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Sewing Lessons I’ve Learned Lately

Do you remember that sneak peek I gave you last week? I got it almost finished over the weekend (not completed: hemming).

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Cute, right? Pretty, summery linen? How bad could it be?

How bad could it be indeed. Bad enough that there’s no photo of me in said dress (though if you’re good, i.e. leave me nice comments, I might get to take one later).

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Hrm. Maybe you can tell what one of the problems is from this picture. By the way, both the bust piece and that back piece (the green olive pieces) are fully lined and hand-sewed on the inside. Really? I spent time hand sewing a dress that I can't wear?

You see how that bust part kinda hangs out there when it’s on the hanger? It does that on me too. This dress was clearly made for someone with a C cup, which is so far from reality that it’s laughable (really, there has been much laughter about this dress). Unfortunately, due to the construction of the bust, there’s no way to re-engineer it to make it work.

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Oh, but that's not all that's wrong with this darling dress.

What else is wrong? Well, quite simply, there is absolutely no way to adjust the gathers in the skirt (there are ties that go through the front and wrap around to the back, which makes sense only in person, as I cannot explain it better) to fashion a look that does not make me look 6 months pregnant. No joke.

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See her? She doesn't look pregnant. Not at all! Nor does she have a C cup. I feel misled.

Part of the problem with this is that I used a medium-weight linen, which has body instead of drape. The linen wants to billow out from all those gathers, not drop or flow.

So, lesson learned, must pay attention to drape/body factors of fabric when matching with a pattern.

The other lesson learned from this experience (when coupled with another dress disaster where I accidentally made myself a gorgeous muumuu, complete with French seams and a lovely rolled hem), is this: I have a waist. I need to wear dresses that have waists. Not empire waists, but actual waists. When I was in high school, we were calling this style “baby doll” – it didn’t look good on me then (especially since the dresses were short, and I was tall…), and it doesn’t look good on me now. I’m not exactly sure what you’d call my shape – a thin rectangle with a dent in the middle? I’m not exactly hourglass, but pear-shaped isn’t exactly right either (even though that seems like it would be it, seeing as how I’m lacking on top and hippy). Whatever it is, I need to wear clothing that accentuates the fact that I have a waist, not clothing that tries to hide the waist area (which many people, understandably, want to do – I’m just not one of them).

No worries about the dress though – it will get a new life, in ‘s closet. She came over last night, tried it on, and it looks so cute! So, I will hem it up for her, and perhaps get a picture of her in it to show you, and then the dress can fulfill its destiny, while I continue on my quest to make myself a dress (since my last three attempts have failed miserably).

Thinking about these lessons, I had to go through the other patterns I bought at the same time and see how many of them will not work for me. But first, a laugh for you:

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Do you see what I see? Gotta laugh at this. What happened is that I bought 8 patterns (McCalls were on sale for $1.99 and Vogue for $3.99, and I really wanted to make a summer dress), which "retail" for $15-25 each (though I would never pay anything close to that for a pattern. Plus I had a 40% off one item coupon, and a 10% off my total order coupon. Still, this is hilarious. That's a savings of... I can't even do that math. 1 million percent.

Now let’s look at those patterns and see how much damage I’ve done (we won’t even think about the rest of my patterns, some of which suffer from the same problem as the pink floral muslin I made up for Easter – ooh, a dress success! – that being curved side darts which create a poofiness at the tummy that is less than flattering, and some of which, I’m sure, suffer from this high-waisted problem as well.)

[Editor’s note: pardon the crappy photos – it was 8:30 last night when I remembered to take these, and there was almost no natural light left, and I was too impatient to share with you to wait until tonight to take the pictures. I hope to re-take and replace them, but in the meantime, you’ll have to suffer through these.]

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Oh, success right off the start! Can't go wrong with a shirt. (OK, lots of things can go wrong with this, but not in the waist area.

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Bummer. Failure. A said, that's so cute! Cute, yes, but methinks it will not look cute on me (unless perhaps I walk around the whole day with my shoulders thrust back, and maybe some padding in my bra).

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Huh. I don't know about this one. It seems like it might have a waist, but it might be too high. I think I'll have to look at the pattern pieces to be sure. The gathered bust is quite flattering for those of us who are not so endowed, so I'm going to hold out hope for this one.

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Waist, yes. Potential poofy belly anyways? Yes. Only with a very drapey, flowy, thin fabric. Also, must check pattern pieces first to see how low cut this actually is, because that looks a bit low for me.

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Ah, no problems here. We all look a bit chubby in coats, so who cares. (Yes, I admit that it's incredibly idealistic of me to think I could actually make this up. Whatever. A girl can dream.)

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Success! I think this one actually gets it right! (Must check to make sure the top isn't too big - might need to add in some darts or something.)

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Another success! I'm feeling good about myself at this point. I'm kind of in love with D/E (and A would make a satisfactory base dress, which was what my previously mentioned pink floral muslin was supposed to be a template for).

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And... failure, I think. Those front gathers, unless the fabric is absolutely perfect, will just make me look chubby in the tummy. Bummer, since I really like A/B.

Well, in light of that, I’m feeling a bit down about myself.

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Oh, let's cheer up with a picture of the fabric that arrived at my house last week (three separate orders from three separate stores).

Does that not inspire you? Maybe you can’t see the fabrics well.

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From top to bottom: light green stretch wool suiting, grey polka dot, and grey stretch wool suiting.

The green suiting is for this skirt (view A), the grey suiting for this dress (any view), and the polka dots for this shirt (any view – most likely a short-sleeved option).

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The pretty Sew, Mama, Sew! order. There's some stuff in there for the stash, and two pieces for skirts.

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Oh, I got this from Fabric.com with the suitings too. How can you not be happy when you see this? "You've downloaded my heart." Indeed. I got this to make a children's something, but I may just have to keep it for myself.

Feel free to shower me with compliments and/or advice now. 🙂

[Editor’s note: come back tomorrow. Big post tomorrow – I might be giving something away. I’m just sayin’. You don’t wanna miss it.]

2 comments to Sewing Lessons I’ve Learned Lately

  • I feel your pain. Even after sewing for a looong time, I still occasionally make the fabric choice mistake. At least it looks good on a friend, unlike the top that I started and would look good on no one.

    I think several more of the patterns may work for you. It will be absolutely about the fabric choice. The last pattern for instance is for knits. Find a great jersey knit that’s soft and a bit heavy and it lays beautifully. I have that pattern too and have been meaning to try it…. A couple of the other knit patterns I’ve used might suit you even better with a surplice (cross over bodice) that doesn’t have too deep of a v neck. Flattering to those of us who need to wear padding to balance our hips…. Anyway, a couple of the others in a voile would drape and not add bulk anywhere. Sorry for the long answer don’t know if it helps..

  • Corinnea, thanks! I do have some fab knits in my stash, especially some lightweight ones. I have a hard time finishing knits (hems, specifically), so I’m hesitant to start those projects, and the last knit dress I attempted turned out about 6 sizes too big (should really take a picture of that one). 🙂

    Thanks for all the advice! You’ve made some really cute clothing!