Knowing when to give up and move on


With clothes shopping, you know if a garment is going to fit before you lay down your cash. With sewing, it’s a little different. Every time you test out a new pattern, it’s all a gamble, and frequently it’s hard to test the fit until the last few steps. Things can go wrong in so many ways.  Fit. Style. Combination of pattern and fabric.

It probably seems like I didn’t sew very much for myself this summer. I posted two swimsuits in August, pajamas and a simple knit dress in July, and a scarf and skirt in June. Writing that out, it doesn’t seem so shabby, but my less busy months work-wise are in the summer, so I expected to be cranking out clothes left and right. Unfortunately, I had a few failures. The two garments in particular that I’ll talk about below were never even finished.


First up is a dress I made to wear to a friend’s wedding over the summer. I really thought this one through and even wrote an inspiration post on it. The pattern is Vogue 9104, a pattern rated as very easy. It’s a loose-fitting (tent?) maxi-dress, with a contrast high-low bottom panel. Because the pattern is “very easy” and has minimal requirements in terms of fit, I skipped the muslin stage and cut right into my nice fabric. For the top, I used a fun blue, turquoise, and white diamond-printed rayon challis from Hancock Fabrics. I planned to use a complementing navy blue rayon challis, also from Hancock, for the bottom, but I never got that far.


I thought that rayon challis would be nice and cool to wear to an outdoor wedding in August.  Once I put the top part of the dress together, I put it down for a few days, planning to come back, assess fit, and add on the bottom panels. When I came back, the dress was all kinds of stretched out. The arm holes were gigantic, and the whole thing looked kind of saggy. I did my best to fix it, but taking up the dress by multiple inches(!) at the shoulder seams. This sort of worked, but my dress still didn’t look like the line drawings at all.  When I added the neckband, I barely needed to gather the fabric to get it to fit.  So, instead of having a nice gathered neckline, my neckline is almost completely flat.  I don’t know what went wrong there.

That did the dress in.  Looking nothing like the pattern was supposed to, and not liking the fit, I officially gave up. This dress takes a lot of fabric (over 2 yards of each fabric) and I wanted to be able to salvage it into something else down the road. I really do like the fabric, but the dress is a mess.

I could only find one other review of this pattern on the interwebs, and it looked great. She mentioned a problem with her fabric stretching out around the armholes, but nothing about gathering gone wrong. I’m not sure what went wrong for me, but I doubt I will be trying it again. It’s not my typical day-to-day style, so I’m not sure how much wear it would have gotten in the first place.


My second fail of the summer resulted from a spur-of-the-moment purchase from the clearance bin at Joann’s. I spotted almost a yard of this blue, yellow, and white patterned organic cotton, and had to have it. I had just watched A True Cost, and was pumped to find some organic cotton after just learning about the detrimental effects of the cotton industry. I didn’t have a clear project idea in mind for this fabric, though (problem #1).


Once I got home, I thought it would make a nice summer tank, so I dug out a pattern I’d used a few times before: NewLook 0116 (now out of print it appears). I cut out my usual size, and got to work. Instead of using the bindings that come with the pattern, I decided to outsmart it, and use pre-made bias binding instead (problem #2). I attached the bias binding in the usual way, instead of reading the instructions, which had the binding adding a decorative element to the outside of the neckline and armholes. So, instead of adding fabric to these areas, I ended up taking away fabric. This resulted in some wonkiness.


This change seems pretty minor, but resulted in major changes in fit. Check out how narrow the shirt is across the upper chest, and the gaping at the back neckline. Once I realized the shirt does not fit at all, I also realized that I have no shirts in this stiff of a fabric, and there’s probably a reason why. I concluded that I would most likely not wear this shirt very often, and that it was not worth finishing. All that’s left to finish is the neckline (assuming that it fit…), so it’s really a shame.

There are some upsides, though. I learned to follow instructions more carefully when it comes to arm and neck bindings. I also had enough fabric leftover to make a little tunic for my niece. Hopefully I will also be able to salvage most of the fabric from the dress as well. Lessons learned.

4 thoughts on “Knowing when to give up and move on

  1. Eileen Schamel+

    Intresting , Renee first the dress, I have never had good Luck with Vogue patterns. Dress looked cute and love the color. Don’t know how the bottom was to be finished.
    Now that top. The pattern must have been for cotton knits. I don’t see how you would get that tight a waist over your shoulders unless it stretched and I didn’t think that material did. Otherwise you are doing great. Bound to have some disappointments along the way.


    • Vogue and I have had some struggles. I’m glad I’m not alone on that front! The top is actually designed for wovens, not knits. I’ve made it twice before (once for my mom) and it worked out okay both times. I think the difference was the finishing of the arm holes and neckline which deviated from the instructions. Either way, I’ve learned my lesson!


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