What have you ruined (or almost) lately?

This weekend, I worked on two sewing projects. The first involved a new-to-me dress pattern, and in the muslin stage I already knew it was going to need some serious work on the bodice (I did a successful full bust adjustment only to discover the rest of the bodice was going to be way too small). I didn’t have it in me at that point, so I decided to shelve it until a later date.

The second was a plain 6-gored skirt from a vintage pattern. I thought I was being cute by sewing a contrast inseam pocket. I mean, I’ve done this successfully on other patterns, why not this? Nope. Turns out, the skirt is a bit too tight across the hips, so the pocket was gaping… and with a contrasting pocket, that’s a big UGH. And because I’d opted to trim and serge all the seams together, there wasn’t really anything I could let out around the hips. (Not to mention the fact that there was no chance I was unpicking a lapped zipper.)

So I angrily sat down to unpick the waistband around the pocket (fortunately only one of the waistband seams was sewn), and unpick the pockets. Which also involved unpicking two serged seams. And with a black linen-blend fabric that was prone to shredding, and black thread, in pretty short order I had a mess. I almost ruined the entire thing! Things were shredding, thread wasn’t unpicking, my goodness. I seriously almost threw a fit. Or cried. I definitely drank a beer.

There was a seriously long time when I thought it was going to stay looking like the below photo forever. I finally got the damn pocket out, and didn’t quite ruin the skirt in the process. (The pocket had used leftovers of the tropical print I used for this dress, if you were wondering what that was at the left.)

pocket fail

I’ve since sewn the side seam shut with no pocket, and finished the skirt. I’ll just wear it with a light girdle and call it a day. (If I wear it much at all; turns out a 6-gored black linen skirt looks more like something I should wear to work. Whoops.)

I don’t have nearly the same relationship with sewing as I do with knitting. I admit, when I start to get down on a sewing project, it can sour me on sewing as a whole. But I’m definitely not like that with knitting. When a knitting project goes wrong, I either fix it, or put it aside and then think, “Oh boy! Now I get to start something else!” With sewing, it’s more like, “Screw this, I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Work and life are really busy lately, and so reliable, fun, stress-free sewing makes me happy right now. And man, these last couple of projects have not made me happy and were certainly not stress-free!

I sew because I enjoy it. Sometimes I want a real challenge, but sometimes I just kind of want to be on autopilot a little, you know? And when I stop enjoying it, it makes me not want to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need to get my sew-jo back—it hasn’t gone anywhere. I’m just a bit mad at sewing, that’s all. I’ll bounce back.

So what have you ruined (or almost ruined) lately?

Filed: Sewing

Golly, 54 Comments!

  • I think I ruin one out of four sewing projects I attempt. But I know that feeling of screwing up a project and not wanting to sew for awhile. I find that when I start getting even the tiniest bit frustrated that it’s time to put the sewing away for a day. Coming back with fresh eyes often makes me feel 100% better.

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    • Very true! Although usually if I get to a stumbling block I want to plow through it, for fear that otherwise, I’ll never finish it, period.

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  • I admire your perseverance! I definitely have some knitting and other crafty things on long-term hold because it’s such a pain in the neck to fix things sometimes! You always inspire me with your sewing. I’m crafty in other ways, but have not tackled sewing, because I find it rather intimidating. I know lately you’ve been partnering with Craftsy, but I’m a bit more of a book learner…do you have any basic sewing books you’ve found useful or heard great things about? I taught myself to knit using books, and it seems to be the method that works relatively well for me. I wear a lot of vintage, but it can be pricey and irreplaceable…I’d love to be able to make some of my own simple dresses and things.

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    • Thanks, Amanda! I don’t have any modern general sewing books, although there are lots on the market! I do have a few specialty newer books: Easy Guide to Sewing Linings, Jackets for Real People (and Fit for Real People, although I haven’t used that one yet), and Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket. All of which I really recommend for their specific purposes. However for general sewing principles, I have found that vintage sewing manuals are the ticket! I have a few that I’ve picked up at thrift stores, used book stores, etc. The big brands like McCall and Singer used to (and probably still do) produce them. They’ve helped a lot over the years. :)

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  • I made a Colette Sorbetto (nice easy project, right?) using Liberty tana lawn in ‘Queue for the Zoo’. Very cute fabric. I tried on the finished garment and I could have cried. It doesn’t suit me AT ALL. I have wasted a metre of fabric which cost £22 on something I’m never going to wear. Sometimes I wonder why I sew at all, because I don’t feel I’m that productive.

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    • Oh no, I’m sorry! I’ve definitely had things like that happen. I stopped a dress mid-way through early this year because even though it fit well, it looked ridiculous on me.

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  • what a coincidence. this very weekend i was rushing on a particular project and it went wrong. i too had a bit of a scream, picked some of it apart and then resorted to a large glass of wine. will eventually get back to it. but totally agree on the sewing and knitting. as a knitter i will put aside and not worry about something going wrong but with sewing it feels like more of a crushing blow. oh well without mistakes we never learn and that is meant to be part of the experience i guess (?).

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  • I always feel like I want to sew more of my clothes, but whenever I actually sit down to do it I remember how frustrating I find it! I’ve messed up every single project I’ve ever done in some way, but after it’s done, it takes me a couple of weeks and then I forget the annoying parts and try again ~___^

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  • I’m exactly the same way–when something doesn’t go right with sewing, I throw a major pity party, pout a lot, wad up the project and throw it in the corner and try to quit before I actually pull up the big girl panties and get my act together. I get frustrated with knitting too, but in different ways.

    Lately, I’m making tons of sewing errors, mostly because I’m so fatigued. I’m steering to very easy projects, and trying to avoid new patterns, but I’m still making a lot of mistakes. I made a similar error on a six gore skirt at the end of May, hoping it would work for summer (it is a cotton linen blend), but it is just wearable with a girdle (and who wants girdle in July with no AC and 80% humidity? Not this gal, that’s fo sho.)

    I also made a dumb mistake on a blouse over the weekend and cut the facing too narrow on the button band, so it gapes a little just below the bust. I can fix it, and it is definitely wearable, but I’m super annoyed with myself. I should have recut the facing when I realized the problem, but I hate going back to cutting after I’m sewing, and I just couldn’t deal any more. Live and learn. I cut another one this morning and fixed the problem.

    I also find myself fiddling with things I’ve sewn constantly lately. I made a microbrushed green twill skirt in late April, and wore the heck out of it through the spring, but put it away for the summer, and then decided it was too long, and I needed to shorten it. I decided to do so at about 9:00 p.m., when it was 85 degrees in my house, and probably 87 in the kitchen where I work, and let’s just say, Mistakes Were Made. I salvaged it, just barely. At least I don’t have to remake it, and it turned out close to the length I wanted, but the hem isn’t how I wanted it to be. Oh well.

    I have plans to make a navy blue lawn half circle skirt before July, and hopefully that all goes smoothly. *fingers crossed*

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    • Good luck on the circle skirt! It sounds like under your sewing conditions you’d understand this too–I sew in the basement, and mainly with the overhead flourescent lighting and one small task light. (WHY the 100 times we go to Target we haven’t just bought a damn floor lamp for near my space is beyond me.) So all of that cursing and unpicking of black thread on black fabric was in relatively dim light. Ugh!

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  • Just the kind of post I needed right now! When I see all the fabulous clothes the blogosphere makes – including yours! – it sometimes frustrates me as a newbie that I’m not able yet to make such things. So it’s nice and reassuring that even experienced sewers have these experiences.

    Fitting is my nemesis right now! Sway back, lengthening, sloped shoulders, narrow waist….aaaaahhhhh! I for sure throw a mini-inner-tantrum, sulk, throw it back in the closet and reward myself with chocolate :)

    Love from the Netherlands, and keep up the good work…and have a nice Dutch beer :)

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    • Oh goodness yes, everyone has issues! I don’t always blog about mistakes because frankly, they piss me off, lol. Fortunately there are many more successes than not. :D Thank you, and I’ll take that beer! ;)

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  • I spent an hour last night unpicking elastic out of the leg holes on a vintage swimsuit I’m working on. Major bummer considering I almost had it finished after working on it ALL day. After installing the elastic I tried it on, it felt a little tight around the legs but I was going to leave it as is and just deal with it..noone will notice right? until my legs start turning blue…. Then I showed the hubs. How does this look? He says, “Are your bottoms a little tight? It looks like it’s cutting off the circulation around your legs.” If that’s the first thing he notices then I’d better fix it. haha!!

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    • Oh noooo! What a pain about the elastic legs. I hope you were able to get it out and make them so that they weren’t going to eventually cut your legs off! ;)

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  • I can so relate. I used to think I was a pretty good seamstress. I used to make elaborate renaissance costumes to go to fair. I even got an award for my costuming. Now, it seems my costuming mojo has left me. I can’t sew vintage items to save my life. I’d say 3 our of 4 I’m unhappy with. I keep trying, but it is frustrating to waste so much money and time on something you are dissatisfied with. I feel your pain!

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    • I’m sorry you’ve had a lot of frustrating projects lately! Maybe try something that’s much easier, that will be a sure-fire win? :)

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  • Luckily, I haven’t ruined anything as of late. But I did sew up a wonderful 1940’s skirt pattern with patch pockets that is way too small for me; I must have mis-measured. It’s now languishing in my closet until I loose 5-10 lbs. :(

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    • Awww, bummer Liz! I’m sorry to hear that. I am so glad I didn’t do patch pockets on this skirt (which I considered), because I would have been angry at investing all that extra time into it. Somehow I’m less mad that it’s plain (well, and now with no pocket, although that’s annoying in its own right).

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  • I can completely relate to your relationship with sewing vs. knitting. For me, I think it has something to do with how knits are a lot more forgiving than sewn projects. There’s always the option to block. If blocking doesn’t work, then there’s the option to RIP and re-knit. With sewing, it’s a one shot deal, typically.

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    • Yes, that’s a good point! That could be part of the issue for me too. Once it’s messed up, there’s often little to do to fix it. And because I like repeatable sewing projects, if I make “on the fly” tweaks it frustrates me, because I know I can’t necessarily repeat exactly what I did another time to make a future version.

      Although on the knititng front–ripping back an allover fair isle is pretty much impossible. (I mean you can, but with all the small lengths of yarn it’s crazy.) I salvaged a project once by cutting it off at the armholes, ripping out the cut row, and knitting back up. Not fun nor recommended, but did the trick. lol

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  • Oh, I feel you! I’m impressed you kept going. I would have had that beer and left the skirt in the corner to think about what it’s done.

    Here’s my latest, “oh #!*$?” – I’m sewing the Cambie dress for the first time, and all I had left was the lining, so I went to try it on for my mom to see what she thought of the style on me. Excited, I proclaim, “AND it has pockets!” and I go to stick my hands in the pockets, only to discover I mistook a bust dart for a seam and now I had a boob pocket! So I had to unpick the whole waistband, re-gather, and shift that pocket over.

    I know you’ve been saying lately that your Emery bodice is practically like a sloper for you. Have you tried using that to make the first muslin in fitting? I find it really speeds things up for me and I get a much nicer fit.

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    • Oh Lauren, I’m sorry to giggle at your boob pocket! But I’m glad you were able to fix it! That reminds me of the time that I sewed the Wearing History Smooth Sailing trousers a couple of years ago, tried them on, and thought, “OMG it looks like a butt in the front, what’s going on?!” Well it turns out I had inserted the zipper on the *right* side instead of the *left* side, so I was wearing them backwards and I WAS looking at the butt. Ha ha!

      I’m not sure if I would have been able use that as a sloper for the dress I was talking about– the pattern is Tia, and there are separate cups and then a bodice pieces that’s attached underneath. However, I did actually line the back piece up with Emery and could already see it was going to be an inch or more too narrow. Finding all that, that was when I just stopped. I’d love to return to it, but I need to be less stressed/more clear-headed to work through the fitting issues. ;)

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  • I love a sewing challenge, but I love quick and easy just as much :)

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  • I’m a hat fairy right now, I’ve made 6 in the last couple of days, mainly because I make one and then figure out what to change the next time so I like it better : ) The last time I mis-measured a skirt and had it too small I was able to cut off the top 1″ or so, thereby raising the hem BUT gave me enough ease around the tummy and hips so that no other undergarments than my usual were required to wear it. As it was a seriously long skirt to begin with it all worked out just fine. I did re-stitch back darts since the point was now too high but again, it meant that something that would have been thrown in to a bag into a box out in the garage was fixed and worn : )

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    • That’s a good idea, I know I’ve seen people do that before. In this case the waist was perfect, so I didn’t want more ease there, so I didn’t really have a way to let only the hips out. I’ll have to figure it all out if I want another 6-gore skirt in my future, though. lol I’m glad it worked out for you! :)

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  • As my great grandmother used to say,”He who learns to sew, must also learn to rip.”
    I recently finished a maternity top for myself from a vintage 1950s pattern, and while sewing it together was having a horrible time figuring out how to do the sleeves. I did “something”, but apparently not what the pattern called for when joining the yoke and made armholes that were way too small. So, after adding Ric rac and cool top stitching, none of which I wanted to take out and redo, I decided my little girl just had a new loose summer dress. Yep, that’s how small I made the armholes. Perfect fit if you have the itty bitty arms of a six year old.
    Hope your project turns out better than mine, lol.
    Sarah

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    • Ha ha, your grandmother was right! :D Sorry your blouse didn’t work out, but at least it has an alternate lease on life with your daughter!

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  • I’m glad you posted these blog thoughts. We all go through this with sewing. I guess the main thing is we can’t grow if we don’t challenge ourselves. It’s very difficult to follow a pattern to a “t”. I find I take risks and sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t. The worse part is making a muslin getting it right then trying something a bit difference on your fabric choice and getting it wrong. I did this on a 1940 pattern and I have yet to go back to it. I kind of gave up:)

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    • You’re right, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, I was making some small drafting changes from the original pattern but not much, and obviously it didn’t quite pay off. I SHOULD return to it in the future and figure out how to make it less fitted in the hips for myself. I used to have a 6-gore skirt pattern I liked but now it’s far too big, so I decided to start from scratch with another pattern (and suspect even if I’d graded the first pattern down a size, I would have just thought “oh why would I need to muslin a plain skirt like this” and found myself with the same issue). I’ll figure it out some day.

      Hope you get your project straightened out sometime! :)

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  • My latest sewing project ~ 8 gore 40s skirt that I inserted a contrasting in-seam pocket into. Looked beauuutiful until I put the darn skirt on! The pocket gaped and there you have it, contrast pocket sticking out like a sore thumb. You know what? I just left it as it was. If my skirt didn’t have at least one pocket, I’d never wear it. So I put up with the fabric showing, though it does annoy me. : /

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

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    • I would totally have left it if I hadn’t gone SO high contrast with the fabric. It was a floral print but really, mostly the pale tan was what you saw, so I just felt really annoyed looking at it. And I’m annoyed in the end that it doesn’t have a pocket, but since it came out dressier than I expected, I suspect when I wear it I’ll be more dressed up and it won’t be as necessary… i.e. not just cramming my cell phone in my pocket as I go about my day. I totally agree about skirts with pockets though. I put pockets in EVERYthing these days!

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  • I’m currently finding all sorts of procrastination activities because I’ve made 3/4 of a maxi skirt badly but haven’t the heart to unpick it all and put it right. I made bunting today whilst the skirt lay at the other end of my sewing table jeering at me. I ought to just man-up and finish it. It will do perfectly fine and be good for summer but I’m being a perfectionist about it, which is silly because I never have to show the world it’s insides if I don’t want to.

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  • Ugh…I had my own epic (almost) sewing fail last week! I wanted to make a summer blouse out of some vintage fabric that’s been in my stash for a couple of years.
    Because I was very limited on fabric, I had to cut the back in two pieces, rather than on the fold – and that’s where the first mistake happened. I cut two backs for the same side! I didn’t have enough fabric to cut a second back piece, so I had to basically patch-work scraps of fabric onto one of the backs so that I could re-cut the piece. Luckily, the fabric has a busy pattern, so it didn’t show up too much. Plus, I attached the fabric in places that would be sort of hidden, like under the collar line and below the hem line. So, project saved, right?
    Well, it was at that point that I accidentally cut a hole in the middle of the other back piece! **Cue gasp** I was able to patch it up and found it to be pretty invisible, so…onward and upward!
    Until I realized that I had totally forgotten to add seam allowances to the pattern when I traced it out! REALLY? hahaha! I wanted to throw the whole thing away at that point, but I loved the fabric so much that I decided to sew it anyway, just with very tiny seam allowances and with contrast bands at the hem and sleeves.
    And in the end…I love my new blouse! The mistakes are invisible to anyone by myself. All of the “Oh No!!!” moments involved in the process actually make me like the blouse even more. I like to think of it as my Bad News Bears blouse. ;-)

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    • Oh yes, that’s a great name for it! Sounds like you came up with some clever solutions to make it work. I had to do that with a waistband once when I was short-sighted in how I cut fabric, and didn’t leave myself enough of a length to make a waistband that wasn’t pieced together. I decided to add belt buckles, and then hide the seam on the waistband AND the belt underneath one of the buckles. Took a fair bit of work to get the math juuuust so to place that correctly, but I was pretty tickled with the result. Totally hidden seams!

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  • I came so close to ruining my last knitting project
    http://www.ravelry.com/projects/vinehar-joe/little-sophie-cardie-2
    I had done everything apart from sewing on the button and was about to block and photo for Ravelry when I realized I’d sewn one of the sleeves on inside out. As it was moss stitch it wouldn’t have mattered too much but the cuff was trimmed with bobbles- which were now on the inside. Thankfully I took the photos anyway (look close at #3) and then started to unpick the stitching- which I couldn’t see. Some how I managed to cut the yarn twice – under the arm hole which unraveled the cast off stitches and at the shoulder where I had used 3 needle cast off- this then unraveled about 5 stitches and 6 rows- but not clearly- very muddled. This was all on a Sunday night and I had thought it was all going to be finished before I toddled off to bed. Managed to sort it out the next evening – but I was so ‘cheesed off’ with myself

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    • Oh no! I can see how you might not have realized that until too late due to the moss stitch. I’m glad you worked it out, it’s a very cute little cardigan!

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  • I totally know where you’re coming from. And yes, I’ve been known to throw things down (both sewing and knitting) in a fit of frustration, sometimes for over a year or two so I admire your perseverance in taking out the pockets and just sewing the seams up. At least you’ll wear it now.

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    • It’s almost a guarantee with me that if I put a sewing project down, I won’t ever return to it. Not so with knitting. Sometimes I’ll randomly get the urge to pick back up a project from a year (or 3) ago!

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  • Latest thing I ruined was a bias bodice dress. I made 3 muslins of the bodice and everything was PERFECT, but the actual dress had sloping shoulders. Don’t ask me how I went from a perfect muslin to that. Anyways, I tried to unpick the entire thing (it was lined and the seams were already serged), it ended up being a mess. I was really angry at myself for a few days: I had put so much time and love in that dress… but i’ll get around someday (not this year, that’s for sure) to salvaging the thing.

    I’m so happy to see that I am not the only one getting frustrated!

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  • A jacket I started last fall is still sitting in the corner, even thinking about gets me all hot and bothered. The problem…it’s plaid. Even after I took massive amounts of time to match all the stupid plaid , my FIRST piece was off. Stupid plaid.

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  • Oh dear, oh dear! Well, at least you persevered and finished it.
    I was making this skirt – http://voguepatterns.mccall.com/v1324-products-27097.php?page_id=311 late last year, which needs to be topstitched as you go along. At the first (and only) fitting I discovered the front (topstitched) darts – the first thing constructed – come to such extreme points that I could fit a 8-months pregnant belly in there!
    Anyway, I pulled it out again last weekend – think I can cope with fixing the dang thing now after six months!

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  • Well I had recently bought a vintage sari with beautiful embroidery that was going to be used to make a simple fitted bodice and gathered skirt dress. Simple right? Well when you cut out the pattern 2 sizes too small (uuugh thats what you get when you make it out of a pattern you have never used before), you can only be in a puddle of tears when the dress does not fit! Hopefully I can add a panel in the back. (ssshh don’t tell). We’ll see how that turns out……

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  • It mightn’t really count as ruining something, but I knitted 95% of a hat recently before I realised I’d been using the wrong needles the whole time. I really wanted the hat, though, so I just gritted my teeth and got on with starting the whole thing over again. I’m glad I did, because it’s one of my favourite things to wear at the moment.

    Hopefully, your next sewing project will treat you a little better.

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  • […] you read Monday’s post, you’ll know I had a couple of frustrating projects after this dress (I’m glad many of […]

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  • Do you know how to rip out serging? It’s the most important thing I’ve learned at this job! I need to make a YouTube video. First, cut the top looper. On most fabrics you can just run your ripper down under the threads. Brush off the extra fuzzies but don’t be too obsessed about picking them all out. Next, pull out the bottom looper. It might get stuck in some of the fuzzies, but without the top looper holding it down it should mostly come out like chain stitch. Finally pull off the needle threads and brush off the rest of the fuzzies. Ta da! So fast, fabric preserving, and headache free!

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    • Caitlin, you know I’ve read a couple of different tutorials that have different ways of doing it, and neither have been perfect for me. Next time I see you, I’m totally bringing a serged sample and a seam ripper so you can show me. ;)

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  • I love when bloggers share their less successful moments. It nice to know you’re not alone. I’m currently avoiding a “I hope I don’t ruin it”. I have a ridiculous amount of seam ripping to do on a fairly thin knit do to a disastrous attempt at gathering with clear elastic.

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  • my most recent make was a suspender skirt, without a pattern. i just made it up as i went along. mistakes i made in the process: cut the gores without factoring in ease. added mini-gores for ease that wound up being far too wide. inserted the zipper too low. failed to angle the straps at the back. panicked about the skirt being too short, added more length to the gores during cutting, & wound up with a far-too-long-skirt. which i then hemmed just a hair too long. got confused sewing french seams, thought i’d sewn them the wrong way round, got 90% of the way through unpicking, & suddenly realized i’d done them right after all. (that was especially fun.) made the waistband much too big & realized my waist seam didn’t match front to back once the side seam was taken in (because the waistband is curved in the front). had to unpick & re-sew that like four times. mis-measured the lace for the hem & had to patch more in.

    but ultimately, i managed to fix everything & it’s perfectly wearable. i’ll probably unpick & re-sew the straps on the back so they lay flat, but i’m reasonably happy with it. when i showed it off to my partner, i asked if he thought it was a little too long, & he said, “i think it’s perfect. with other dresses you’ve made, it seems like they’re always a little too short in the front or the back, but this one seems perfectly balanced.” that was the first i had heard about any of my other dresses having uneven hems!

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  • […] some of Janet’s techniques to my own projects, which were a skirt and a bolero. (The skirt I got cranky about last week, by the […]

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