WIP Wednesday: Mini or Maxi? (Lekala 4541)

Maxi or mini - which do you prefer? Body positive sewing & style on Making the Flame.

One of the recent themes of #sewphotohop was ‘Mini or Maxi?’, asking sewers to share whether they prefer their skirts and dresses to sweep the floor, or barely hit the middle of their thigh. It was interesting to see not just people’s preferences, but the reason behind their preferences.

In my neck of the woods, mini or maxi has a different connotation — but before I get to that, I’d like to say I’m definitely team mini. I think I’ve made one maxi dress, and it was actually a mini in front. For me, there’s the issue of yardage — a maxi skirt takes way more fabric than a mini skirt — and the vibe from wearing a long, serious skirt is not really my style. A mini skirt is a playful dash of color, and shows off my legs while making them look extra long. Since I go for a bright, playful, leggy look, the mini is perfect for me. Also, as a city girl who walks and takes public transportation everywhere, having a long skirt that sweeps all the grossness from the ground onto my clothing is no bueno!!!!!

Custom croquis of my real body -- plus size, long legs, short torso, and all! Body positive sewin& style on Making the Flame.

Anyway, as I said: maxi and mini have a different meaning for me. Basically, I can’t draw. But I need to evaluate patterns somehow, so I’ve come up with different ways to do this. The first is measuring pattern pieces and my body, and making flat pattern adjustments based on the differences. This method works well if the line drawing is accurate, but we know that isn’t always the case!

The second technique is the one I’ll show you below, which relies on mini patterns. I probably took this idea from old sewing books which referred to quarter-scale patterns. There were never pictures, but I understood the concept of working on a smaller scale to be faster and easier than working on a life size pattern.

Thirdly and more recently, the lovely Najah at Wanna Be Sewing Something drew up some custom croquis for me as a birthday present! It has been surprisingly challenging to work with not just a proportionally “real” body, but my own proportionally real body. If you think sewing for yourself is intimate, you’ve never attempted to draw a garment on your own body. My biggest sadface about this method is how little torso area I have to work with…but it’s probably better to understand how that affects garment proportions before I make them.

Attempt at freehand sketching sewing pattern alterations on Making the Flame. Body positive sewing & style.

When I first starting working in miniature, I freehand sketched pattern pieces on printer paper, cut them out, and tested my fit and design ideas on the mini pattern pieces. Once I worked things out on the mini pattern pieces, I transferred the changes to the life size pattern. I used mathematical proportions to make sure everything got transferred exactly, until I realized there’s an easier way to work in mini — if the pattern is a PDF.

With PDF patterns, all you need to do is print the pattern at smaller size than ‘actual size’, cut and glue/tape together the mini pages, then cut the completed mini pattern pieces. If you print from Adobe Acrobat, you can follow the steps below. Working from the exact pattern pieces makes all adjustments and design changes that much more accurate! You also don’t have to visualize your changes as much, because they’re much easier to see.

How to print mini PDF patterns on Making the Flame. Body positive sewing & style.

  • Under ‘Page Sizing & Handling’, click ‘Multiple’.
  • For ‘Pages per sheet’, select ‘Custom’ from the drop down menu.
  • For medium sized (quarter scale) pattern pieces, enter ‘2’ in both boxes next to the drop down menu.
  • For smaller size (1/6 scale) pattern pieces, enter ‘3’ in the first box and ‘2’ in the second box.
  • For ‘Page order’ select ‘Horizontal’ from the drop down menu.
  • Below this section, find ‘Orientation’ and select ‘Portrait’.
  • Print!

Mini patterns in action on Making the Flame. Body positive s ewing & style.

There’s a ton of things you can do with mini patterns, and a short learning curve to learn how to work with them. I’m planning to make a YouTube video to show how I work with miniatures, to get your creative juices flowing! Definitely subscribe to my YouTube channel (or at least this blog) to get notified when that video goes up.

Lekala 4541 with pattern alterations on Making the Flame. Body positive sewing & style.

By the way, Lekala 4541 is the woven top mentioned in my Ella Top post. So far I’ve made a bunch of adjustments to 4541, but more importantly I’ve learned that I don’t like bust darts! They automatically look ugly to me. Poor Ella didn’t stand a chance. So I’m experimenting with rotating the bust dart into the armhole, which I already like better.

More later!

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  1. I love knowing your croquis is in effect! Also flattered to see you share it on your blog. I enjoyed playing dress up with your croquis – your shape is so beautifully different from mine….your legs go on for daaaaaays!

    Adjusting to your own silhouette is definitely a process. But a necessary one for a complete perspective on custom style and fit. I am so glad you leaned in and let it work for you.

    P.S. I second Kisha’s comment about that mini sweater dress. It’s a favorite of mine.

    1. Yes, the croquis is hard at work! Glad to share it. :) It is so funny how differently shaped we all can be, and how much we can take that for granted.

      Definitely looking forward to busting out that sweater dress. Soon! I wore tights for the first time this fall, just yesterday.

  2. I am most comfortable in mid-calf length dresses. I think about making a true maxi but I’m afraid it might be a bit too much and that I would end up not wearing it. I am so glad that we now live in an era in which we’re free to wear whatever length of skirt works for us personally.

    1. That’s a great point, Lynn — this discussion leaves out midi length, which was actually pretty popular among Instagrammers. And you’re absolutely right: it’s wonderful we live in an era when you can pick your preferred hem length. It’s what I grew up with, so it’s easy to take for granted, but it’s a fabulous freedom.

  3. I love your croquis. I should try to make one for myself.

    I’ve seen others working in miniature scale and it’s sort of fascinating. Can’t wait to see where you go with this.

    Also, that last look in your collage? YASSSSS!

    1. Yes, definitely try it! There are tutorials on how to make a custom croquis from a photo, but Najah took pity on my helpless behind. :-p Mini scale is fab! I think I’ve got a free day on Saturday to attempt filming something useful, so perhaps I’ll have something up on YouTube sooner rather than later.

      Do you like the silver dress? I can’t wait to wear it again, but it’s definitely a cold-weather dress, despite the length. That fabric is warrrrm, haha.

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