Maker Inspo: Sometimes You Flop

Look, sometimes even the most experienced of sewists make mistakes. And I've never claimed to be the most experienced of sewists!

I've had a few mis-steps lately in my sewing, and I want to share some thoughts on them. Hopefully me sharing will help you identify possible mistakes before you make them! Or at least you will get some entertainment out of my flops.

I want to be clear that none of these projects failed because of the patterns. The patterns were all really great, with helpful instructions, and I do recommend all of them! I'll probably make them all again, but I'll follow the instructions better, and pay closer attention to my fabric selections.

First up: the over-modification

Over the years, I have learned some things about how garments fit me, and the proportions of my measurements are often super far from what the designer assumes. I need to grade up to 4 sizes between the chest and hip on dresses, if the skirt is fitted. And I like a bodice to be fitted or semi-fitted at the waist, even when it's maybe not supposed to be.

Jenn wearing a v-neck sleeveless top in black with copper metallic stripes. The top is a little tight around the chest and hips.

So when I started the Talisman Top by Atelier Scammit, I decided to make a few changes. I liked the neckline and the bust darts, but I didn't like how wide it was at the chest and waist. I wanted it to be more fitted, but it also needed to flare back out at the hips.

The fabric is a wonderfully soft cotton shirting from Ruby Star Society, in their Warp & Weft line. It's great for this type of shirt!

First, I cut the front and back pieces a little bit narrower at the top than the pattern, but not much. I wanted to get started and try it on before deciding on the fit. That all went well! I completed the neckline and pinned the sides where I thought they should be. 

Then I started to go off the rails. Before cutting anything, I first pinned, then sewed, a curved line from the chest to the bottom. Of course, you can't just sew a deep curve in a woven and expect it to hang nicely. Remember bustles? I had side bustles. It was not flattering on a wide-hipped person. There's a reason patterns use princess seams or vertical darts to create waist shaping!

The side of a shirt with a deep curve at the waist, and a bit of a bulge at the hip.

I pulled those out and got a little less aggressive on the curve, which definitely helped. But then I committed a grave sin: I didn't read ahead on the instructions! This top uses French Seams for the side seams, which means the seams use up about twice as much fabric as regular seams. And it means I trimmed all the fabric off outside the seams before finishing them.

So, after all that work, I have a top that curves a bit funny, sits a bit odd on my hips, and is also too narrow to fit comfortably. I'd consider it a toile if I didn't love this fabric so much. 

Next: an ever-growing sweater

This sweater was supposed to be hip length. Instead, it's a tunic, bordering on a dress, and I have only myself to blame.

Jenn wearing a tunic-length pullover with colourblocking around the shoulders, in navy blue, copper, and teal.

Modal blend sweater knit is super soft, feels lovely, and looks sleek. However, it was not the right choice for a colourblocked pullover like the Linnea Colorblocked Sweater from Sinclair. Maybe if I reinforced more seams with bias tape or stiff elastic, it could still work! I only reinforced the shoulder seams, and the whole thing just grew like it had a life of its own.

The front and sleeve of a sweater, with topstitched wavy seams.
The other important mistake I made here was not having the right tools. I've sewn knits before on my regular machine (I don't have a serger), so I've learned a few tricks. But that was mostly on cotton jersey or fleece, knits with more stability. This fabric did not feed well, and it very much shows. Many of the seams have a wavy bulge that would not iron out, and the topstitching only made it worse. I think before I sew with drapey knits again, I should at least invest in a walking foot!
A curved welt pocket

One good note: the curved welt pockets on this sweater are spectacular, are they not? They came out perfectly, and they are huge!

Most recently: a slightly mis-shapen dress

This one is another lesson in following the fabric recommendations. The Bridgetown Backless Dress from Sew House 7 looks lovely in a drapey rayon or light jersey (yes, it's for wovens or knits, which is awesome). But in a polyester lawn that has more structure than anyone expects from a polyester, it's kind of a disaster.

A loose red dress with bust darts, wide short sleeves, and an elastic waist

I put the bodice together and tried it on, and let's just say my body did not have a human shape. The loose front billowed uncomfortably, and the sleeves stuck straight out like an 80s jacket. No, there are no pictures of that, I like to leave the 80s behind.

With a few modifications, I do think it looks a lot better, but it's far from perfect. I added fairly large bust darts and tightened up the sleeves at the underarm to cut down the extra bulk. I didn't have enough fabric to re-cut the bodice pieces, so to make the back and front line up again, it needed a lot of fudging at the underarms. It ain't pretty under there, I'll try to keep my arms down.

The back of the dress, with a crossover v, and a sewn-in label that says "not for sale".

So, it is wearable, and after lots of stitch ripping and re-sewing it fits okay. I intend to use it as a summer beach cover-up, and it will work for that. But next time I'll follow the recommendations and choose a fabric with more drape!



So, lessons learned, and hopefully you have also learned from my mistakes. Or more likely, you already know these things! In any case, happy sewing, and remember, even when we make mistakes we still had fun sewing.