Friday, August 7, 2020

Sewing and Weight Loss

This is a topic that I didn't really think much about until it came up on Gillian of The Sewcialists Instagram feed. She was asking for people's tips on sewing for a changing body, meaning how to sew if you are getting larger, and I sent her a message telling her my experience in the opposite direction. Shortly after this is when everything with Covid19 got really crazy, and I completely forgot to send her my blurb, but the idea stuck with me and I decided to post about it here. So if this isn't your thing, I give you permission to skip this one :)

Over the last year, I have lost 55 pounds. It started as not having any appetite due to stress last July - I found out my husband was cheating on me. Before that point, I had reached the largest I had ever been due to OTHER stress - I was in the process of adopting twin infant girls and for a while I was lucky to eat anything, let alone anything that was remotely healthy. Previous to the girls I had dealt with my husband's drug addiction for years of relapses and rehab, and food was my only comfort. When everything went down between my husband and me in July, I weighted 225 lbs and I was miserable. I had several health problems that were weight related, plus my weight had always been something I was very self conscious about given that I have been plus sized for most of my adult life, meaning despite my best efforts to remain "body positive" my physical looks self esteem was very low. When I stopped wanting to eat for about a month due to depression and stress brought on by the early process of divorce, I decided I was going to try and make the best of the situation and use it as a boost to finally lose the weight that doctors had tried to get me to lose for 10 years. After the initial month of not eating much, I did it all the healthy way. I became super vigilant about what I ate and kept track of my calories/proteins/sugars/fats/etc. I started exercising regularly several months ago. I have now managed to lose 55 lbs and I am still going (now I'm more focused on toning things up than losing weight, but that's a different story.
It's very strange to see these two photos side by side. In my mind, I still look the same, but photos don't lie. Gosh, it's bizarre to think that's me.
Me at my largest - I stopped buying clothing at a size 18, but I believe I reached a US size 20. This was April 2019. I believe my measurements were 43" bust, 42" waist, 50" hip, but I was not able to sew in that time and some things were tight, so it could be slightly higher numbers than that.

So what does this mean for my sewing? Well, anyone that had followed my blog once upon a time (back when I was still making things to show), they will possibly now understand the drastic decline in my sewing output over the past 2 years. I had been on a steady weight gain for the past 10 years, gaining much faster over 2018. Many of the things I had sewn when I first started making my own clothes in 2014 no longer fit me and I had sized out of even some of the things I made in 2017. I was so exhausted with suddenly being the caregiver of 2 adorable but drug addicted infants PLUS working full time PLUS trying to keep my house clean,etc PLUS dealing with the ramifications of my then-husband's addiction PLUS things being more strained between us and finding out he had someone else. I didn't even factor my size or eating habits or health into the equation - there was just no time or mental space for it. But it did mean that I had to buy my clothing since I sized out of my clothes and didn't have time to make any more. I made very few things in 2018 as a result.

Once I noticed my body getting smaller in about September of 2019, I started making small alterations. I lucked out since I tend to pack things away in hopes of being able to wear them again one day, plus I love to thrift shop, so I supplemented my wardrobe as best I could at the time with preowned clothes. I altered the burgundy skirt you see in the 2020 photo above and took 5 inches out (I now have to take it in again). My other makes are sitting in a box anxiously waiting for me to either alter them down or to donate them to be appreciated by someone else. I've wanted to sew SO BADLY for the past 2.5 years, but even once my girls started to be less stressful and time consuming, I was losing weight and didn't want to make things only to have them not fit a month or so later. I am still stuck in that limbo. I wish I could sew clothes, but aside from a few holiday makes I have not sewn anything for me to wear. I do still knit, just going down from the size I previously was making since knits tend to be fairly forgiving and I enjoy making sweaters. I've also been tackling several old non-clothing projects (bags, a quilt, an apron, etc - to be blogged soon!), but clothing is my real love and I've enjoyed planning what I want to make once my size levels out. I'm hoping that will be soon, but I have certain goals I want to hit before I stop and who knows what size I will be by then.

My advice on sewing for a changing body? Avoid designs with side seam pockets. My Melissa Skirt was the greatest example of a perfect design for altering. I just unpicked the top stitching, sewed the side seams in as far as I needed, serged off the excess, then redid the top stitching. I haven't done this to anything with side seam pockets simply because it's so much more of a hassle. Also I'm still pretty surprised at how forgiving elastic waists can be, even when going smaller. Almost all of my elastic waist skirts still fit me reasonably well. Also t-shirts are a very simple alteration as long as the shoulder width hasn't changed much. You can just start at the hem and sew all the way up the side including the sleeve. Very easy. 

Anyone else out there having any big physical changes? How has it effected your sewing? I'd love to know!

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