The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

This Is An Intervention!!!!

As a dyslexic child, back in the days of my grade school, educators and experts in child development, either didn’t know what this was and therefore certainly didn’t know what to do about it or how to teach dyslexics or learning disabled children.  I was therefore placed into the mentally retarded and slow-learner classes.  I set the curve on the math and science tests, but couldn’t follow the simplest of instructions in the English or literature classes.  It drove my teachers crazy, some of whom felt it was a psychological problem that I was taking it out on them personally.

Fortunately not long into high school, I was sent away to boarding school.  Immediately after I was tested for entrance into the school, it was discovered I had an LD and they knew it was dyslexia – don’t know how but they did.  I was immediately enrolled in their LD lab, and learned how to read and process information so that I could learn it.  I grew to love history – I read history and loved it.  I still wasn’t much at English, but I also grew to love literature (we had a kick-ass literature teacher which I know sounds incompatible, but there it was).


All the time during my grade school, junior high and underclassmen high school, I wanted to tell my teachers, “Hey, I’m not this dumb kid you keep dumping in the slow-learner classes.  These classes are boring and I could write the curriculum for these classes and teach them.  Give me something challenging.”  And my math scores proved it,  but they couldn’t get past their own prejudices and the only guidelines they had ever known.


What this did most of all for me, was prepare me for bumping up against the norm and the established, seemingly impenetrable wall, then keeping at it till there was a schism or crack in that wall.

Today nothing is different.  Here I sit, knowing full well that most of the populace can be fit and not only that, it’s not that hard and it wasn’t that long ago that it was done on a regular basis.  Yet butting up against that wall is the deft and nimble media busy telling EVERYONE that they can’t be fit, but buy clothes anyway and doesn’t matter if you look good in them or they are ill-fitting cause no one can be fit.

Sorta like this:

  1. If you don’t starve yourself or exercise 24/7 till you drop, you can not be fit in clothes.
  2. If you eat one rice cake a week, you might be able to fit in clothes.
  3. If you are skin and bones (taking away the muscles and fat and the genetic way in which those are stored in the body), you can be fit.
  4. Marketer have told most of us (except that starving 3% of us), that we can’t be fit.
  5. Buy our clothes, even though you can’t be fit and you will look bad, because it’s the only thing out there.
  6. By our clothes and don’t expect them to look nice on you.
  7. More fabric always means worse fit.
  8. Stretch fabric always means good fit.
  9. Buying a stretch garment in a size smaller means a good fit.

And yet, against this cacophony of lies and unreasonable demands and unreachable goals, I preach daily that YES, YOU CAN BE FIT!!!

How do I know?  I see it every day in my job fitting my clients.

They all come to me with figure problems, because you know what?  They all have figure problems.

Last week, we did the Fall Preview at the local Bernina store, and I was asked to have a booth so that I could talk about my upcoming classes.    The comment I heard most often from the expert sewists, and they were not only talented, but incredibly proficient in their sewing skills was:  “Oh I don’t sew for myself, because I can’t be fit!”

Here they are doing the most technical of tasks with the assembly and creativity in their quilting. They already have the skills to assemble their garments, but because they have been told so many times by the experts in marketing that they can’t be fit, they believe it.

It’s sort of like calling the sun blue and the moon chartreuse (it IS made of cheese, isn’t it)!!!  After a while people really believe that the sun IS blue and that the moon really is made of cheese.

NO IT’S NOT!!!!  I don’t care how many times you’ve been told you can’t be fit – you can!

I’ve done it!

I’ve done it for years!

I’ve been paid good money to do it!

Jacket finished w-insetNow, do you think people would keep coming to me for 35 years if I didn’t do this right?  Do you think people would keep returning if I was screwing it up every time?

No!  They would leave in droves, AND I wouldn’t get another customer ever!  I wouldn’t have 35 years experience in this business if I wasn’t fitting these people.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a little re-education going on here, cause there is, cause they come to my studio with the same misconceptions and believing the lies that you do.  It’s just that what’s different is that I’m there to guide them out from the dark of the ill-fitting closet and into the light of looking good, being fitted and being comfortable.

People think that comfort, fit, fashion and looking good do not go together.  They do – humans have been doing it for centuries.

Only until the middle of the 20th century did we stop doing that, and change to the consumer fitting into the clothes, as opposed to the normal way in which the clothes fit he consumer.  And the amazing thing is that notables (politicians and leaders) have always looked good in well-fitting clothes, we just seem to miss it.

merkel3Here is PM Merkel and if anyone has to look professional, the leader of German sure qualifies….look at her outfits….professional, pretty and the one below is included because it wrinkles….see how it wrinkles (When she’s standing up raising her hands).  This is a clue that we should never be fitted in this position, but we should be able to move into this position in our fitted clothes.

And if anyone needs inspiration for a pants suit that fits – here it is:

hillary1In glorious technicolor….I don’t think she looks all that great in green or orange, but the fit sure is on target…she looks great in that blue and pink.  In case you think you can’t wear a pants suit, her’s the proof.

But let’s go one further.

hillary2Here’s a pants suit that master designer, Oscar de la Renta, designed for her.  And what’s with the funky brackets on the left?….that is the infamous golden ratio – look where it hits – right at the hem length for Hillary.  Using the overall as her total height, the aqua and yellow brackets represent the golden ration – they don’t call Oscar the master for nothing. This is a standard art tool used by artists since it was discovered by the Greeks.  So if you’re having trouble figuring out height or length measurements, this is clear evidence of a tool that works for you.

The point here is that what the marketers, clothing manufacturers and the RTW industry is telling you that 1.) you can’t be fit, 2.) don’t expect to look good unless you’re a reject from the Gulag and 3.) therefore you can’t look good – IS A BUNCH OF MALARKEY!!!!


You can look good, but the fact is that you can’t in what is offered in today’s market.  The solution: making your own clothes.  If you do, then you can be fit.

If you quilt you can be fit.

If you quilt you can sew for yourself.

If you want to look good, not like the rest of the ill-fitting world out there,

you can do it by sewing for yourself!



  1. Clare,

    You are right on the mark with your comments! I have been sewing for myself 50 plus years. Now that age has changed my figure, fitting is rather difficult. Recently I found a dressmaker who will do that for
    me plus teach me how to use the sloper that will be created. She charges a modest and reasonable price! Am looking forward to sewing
    some of the wonderful fabrics in my collection! Keep preaching it,

  2. Very well said. And you can be well-dressed on a small budget if you choose well.

  3. You are so right. This is why I don’t buy rtw anymore except for a few sweaters.

  4. Bravo! And the patterns from 50 years ago were well designed and had some sass, which seems to be hard to find in many current multi size patterns marked “easy”, especially for plus size folks. Keep preaching, sister, I’m raising my hands and saying Amen.

  5. You are so right, especially #1. I run into this all the time. People size me up and say, oh, you are easy to fit because you are small.” Uh, NO! Then they tell me they can’t be fit because they’ve put on weight, gone menopausal, need to diet, etc. And they stand there in front of me with sloppy Walmart clothing when they can easily sew much better. These are skilled sewists who have given up on themselves. Now they quilt, which is lovely, but don’t give up on yourself. Don’t decide because you are not Heidi Klum you are not worth fitting. It just fries me. The other thing is that these women don’t realize they could look ten to twenty pounds thinner in a well fitting garment. Thanks for letting me vent!

  6. I loved this article. Like all of you I’ve seen so many talented seamstresses avoid making clothes, and complaining about finding something to fit at the same time. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have to do something to a pattern, in the sixties it was adding length (mini skirts were not for 5’7″ in a 5’4″ world) and now in my sixties it’s other things. But there have always been wonderful books to learn from, and now with the advantage of the internet it’s even easier.

  7. Claire, I am really looking forward to meeting you. My daughter, age 17 and also named Claire, has just been diagnosed with dyslexia and “Expressive Language Disorder” which means that using words – talking and writing – are very difficult for her. (Plus she’s bilingual, meaning she can’t do it in two languages!) I’m sure you’re aware that your ability to fit people may be related to your language challenges…dyslexics are often very gifted with spatial abilities. Plus the photos you post often say more than the words…another trait of people who are more visual than verbal. You’ll be an inspiration to my daughter…lots of positives can come from being dyslexic.

    • Actually Peggy, dyslexia has taught me how to assimilate information in a variety of ways and how to think outside the box. When I was in school I had to learn other ways of learning from what the prescribed methods in the school systems. Mostly this is due to the limited funds to provide for teaching so they have to maximize their buck by teaching the greatest percentage of students and the smaller percentage that learn a different way are taught as best possible. In the 50’s and 60’s when I was in the public school system, that wasn’t much and I left the teachers basically baffled as they knew I wasn’t dumb but I couldn’t test out of the most basic of tests.

      Today, that is not so much a problem, and once a child graduates, they have already learned that thinking and living outside the box, is the norm for them. Additionally, the dyslexic and LD (learning disabled) child has to really apply himself/herself and as a result works almost always 5 times harder than most other students to just get by.

      Now this students graduates and goes out into the marketplace with two highly valuable skills, along with a degree: 1.) problem solving outside the box (and BTW, this is NOT being illegal, immoral or anything like that – it’s thinking often in a whole new way to solve a problem) and 2.) working harder than most people is the norm for this group, so they end up working half as hard as they did in school which is 2 1/2 times harder than everyone else. They are the most prized employees, but not for long, because their innovative thinking usually leads them down a path of entrepreneurial and innovative business models.

      If they can just get through the education process which is often the hardest part. So your daughter needs to understand that her plight right now, although has to be immensely difficult to accept and deal with. But she is building life skills and character traits that are going to serve her beyond her wildest dreams when she enters the market place.

      Hopefully she can get training in what she loves most, and sometimes it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this training and education is not through traditional or conventional methods. It may take on a much more antiquated venue like an apprenticeship or interning rather than a formal degree.

      Additionally it has to be made clear to her that the normal dyslexic is and has above-average intelligence. It’s hard to measure this because the testing methods are so inept at testing their intelligence, but those who have taught and dealt with this are the ones who have formulated these stats.

      I know I work harder, but I consider that normal for me – just that it’s my way. I always joke that now that I have my own business I can pick out which 18 hours a day I work!!! But the truth is that this is normal for me. I am also constantly thinking how I can do my job better – are there ways, mindsets, prejudices and other factors preventing me from seeing business solutions that I might not normally see? I live outside the box and am always open to new programs, ideas and solutions.

      This is the life that your daughter has ahead of her – school is but a beginning – and she will want to get as much out of it as she can, but it’s not the end all of life. Life after school, is what school is supposed to train us for, and that’s where Claire will succeed!

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