Monday, 24 September 2012

Knits That Fit #1: the Quest!

I should be writing my PhD thesis, but I've spent two days feeling like death as a result of the medication change I had on Wednesday. Ugh. Anyway, quick break to think about sewing before I forge on with the writing.

Where am I on my wardrobe plan? Well, between shopping and sewing my bottom half is almost fully outfitted for a winter at work, hurray! My remaining to do list for "bottoms":

1. Hem Skirt #4. Not looking forward to this as the fabric is so badly behaved. Will get to it this week.
2. Make skirt #5. The pattern is already traced and cut out, the fabric is prepared, so "make it" means: cut the pieces, make the skirt & lining, and finish, review and post about it.

Ottobre 2008/5. I will not be making a 70s style top to go with mine.
Skirt #5 was a late addition to the mix after I suddenly realized I didn't have a plain black skirt in my wardrobe. I have decided to go for a black pencil skirt but in a gored, lined pattern from Ottobre, specifically 2008-5-12, modelled on the right of this photo. I picked up some black wool mix online , and I'm going to use a patterned grey and white lining I had in stash. When the wool arrived, though, it was very thin, and in certain lights you can see through it to the lining beneath. It's a really interesting effect, though I don't know yet whether it's good-interesting or weird-and-bad-interesting. I guess time will tell.

The next thing on my list was to make some knit tops. In preparation for this, in between pounding headaches, I went through my wardrobe looking for knit tops I liked that I could copy. I wanted knits that were work appropriate, not so much rectangle + sleeves t-shirt type tops which are too sloppy for work for my tastes. I came away more or less empty handed, and the problem is, as always, my bust.

Maybe I should sing I'm a little teapot
I have a 14cm difference between top and full bust, and 21cm difference between full bust and ribcage. This puts me firmly in ultra-busty territory (H cup bras, anyone?) which is a nightmare to shop for. In general, my knit tops fell into two categories: Boobs Ahoy!, where the rest of the top, especially the neckline, fit nicely, but the top strained unattractively over the bust; and I Have Cut A Hole In A Knit Tent, where in order to stop the straining I bought 1-2 sizes up, meaning that my shoulders practically fit through the neckline and it swamps me around the hips.

Here is a lovely example of the latter, a top from LTS in size Large that I only just bought. Observe the bra strap inconveniently on show! The 3 acres of (unstretched!) fabric hanging at each side of my hip! It's also much too long, but that's because I mis-read the description and though it was a t-shirt when it was a tunic, so that's entirely my own fault. I am contemplating whether I want to try to alter it to fit a little between at the waist/hip/length, but there's nothing to be done about the neckline I don't think.

"Tip me up and pour me out!"

This is probably the best knit top I own. It is from Next, it was very cheap, and I would have bought more colours as I like it so much except the only other colours they made it in were yellow and orange, which, with my skin tone? No, unless I WANT to look like I am about to die. It's a dolman sleeve and (not visible) although it is a knit the shoulders and back yoke are in a woven fabric, which I find I really like.

On the plus side, this top doesn't show bra strap, it drapes nicely over my bust, and it's neither too tight nor too loose. I think what I like most about it is the understated shaping of the body -- it's relaxed fit, but it is curvy at the same time.

 On the minus side, it's very short-sleeved and thus no good for winter. It has a narrow band at the hip, which is not a look I prefer. I also think if it were just 2-3cm longer, I'd be happier with it. But it's not bad, and though I only bought it this summer I've worn it quite a lot already.

Enquiring on Pattern Review what anyone might recommend for the very large busted knit wearer, what I got was a ton of people recommended Pamela's T-shirt Pattern for "real" women. I immediately have three problems with this pattern and company.

Pamela's Perfect T-shirt for real (ugh) women
1. ALL WOMEN ARE REAL WOMEN, NO MATTER WHAT THEIR BODY LOOKS LIKE. The answer to the fashion industry telling us we're not worth dressing if we're not a perfect perky UK size 8 with B-cup breasts is NOT to turn around and tell people who ARE perfect perky size 8s that they aren't "real women". Let's not actually make the body shaming WORSE, shall we? That set my teeth on edge from the start. I don't want to support an independent pattern maker who uses that language. I'm not going to go into that on the PR forums though.

2. It's $18 to send me a pattern in the UK. Is it being hand-delivered by a coach driven by transfigured mice? It's $4 to send a typical pattern US->UK first class, which I know because I just had someone send me one. I can (and do) live with people doubling this and charging $8-10 for postage because, whatever, it's a nuisance to do international postage, I get it. But $18 postage for a $12 t-shirt pattern? Yeah, I don't think so.

3. I REALLY don't like darts in most knit fabric. If it's a heavy substantial knit without much stretch, then maybe, or sometimes if there's a busy pattern to hide it. For a typical lighter jersey or slinky knit in a single colour, which is what I mainly want to wear? Ugh, no. I've seen reviews where it's like "Oh, I've made loads of t-shirts with darts and they look great!" and then you look at the photo and the dart is a horrible wriggly line pointing straight at their nipple. DNW an ugly arrow shouting BREASTS HERE on my t-shirt, thanks. I am sure there are people who sew it beautifully and it looks great but as a beginner to knits (and bust darts!) I think I have to assume mine would fall at the "appalling" end of the spectrum.

What a lot of people suggested though was to find places to rotate the darts to, which makes a lot of sense. I've started looking at patterns I have with an eye to wear I might add fullness without going down the fugly dart route. As ever, Pepperberry was a useful source of inspiration, being as how they make jersey tops designed for very large busted women (but as always, charge far more than I am willing to pay. Have you noticed a trend in my blog is how very cheap I am? I REALLY am. I'm not even going to pretend I'm not.)

Burda 2012-10-114A
Pepperberry sell two darted design jersey tops at the minute, and half the reviews are "the darts look terrible and are like a line pointing at my bust". (I AM NOT ALONE.) Other than that, there's a lot of ruching, gathering and pleating going on. Pepperberry have a very specific manufacturing challenge (which I talked about here) which I don't, so some of their solutions (tops cut at empire level with a separate skirt in particular) I don't have to worry about reproducing. What I need though are patterns for tops where I can move some fullness into similar design details.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

This is from Burda 2012/10, which just arrived. Not sure about the dubious not-very-straight ruching, and the fabric is just VILE, but the idea is clearly there!

Ottobre 2012-5-11
Very similar, from the most recent recent Ottobre is this blue jersey top. I feel like I might need to extend the ruching downwards a little, but I am pretty sure I could muslin that and work it out. There are three other jersey top with gathers at the neckline in Ottobre, plus the Hot Pattern Sunshine top I've mentioned a couple of times has a ton of gathers. I also went mad and ordered the J Stern t-shirt pattern, on the grounds that the description specifically mentions an FBA being easy, and if I need to I will fork out the $44 (ouch) for her video class on PR.

Ottobre 2007-2

That's just the patterns I own! I am also going to keep an eye out for patterns I don't current have that might work.

What I'd really love is to think of a way to modify a couple of other Ottobre jersey top patterns that DON'T have an easy design feature to do so. The main one I want to do is the famous Rose Top that everyone loves so much. I keep wondering if I could rotate the dart and somehow put gathers around the point of the V-neck like this Hot Patterns dress.

The upshot of all of which is: my epic quest for a knit top that fits has begun!


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  2. Interesting post. I have a similar problem with my bust. Being very new to sewing myself I am trying to find what suits (thanks for your comments on my Anita Peasant Blouse). I have purchased the Pamela's Patterns t's that you mentioned but haven't sewn them yet. I hear you about the postage! I also hear you about "real women" aren't all women real... I do give people the benefit of doubt over intent and I think Pamela has great ideas and wonderful intent. What I liked best about her t's is that you can purchase a DVD and sew along..... yes - I did say purchase LOL... I unfortunately have the opposite issue - I can't stop myself from buying everything in site.. I need to be more frugal - maybe next year.. sigh.

    I have purchased a few t-shirt patterns and will update as I sew. I will be watching your blog with great interest to see how you go and what looks good on a big bust. (Earlier comment removed as looking through your blog you don't look like an apple like me!)

    Good luck.

    1. I'll also be really interested with how you get on with Pamela's T-shirt and will keep an eye on your blog! I feel like we should start a society: Fitting For The Giant Bosomed or something. It's amazing how little there is on the internet about sewing to fit massive busts -- I know there must be more of us!

      I'm doing so much review of my closet to work out what I LIKE to wear and what looks nice, just so I don't make things I hate or don't suit. I have a horrible problem with tops, which I'm sure you've experienced as well as a fellow-very-large-bust person -- sometimes you just buy whatever fits decently over the boobs, even if you don't like it much! It's been a real pain finding things I like in my wardrobe to take inspiration from. I'm imagining a future where I have lovely TNT top patterns I just whip up whenever I need something new!

      If you feel like spending more money (I'm a horrible enabler with OTHER people's bank accounts) I HIGHLY recommend the Full Busted video by the Fit for Real People people. I watched it again last night and I *think* things are starting to click. Really nice, clear instruction on doing an FBA, even a WHOPPING GREAT BIG FBA. It's really great if you find you're struggling a bit with just the book like I was. Also, based on things you've said on your blog, you might find a book I recently bought quite interesting. It's called Sewing For Plus Sizes by Barbara Deckert. The clothing looks she shows inside are dated as it's older, but the information is still valid and it has some really useful discussion of larger body shapes and how to fit them, AND larger body shape croquis to use when you're thinking about patterns. I got my copy cheap as anything, even with postage from the US.

      As far as my body shape is concerned, I've also been really refining what I know about that too. I'm sort of carrot shaped more than apple. At the moment, because I just had radiation treatment for my thyroid I have gained massive amounts of weight very quickly, so I am at my highest weight for a very long time. At this weight, my shoulders are only slightly wider than my hips, and I have no waist at all -- I am the same measurement from below the bust until my hip curve. As I (hopefully!) lose weight again, my bust sadly never really changes to be less than gargantuan, but I lose a LOT off my hips while my shoulders, of course, don't go anywhere, being determined more by my bones than my fat! And even at my lowest weight, my waist is virtually non-existent.

      I'm not a classic inverted-triangle, which is narrow hipped, slim, small-busted and athletic. I'm more a brick with big shoulders! I do think bricks and apples have a lot in common when picking outfits -- no waist curve, for a start!

      (Sorry, this was an enormous answer!)

  3. Journey Thanks for the answer and tips. I have full busted and it helped me through my FBA for my red dress. Worked well. I am absolutely visual and need to see it happening - not just flat pictures. I like the sound of the book - will check that out (thanks for the enabling).

    I hear what you say about just buying what fits.. sometimes unfortunately even what doesn't fit. I am extremely attracted to empire waist tops and they tend to fit in the dressing room (because I pull them down) but as soon as I try to wear them the seam creeps up to mid bust - sigh...

    Sounds like we are both pretty much in the same boat with trying to find what we like and what suits us and both trying to build a work wardrobe. It is fun but the setbacks are rather disappointing.

    Sorry to hear you have been unwell and undergoing radiation treatment. Hope you are on the road to recovery.