Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sewing FAIL

You tease me, Ms Ross.

I've had this sewing pattern printed and set aside to make for, oh, a solid month now.

I was saving it for sabbatical so that I'd have time to properly scout the perfect fabric and hunt down the elusive elastic thread it calls for to make the shirring happen.

By some miracle, I managed to finagle this beast into printing, after which I taped it together, cut out the pattern pieces (which always seems so counter-productive after all that taping BUT WHATEVER) and carefully folded it so that when the moment arrived to actually bring the dress into the world, I'd have the annoying Step 1: Cut out the pattern pieces step out of the way.

I'm all for doing projects in many steps so as to avoid aggravation. And we know how aggravated I get, so this is also a life-saving measure.

And with all that preparation out of the way and sabbatical firmly under my feet, I set out yesterday to the fabric store ready to find My Perfect Sundress Fabric at Eddie's 20% off everything Mother's Day sale where I fell madly in love with a particular fabric that looks much better in person than it does in this barfy shot from

It is the perfect summer fabric. Not that you can tell.

Now, to be truthful, I didn't so much love it on its own, but as a dress, especially a summer one, I knew it would be the The Perfect Sundress Fabric.

I also bought a few other fabrics because, you know, I was there and it was all 20% off and I can't choose between them all when they're all looking at me like that. You know.

Anyway, FAIL #1 happens at this point.

Oh, you didn't realize I meant it when I said, "Sewing FAIL". Sorry, I totally meant it. It's sad, but you should still read on so that you don't make this same mistake. Plus! There's a happy ending. Go on, then.

FAIL #1: Inadequate fabric estimate

The pattern calls for 2 1/2 yards of cotton fabric. Which is what I bought. After carefully inspecting the pattern instructions and drawings that clearly show the front and back of the dress being cut from the same piece of fabric on the fold, stacked neatly on top of one another.

Ridiculously enough, I imagined my life would mimic the photo, even though it never does, and when I began to pin my pattern piece (now I'm home from fabric shopping, thanks for keeping up) along the fold of this fabric it became obvious that there was not going to be any cutting of front and back from the same fold of this same fabric piece.

At best, I could have made this happen 1 1/2 times, which would have resulted in a bizarre fashion statement I wasn't ready to make.

I tried to piece together some sections of the remaining fabric to make a large enough piece from which to cut the back of the dress, but this didn't produce any wearable results.

In reality, this pattern should call for at LEAST 3 yards of fabric. More if you're trying to keep a vertical pattern in order, which I was.

After realizing I was doomed with materials on hand, I raced back to Eddie's this morning and snatched (quite literally - it was getting scary in there) the last 1 3/8 yard of this fabric from the shelves. Box and all.

I thought I'd triumphed.

FAIL #2: Elastic thread is easy, as noted, but starting a new row of shirring every 1/2 inch is ridiculous

This might actually be a WIN since I decided that, rather than sewing a dozen individual elastic rows, I'd just sew a spiral for the shirring. Unfortunately, I didn't come up with this particular piece of genius until I was 1/2 way through. The second half, though, flew right by.

FAIL #3: The dress is child's size

But still, awesome fabric, right?

Yes. It may say "fits women's sizes..." on the pattern cover, but according to the pieces I cut out and despite the many times I held them up against my body and found them to be proportionally correct (and flattering - oh how I wanted this dress), the final product failed to produce a result that would fit over my shoulders, around my boobs or even slide up from the floor over my hips.

Now, the hips part wasn't a surprise. I'm a curvy gal and exist under no misconception that my hips are narrow and small. But shoulders? Too wide? Um, not usually my problem. And really, even if I could have slipped it over my shoulders (oh, how I tried) there's no way it would have fit over my boobs in any flattering way.

Um, when you say Women's 8, do you mean Child's 6x?

Think smushed pancakes. Not pretty.

It was pretty much at this point when I began to pout and feel extreme sadness that comes with wasting beloved awesome fabric on a FAIL.

Plus, I really wanted to wear that dress on Mother's Day tomorrow since my mom really likes to indulge in the irony of me in dresses as an adult because I refused to wear dresses or skirts for a solid decade of my childhood.

It was a dark time in my dining room. Enhanced by the Giants being shutout by the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, even without their Amazing Roid Pitcher to the Stars, Manny Ramirez.


Do I cry? Do I wad this up and burn it? Do I try it on again to see, if by some miracle, it now fits over my newly discovered monster shoulders?

Yes, let's try that.

I don't even think this could be saved by installing a zipper, although I may try that with attempt #2.

FAIL. Monster shoulders too monstrous.

Oh but it's so cute! Look at it all like a little girl's dress there with its quaint shirred bodice and cutesy stripes. If I were a little girl that wore dresses (which, remember, I wasn't) I would totally be wearing this right now and maybe sharing a popsicle with the dog.

WAIT! That's it! I'll give it to a little girl.

THE little girl.

The one who I'll see in just a few weeks - my goddaughter, Emma.

Yes, it'll probably be a bit long on her, but it's a little girl's dress, it should be a bit long so that it can scrape around in the grass and pick up all the evidence of a child that's been playing outside all day. Plus, the pockets are perfect for picking up rocks or little brothers or whatever kids always have spilling from the sides of their pants (not poo).

PHEW! Saved.

This Too Small For Big Me dress will be perfect for Super Tiny Goddaughter. Even if I doubt she'll appreciate the perfection of the pattern. Or the spiraling elastic shirring. BUT THAT'S OK because maybe then someone will love it like I once did for an hour when I thought it was going to fit right.

One last thought, do you think it would be weird if I tried my hand at this pattern again, making the dress ever so much larger so that I could wear it and then when I went to visit Ms Thang Goddaughter, we wore our matching dresses together?

Too much? Too Weird Auntie Finny?

You tell me. I'm on the fence.


  1. This was a FAILED project for me too (TWICE). Once because I was stubborn and tried to use a different weight fabric and the second because I didn't want it to be too small so I made the Large size (despite that I am/was a size 8). The only thing you should worry about with doing the large size is that it will make you look like a COW if you don't SHORTEN it considerably. Do that and it'll be fabulous! And definately make one for yourself with that fabulous fabric even though it would be a little weird wearing it with your god-daughter (The hand that rocks the cradle kind of weird). =) Happy sewing!

  2. Could you cut the elastic-y top part off and make a skirt out of the rest? That is terrific fabric.

  3. It's wonderful! I've seen that pattern around and love it.

    And yes, you should totally make yourself a matching one. But really, you should probably ignore my advice because I've considered making myself an apron that matches my kitchen curtains. Thankfully my sister talked me out of that one. It's really cute fabric, though.

  4. I like that dress. I do not wear dresses of any sort...well, wait I do wear those skirts that look like hippie lady skirts, cause they hide all manner of faults.
    That dress would be a sleeve for me. You think you are a curvy girl...HA! I got ya beat there!

  5. I love the pattern and hopefully will learn from your mistakes. I made a similar shirt and dress for my nieces and have been wondering whether the same technique would work for adults.

    For the spiral shirring -- how exactly did that work? Are the top and bottom lines straight (perpendicular to the top and bottom seams)? I just can't picture it.

  6. Ah, nothing like clothes that make you feel like an Amazon.

    Aren't you already Weird Auntie Finny? Do you really think a matching dress would send you over the edge?

  7. Augh, I'm another fail on this pattern, but my problem was pretty much opposite. I tried to take a sarong (already sewn into a tube) and just add the shirring. Good plan, right? no, not really. It's HUGE. And unpicking those stitches was not fun, so i stopped halfway through and it's now sitting on the floor in my sewing room...

  8. Hmmm. I tried the elastic thread in the past and neither of my two sewing machines would work with it. Just wouldn't do it. I gave up with a half-finished ugly thing. It was supposed to be for Spenser. And, well, it was disastrous.

  9. So, I think this is the first time I've commented on your blog, so I should tell you I think you're hilarious. Second, I would not think it weird for an aunt to have/wear a dress that matches her neice's, but I'm from the south, and sometimes we're weird. Third, sometimes children do have poo on them. Case in point: I was talking to my landlady's 3 yr old daughter the other day and I knelt down and told her I thought her shirt was pretty to which she responded (in her very british accent 'cause i live in london) "thank you, there's poo all over it." Lesson learned.

  10. Lucky little girl -- your pain is her gain. It looks fabulous Finny. As for being matchy-matchy -- who cares what anyone else thinks? Do what YOU want!

  11. Oh I hate that!!! I would have been right where you were, ready to burn it in anger, but then I would have salvaged the fabric because OMG CUTE.

    I'm so glad you have a god-daughter on which to bestow it!

    Awesome sewing WIN by the way... the shirring is perfect.

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  13. Oh my goodness, I was seriously cracking up reading this. I had a HUGE fail this weekend (and am bringing it to MT to show you for help). I say give Emma this dress. She'll love it! And the fabric really is wonderful.

  14. So, is that thing for reals? Totally cool! Even though I don't know what it is.

    I don't have the pattern, but I do know that "real" patterns are totally horrible because even if you an 8 in real life, in pattern life you are a 14 (or some other large number).

    And yes, I think you make another one. Where are you going to find the fabric?

  15. dangit. Damn cute and, yes, that image from the website blows. Nice problem solving, friend. A kid will look darling in it...the photo of you next to said tiny frock is a crack up. Yes, try again. What if shoulder straps were just longer? The rest looks proportional. You could always hem for your girl too. So, what did you wear yesterday, sabbatical gal. That must be nice.

  16. Well, your niece will look adorable and you'll be happy about that, but you'll always think about the dress YOU want to wear. So trying again is a good thing. You might consider making a mock-up out of inexpensive muslin; that way you can adjust the measurements before cutting out of the fabric you love. And it's perfectly okay if the two of you have the same dress, albeit different sizes.

  17. Two things:

    1) Did you sew the side seams before shirring? Maybe on the next try you could shir the fabric, then sew the seams if not.

    2) You could still save this dress. You could add panels on both sides with a solid color (maybe the green)? I think it would look cool.

    Good luck whatever you decide. :)

  18. I want to make the speed skating photo my desktop at work - IT'S AWESOME!

    nuff said.


[2013 update: You can't comment as an anonymous person anymore. Too many douchebags were leaving bullshit SPAM comments and my inbox was getting flooded, but if you're here to comment in a real way like a real person, go to it.]

Look at you commenting, that's fun.

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Sucks, right?

Anyway, to remedy this, I usually come back to my posts and post replies in the comment field with you.

But, if you ever want to email me directly to talk about pumpkins or shoes or what it's like to spend a good part of your day Swiffering - shoot me an email to finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom.