Sewing for a Changing Body: Weight Loss


Earlier this month, I wrote about weight gain for BoPoMarch, and today’s topic is the other side of that spectrum: weight loss.

Tell someone you’ve lost weight, and you’ll often get the reply, ‘Congratulations!’ With weight loss so universally celebrated, it should be easy to sew for a body in the process of losing weight, or after a period of significant weight loss. Right? Well, better to ask than assume. So I asked Kathy to share her thoughts on how she sewed for her changing body as she lost weight!


KATHY: Back in May 2011, I chose to start a healthier way of life. This was 6 months after I gave birth to my son. I wanted to feel better and have energy to raise my sweet baby boy! I was exhausted and a brand new mom and needed to shake things up. I’d been very heavy since I was a very young child and felt my size was a byproduct of poor habits I needed to switch up. After a couple months of changing things up with eating habits, I started running and training with the Couch To 5K program. After about 6 months I was running 5K’s, feeling much better and I happened to drop about 90 pounds. My figure had drastically changed. And the whole while my sewing addiction grew! I made cute dresses, tops and became OBSESSED with sewing activewear for all my running. The activewear sewing fed my obsession to run…I’d make a new cute running skirt or top, then clearly I’d need to go test it out on a run. I’m currently training for my fifth half marathon. And I’m permanently trying to balance healthy habits and life. My size has gone up some pounds, down some pounds, so I have often have to reconsider my size when I sew.

EBI: How did you decide when to start sewing smaller sizes?

KATHY: I began sewing in smaller sizes than I previously needed when my clothes were too big to wear in public! Initially I was altering my clothing down, like my RTW size 22 jeans got the legs taken in, the waist nipped in, the rise quickly taken in. After that, I was re-measuring myself and having to buy new patterns and reconsider how to fit my different figure.

EBI: Did you measure yourself regularly throughout your period of weight loss? If yes, how often? If no, did you track your body changes in any other way?

KATHY: I did not really measure regularly with a measuring tape when I was losing weight. It didn’t occur to me at the time. I did use a scale to measure my weight loss then. I did coincidentally have a very complete set of body measurements I made the week before I learned I was pregnant– I had taken a class at G Street Fabrics to create my own sewing block for a bodice. It’s interesting to see what I was then and where I happen to be now. And that block was instantly useless.

EBI: Did the things you chose to sew change? Why, or why do you think?

KATHY: Yes. I absolutely did. Not so much because my taste suddenly changed…it was because sewing pattern companies did not really make cute patterns for my previously RTW size 22 body. Before I was working with the not very exciting options from Big 4 patterns, I subscribed to Burda Plus magazine and I was ecstatic that Colette was an indie designer who included my size (with a few alterations). I was sewing clothes as a large person because there were limited options in RTW…and ironically pattern companies were nearly as awful almost 9 years back with crappy options. I had not discovered yet my now standard favorites like Jalie or Ottobre or Fehr Trade.

I now fit a more “standard” size, and most all pattern companies have way more options for someone RTW 14 and under.

EBI: Did you notice a decrease in your materials consumption or purchases?

KATHY: Yes, at first I was not buying things. I was a stay at home mom when I lost weight, so funds were very tight. I opted to invest in sewing rather then buying new RTW things. To be honest, I was unsure of where to shop where things would fit and I was usually too exhausted to leave the house with a toddler in tow to go find out! These days I’ve become more acquainted with certain brands I like and how they fit, so I do buy off the rack more then before, but not frivolously by any means. I sew less than I want because time constraints with life and working, etc.

EBI: Did your body confidence change or fluctuate as and after you lost weight?

KATHY: I feel weight loss has been a by product of a healthier lifestyle. Yes, I feel better being trimmer but it seriously feels wildly amazing to say I’ve run every half marathon faster then the last, and I’m 41 years old doing it all now. I get a kick out of knowing, “oh yeah I did 12 miles yesterday” or wearing my hand sewn technical running gear & folks asking where I bought it from.

My weight has fluctuated, and yes I’ve been upset about that at times if pounds sneak back on… I refocus on my real goals of training for the next race or something similar, then I’m good to go on. I know maintaining a balance in daily life will likely mean a smaller figure, but life happens and sometimes I’m gonna wear a size 8 pair of jeans and other times I’ll be a 12.

EBI: Could you share some guidance for those who have lost weight and are looking for tips on how to sew for their thinner bodies?

KATHY: Working with the clothing I already had in my closet & making alterations was how I first dealt with a decrease in body size. This is when I really searched out the books and websites about fitting, like Palmer Pletsch’s Pants For Real People, Tailoring by Singer Sewing Company, and Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket. I have major and crazy pants fitting issues at any size, so fitting and tailoring is critical. Body size changes are a great catalyst to learn new fitting techniques.

Also, sewing with knits is freaking terrific! An inch or a few centimeters increase in my bust or waist won’t be a dealbreaker and I’ll still be able to wear the cute knit dresses I sewed last year.


Kathy is a rust belt girl from New York living in Baltimore, Maryland. She sews primarily for herself and makes useful, everyday garments for normal life. She works with knits often because they are easy to wash and wear. She’s been a bit of a long distance runner since 2012 so she sews super fun and crazy, colorful activewear. You can find her on Instagram as @kathhhhhy_sews.

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