“Petite” and “Plus” and the Patternmaker

...one of my favorite recent photos... Why have we never taken photos in the grocery?

…one of my favorite recent photos… Why have we never taken photos in the grocery?

It’s been really fun to show you the RiFFs that have been in progress behind the scenes here at Cake Central and chatting about invisibility cloaks and lady pirates.  Thanks for taking a look, and I’m really really pleased y’all like the new designs.

Of Petite and Plus…

For the sake of this post I’m using these terms as a shorthand while I talk about patterns.  I don’t use terms like this in my notes or my own patternwork, I use numbers.

…and the Patternmaker

Human beings come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with all kinds of quirks and topographies.  It’s unfair to expect a pattern to fit perfectly right out of the envelope because of this variety.  If you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t ever alter a pattern, then enjoy it!  I’ve met three of you unicorns in years of working with sewists in a classroom setting. (That’s a straight-up, no-alteration size 10 in the Big 4.  They were all 10’s.)

Everyone else has to shift a side seam here, blend between two sizes there, maybe lengthen/shorten sleeves.  I think that’s reasonable, don’t you?

Plus Alterations

How many plus women reading perform one or more of these pattern alterations on every single new pattern you want to sew?

  • narrow shoulders
  • narrow back
  • FBA (Full bust alteration)

I am going to guess based on observation- most.  That’s the problem, as I see it.  If the majority of the women working with plus sized patterns have to do these kinds of adjustments, then the pattern is inadequate.  It’s not the bodies, it’s not that larger women should have to work harder than the rest of us for a good fit.  It indicates a problem with the grading.

Tiramisu Fit…

click for source

click for source

Have you seen this Tiramisu post by Susan at Moonthirty?  I only recently discovered her blog but I really like her writing and just look at this twin-needle post.  This is the way her Tira fit out of the envelope.  Her post made my Tuesday this week!  I don’t expect my patterns to fit everyone without alteration, that’s crazy, but… one can dream?

…and Tiramisus that don’t fit immediately…

click for source

click for source

After reviewing possibly every Tiramisu Dress posted to the internet (link in comments if you have a blog post!), I decided to change the underbust seamline position on the Second Edition Tiramisu Dress.  Almost every 30 I saw and some 35’s found their bodices were longer than their bodice areas.

click to view

click to view

I say this as someone who fears not the seam ripper, the quick scissors, and a little bit of fit-as-you-sew: it’s not difficult to tune up the Tiramisu underbust seam.

Sure, it’s a little fiddly, but it doesn’t require re-cutting the bodice or actually unpicking the seam in the vast majority of cases (I’m serious, cut it off).  There’s no crazy-involved patternwork slash n’ spread alteration to perform on the pattern, either.

Tiramisu Bodice Revision Preview

By my own reasoning regarding plus sizing, the 30’s needed a tweak.  For the Second Edition Tiramisu, this is what I did:

  • removed the “A” gathering on all but the largest bodice for a smooth and streamlined underbust seam
  • raised the underbust seam by 1″ for 30’s
  • gently raised the 35 underbust seam

We worked hard on the Second Edition of Tiramisu and the new RiFFs, and I’m so excited to get these into your sewing room.  They’ll be shipping in no time and all, and then we can get into some sewing!

A bit of business:

Cabarita Front pdf

Cabarita ships out next week!  The electronic version of Cabarita is available now on Etsy.  It’s a little early, but I wanted to be sure I understood their new digital file system before I’m busy with the paper patterns next week.

(For the record, pdf sellers: if you upload revision files to Etsy, your customers will not have access to the revisions.  They only have access to the files which were uploaded at time of purchase.)

I mention this in case anyone wants to change their order and in the interests of transparency, because I said last week that the paper and pdf would be released at the same time.

The pre-sale prices for the two RiFFs and the Second Edition Tiramisu will only last until the 10th, when they’ll go to RRP.  I have a few posts for the end of this week, and then I’ll need to go quiet on the blogging front again while I pull together the next round of visual references for Hummingbird!


  1. So much awesome stuff coming from Cake, I can’t wait! How awesome is it that you’re adjusting v2 of the Tira based on what you’ve learned from the sewers. That is one of the many things that makes you a spectacular designer. And thanks for the link love! (but the Tira one is broken, FYI!) :)

  2. Aaaahhhh I just made up my Tira yesterday and after an afternoon of futzing around with the bodice, ended up making the changes you described! If only I’d waited a day…I do appreciate your making those changes to the second edition, though! What service!

  3. That’s so great that you’re making commonsense changes to the patterns that no one else does! My 30C Tiramisu actually fit perfectly (all I did was take in the side seams), but I have a long torso and usually have problems with the under-bust point being too high, so I guess it makes sense that what fits me wouldn’t fit most other people. I’m glad I got my pattern in January!

  4. You are an amazing designer. Thank you for caring so much about the patterns and making sure they’re the best they could possibly be.

    Oh oh oh, oh I think I’m going to have to come and purchase all of the patterns I want anyways. If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that patterns keep REALLY WELL on my pattern shelf! lol

    And I really do need a copy of Tiramisu. :D

    • Hehehe oops! Just bought up the rest of the patterns I need to complete my Cake pattern collection. So much for my self-imposed crafting budget for the month! Between this and the online yarn sale I came across end of April, I’m hooped! :D I knew getting a paypal account would be dangerous.

      Luckily, I’m headed down south in a couple weeks. I’m off to present at a geoscience conference and visit family, but this also means that I can go fabric shopping!!! AHA BUDGET WHAT BUDGET. *facepalm*

      • Thanks Heather! I do care… Heaps!

        And thanks for your purchase. Leila sent out another Pavlova to you this morning, keep an eye out… :)

        Hey at least you have a job now! No more impoverished student days, right? Right?

        • YAY FOR PAVLOVA! I really was hoping it’d show up. I’ve had something like that happen once before, so I thought I’d be patient. Alas, it didn’t work out. Thank you for sending another copy. :)

          YAY FOR A JOB! And a job I love too, which is a bonus! Now I just need to pay off the debt accumulated from my impoverish student days. lol!

          And just to round things up to increments of three…YAY FOR CAKE!

  5. Because I’m tall, I always figured that I would need to lengthen patterns, but realizing that I might need to alter patterns in other ways was a big aha moment for me this year! I just drafted a top for myself with a AA bust dart (just a tiny pinch of fabric! :) ) It was so gratifying to see how well the top fit, how it emphasized the curves I do have instead of making me look either like I’m swimming in fabric or totally flat.

    • Oh I love AHA moments! They’re the best! :) And that’s great about realizing what your dart shape should look like, I remember having a similar insight about my own dart shapes. It’s really really helpful.

  6. I have not made the Tiramisu yet, but would probably make the size 30. I have a long torso (both above the bust and below), so I am curious if the original fits me without alteration. I for one am happier with it being ‘too long’ out of the envelope. I’ll try to let you know once I am done (I have a week or two of pregnancy left).
    You mention ”Petite” and “Plus” but not tall – do you think it is generally easier to add length as an alteration? I’ve ran into the issue that I needed quite a bit more fabric than suggested by patterns because I needed to add >1″ in bodice length.

    • Yes, it’s easier to add length as an alteration when you consider some of the really involved pattern alterations floating around out there… When I was learning to alter patterns to fit my body a few years ago, I kept think it’d be less trouble to learn to draft outright. And you know, it was.

      I try to make my patterns in such a way that adding length at the end of a sleeve or the bottom of a skirt works well. Part of that is choosing the cut wisely and the way the seamlines interact.. The Hbird Pink skirt has shorten/lengthen lines but that’s the only one of my patterns so far that’s been necessary. On the Tira bodice, for example, just lengthen or shorten the midriff section at the waist seam. Lengthen/shorten the bodice at the underbust seam. It works. :)

      • Thank you for your reply! Since I am still new to sewing it is mostly a matter of learning where to add length and how that changes the pattern – and I learned a lot from your blog. And of course paying more attention to body shape, and why a lot of RTW things won’t fit well. I hope I get to try out your other patterns as well, but have to put more time into finding good knits I can afford and how to sew them.

  7. Thank you so much for this post. If I understand correctly, my attempt at making my Tiramisu dress is right on the money. I did have to make some adjustments but, I think that was more a result of my taking poor measurements. (I will post a picture soon)

  8. Hey Steph!
    This amends sound awesome. Will you be making available just the bodice amends for those of us who bought the first edition of Tiramisu and think maybe this alteration to the 30 could help them? (I’m not sure, you see, because I made the 30D and it was a wee bit big, so I’ve since traced the 30C bodice but have not actually made that one up). Anyway, I’d be most happy to stump up for an additional piece to add / amend my current pattern. Well, I’m happy to stump up for almost anything you design!

    • I had another request for this via twitter, and it never occurred to me if you can believe it. I’ll see what can be done. :) Thanks, Oanh.

      • I’d second that request! I made a 35B and had trouble with the midriff fit and had been considering cutting a smaller bodice, even though that seemed too small. I had put it aside so that I could get a fresh perspective after getting frustrated with it, so this would definitely enhance my toolkit for round two!

  9. Hey, I am thinking a lot about making y third tira but was thinking about the shoulder seam. On both my tiras the shoulder seam pulled back almost an inch and leans back into place as the seam gets out on to the arm. Is this because I have larger shulders then “my size”. Then I am thinking if I change the shoulder seam will my chevrons still match?! I just realize I have this problem with many patterns and my back witdh is about 2 sizes larger than my bust measurement. Needles to say my cup 80AA does not really give enough balance fot the wide back.

    This also shows on the skirt that hangs down much longer at the back. What do you reckon, can I make an alteration to the shoulder without distorting the pattern?! Cant wait to get a look at the new tira pattern by the way!

    Also, I love my tiras I have made already and now that summer is coming I knon they will get a lot of wear!

  10. Hi Steph! It’s great that you take the time and effort to improve on your patterns. I am about to cut my second Tira- the first one was supposed to be a muslin but I wear it regularly although the neckband and sleevebands are not sewn properly, you can see it here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/87934385@N07/8589570681/in/photostream/ . I think the fit would benefit from your alteration- so should I raise the underbust line on the front bust piece by 1”? What do you think?

  11. I had exactly the issue you described with my Tira. I was planning to make another one (or, you know, five) – are you planning to make v. 2.0 available in PDF format so that us first edition folks can try it? Or should I just hack up the underbust again? If you mentioned this somewhere already, sorry.

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