How Fat Bobbin Girl turned a lack of plus-size clothing into a creative company that fills the gap
Who is Fat Bobbin Girl and what is it that you create?
I'm Jess, a fat sewist based in Ōtautahi/Christchurch, Aotearoa. I sew almost all of my own clothes and I particularly enjoy experimenting with my colour palette and trying to assemble the perfect wardrobe for me!
On my blog and on Instagram I share my makes, wardrobe planning and colour experiments, and I'm also one half of the plus-size sewing pattern company, Muna and Broad.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I definitely never imagined that what I'm doing now could be my full-time job. I started sewing almost five years ago while I was working in The Arts doing marketing, website, and data-related things. That's still basically what I do now, but with more sewing and many more selfies!
I started sewing because I was having such difficulty finding plus-size clothes made in natural fibres. Fortunately, my indignation about not being able to find clothes or sewing patterns in my size pushed me towards starting a sewing pattern company to plug that gap with my sewing friend Leila.
Almost two years ago I purchased a large-format printer, so now I also print A0 PDF sewing patterns and ship them around in New Zealand through my side business ChCh sews.
How did you cultivate your distinct style?
So much trial and error, and a lot of overthinking! It's a lot of work to try and find what your style is when it's just not possible to pop into a store and test out a look or try on a garment. A lot of my earlier makes and earlier fabric purchases have been on-sold as I've slowly worked out that while I'm drawn to lots of things, it's not always what I enjoy wearing.
I also take note of which garments get the most wear, which make me feel the most at ease and which combos I reach for when I'm stressed or when I want to impress! Taking a lot of selfies also helps to actually see a garment or a whole outfit and I've used my photos of my favourite outfits for collages to try and pick out similarities, themes and recurring colours. Have I mentioned I'm an over-thinker?!
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I'm a big researcher and I love to follow my nose on the internet, so my phone is full of screenshots of things I've seen and loved. The idea for an outfit or garment might start from a particular fabric or from a pattern, or even from ready-to-wear clothing (which is rarely available in my size).
Sometimes the creative process starts with problem-solving from within my own wardrobe, the need for a warm merino layer, natural fibre chub rub shorts for summer dog walks, or elevated pants for fancy evenings.
I also keep a little pile of fabric swatches from all my favourite makes - I like to have a plan going into my projects to make sure that what I'm planning will become a versatile addition to my existing wardrobe and not a wardrobe orphan.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
There definitely is no typical working day for me, but every day starts with checking my phone in bed to prioritise my activities. Once a week Leila and I record a chat for our Muna and Broad Patreons, but on other days there might be ongoing projects like a pattern launch or lots of PDF sewing patterns to print and post for ChChSews. If there's nothing pressing I might do a small photoshoot, sew something that doesn't have a deadline, or write up a blog post or email newsletter.
I adopted a greyhound last year so my day is now broken up by neighbourhood walkies and longer sojourns along the river that's a short drive away. That's been nice because it forces a structure on my day, and helps me remember to take breaks. I often do big chunks of sewing late into the evening with the TV on in the background so it's nice to reclaim some daytime hours for downtime.
What has been your favourite project to work on so far?
My favourite make, which was also a very surprising success, is my bright pink linen wide-leg pants. I definitely made them on a whim but I've got so much wear from them. They pair so well with the rest of my wardrobe, I feel great in them, and they get so many compliments when I'm out and about!
Of course, I also love all of our Muna and Broad pattern releases - I only sew for myself but it's lovely to release sewing patterns for other people. Our size range goes up to a 182cm (71.5") hip, but we'll grade patterns to larger sizes at no extra cost if our sizes are too small to include folks. We get so many lovely messages from makers who have previously been excluded from sewing their own clothes but can now start because they finally have patterns in their size.
Who are your biggest artistic inspirations and why?
I'm not sure if I can narrow down particular individuals that are artistic inspirations. I like to think about details, moods, looks, the implication behind things, and the different ways people can wear the same thing. I'm always researching, taking screenshots, and keeping an eye on new fabric releases from my favourite fabric stores for inspiration.
It might also be a surprise, given that my colour choices are pretty maximalist and there's a lot of pink in my wardrobe, but I love minimalist silhouettes and styles which aren't typically femme. You'll often find me scrolling through La Garçonne for inspiration.
Do you have a single piece of advice you'd give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Sewing is for everybody and for every body!
You don't have to be great at sewing to sew great clothes for yourself. Choosing the right project is the key to making clothes you love to wear even with beginner-level sewing skills! You also definitely don't need to change your body to make yourself worthy of sewing for.
I think sometimes people believe you need to sew projects for a few years before you can wear what you sew, but there are so many great patterns that would make a perfect first sewing project. Don't wait for later to start making clothes you love!
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