Sep 23, 2012

Finished Project (Ruby shorts) and Sway Back Silliness

If you haven't already seen it, there's a lovely video of Amy Poehler giving advice to a teen girl about how to love her body. In the video, which is making the rounds on the Internet, she suggests considering the parts of your body that are awesome (like 20-20 eyesight, for example), and giving thanks for those, rather than fixating on all the things you dislike. She also wisely suggests to compare your inner dialogue to what you might say to a future daughter or younger sister. "You would tell her she was beautiful — and you would not be lying. Because she is. And so are you," she says. Try not to tear up. Just try.

Meanwhile, in sewing, the adjustments we need to make for fit can go a long way to highlighting those things about ourselves we feel most crappy about — AND even give a bad name to the things we thought were pretty awesome.

For example, I previously would have called myself long-legged. But now I know I am just short-waisted. I was also pretty happy with what I'd call my skinny-back/round butt combo. But unfortunately in the sewing world, this is known as "swayback" — a term that sounds a little close to "hunchback" for my liking — and requires constant vigilance when it comes to adjusting patterns to prevent against fabric "pooling" on the lower back. It's enough to make you want to wear lycra every day.   

And, as "imperfections" usually go, swayback seems more common than not, so there are a great many of us making those same adjustments every time we sew a new garment (Seriously, WHO are the people who don't have to make this adjustment?). And it's one fix not easily made when something is fully sewn, so we really have to makes muslins, adjust, check and correct. (If you also have this issue, bookmark this post at Pattern, Scissors, Cloth on adjusting for swayback.) 

Anyway, for some reason, three-quarters of summer passed me by without a single new pair of shorts. And I just wasn't fitting into anything I already have (this past six months have been marked by a different kind of stress, I guess, in that instead of shrinking under the weight of anxiety, I self-medicated with  ice-cream and iced coffee, alternately). 

So to give myself something to wear during the last days of summer, I sewed two pairs of shorts from the Ruby pattern, which I totally love and recommend (I have a thing for sailor pants, after all). I managed to find two fabrics already in my stash that would work — a cool graphic black-and-white printed cotton, and a denim. I love making wearable garments from stuff I already have laying around. It makes me feel like I have cheated the system somehow. The buttons were also in my (dwindling) collection.

From the side:

I never know what size I will be in a Burda pattern. For these Ruby shorts, I initially cut a much larger size — based on the size chart and my hip measurement. But they were gigantic, so I sized down three sizes. Weird, right? I have quite wide hips, but actually fit the second smallest size. If you are narrow through the hips and waist, I don't know how these will fit you. 

The only adjustment I had to make was for my swayback. I took out an inch at the center back seam and used my French curve to blend with the back center seam. That's not how Pattern Scissors Cloth recommends adjusting for swayback, but it worked for me. Here's a totally crude approximation of how I amended this pattern to fit my swayback (the pink line being my new center back seam):

Of course, I also had to take a corresponding inch out of the center back of the waistband so the shorts and waistband fit together properly.  

And that's it for summer sewing this year. 

So how do you maintain a good body image while sewing around all your supposed "imperfections"? 


  1. Oh, these look so cute on you! I couldn't sort out my fitting issues enough to get a pair of wearable shorts made this summer.

    Somehow I don't mind dealing with my imperfections as much when I'm sewing (unlike shopping, which I HATE cause stuff never fits me off the rack and I feel frumpy and gross). But seriously, WHY are there such gross names for our body differences? Ugh!

  2. Let's make up a new name for swayback and convince everyone to start using it. Haha.

    1. How about we keep it swayback, but spell it like this: s'wayback. As in, see my butt? It s'wayback there!

  3. I call it my J-Lo adjustment. Although a lot of people have to make that adjustment, not all are to the same degree. The back of the Colette Jasmine pattern is curved, not straight, but I still had to take two half-inch tucks out of the centre back. I love your blog and I appreciate your candid talk about lesser-discussed subjects like anxiety and crying. I'm sure that helps a lot of people to know that they're not alone. Also I loved the Beastie Boy video you have I not seen that before?

  4. Hmm, I've never thought of the sway back adjustment. I've just dine it, without knowing there was a name for it =) I've seen it as a result of my tiny back, straight posture and "generously rounded derriere", all things I actually like about my body. Same as gingermakes I tend to see my "problems" as something positive when I'm sewing, and I've actually started to apply that same line of thought while shopping: it's not me that's wrong, it's really not the clothes either, it's just the fit that's wrong. Simple and without laying judgement either on my own body or on those that do fit the RTW-clothes.

    I solved the sway back problem same as all my other fit issues: made a sloper and has never bought a pattern since. All new patterns drafted from the sloper of course needs to be toilled and fitted, but that's design changes, not a myriad of fitting changes due to a pattern being drafted for someone with a totally different body type than me =)

  5. I love your take on the body image...I agree!!! Life is to be enjoyed and appreciated and we should do the same with our bodies. Love the shorts..and well done on cheating the system..keep doing it...doing a good job!!!

  6. Great looking shorts, I especially like the black and white print ones. Thanks for the link to the Amy Poehler video. I don’t have a daughter, but I found it moving. I had a sewing and fitting instructor that said there is no such thing as swayback on a human. It is just a butt that curves out quite abruptly. And for the record, my butt is flat and wide, so I do not do a "swayback" adjustment. I But my butt and the muscles it contains let me sit comfortably, hold up my pants, and get me up out of chairs and up stairs with great ease. So I consider it one of those awesome parts of my body that function wonderfully, no matter what it looks like.

  7. Ahh, taking in the centre back seam for the sway back... yeah, I did that for a dress I'm working on. I feel vindicated now that I've seen you do it too! Yay! :)

    I totally know what you mean about sewing highlighting our differences. I'm actually putting a post up about this very thing soon!
    It has sometimes made me feel like a freak, with all the adjustments I've learned I have to do.. Just gotta think of them as our special features. I mean we are all unique! :)

    p.s AWESOME shorts!! :D

  8. freakin' cute! i love both of them. gotta love shorts in the summer. and i hate the sway back thing. it seems like everyone has it. i think it should just be considered standard by now.

    1. They should add another cutting line -.-.-.-. for swayback. That would make all our lives easier



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