Sewing is for Everyone and Every Body Day 1 with Andie Wells

Hi! My name is Andie Wells and I blog over at Sew Pretty in Pink. I am also part of the editing team at the Curvy Sewing Collective, a contributor with the Sewcialists, and creator of the @chronicallysewn account on Instagram.

When I was a kid, I used to be known for “party tricks”; being able to bend things in ways that seemed impossible to others but was normal for me. I suffered from a lot of pain as a kid; pain that doctors often shrugged off as normal “growing pains.” But this pain left me in tears. I started gaining weight around 10 or 11 as soon a puberty hit and the “growing pains” explanation of my pain quickly turned to a weight problem. But my issues increased and my joints started spontaneously dislocating from minor stress. It wasn’t until I was 35 that I finally received my diagnosis: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, or EDS for short, a genetically inherited connective tissue disorder. EDS means I have defective collagen which is in most parts of your connective tissues, your organs, skin, hair, nails -- so basically 90% of my body. My collagen makes things super stretchy but also extremely fragile: think a rubber band really stretched out and then snaps and smacks you in the face; it leads to being flexible, joint dislocations, organ failure, ruptures and prolapses, and, most of all, extreme pain. There is no treatment, except physio and bracing, nor is there a cure; while the disease itself is not considered progressive, the consistent damage to the joints is considered degenerative leading to needs for surgical intervention or joint replacement. Right now, I need to use medical support braces and a cane as an assistive device, but that may change again in the future.

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All of this impacts my ability to sew and what to sew. I make pattern modifications based on what works better for me: back zippers are made into side zippers, sleeves are widened to make sure the come off easily without a shoulder dislocation. I tend to sew a lot with knit fabrics or lots of skirts to pair with knit tops, since my body will fluctuate in size due to inflammation. I tend to cut a bunch of patterns out at once to limit the pain I get from bending over a table.  I also tend to need warmer clothing at any time of the year; my body doesn’t regulate my temperature very well so I get cold and have trouble warming up. I wear leggings or stretchy pants no matter the temperature as well since they are most comfortable for my overly flexible legs.

Every person with EDS is different so it’s important to accept other experiences as true. The same is true for anyone’s experience of any chronic illness. Many people present with differing symptoms or have differing needs. What works for one person might not work for another. When I created @chronicallysewn, I created it with those difference in mind.  @Chronicallysewn is not only for physical but mental chronic illness as well. My resources and tricks for making my adaptive clothes might be different from another person’s needs; or they may have trouble managing sewing with panic attacks or depression. I don’t use a wheelchair yet so I don’t need to check how things fit seated. Some people find back zippers are easier than side zippers. I wanted sewists with chronic illness to be more visible in the community and to have a place to connect with other sewists who understand what they are going through. My hope is that chronic illness is more openly discussed and adaptive clothing becomes a normal topic of conversation. I also would love for there to be more resources on how to adapt clothing.

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The wool blend jersey D&H Fabrics sent me is perfect for my warm and cozy clothing needs. The fabric has beautiful drape due to the viscose content and pairs really well with the Seamwork Tacara. The Tacara is just what I was looking for in a cocoon dress for days where wearing a fitted outfit is impossible.

I made size 24. After trying it on, it was a bit more cocoon than I was expecting; it was huge. Not only was it longer, it was wider than I was expecting. I took out about 2.5 inches from each side  (5 inches overall) and decided I liked a much shorter version. In reality, this is a bit shorter than what I was going for, but it works for me. I am likely going to be wearing leggings with this at all times anyway. I also think this would be super cute with some knee-high socks and boots for a bit of a 70s look.

Thank you so much to D&H Fabrics for this opportunity as well as the lovely fabric sent to me.

Tammy Lee