Learning from Mistakes

I came home from work on Friday afternoon and all I could think about was picking up my sewing room.  I have had a few projects hibernating on my dining room chairs for quite some time that I wanted to address.

Most of the projects that I’ve stopped working on are due to issues of fit.  When I get to a point where I can’t suss out what the problem is, the project goes into hibernation mode until I can figure it out.  Usually this is anywhere between 3-6 months.  But the projects that I’ve had sitting have been there for at least 6 months and one of them have been there for over a year.  Kinda scary right?!

After cleaning things up on Friday, come Saturday I was quite determined to address these projects in one way or the other.

Today’s post is all about these ‘hibernating’ projects complete with their issues that I felt should be shared with you all.  :)

This first “fail-project” I started working on it prior to this blog; so it’s truly scary how long it’s been sitting!

Simplicity 3313:

I’ve started and stopped this project 2 times since starting it, so really it’s only been sitting recently for….umm… 9 months.

Please ignore the wrinkles.

Issue #1: Poor Fabric Choice

This dress hangs so limp and makes me quite shapeless.  Of course I would add in a waist-stay for shape there and also some horsehair braid to give the skirt some flounce along with pairing it with a crinoline.

But there’s no fix for this poor neckline:

Do you see the powder blue seam binding at the middle, center front of the collar?  Yeah… it’s a lot worse in person.  The fabric is so thick that I couldn’t get the seam binding to lay flat on the inside.  And look how bad the collar is rolling outwards!

There’s really no fixing this bodice.  I wanted a nice warm, winter jumper and choose a fabric that’s more suited towards a coat instead of a bodice.  I still hope to make the jumper again this fall/winter since I’ve already done all the fitting, I just need to choose a more suitable fabric.

As a result of my poor fabric choice, this jumper will be turned into view #2, a skirt.  Let’s hope that turns out better than this jumper.

Marian Martin 9542:

This is my second “fail” project.  I intended this pattern to pair with my fall wardrobe from 2011, with many cranberry reds and mustard yellows (only seen on the blog here).

I picked a shirting cotton that has a bit of stretch and also cut it on the bias so I didn’t have to put in a zipper.  But the shoulders never fit well (the tops of the sleeves feel as if they’re sitting on the edge of my arms) and also there’s some weird fabric pooling around the sides of my bust (at the top).

As you can see I never got the fit quite right, but the main issue with this is once again poor fabric choice.  My version sadly, doesn’t look like the original.  I need a much drapier (sp?) fabric so that the sleeves fall correctly instead of looking (& feeling) like mushrooms.

I’d still love to make this again using a different fabric and fixing the fit issue.  Anyone have any guesses as to why the that line is there at my bust?  (Do I need more ease there or a deeper side, bust dart?)

Vogue 7561:

This is my third recent “fail” project, which I first blogged about here but have never mentioned it since.

Here’s mine:

I don’t know why my face is so red, but moving along….

This dress’ issue isn’t quite as obvious as the prior two, but this next image may help:

See those two bits of fabric I’m holding?  Those never go away, ever!  I first thought it was excess length on the bodice but it’s actually not.  I tried shortening the waist, shortening the armscye & even lengthening the armscye but it never goes away.  See below:

I finally figured out that the lining underneath is what’s causing the issue; I didn’t accommodate for the turn of cloth and it’s causing the lining to pucker when paired with the fabric.  I used a double-knit fabric on the outside and a bemberg lining on the inside.

Granted this isn’t a huge issue.  But this issue paired once again with a poor fabric choice means that this project is a fail.  I was going to add some navy soutache trim to the neckline, but every time I looked at this dress it’s just too white.  I feel like I’m wearing a wedding dress.  I was going for classy-chic but I just don’t feel comfortable in it and I’d never wear it.



Bad fabric can make or break a project.  I’d always known this before, but not as much as I know it now.  No matter how much I want to use a certain fabric for a project, I’m having to actually put my feelings aside and be rational about the match between the patter & the fabric.  I don’t want to continue to make the entire project only to have it look awkward or be the right look I was going for.  So please let this be a lesson to you.  :)

  • Watch out for thick wools on bodices, they can end up looking limp without proper under-structure.
  • Pay close attention to how the sleeves drape on a pattern & compare with how your fabric drapes to make a final decision about your fabric choice.
  • Double-knit fabrics paired with bemberg as underlining may make for weird drag lines.

While it pained me to ‘recycle & donate’ these projects I feel like I’m a better judge at choosing fabric for a given pattern.  On the plus side, I now have some more space on my dining room chairs.  It does feel quite refreshing to start anew without these projects weighing on me.  I can now start new projects feeling fresh & with less stress about these old ones.  :)

In: Sewing

Blogger for 6 years and counting, I am a passionate creator who loves to tinker.

Comments (11)

  1. Sara August 27, 2012 — 10:13 AM

    A big, big thanks for your great photos and musings, and for your generosity in sharing some #fails in the sewing room! Those photos made me laugh AND feel a little less bad about some of my flaming wadders — if someone whose garments seem to turn out beautifully also has a few things that make her go hmmm on the cutting table, the rest of us sewing mortals can rest easier. Thanks again.

    1. Liz August 27, 2012 — 10:31 AM

      Thanks Sara for thinking that all of my garments are beautiful! But I’ll be the first to say, I still do make mistakes the majority of which are poor fabric choices. heh I still have to make muslins to work out my fit issues on bodices, but it’s a learning process.

      I only just figured out last night that I have sloping shoulders (according to a 50’s vogue pattern I’m working on)! I have read tons of sewing books on construction but fit continues to be my nemesis. I just got a new fitting book that clearly demonstrates the issue gone wrong with each particular wrinkle you have on your garment. It’s an amazing book; I’m planning on doing a mini-book review of it soon. :)

  2. I’ll be posting my most recent fail this week :( It’s so true–fabric choice can make or break a project. Thanks for sharing Liz, I learn a lot from seeing other people’s projects. I have to say, I’m constantly amazed at how many intricate garments you seem to continually turn out! How do you do it?! You are amazing and courageous in your project picks!

  3. Marie August 27, 2012 — 11:50 AM

    It’s always such a shame to see projects ‘fail’ for whatever reason, but I’m glad that you’re dusting yourself off and moving on. Life’s too short sometimes, so you’ll now be able to tackle other projects (or start afresh with some of these) with a clear conscience ;o)

  4. Janice August 27, 2012 — 12:06 PM

    Awwwww, fails are absolutely normal, sewing is one huge learning process. Maybe you can recycle some of these fabrics into other ones?

  5. If I have side/top of bust fabric poofing, it usually means that I should have started with a smaller size pattern and done a larger FBA.

  6. Clare S August 27, 2012 — 5:51 PM

    You know what, I know exactly what you mean! I’ve recently been learning the absolute importance of fabric choice: one is a blouse that is a consistent fail (I’m trying to finish it, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a mess. To be fair, it’s not the fabric’s fault, it’s more that I wasn’t ready to work with silk crepe when I first cut it over a year ago!) and the other is a dress that I love – it has its slight faults, but I can overlook them because I adore the fabric. So fabric choice can save a project, as well as destroying it!

  7. Rachel August 27, 2012 — 7:57 PM

    I can sympathise with the incorrect fabric problem, I’ve been a victim of it myself a few times. Well done for ‘letting go’ – it’s hard isn’t it!

  8. Esz August 28, 2012 — 2:58 AM

    Thanks for sharing these! Its always really helpful to know what fit issues and fails others may have because it helps identify problems for myself.

    Sloping shoulders eh – I wonder if it could be rectified with a well placed shoulder pad? I’d always been wary of the things but since I’m completely obsessed with the 40’s now I love them. And you know how square shoulders were such a big thing back then!! :-D
    I find that they make a lot of garments hang better and help prevent some of that drooping around the bust. You definitely don’t need to go crazy-80’s size but a couple of layers of cotton batting is plenty.
    It may not completely save your mustard top but it may help it?

  9. Jo August 29, 2012 — 3:45 AM

    Thanks for showing off some fails- it’s great to learn from :) We all make ’em haha. I just need to stop being so scared of the failure. It’s what makes me scared to sew sometimes :)
    Just gotta think of it as a step along the way huh? :)

  10. Tasha September 5, 2012 — 1:44 PM

    Thanks for being brave and sharing your fails! As I eventually venture into fall/autumn sewing (which I’ve never done) I will definitely keep in mind your advice on pairing appropriate fabric and patterns.

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