of my patterns (expect an Etsy sale soon!). Not only did I have to scrap my clothes (all gone to a new home!), but my plans have to all be revamped too. Things that looked good before don’t anymore.

And anyway, I think maybe I would like to be a little more fun and cool and maybe I should dress that way too. Stick around and you’ll find out what happens!

A Giveaway!

Nothing says spring sewing like bright colours and pretty fabric! So when Daryl from Fabric Spark contacted me and asked about holding a giveaway, I was super excited. She has a great selection of fabric and lots of bright colours that are perfect for the type of modern quilting that I love.

Fabric Spark Fat Quarter Bundle Giveaway
Fabric Spark Fat Quarter Bundle Giveaway

Putting together the bundle was quite the challenge – there were just too many great choices. I chose fabrics in bright pink and turquoise with some nice darks for contrast (don’t want to be too predictable!).

The fabrics are:

Fabric Spark is giving away a bundle of eight fat quarters to one lucky reader. The contest is open to international entries, which is always great, and closes on Friday at midnight.

Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed.

Hosting a giveaway is always lots of fun. And I’m happy to announce that a winner has been chosen for the Fabric Spark Fat Quarter Bundle Giveaway. The winner is Dandi. Daryl from Fabric Spark will be getting in touch directly to organize all the details.

I have a bundle of my own in front of me, so I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on. Fun, fun, fun!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hear Me on Canadian Quilt Talk

I’m in a podcast! A little while ago Brandy Lynn got in touch and asked me if I wanted to be part of Canadian Quilt Talk.

She explains on her website that “Canadian Quilt Talk is a weekly online podcast that aims to inspire quilters and fibre artists alike with tips, tricks and the latest products.”

Apparently she saw one of my Big Lists online and thought it was an interesting resource and so we set up a Skype call and did an interview and you can check it out today beginning at 4 p.m. PST/7 p.m. EST.

If you are coming here after hearing the podcast then you might want to head right to one of my Big Lists.

And after hearing the podcast, you might be curious about how I use an app to keep track of my fabric stash. You can find that here. And if you are looking for some of my quilts, you can find those here.

Brandy Lynn is incredibly nice and recording the podcast was a lot of fun. Her podcasts air every week and I highly recommend checking them out.

Canadian Boxing Week Online Fabric Sales

Did Santa leave you a little extra Christmas money under the tree this year? Looking for some Canadian boxing sewing week sales? I’ve put together a little list of online sales going on this week.

Please note that this information is provided as a courtesy, and I don’t guarantee 100% accuracy. Always check the shop site before purchasing to ensure the sales listed are still on. If you see one I’ve missed, let me know in the comments.

Our Sponsors

Warp & Weftto January 10
You may have heard that Warp & Weft is closing. There isn’t much inventory left, but what is available is beautiful and there are huge discounts.

Fabric Spark to December 31
Fabric Spark is having a Mystery Fat Quarter event for Boxing Week. Every person who buys a yard or more of fabric will get a fat quarter of designer fabric chosen to coordinate with their purchase.

Stay Home Fabrics
Use the shipfree4u promo code to get free shipping or take15 to get 15% off your entire order.

Other Shops

Mad About Patchwork to January 6
Enjoy 20% savings on selected products with coupon 12DAYS

The Workroomto January 1
Discounts of 10-20% on 2m or more.

fishskin fabric to December 28
10% off your total purchase and free shipping in Canada.

Hamel’s Fabrics to January 1
Discounts of 25% on fabric and 50% on Christmas fabric.

Flare Fabricsto December 31
Discounts of 30% or more on selected fabrics and patterns.

Kids Fabrics
A 50% reduction on existing inventory, excluding new stock.

iThinkSewto January 7
Up to 50% off iThinkSew sewing patterns.

The Fabric Snob
20% off

Thread Theoryto January 7
Everything is discounted from 15% to 40%

Birthday Bears

There was a birthday at our house this summer, and it involved a teddy bear sleepover party.

I wanted to make something fun for all my kids, something that wasn’t too young for the biggest one or too old for the youngest. But I’ve had all four kids at home all summer so time has been limited.

I started with these cute tiny bears. I used the free pattern for Warren the Charity Bear by Shiny Happy World. It is a super easy pattern, and very squeezable.

Birthday bears by The Finished Garment.
These are just right for little hands.

I thought the original pattern looked a bit big, so I scaled the PDF down to 50 per cent. It’s just the right size to be snuggled by my littlest. Instead of buttons for eyes, I just embroidered the whole face and because of the small size, I embroidered the hearts as well.

It’s a bit tough to see, but each bear has slightly different coloured eyes, just like my kids.

Birthday bears by The Finished Garment.
I hand embroidered the faces.

I used some white minky fabric that was left over from an Easter bunny costume (never blogged) for the bears. It’s super soft and cuddly.

The bears were cute, but they took no time at all. So I decided to make them each a sleeping bags. There are couple of cute patterns around, but I ended up using The Three Bears’ Sleeping Bag by Flossie Teacakes.

The Three Bears' Sleeping Bag, sewn by The Finished Garment.
This print is Licorice Cats by Anne Kelle.

It’s an adorable pattern. I made the Daddy Bear size. It’s just right for a typical 12-inch baby doll, but mostly gets used for stuffed animals at out house.

The Three Bears' Sleeping Bag, sewn by The Finished Garment.
This print is Sunset from the Fly Away collection by Amy Schindler, and the binding is Kona cerise.

I used quilting cotton and batting left over from previous projects, but I matched the fabric in each sleeping bag to clothing that I’d made for each kid, so that they would know which one was theirs. With four sleeping bags, there was a lot of switching thread.

The Three Bears' Sleeping Bag, sewn by The Finished Garment.
Here I used Ladybugs by Anne Kelle and Kona in medium grey for the binding.

The pattern was good, but the fabric requirements were a bit off. If you want to make a large sleeping bag, you’ll need 1/3 yard for the sleeping bag lining, and 1/3 yard (possibly a mixture of assorted prints) for the outer fabric, as well as 1/3 yard for the batting.

I made three changes. I quilted the entire sleeping bag, I used double-layer bias tape for the binding, and I machine-stitched the binding in place. I think this last part will make them a bit tougher.

The Three Bears' Sleeping Bag, sewn by The Finished Garment.
The print here is Whales in bright by Anne Kelle, and Kona cottons for the pillow and binding.

I’ve seen some very cute versions with quilt blocks for the main front section, but I had to make four, so I stuck to simple single-fabric panels and straight-line quilting.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any action shots of these, but I can definitely say they see a lot of playtime. On any given day, I might find a single bear, a pair of dolls or an entire menagerie of sea creatures inside. And best of all, they are machine washable.

Birthday bears by The Finished Garment.
My first tiny bear. These took no time at all.

I love making toys for the kids. It is so much fun. I have to keep myself away from adorable doll and stuffed animal patterns. They are just way too tempting.

This project was part of the Sewcialist Scraptember Sew Along and the Stashbusting Sew Along Kid Challenge.


Pattern Review 1: The Three Bears’ Sleeping Bag by Flossie Teacakes.

Fabric: Assorted quilting cotton and batting scraps left over from other projects.

Cost: Fabric: 0$. Pattern 10$.

Sizes: Daddy Bear.

Sewing Level: Beginner.

Modifications: Quilted both layers, used double-layer binding and machine stitched the binding in place.

Results: Cute!


Pattern Review 2: Warren the Charity Bear by Shiny Happy World.

Fabric: Minky scraps left over from another project.

Cost: Free!

Sewing Level: Beginner.

Modifications: Scaled the pattern down to 50 per cent.

Results: Cute and super easy!

The Three Bears' Sleeping Bag, sewn by The Finished Garment.
Hey, what are you still doing up?

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, 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 (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 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?

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.

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.

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?