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Today on the blog, I wanted to share my plus size sewing tips! In this post, I’e shared sewing tips on how to sew your own plus size clothing, and I wish I had had these tips when I first got started sewing my own plus size clothes.
This blog post has tips that are specific to sewing plus size size clothing, as well as sewing tips that many people learn the hard way!!! [Me, I’m the person who learned the “hard way,” lol.]
Plus Size Sewing Tips
I’ve been sewing plus size clothing for YEARS (I’ve been sewing off and on almost my whole life, since I was 7 or 8 years old, and I started learning how to sew my own plus size clothes in 2016).
I’ve take plus size sewing classes, learned pattern making, used commercial patterns, “hacked” my own patterns from my own plus size clothing – I’ve done just about everything, lol!
I hope my plus size sewing tips help you make your own clothes!
Let’s get started:
Plus Size Sewing Tip #1: START SIMPLE
The first plus size sewing tip is one many plus size sewists flat out IGNORE when they start making plus size fashion and costumes.
People will often choose a super hard project, like a plus size renaissance costume or something, and they’ll drop $$$$$ on all the fabrics, patterns, etc.
Then, they’ll ATTACK! They’ll get started and get going – and, almost every time, they’ll lose steam.
The project is often shoved to the side. Maybe, the person [you] will try to pick it up a few months or weeks later, but you won’t be able to figure out how far you got.
For this reason – start with simple projects. Succeeding at a simple plus size sewing project will give you confidence, and also add MOMENTUM so that you finish the project. Having success with small projects will provide the motivation to get through confusing complex problems
Some examples of simple projects:
- Plus Size Leggings
- Plus Size Apron
- Plus Size Shrug
I know you’re super excited to sew your own clothes, aaaand sometimes we need to reign in our excitement to choose DOABLE projects.
Plus Size Sewing Tip #2: It is not cheaper to sew your own everyday clothes
Ok, so I think that this idea is leftover from previous decades [like, the 1940’s, lol].
It is absolutelyyyyy not cheaper to sew your own clothes. Some folks may want to argue with me here [go fight your mom!], but when you look at th time it takes to sew plus size clothing ++ the costs of fabric, notions and supplies – it is NOT less expensive to sew your own everyday clothes.
If you’re an aspiring ~homesteader~ type, who wants to sew your own clothes to add room to your budget…. ehhhhh, I think your time is better spent elsewhere!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #3: Do Multiple Test Sews per Plus Size Pattern
Ok, wording this tip was a little hard for me, so let me explain!
Expect to make a pattern 2-3 times before you really get how to make it for your body
In my experience, you will need to sew a garment 3x before you create something you want to wear. Put another way, I’ve found that if I’ve purchased a new plus size commercial pattern – I will need to sew *3* of the garments to feel confident.
Now, some folks may take less time or more. In my years spent taking classes and talking to other sewists [of all sizes!], most folks find this to be true.
Plus Size Sewing Tip #4: Make a Toile or Prototype
Ok, friend – before you start cuttng pattern pieces out of the snazzy AF fabric you’ve purchased – slow your roll.
Get out your muslin [or other mock-up fabric] to sew up a test garment. This is also called a “toile.”
Sew up that garment to make a “Shell” of the pattern, and then make alterations. [Make certain parts tighter or mark where the toile needs to be more loose.]
Always make a muslin or toile. Doing this is like planning, you think it’s a waste of time but it’s not.
Plus Size Sewing Tip #5: Get the fit right
From plus size sewing tip #4 [above], it can be HARD to fit a garment to yourself. It’s way easier if you have a sewing bestie with experience. Another option is to pay a tailor a half an hour of their time, so you can make sure to get your fit right.
Plus Size Sewing Tip #6: BEST Plus Size Sewing Online Course
Ok, SO! One of the MAJOR issues with commercial sewing patterns is that they stop at the “small end” of plus size.
It is super helpful [in my opinion and experience, it’s necessary] to know how to extend commercial patterns for plus size bodies.
I recommend taking this Blueprint plus size sewing course to learn how to extend the pattern to your size. I don’t learn well via video, but this course worked for me!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #7: Stretch Fabrics are a Different Beast!
When I first started sewing clothing, I thought sewing stretch fabric would be easier.
Sewing with stretch fabrics is more difficult and much different. If you want to make clothing pieces with stretch, I recommend taking an in-person sewing class where you use sergers. I would make sure to take a class where you bring in *your* machine, as the setup is not the same across machines.
Plus Size Sewing Tip #8: Prepare Your Fabric
LOLOL, ok so this is something that has come back to BITE ME.
Before cutting or sewing your fashion fabric, make sure to wash it. Take the fabric length, and put it in the washer. [Look for washing info from the manufacturer – some fabric is dry-clean only.]
Be sure to wash your fabric and hang dry your before you sew it! If you don’t, you may find that your finished piece gets all messed up in the wash. The fabric may disintegrate or do something funky – or it will shrink!
In my own sewing experience, I have forgotten to do this – and then sewn super fun garments out of fabric that FELL APART in the wash.
I wish I had washed it first, so I could’ve returned the fabric ++ saved a lot of time sewing.
Plus Size Sewing Tip #9: ORGANIZE Your Patterns & WIPs
WOOF, okay, so this plus size sewing tip is rough – but so imporant.
I have massive ADHD, and I have *just* started really organizing my patterns and toiles. It is so so critical to have an organization system, to keep your patterns, WIPs [work in progress projects], etc orgaized.
Create an organization system to hold your pattern, cut pattern pieces and the WIP. Don’t let your projects scatter about!
I regommend using gallon-sized ziploc baggies to keep pattern pieces organized, being sure to iron them flat. I keep WIPS organized by putting them in a larger SEALABLE bag, with a note to my future self on where ‘m at.
Recently [as in, last week], I took a deep breath and threw out WIPS from past years that weren’t going to get done. I hadn’t organized them well, or left “Future Me” notes.
Organization is super helpful!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #10: Get a magnet stick for pins
Ok, so I have found sewing pins in some UNCOMFORTABLE places, lol. Sewing pins are like glitter – they can get everywhere!
I snagged a magnet stick like this one on Amazon, which is used on construction sites to find nails and other pesky metal. Before leaving my sewing studio, I do a sweep of the floor with this!
This tool helps keep my pins from escape to other areas of my house, as well as helping to keep my vacuum alive! [Pins can mess up a vacuum!]
Snag this handy sewing tool here!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #11: Watch “Sew Alongs”
I don’t find YouTube videos super helpful, but if I’m sewing a new pattern – I will look up a “Sew Along” on YouTube.
If you’re using a commercial pattern [ie you didn’t draft it], search YouTube for “sew along” videos. These are handy videos that sewing bloggers put together, showing you all the steps and techniques they use, as they follow the instructions on the pattern.
If you’re just starting out and learning how to sew plus size clothing, I would only buy a pattern if there are at least 4 different sewing bloggers who have videos on it. Some videos are not helpful, so 1 isn’t enough
Plus Size Sewing Tip #12: Don’t Buy Patterns Full-Price
Ok, so commercial patterns always go on sale.
If you’re shopping at JoAnns or another store, keep a note in your phone listing what patterns you want to buy. Every 5 or 6 months, a specific brand [or all brands] will go on sale, and patterns are $3 – $5, instead of $25++!
Don’t buy patterns full price, keep a running list of what you want – then buy in bulk!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #13: USE JoAnns Coupons!!
Related to the plus size sewing tip above, it KILLS MEEEEE when people don’t use coupons at JoAnns.
I’m not a coupon shopper – I’d much rather spend my time on things that earn me MORE money, over coupon cutting.
BUT, I use a coupon at JoAnns, every dang time I go!
The JoAnns app [and website] almost always has a 40% off coupon, as well as other coupons. Do not buy anything at JoAnn’s without a coupon!
[Sometimes, a coupon won’t apply – example, if an item is already on sale. When that’s the case, I will often to wait to buy the item. i’ve learned to play the “Coupon Game” with JoAnns.]
Plus Size Sewing Tip #14: Estimating Project Timeline
Your project will take 3x as long as you think.
In college [I have a degree in mechanical engineering], a professor told students in a design class, “Take your project timeline and multiply it by pi [3.14].”
Projects will take you 3x the time that you think they will!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #15: Resist the Urge to Hoard Fabric
LOLZZZZ, I have gotten better at this over the years. It can be fun to exist in the possibilities of future projects, and buy a metric ton of fabric.
But here’s the thing. That fabric take up space in your home, and its longterm presence can get emotionally heavy.
So, for this plus size sewing tip: Do not go crazy buying fabric. Resist the urge.
I have given away hundreds of dollars [perhaps more? ugh!], because it lost its sparkle. It made me feel guilty looking at it.
Plus Size Sewing Tip #16: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Sewing comes with a lot of STUFF, and it can be hard on the environment. For this reason, I:
- Save fabric scraps to donate to a local fashion program, specifically a class on textiles
- Strategically cut into fabric to reduce waste
- Repurpose sheets and other materials to use instead of buying muslin
- Buy muslin that isn’t dyed
My friend, Sparrow [interview with Sparrow here], also shared that you can gather up sewing scraps and use them as pillow stuffing – then donating your pillows to local animal shelters. I’ve never done that, but something to test out!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #17: Hack Patterns
SOOOOOOO, I’ve been super frustrated with the fit on many commercial patterns.
Because of this, I often “pattern hack,” which is where I take a piece of clothing that fits me well, and I draft a pattern from it.
You can and should also learn how to draft patterns from clothing you own and love. I like to do this, and add SA [seam allowance], markings and connection points
Now, you will need some basic pattern drafting skills, so it’s a good idea to take a class or watch a bunch of videos on this!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #18: Take an In-Person Class
Ok, so while you can learn a TON on youtube and from other online sewig classes, I have personally found that I make the most progress with an in-person class.
I recommend that you search local fabric stores for classes. Don’t take a class with more than 5 people to 1 instructor. [I’ve taken classes with 12-20 people, and it’s a nightmare.]
Plus Size Sewing Tip #19: *Pinnable* Plus Size Dress Form
When I first got started on my ~plus size sewing journey~ I got one of those expandable Dritz dressforms.
Some folks like these, and I think they’re heinous and a waste of time.
I recommend getting a plus size dressform that is similar to your size, and then you can make a sort of “sock” to go over it and pad it up to your measurements.
The Blueprint class I mentioned above also has a tutorial on making your own dressform, diy style! I’ve never done that, but I think that’s a great alternative option.
Plus Size Sewing Tip #20: Listen to Podcasts while Sewing
Ok, so this plus size sewing tip is for my ADHD babes.
When sewing, I like to have a podcast or audiobook going, so that my brain stays happy. i’ve found that having a TV show running doesn’t work – I almost always just stop what I’m doing to watch TV.
So, if I were you – I’d play something in the background, but don’t have TV going
I’ve really enjoyed listening to “The History Chicks” podcast while sewing!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #21: Posture Brace FTW
Ok, let’s talk posture! Many folks [myself included], start off by sewing on whatever table you have hanging around.
Over time, your back will start to HURT! And your posture can suffer.
So, 2 plus size sewing tips in 1 here:
- Get a posture brace
- Ge a sewing table + set up that works for your height
For the first option, go here!
For the second, watch different youube videos on setting up your sewing station. I also snagged an adjustable height IKEA table for this, so I can change the height as needed!
Plus Size Sewing Tip #22: Machine Need to Be Serviced
LOLOL ok, so another “whoopsie” from my past.
A sewing machine is like a car. You need to get it SERVICED.
It’s a sewing MACHINE, babe!
This not something I would DIY. I would find a licensed sewing machine service shop in your area, and get on their calendar. Like a lot of trades, demand outweighs supply here – expect to book 1-3 months out. For my shop, I call and get in the queue, and then bring my machine in 2-3 months later to get serviced!
Plus Size Sewing Posts to Read Next —->
Now that you’re armed with these tips, here are a few more plus size sewing tips and tutorials:
- BEST Online Plus Size Sewing Class
- 11+ Black Plus Size Sewing Bloggers to Follow
- How to Sew a Plus Size Corset
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