#KnitPetiteProject: Hidden gems in our closet + making them work for our petite body now

Our last post where we looked at our future pattern plans.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

The #KnitPetiteProject now has a Ravelry group. Join us!

SURVEYChecking in with how you think the #KnitPetiteProject is going! Are we addressing your questions?

October’s focus for the #KPP is shopping for petites.

What to buy? Where to buy it? How and when to modify your current off-the-rack clothes?

Today, we’re starting with a good look-through our closets. What treasure (or, potential treasure) do we have right under our nose?

First off, let’s define “off-the-rack”:

mass-produced clothing; purchased in a store; clothing not tailor made for a particular individual

So, for many folks, that’s the majority of their closet. For us crafty folks, we’re in a better position to alter that percentage and make our own items from scratch.

I’ve often been inspired by those individuals who do the whole “throw out all my closet” thing and produce their entire wardrobe by hand. Working with a clean slate must be so motivating!

And while I love that idea, there’s still the impulse in me to work with what I already have.

Working with your Closet: Sorting it out

I recently did a whole re-assessment of my wardrobe, using the following steps:

  1. take it all out
  2. try it all on
  3. sort it all out

This task was, admittedly, a few days in the making. I tackled them by type: tops, dresses+skirts, pants, and other.

For step 1. take it all out, there’s a few points of value: seeing it all at once, and making (re)discoveries. This sometimes intimidating pile leads to the practical end of literally cleaning out the space (are there any dreaded clothes moths or carpet beetles lurking in the closet?), as well as de-emphasizing any incorrectly remembered value in the clothes. That is, you might be reluctant to chuck that white blouse because you’ve forgotten that you have about five of them.

It was step 2. try it all on that ate up the most time. There’s a couple reasons I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you have to get rid of anything that doesn’t fit you. For one thing, I recognize that there can be sentiment associated with stuff, and I don’t denigrate that at all (sorry, I’m no Marie Kondo-ite).

There’s also the very valuable point that we are makers and that some ill-fitting clothes may only need a bit of studied assessment and tweaking to become well-fitting clothes.

And finally, my favourite, step 3. sort it all out. I created five piles: keep, modify, store, pillage, donate.

  • Keep: stuff that fit well, I want to wear, and/or is important to me
  • Modify: stuff that didn’t fit well, but that I want to wear and feel I can fix
  • Store: stuff that straight up doesn’t fit, I can’t/won’t modify, but I don’t want to part with
  • Pillage: stuff that I’m happy to cut up and use in other ways (eg: cut off buttons and zippers)
  • Donate: stuff that I don’t care about, doesn’t fit (and I don’t want to fix), or is a multiple of something I have plenty of

My donate pile was very small, and it felt good to throw all those far-too-small-pants into the “store” pile. I know they’re around if I want them, but I don’t have to look at them all the time now!

Something pretty important that came to light in this closet assessment was a particular jacket.

This jacket is going to be a guinea pig for me this month; it got sorted into the modify pile. It’s ill-fitting, but a very well-made article of clothing that is also pretty sentimental.

It’s one of my grandfather’s winter coats. It’s a wonderfully fuzzy corduroy with suede sections on the yoke, a sheepskin collar, and lovely quilted satin-y lining. And, while my grandfather wasn’t a very large man, he was still a man, and this jacket is certainly NOT shaped for my petite female frame. But man, I’d LOVE to make this jacket fit me!

This is the journey I’ll be sharing with you this month: Can I modify this men’s coat to fit my petite female frame? It’s a big challenge, but one I think will be a great example of what petite folks may have to consider when modifying clothing for their body.

Working with your Closet: The Modify Pile

Follow Along with My Modification Plans

My modify pile has plenty of items: skirts, dresses, tops, even bras. But for now, I’d like to share with you my plans for modifying my grandfather’s coat.

From this year of #KPP, I’ve learned a few things about fitting, my own shape, my own taste, and my own abilities:

  • Amy Herzog’s CustomFit and other valuable resources helped me focus on proper measurements
  • Pati Palmer and Marta Alto’s Body Graph in Fit for Real People helped me get a more objective understanding of my shape and proportions as compared to some off-the-rack clothing
  • Some of the many essays and research from experts have opened up the world of sizing to me and shown that 1) NO ONE will have perfect fit off-the-rack, and 2) petite really do have particular concerns that are not being addressed in clothing, including knitting design

With this encouragement and list of tools, I know that:

I have narrow shoulders: this men’s jacket is going to need some serious re-structuring around that part of my body! Across the back, across each shoulder, narrowing the sleeve opening, and readjusting the sleeve cap/width incredibly!

I have a slightly short waist: because this is cut straight for a man’s body, I’ll have to add in some waist shaping. That said, the extra length may work to my advantage, as I’d like something about mid-thigh anyhow.

I have proportionally shorter arms: and by shorter, I mean shorter than a man! As you can see, the length of these sleeves need some attention.

But those are just items I’d determined I’ll need for my own modifications.

Things you should consider when sorting your modify pile

As I mentioned above, one of the most powerful tools I used this year for learning about shape, fit, my own taste, and gaining an objective point of view is the Body Graph from Fit for Real People.

This graph really helped bring my attention to the parts of my body that were different (and HOW they were different) from the sizing used in home sewing patterns.

Even if you don’t sew, this activity can show you in a very concrete way what your shape is, and the real distinctions and uniquenesses you have in relation to an established point of comparison.

Your personal plethora of shapes will be different from any other individual; that said, us petite folks sometimes share areas of fit concern. So, when you’re sorting items into YOUR “modify” pile, consider these common petite fit areas of concern and their possible alterations:

  • Shoulder Width: do the shoulder seams droop down beyond the prominent bone on your shoulder?
  • Armhole Depth: are sleeve caps too deep? This is particularly clear in a sleeveless top – can you see your bra band?
  • Sleeve Length: are the lengths ending in a spot you’re happy with? Are there any details (eg: elbow patches) are are not in the place you think they should be?
  • Neckline Depth: is the lowest point on the neckline showing more chest than you’d like?
  • Neckline Width: do your bra straps keep showing? Particularly in the recently trendy off-the-shoulder style: does your top almost fall off because that neckline is so wide?
  • Back Waist Length: are any belt loops/fancy waist details falling too far down on your body?
From the Modify Pile to the Keep Pile

Those pieces in the modify pile will get there is you both want them to fit differently, and are willing (or interested in learning how) to modify them

There’s loads of guidelines for altering clothing for different fit concerns. With what you’ve learned this year in the #KPP, you likely already have an idea as to what you’d like to alter, and perhaps an idea as to how.

A few places to learn the nitty-gritty next steps of altering include:

  • sewing company websites: they can sometimes have free resources and fit guides (eg: Simplicity sewing pattern quick fit guide)
  • crafting community/learning websites like Craftsy: these can have message boards where folks ask other particular questions, but also can include a regular schedule of helpful blog posts (Petite Sewing: Achieving a Perfect Fit, Finding the Perfect Patterns and Styles) and classes (Tailoring Ready-to-Wear, pretty much any class from Petite Plus sewing designer Kathleen Cheetham)
  • petite fashion bloggers: after initially dismissing this group of folks (believing they’d just have aesthetic advice and personal opinions), I found that I was wrong. Petite fashion bloggers sometimes share tips about altering items at home (for those who don’t sew much or even at all!), when/if to take items to professional tailors, and have the added bonus of lists of manufacturer reviews, shopping tips, and inspiration (if you happen to find someone who meshes with your own style!)
    Check out these lists on Stylecaster, Buzzfeed, and Not Dressed as a Lamb.

We’ll be looking a bit further at some of these fashion bloggers in the coming weeks when we examine what to look for in off-the-rack clothes.


Have you ever considered starting your wardrobe from scratch? Share your thoughts by hitting reply to this post!

#KnitPetiteProject: Hidden gems in our closet + making them work for our petite body now

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