I'm Jenny, and I'm passionate about helping curvy women sew and feel fabulous. Cashmerette Patterns design elegant sewing patterns for modern, curvy women. Created by a plus size seamstress, Cashmerette Patterns is revolutionizing the pattern industry, proving that gorgeous, well-fitting clothes are meant for every woman.
Ah, princess seams! The closest I ever come to princesses, unless you count having memorized pretty much all the words to most Disney musicals (current fave: Moana, technically not a princess, I know). A while ago I wrote a tutorial on how to convert darts to princess seams, which I used to make my dirndl, around this time last year.
Alas, the dirndl doesn’t actually make that many outings from my closet, so I thought I would princessify another Upton Dress. And here we have it!
I bought this gorgeous weighty stretch cotton from EmmaOneSock *ages* ago – at least 5 years, I’d guess. It was in the early days of my sewing career, when I already had pretty decent taste (if I say so myself), but not the sewing skills to go with it. Somewhat wisely (well done past Jenny!) I decided to keep it for a future time when I’d be less likely to mash it all up.
I did, of course, follow my own tutorial, and the joy of the original, darted Upton Dress fitting me meant that the princess seams fit straight away. Hurray for no fitting! For reference, I made the 20 G/H and I’m 5’6″ tall.
Turns out, it was the perfect pairing of pattern to fabric, because I just love the final dress. It’s definitely on the dressier side, but not so fancy you couldn’t wear it out for a nice dinner. Or, indeed, to pose in front of someone’s door in Chelsea (I live in fear that someone’s going to throw a bucket of water over my head from an upstairs window. Or too much Disney watching there?)
I’m glad to add another comfortable dress to my stable – the stretch in the cotton provides just enough give to make it fit well when I’m standing up, but expand a touch when I sit down. If you use a stretch cotton for the Upton, just remember that if you use a non-stretch woven for the lining, it will lose the stretchiness – the safest thing to do (which is what I did here) is to use the same fabric for the lining and the shell.
Have you tried to convert a pattern from darts to princess seams? Was it successful or did it end up in the bin? I was convinced this process would be hard, but once I gave it a go I surprised myself!
When I was about 28, everyone got married. I mean, it felt like everyone at least. (OK fine, everyone I know, maybe not EVERYONE). So it’s been a while since I was on the wedding circuit, but this summer it perked back up again, and I had the pleasure of popping back to the UK for two nuptial celebrations (including my brother’s!). However, those of you know who know the UK will be aware of my dilemma: what to wear. It could be freezing! It could be boiling! Who knows! And, these days, I’m extremely intolerant of constricting or uncomfortable clothes, especially at epic 13 hour British weddings (I kid you not, 11am – 1am is standard; thankfully, most of them have a bacon sandwich break mid-evening).
Enter: my navy burnout velvet overlay Turner Dress!
Dears, this is THE SOLUTION for what ails you, “fancy” garments wise. It’s brought me boundless compliments, and yet, it’s a jersey dress. Meaning: super comfy, doesn’t crease in the suitcase, and for British purposes, it’s reasonably warm without being boiling. Perfect!
I wore it to both weddings (I KNOW, but I’m just not posh enough for “one time only” per dress, folks), and didn’t regret it for a second. I paired it with these amazing handmade-in-Italy M.Gemi nude-on-me block heels, which are the shoe equivalent of this very dress: totally comfortable, chic, but deceptively fancy (check M.Gemi out here and get $50 off your pair!). For those interested, my trusty gold belt is from J.Crew online, where they have plus/extended sizes that they don’t have in-store.
The navy burn-out stretch velvet was quite the find: I snagged some at Rimmon in LA (wholesale-only), but I know that Stitch Sew Shop in Alexandria had some for a while too, so it may be hidden away in fabric shops all over the land. It doesn’t fray, so I decided not to hem it, and let the hem and sleeves just show the pattern in all its glory.
Constructing an overlay Turner Dress is super easy, so long as you have a decently stretchy overlay fabric:
Cut the bodice (front & back) and skirt out of your jersey underlayer
Cut the entire dress out of your overlay
Sew the lined bodice using the overlay as the “main” fabric and jersey as the lining
Sew in the overlay-only sleeves
Make two skirts, one of jersey and one of overlay, then baste them together at the waist
Join to the bodice, and voila! Easy peasy.
You may also be thinking to yourself “my, Jenny, what an incredibly coordinated backdrop you found there!”. Well trust me, I did a little yelp when I saw it. My brother Tom took these great photos and was a little underwhelmed but I had to explain that in blogger land a door that matches your dress, and a complementary pastel coloured wooden stable door is what dreams are made of. I’ve always aspired to a somewhat “Boden” feel with Cashmerette (my #1 source of RTW clothes, pre-sewing) and when we were wandering around Chelsea it became totally apparent that this is in fact where they take all of their London pics. Watch out for this charming door in the future!
Of course, you always feel pretty stupid taking blog photos on the street, especially with various casual observers. But at least no-one answered the door…..
Have you made an overlay Turner? It’s rapidly becoming my default for when I need a new special-occasion dress (remember my polka dotted one?). I predict more in the future! Now I just need some more people to get married…
It’s the last day of Curvy Sewing Education Week and I saved the best for last: a video from our online workshop, Shirtmaking For Curves, where I teach you techniques that aren’t in the instruction booklet for how to get a really professional-looking collar on any shirt or shirtdress. And your final reminder that you can get 25% offALL our online workshops using code EDUCATIONWEEK until Aug 31 – we won’t be doing another workshop sale this year, so now’s a great time to sign up!
Enjoy this video – and let me know if you have any questions!
I absolutely love pattern hacking, especially once I have a base pattern that fits me well. Instead of having to do alterations 10 times for 10 garments, I just do it on one, and then use that pattern to create 10 garments I know will fit. In this online workshop, I teach you tons of tips and techniques to hack the Springfield Top, and in this video that I’m sharing today, you’ll learn how to make a super cute tulip back top pattern hack.
3 Pattern Hacking - Cross-Over Back - Vimeo
Let me know if you have any questions about the video, or if you’ve had success with this alteration!
Today we’re going tackle one of the most common fitting challenges: the bust! Plus size women are disproportionately likely to have a large bust, and yet… most patterns are drafted for a B or C at best. Of course, you can always use Cashmerette Patterns – they go up to an H cup! – but what should you do when you really want to make another pattern that doesn’t go up so far?
Online fitting workshop
The first resource I’d recommend is our Fitting for Curves online workshop – and you can get 25% off with code EDUCATIONWEEK until Aug 31st. If you’re a visual learner, and like more explanation of the “whys” in alterations, this is for you! The workshop includes 7 lessons just about bust adjustments (along with lessons on other body areas):
How to figure out if you need bust adjustments and how to measure yourself
Full Bust Adjustments on a 2 dart and 1 dart bodice
Full Bust Adjustments on a dartless bodice
Full Bust Adjustments on a princess seamed bodice
Full Bust Adjustments on a knit bodice
How to raise or lower darts
How to split and rotate darts
In addition, here is a round up of tutorials from Cashmerette and the Curvy Sewing Collective which are a good introduction to the world of bust adjustments:
Hi everyone! First up today, I’m sharing a video from our Fitting for Curves online workshop – remember you can get 25% off the full workshop if you enroll by 31 August using code EDUCATIONWEEK!
Gaping necklines are a pretty common problem, and often one that’s hard to anticipate before you have a muslin. Sometimes, it just indicates that the garment is too big for you – check to see if the shoulders are falling off your shoulders, or the whole thing seems baggy, in which case you should start by going down a size.
However, sometimes, even if the rest of a garment fits, the neckline doesn’t. That can happen for a number of reasons: for instance, you might have a lower bust than the pattern is designed for, or the angle of your shoulder to bust is slightly different. But not to worry: fixing a gaping neckline is actually pretty easy. In this video from the Fitting for Curves online workshop I show you how to diagnose a gaping neckline, how to fix it, and what it will look like after the alteration.
16 Fitting For Curves - How to Fix a Gaping Neckline-HD 1080p - Vimeo
I hope you found that helpful! Do you have any other questions about fixing a gaping neckline?
Welcome to Curvy Sewing Education Week on Cashmerette! I don’t know about you, but this time of year always gives me that “back to school” feeling, and I feel a hankering to buy new lined notebooks and 5 packs of tights. So I thought it was a great time to run the first ever Curvy Sewing Education Week here.
So, what does education week mean exactly?
We will be sharing three FREE video lessons that are part of our online workshop series, so you’ll be able to learn about how to fix a gaping neckline, great tailor tips for sewing a beautiful collar, and a really fun and fashionable Springfield Top hack. It’s a great way to get a sneak peek of how the online workshops work, and see if they’re for you.
There will be tutorial round ups, from Cashmerette and beyond to help you tackle specific curvy sewing challenges
And, we are also running a workshop sale: you can get 25% off ANY of our online workshops, using code EDUCATIONWEEK (until 11.59pm EST 31 August)! All our of classes can be watched from the comfort of your sofa or sewing room, and you have unlimited access to the videos, and can even ask me questions! Choose from:
In this course, you’ll learn the fundamentals of shirt making in order to end up with a professional looking, well-fitting shirt. Button-down shirts are a classic wardrobe staple but are notoriously tricky to fit at the bust. That’s why the Cashmerette Harrison Shirt has been designed with curves in mind, with cup sizes from C to H – and this course will take you step-by-step through the shirt-making process so you will have a beautifully sewn shirt that fits! The workshop price even includes a free copy of the Harrison Shirt, so you can sew along.
In this workshop, you’ll learn how to do pattern alterations for a curvy body, which is much easier than you might imagine! I take you step-by-step through how to figure out which alterations you need, measure your muslin for adjustments, and then how to alter your pattern pieces. The online workshop includes 21 easy-to-follow videos including “before” and “after” muslins to help you figure out when and where to adjust, and a downloadable eBook which has step-by-step illustrations for each adjustment taught in the class.
In this course, you’ll learn the secrets of how pattern designers adapt a simple pattern to create lots of different styles. Endlessly altering patterns to fit your curves can be frustrating, but using this technique you only have to make your base pattern fit once – and then every variation you create will fit you! It includes a 30% discount on any Cashmerette Pattern, too.
I hope you’re excited about Curvy Sewing Education Week, and if you have any questions now or as we go through all the tutorials and videos, just let me know!
Ideas about body image often begin when we’re really young. What was yours like as a child and teenager?
As a kid, I had a really determined – and somewhat fanciful – fashion sense, and cared a lot about the clothes I wore. I didn’t really worry that much about my body underneath them until I hit puberty hard at around 10-11 years old. I shot up fast and felt taller, bigger, bustier, and just more obvious than my peers. For a couple of years I traded in the loud, exuberant clothes I loved as a kid for oversized shirts and men’s jeans – things to make me feel unobtrusive.
Me at about 4, rocking a classically chic combination of a faux fur coat and sweatpants
Sometime when I hit high school I realized that I could use the things I wear to direct people’s attention, not just deflect it, and my interest in the things I put on my body returned. I was – and still am – an “in between” fat, and I felt overly aware of the parts of my body that felt “really” fat, like my big calves and knees. Really, though, it’s hard to disentangle my sense of my body in that period from all the other ways I felt out of place: starting to figure out I was queer without any real models for what that could look like, feeling very alienated from the close ties to Christianity most of my peers in my community had, and being brainy and nerdy in just about all the ways you can be. I dealt with it by tightly controlling what I wore – now, looking at what I wore between 15-17, I realize I avoided a lot of trends for people my age and dressed older because I felt uncomfortable within my broader peer group.
Me (11) and my little sister at the beach. I had stopped wearing bikinis a few years before this, and was in a regular wardrobe of sweatshirts three sizes too big.
Who or what most influenced your perception of what bodies are “meant” to look like?
My peers, mostly. Friends, sometimes, but more often it was casual comments during PE class or lunch from fellow students that told me that I was “supposed” to shave my legs, or be embarrassed about clothes being too tight, or know how to talk about how much I hated my knees or whatever. Those types of comments made much more of an impact than what I saw on TV or in magazines.
Around age 12, fancy occasions were one of the only places I still felt happy wearing pretty things. And apparently I could never resist a dramatic pose.
As a teenager, dressing in a way I considered more mature was my way of dealing with not feeling like I belonged
The journey to body positivity is different for everyone: did you have a “eureka!” moment that changed your self-perception, or was a it a more gradual process?
It was a gradual process, but I can definitely pin-point a couple of major life choices that contributed:
Going away to college in general, but specifically to a women’s college. Part of it was minimizing the male gaze, but more important was seeing around me all of these amazing women and gender nonconforming folks being smart, ambitious, caring, achieving, passionate, and beautiful. The brainy, weird parts of me that felt alienated in high school felt totally at home there, and that helped me feel more at home in my body, too. I also learned to loosen up my clothing choices – I started wearing fitted tee shirts again, and skirts above my knees! My size also fluctuated a lot in college, and I remember getting compliments on losing weight after a really bad bout of depression and anxiety; it hit me so viscerally that to some people, it mattered more that I looked thinner than if I was healthy and happy, and it helped me stop trying to gain outside approval.
Falling in love for the first time and coming out as queer. It’s so cliché, but I buzzed off all my hair and started dressing more consciously and deliberately androgynous than I ever had before. The buzzcut particularly felt revolutionary: I had been so scared, for so long, of what people would assume if I had a queer-coded haircut, of the questions about my sexuality I would get that I wasn’t ready for. But without hair, I also had the most gloriously round face, chubby cheeks and fat chin and everything, and I loved it so much. It completely changed the way I saw my own face.
Getting a dog. It’s not just that Imogen, my bulldog, is also fat and also has a big, squishy face, it’s that her needs have helped me be looser about the way I present myself in public. Because I tend to think of my clothing choices as a way to strategically direct the attention my body gets, I still had a hard time going out in public without being “dressed.” But now, if Imogen needs a walk in the middle of the day while I’m working from home, we’re going out in leggings, a tee-shirt, and no bra if that’s what I’m already wearing. I’ve found myself so much more comfortable with my round, bouncy, saggy body in the past few years than I had been before that.
21, shorn hair and round face (hiding in some art)
What role has sewing played in your self-image?
It’s helped immensely, in terms of knowing the contours of my body and treating them not as flaws but as achievable three-dimensional shapes! More importantly, though, sewing continually helps me achieve a particular presentation of myself that’s as much about my fatness as my queerness and my relationship with gender. I call my style “femme dandy,” for both its connotations of gender androgyny and its connection to historical modes of queer self-fashioning, and sewing allows me to tap into both of those in a big way.
What do you find are the biggest challenges to your body confidence today, and how do you overcome them?
There are days when I struggle not with my body itself, but with the way it’s coded so abundantly feminine in our society, which makes it difficult for me to achieve the androgynous presentation that I really yearn for sometimes. Finding clothes that fit both my body and my gender expression for those times I’m feeling more androgynous than femme is next to impossible, so I’d like to explore that in my sewing as I improve my pattern-making and tailoring skills.
How do you think issues around body positivity affect women’s broader role in society?
There are probably whole dissertations to be written here! One small area I would like us to keep talking about under the greater umbrella of body positivity and fat activism is uncoupling self-worth from femininity, beauty, and attractiveness. It is good for women to find themselves beautiful at all sizes, but I would also like to see us talk more about taking pleasure in our own bodies not because they’re desirable to others, but because we enjoy living in them, and about not needing to be beautiful at all.
There’s so much pressure on fat women particularly to achieve standards of feminine beauty, and I would love to see more space for androgyny, for handsomeness, for plainness, for ways of relating to our own bodies that are not about beauty and/or that allow for wider ranges of gender expression.
What advice would you have for other people who would like to find a peace with their body and self-image, but are struggling?
Try to diversify the images you see of other people on a daily basis, and actively seek out social media and popular media content that allows you to see a greater range of bodies and expressions than those that are over-represented on popular media. This can be actively seeking out body positive content, but can also mean people whose bodies are different from yours in lots of ways, people whose taste in fashion is really different than yours, people who talk eloquently about their lives and experiences in ways that are like and unlike your own.
When I was first figuring out body positivity, online communities like the livejournal fatshionista community opened my eyes up to so many interesting people and ways of understanding my body and representations of fatness in general, and now, I find the same by populating my Instagram feed with people who are out there living their lives and being awesome – not professional models so much as just folks who are imaginative, passionate, and engaged.