April 28, 2010
Here's a question for you: what's the most daunting part of learning to sew? Could it be setting in a sleeve? Or maybe making buttonholes? Perhaps its putting in a zipper?
Personally, I think the hard bit is getting your head around the numbers. You know, the kind you see on the back of the pattern envelope, set out ever so closely to words like "bust", "waist" and "hip". Yes ... those numbers: sizes. If your experience of garments is entirely of the Ready-To-Wear (RTW) persuasion, entering the world of pattern sizing is much like walking into a parallel universe.
You see, working out your Pattern Size is not dissimilar to one of those silly games where you work out your porn star name. You take some facts about yourself, apply a formula and come up with something completely ludicrous. (I'm Sammy Monica, by the way). Your suspension of disbelief (I'm a what?) is critical to accepting your Pattern Size. Wave goodbye to that RTW Size ... you can leave it at the door (with your dignity).
Take me, for example.
I have have just bought a pair of jeans in an Australian size 16 (USA 12). Despite being quite er ... well-padded .... I bought the jeans from the regular ladies collection at a middle-of-the-road store. They fit comfortably and if I am not mistaken (or thinking too wishfully), they are perhaps even a little loose around the waist. Now Size 16 isn't ideal (it is admittedly very well-padded), but to be honest it sounds a whole lot better than the horror we'll call my Pattern Size.
If I look in a commercial pattern book, my bust measurement puts me at a Misses' Size 18. My waist and hip, however, cannot be located in the Misses' patterns - I need to look at something called Women's sizing for the more mature figure (I suspect this is a euphemism for very well padded ... which of course, is in itself is a euphemism ... but I digress ...). My waist and hip measurements now make me a size 26. So I've jumped from 16 to 26.
But if that weren't bad enough, my fondness for European pattern magazines - such as Burda World of Fashion and Patrones - has introduced a new problem. European sizing uses a different system and friends, it isn't pretty. According to the size charts, I graduate from a 46 on top to a 50 around the waist and hips. Good grief. Now my derriere has jumped from 16 to 50. I know its just a number. But its a jolly big, demoralising one (ahem much like my bottom, I should say).
But having said all that, at least there is an upside. We home sewers are not obliged to sew size tags into clothes. There are no constant reminders when we get dressed or hang the washing out; no big numbers on fancy woven tags. Whether you cut an 18 or a 46, is irrelevant once you have packed those pattern pieces away. So as you set out looking fabulous in your custom-fitted garment, its size remains your secret.
That is, unless you happen to put it on your blog. Ooops.