Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Sewing while black, plus size and over 50

There have been quite a few conversations in Instagram land and social media regarding inclusivity in our sewing community.  Conversations regarding POC (People of Color), Plus size sewists and #sewover50. For many sewists, they hit one maybe two of these categories.  I, however, find myself in the unenviable position of falling into all three categories.  

I am a Black American, who is 60 years old, and plus size.  Personally I don't see any of these as negatives.  They are just my life story.  However, when mixed all together I'm basically invisible to the sewing advertisers, retailers and pattern companies.  This is really interesting because right now I have the largest disposable income that I've ever had during my entire sewing career which has spanned the last 49 years of my life and very few companies target me.

So yet again I'm writing another post on my invisibility in the sewing world. *sigh*  However, the ultimate post on sewing over 50 was written by Susan Young where she's listed out by pattern company, the representation of older sewists pictured either on the pattern envelope or website. The initial list was very brief.  The revised list is better but its still not that great.  Oh to be young, white and thin in the sewing world! Girl you've got it going on!  Let's not add male sewists into the mix because they are probably the only group more discriminated against than fat, old, black women.

All this to say that I am participating in the #So50Visible challenge.


The list of patterns was even smaller as an older, plus size, sewist. I'm not including POC on that list because I just don't want do the legwork on it. However, here is where I need to give a huge shout out to Cashmerette Patterns. Jenny is definitely hitting all of the boxes and showing her patterns are wearable dispite your age, girth, or color. She's just happy to be providing patterns for sewists - any female sewist.  Sorry guys! 

I also need to note here that her patterns are available in paper and pdf patterns. I know there is a section of sewists out there who love pdf patterns. I am not one of them. So the fact that I'm given the choice without being made to feel bad for "not moving with the times" also earns Jenny high marks from me!

For the #So50Visible challenge, you can post a new or previously made garment. From Jenny's line I've made two versions of her Rivermont top.  Here is the picture from Jenny's website ~


This is my first Rivermont Top made in November 2017 ~


I made my second Rivermont top in December 2019 ~


I also made the Rivermont Dress in November 2017 ~


While the dress is NOT my favorite, I do love both tops! And after looking at these pics, I realize I need to try that dress pattern again. Anyway, all of this is to say that patternmakers can be more inclusive in their advertising. You can show POC, older and plus size sewists on your website and pattern covers - look at Jenny's site, she does it easily and WELL!  You just need to put in the effort.  Step out of your comfort zone and represent the entire amazingly, wonderful, beautiful sewing community as it is.

...as always more later!


44 comments:

  1. For a fat old black woman you look fantastic Carolyn!!!! I cannot believe you are 60. And I totally agree with you. Please try another Rivermont dress as this one on you with the denim jacket looks really good. Thanks so much for the post. This is from an old ( almost 67) wrinkly white woman. Have a super week.

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  2. Carolyn - I'm a long-time reader but first time commenter (as far as I can remember!). I am a white, plus-size 60-year-old. You, your blog and your makes are all fabulous. You're the reason I've picked up garment sewing again. Keep up the great work!

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  3. You're right, Jenny makes it look easy. That's what happens when "the tongue in your head matches the tongue in your shoe."

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    1. What an amazing expression! I guess that's "walking the talk"?

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    2. Yep! I can't remember the name of the book in which I first read it...but it was targeted at writers.

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  4. I have rarely (or maybe never?) commented, but I'm a long-time follower and I just want to say that I see you! I admire your dedication to your craft and your skill! You're someone to look up to in the home sewing community. Thank you for sharing your projects and your views.

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  5. Carolyn, thank you again for sharing the SewOver50 challenge with your readers. It’s a shame in 2019 that we still even need to have one! It’s been a real eye-opener to Judith, Sandy and myself whilst creating and running the challenge just how badly represented such large groups of people are. I’m interested that you prefer paper patterns, I’m coming around to PDFs more now, but whilst compiling the list it seems on the face of it that PDF companies are doing better with representation because they use actual makers images on their websites. Obviously this isn’t a scientific analysis, merely my observations, but it doesn’t get away from the fact that, in general, pattern envelopes are woefully inadequate and must try harder!

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    1. Susan - I agree that the pdf pattern companies are miles ahead of the companies that predominately offer paper patterns. However, personally I like the sewing and designing part of sewing over the altering patterns part and 99% of the time I need to make an alteration to a pattern. So if I have to tape it together, trace it out and then make alterations I've lost a day or two of sewing to a pattern. Maybe if I had unlimited sewing time this would appeal (though probably not) so that's my first challenge.

      My second challenge is probably purely an American thing. I can buy a pattern online or in-store relatively inexpensively. So why would I waste my paper & ink (adding costs to a pattern) or send to someone else to print (yet again adding more costs to a pattern) for this process. It just doesn't add up to me.

      Not to say I haven't used a few pdf patterns but you can count on both hands how many those are. Oh and I won't use a pattern when the plus sizes are pdf only but the smaller sizes are available in paper!!! WTH! Yeah I'm choosy! *LOL*

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  6. Well, I'm white, over sixty and almost plus size and your blog is the first blog I started to follow when I picked up serious sewing again over ten years ago. Regardless of your color or your size, Carolyn, you spoke my language. I point people in the direction of your blog all the time. You can be trusted to give honest and thoughtful commentary on what goes on in a sewist's life. Thank you for being there.
    Theresa in Tucson

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  7. I'm heavier than my younger self once was and if I didn't dye my hair, it would likely be mostly gray by now. And the bags under my eyes reveal a bit of my life story. I don't feel invisible. There have been plenty of people who have shared their unsolicited opinions about their distain at being visually exposed to the authentic self if its shown through the makeup or hair dye. There will always be people who judge or look past me to sell their products. I'm just grateful for bloggers like yourself that are the real reason why I sew and consider a pattern or sewing product. It's not the models that are marketed to us by the pattern companies. Those don't speak to me, I'm going for the line drawings and the blogger reviews like yours. That is where I find trust and inspiration.

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  8. Love you! Have been reading your blog since I started back sewing. I have really appreciated reading your thoughts. And it burns me too that the brands are ignoring the people who have the money...

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  9. I had to go back and read your review of the dress to understand why you didn't like it because it looks great styled with the denim jacket and the fab shades...
    BTW: the dress review was fabulous-Especially the notations on fabric hand and remembering to change the neck facing too

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  10. All what Theresa above wrote. I followed you first and stay with you because you are you, first and foremost. Then you are always bringing up the best issues to think about and discuss. I have cashmerette patterns because of you (just received the one your wrote about with the cowl neck). I have bought from Fabric Mart because of you. I won't be sending in any pictures because I don't have the technology but thank you again to all of you who keep all of this going. We all benefit from it. Jean

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  11. Love your post! I am an over 50...actually over 60, plus size POC as well. But you put a lot more legwork and thought into it than I did! Thank you for that!

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  12. Carolyn, brava for discussing a real demographic issue. Also, most “sellers of goods” of any type exhibit the same lack of sight of the older woman (people?) who does/do have disposable income. For all the money advertisers make and spend trying to reach the buyer, I have been mystified for years why this older woman demographic is not recognized.
    I began sewing again also because of your beautiful (the lovely clothes!), thoughtful writing. I appreciate the time it takes, and avidly read and view your blog.

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  13. Oh, and one more thought, I see the young, thin model as very unattractive. They look like grandkids who have lived in a cave; no color, no smiles, a body of only bones. I love to look at clothing on real women!

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  14. Ah , here I was thinking I couldn't do the over 50 challenge but I have Ottobre and Knipmode magazines. This discussion has really made me think about the difficulties and limitations that plus size sewists have so I am grateful I dont have those to deal with . I want to add all women are real , putting down young thin people isnt right as is ignoring larger , older , POC etc. Two wrongs don't make a right.

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    1. I am going to clarify my comment. Nothing you have written Carolyn has been derogatory . You have stated facts.

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  15. Even when I see an older woman in an ad, and I do see more of them, they are always thin. Old, I'm 68, and plus size not so much Old, plus size and black, not there. The RTW industry has slowly figured out that they can expand their market share by expanding their sizing in all of their offerings. The sewing industry has yet to figure that out. We have money to spend! We are never in the demographic.

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  16. I'm over 70 and plus size, just not black. I agree with you totally. I have endeavored to make my own alterations, inspired by you. It would be really nice to get a pattern for plus size available. there was a brand many years ago, can't remember the name but available now only as leftovers, maybe. With so many people plus size you would think companies would target us as customers, not ignore us.

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  17. Great Post! I have always admired you for your many talents. Although I am not a a POC, we are the same age, and I have sewn garments for myself in multiple sizes through the years. Thanks for being such a great voice for us all. “The Other Carolyn”

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    1. Carolyn - it’s great to hear from you! So glad you’re still reading the blog. Appreciate it and thanks for leaving a note!

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  18. I love your blog so much. I am a 60year old plus size woman who has just retired. I have a good disposable income, as do most of my friends. We should be the market in all things and especially the sewing world. I don't want to be invisible I want to be loud and proud and sew items that reflect that. You are my inspiration.

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  19. I have to start by saying I don’t currently fit into any of the three categories mentioned in this post (though I think once you have been a plus sized sewist, the mentality is always that of a plus sized sewist), but I am so glad people are talking about these issues. It isn’t right! I know when I went shopping for a nice sewing machine I faced a similar issue - basically because I didn’t fit the image of who they thought their demographic was (read: I wasn’t a middle aged woman there to spend $10,000 of my non-existent husbands hard earned money), they didn’t want to deal with me. Ultimately it was a good thing as I ended up at a different dealership with a machine I love, and a really nice service staff, but it was a very eye opening experience. The sad thing is, I know that was just one experience out of so many, and that I am relatively catered to in so many other regards. I feel like things have been changing, but it feels too slow. I’m really thankful for the inspiration and information I get from blogs like this one. Thank you for sharing this post!

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  20. I have read your blog for years, and I agree that male sewists are hardly represented at all, especially those of us over 50. Men have yet to discover that if you want unique fashion you’ve got to make it yourself (or hire it done). The only clothes I wear that people notice are the ones I’ve made myself. Keep up the great sewing and blogging!
    Mt

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  21. What? Your black, plus size and over 50? I always thought you were as a talented sewer, blogger with a great sense of humor and a terrific color coordinator! I guess its the way I look at life! Keep up with your god given talents!

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  22. Great post Carolyn! I love that you are never afraid to speak your mind, and in a manner that respects everyone, while still being true to yourself.

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  23. This is a wonderful post as well as some very thought provoking responses . As a sewer closer to 70 than 60 I’m happy for the honesty of your thoughts Carolyn . We can be a powerful force by expressing our voices as well as our financial clout .
    Also I totally second Ruth’s observation !!

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  24. Carolyn, your comment about male sewists totally slayed me! I just had to laugh out loud. A recent " new release" from one of the big four featured costumes for its men's selections. Costumes....that's what we get. Yet, we all keep moving forward! I love following you on Instagram and your blog.

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  25. I barely hit one of your marks (plus sized) but I LOVE you blog. Sewists like you keep it real and inspire the rest of us to embrace who we are and what our bodies look like. The powers that be in the sewing industry may ignore "people like you" but the rest of us are motivated by many like you - our favorite bloggers and Instagrammers who are plus-sized, come in variety of skin colors, look like grandparents, and live in countries all over the world. Keep up your great work!

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  26. I love this post, and your honest reflections on a pressing issue. You are a gorgeous 60 year old woman, and it is good to see you participating in this challenge!

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  27. I see you and have huge admiration for your talents, and big smile - as well as being able to be direct! There's also been some talk about inclusivity in "physical" sewing groups such as various ASG chapters being comprised of mainly older white ladies. I fall into that category. It's sad to hear some of those stories being shared. When I was president of our chapter, I was happy to be able to bring in a local designer to speak to us who also held summer sewing camps for children. She is black, and was a total inspiration. We contributed both as a chapter and as individuals to that effort. We have attracted some women of color along the way, and same as younger peopele who have visited who are not of color, most have not returned, even though we tried our best to be inclusive. I am concerned about where we have failed, or if there's even anything more we could do. One lady has stuck with us, comes on retreats with us, and has become a good friend. She is working on attracting a more diverse crowd, as she works at Joann's and meets so many people there who sew. I hope there is success in the future, because I know our chapter would grow not just in numbers, but in all ways as people if we were more diverse. Thanks for bringing this up!!

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    1. Mary - I don't go to my local ASG neighborhood group because it's "too clubby." So if you want to attract POC and younger sewists to your group, you will have to go out of your way to find them. Once they arrive you have to bond with them over their sewing and not make them feel other than. Talk to them. See what they like to sew. Ask them to come again and keep trying, if the first ones that come don't gel. Inclusivity isn't easy. It's challenging to everyone...you just have to keep trying.

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  28. I think I trashed my reply, so will try again! People of any colour, or size, need patterns that are easy to adjust. As we really age we still want clothes that fit and are attractive. I find myself wishing for simple sewing that spares the eyes. Living in a place where there are no fabric shops, except online, sewing has to be an act of will! I have enjoyed your site since I first discovered it and was amazed!

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  29. I am an old, plus size white woman and I 100% agree with you...those who produce products & services DO discriminate routinely & they don't care. You would think that those of us who are older (and have LOTS more $$ than the young group) would be represented and courted for our business, but not so. I'm glad you're speaking your mind on your site AND with your dollars -- its the only avenue we have as consumers. In the meantime, thank you for a WONDERFUL blog. I learn SO much from you each time I read it. I'm primarily a quilter but make things for myself sometimes as well as for grandchildren, and of course sewed for my children a lot when they were young. I enjoy your blog, and how you tailor your projects, using color, fabric and style to the best advantage -- you look wonderful in your creations! Someday I pray we will ALL be celebrated for our various shapes, beautiful range of skin colors, age, and other differences (disabilities, etc...) as those features make each of us truly special....and that's EXACTLY how products and services SHOULD be presented to consumers in advertising. Deb E

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  30. Carolyn, I’ve been silently appreciating your blog for ages. Thank you for bringing honesty and humor to this conversation (and all your posts). I gave a loud, “Ha!” when you summed up discrimination in the sewing world. Then read it out loud to my husband and s

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  31. As a 58 year old white recent widow who lost 30+ pounds through stress last year, I fit only one of your criteria. We all have to find patterns that fit our own shapes, and I admire your effort to give credit to Cashmerette and others who work for you. I always admire your creations; your color choices are wonderful! I'm with you on disliking PDF patterns; I have a couple, but really don't enjoy them. I hope I'll meet you at a sew camp soon!

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  32. As a 17 year-old skinny white girl who loves to sew, this was so enjoyable to read! It made me laugh. Because the truth of the matter is, I don't think there are actually all that many young people (such as myself) who are passionate about sewing. Most of the sewing communities seem to be made up of older, plus size, women (I don't know about POC); so why they don't use such women for modeling is beyond me! I only just found your blog, but you come off as a very sweet, intelligent woman with a vast knowledge of sewing that I can only dream of someday obtaining. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter!

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    1. Mary - I would agree that as a teenager the sewing community does a poor job of reaching out to you too. When I first learned to sew, there were loads of teenagers pictured in the pattern catalogues probably because we were taught to sew in school so there was a dedicated audience. Thank you for reading and enjoying my blog post. I hope you continue to read along and leave a comment! Oh and just keep sewing, you will gain the knowledge too!

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  33. I have a sincere question and hope it won't offend. I love your blog and read it faithfully and have been inspired to make pieces by you. My question: as relates to being Sewist (not relating to social ills, etc) what difference does your color make? I am over 70, short, plus sized, white haired since 40, caucasian. I have never even considered when looking at a model or sketch or magazine what the color of the model is relative to the style, etc, of an outfit or pattern. Height, weight, age appropriateness, etc, yes definitely. Color of model or sewist, no. I truly don't understand how skin color causes problems to a talented sewist such as yourself. I hope you aren't offended, this is a sincere question. NB: my sister in law is half a POC and half native American and I don't look at her any differently either. She's just Susan. She is shortish, extremely busty, larger end of regular sizing, and dresses beautifully.

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    1. Vickie - it matters because you've always seen yourself on TV, in print magazines, commercials, TV shows, movies even sewing shows. There have always been white/caucasian people everywhere. At 60 years old, I was 15 before I saw a black model on a magazine cover. It matters because I've been invisible in all commerical forums and my skill as a sewist has NOTHING to do with that.

      When I'm on the street I'm not viewed as an amazing sewist. I'm viewed as a fat, older black woman. You see me as other than that because you read my blog but that's not how I'm viewed in the world or even the sewing community. I'm invisible. Representation matters when you're NOT represented. That's the shortest and most concise answer I can give without writing another blog post about it. And if you don't have to deal with it on a daily basis, yes even a sewing basis, it's a concept that's a little more difficult to grasp.

      One final thing, a piece of advice not meant to offend, but stating your best friend, a family member, or someone close to you is biracial, a POC or any other minority group offends/annoys more than it helps in the situation.

      I know you to be a faithful reader and commenter on my blog so I'm being respectful and answering your question. Not so sure I would have for someone else!

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  34. i want to say thanks for empowering the over fifty.....POC have something to offer...THANKS FOR STEPPING OUT..good to see ya showing'em what ya working with...cant wait to pass along to my friends and family

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