Let’s Talk Sewing Failures

Fit fails are a large part of the sewing process and something that really cannot be avoided unless you are drafting the pattern for yourself or comparing it against your fit block. Even then, errors still occur that can dramatically effect the fit of your garment and turn it into a sewing failure.

These failures aren’t often posted on blogs. Most blogs post about successes and wonderful pictures, giving most people having issues with sewing a sense that they are the problem. Sometimes, sewing bloggers may even have a poor fit, but not talk about the issues in the post. If you are like me and love sewing failure posts, then I wrote this for you! I think talking about fit, fabric, and sewing issues is extremely helpful for any sewist at any stage. Adjusting patterns for the issues that a sewing blogger reports on means that maybe someone else using the same pattern can avoid that issue in the future. Talking about fabric choices and the adjustments needed for lower stretch materials also helps anyone planning on doing the same thing in the future. I’m going to go over three failures I’ve had lately and speak abut why they failed and what was the issue. None of these will be modeled by me but I will talk about the fit issues in each.

Peppermint Magazine’s In the Fold’s Peplum top

The armholes are GIGANTIC. I sewed up a size K and HOLY MOLY… The armholes gape like crazy. The neckline is too large and gapes as well. The side seams come forward as well.

The neckline and armholes are a product of bad pattern grading. Side seams coming forward means I need an FBA.

In good pattern grading for larger sizes, the pattern would subtly reduce how the neckline and the armholes are increased. People who are larger, generally don’t have a huge difference in necklines, shoulder widths or armholes sizes. Larger biceps can definitely require more room to get through a top, but not that much. The armhole is so big that it stops where my bust point line sits. The neckline is a product of super wide shoulders. Sure, I have narrow shoulders but even so the straps on this top would sit off my shoulders to get the neckline to sit flat.

I’ll probably wear this with pjs and make darts or gathering to fix the issues. Overall, I don’t love the style of the top. I thought this might be the case for me. Without darts or shaping of any kind, it just sort of looks matronly and a bit like sleepwear.

Cashmerette Cedar Dolman in woven rayon

The Cedar Dolman is made for knit fabrics but can also be made in lightweight wovens. This Cedar Dolman was a cute idea in my head, but didn’t execute very well. First off, my size is a bit bloated right now and, as a result, the top fits me like a sausage casing. When you have a size that can go up and down depending on your health, it is really tough to manage fit. I cut this top out in the early summer and by now needed a couple of sizes up to fit. Now, this is partially due to my size change, but I am also not sure how it would work in a woven since the sleeves are a bit tight and I know that hasn’t changed for me. I will attribute this to chronic illness size changes, since I cannot attest to the fit at my previous size.

The frustrating part of it is that this may fit again soon. My size fluctuates a lot and goes up and down depending on inflammation. Right now, I am having major flares of inflammation.

How will I fix this to make it work? I plan on adding panels to the sides since I have some of the tropical fabric left. The panels will taper off for the sleeves, but still give me extra room there since they are slightly tight.

Blank Slate Patterns Denver Tunic

I really regret not trying this in a less expensive fabric first. First failure on this is the sewing. I really wish that instead of using my serger, I had done this on my sewing machine and just finished the seams with my serger. The serger pulls the fabric out of place so any careful print matching I had planned went out the window.

Second failure is fabric. The fabric is super thick. Blank Slate specifically warns you against this: “Heavier fabrics create bulky seams, which may be problematic on the front of the garment in particular. It’s also not a very stretchy material so the fit is TERRIBLE. It’s very very tight.

Overall, this is quite a cute pattern and I think it would work in a stretchier material without any pattern matching.

How will I fix this one? I am out of fabric for this, sadly. I think the only way to fix it is to resew the princess seams, remove the pockets, waistband, and neckband, where a lot of the bulk is making it not feel comfortable. I may also turn it into a cropped sweater to wear with dresses or skirts in the winter/fall and use a white ribbing to finish the cuffs, neckband and waistband.

Everyone has failures

Whether it is about fabric, bodily changes, or pattern issues, everyone has failures and no one is perfect in anything. I hate to sound like a motivational speech, but failures are opportunities for learning. Also, I should note that failures are sometimes just failures and sometimes we need to do it over and over again to suddenly figure out a different result. And no matter what level you are at with sewing or anything you are working on, failures will continue to happen. That’s not your fault. There is no fault in this…. sure choices got you there, but there is no need to blame yourself and feel like you cannot learn more and move forward. No one stops learning.

On a winning note…

I’ll leave you with a win from my recent sewing.

A pair of Blank Slate Barton shorts made in the cutest flannel for pjs.

My best advice with failures is to follow them up with quick wins using TNT patterns that you know work for you.



21 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Sewing Failures

  1. I quite enjoyed this post. I have a lot of sewing failures, but I’ve been trying to think about what fabrics and silhouettes have worked for me in the past. Also, sewing pj pants is always a boost.

    1. I’m glad you liked the post. It’s always a good idea to return to TNTs and things you know work for a little boost before you venture out with new patterns and fabrica again. 🙂

  2. I am trying to head off some of these kinds of fails… I have watched a few YouTube videos from Silhouette Patterns, particularly the ones that show how to use s French curve to check armholes and necklinesfor depth before I cut. That has saved me on s few things that would have been indecent or been too tight to wear. Thanks for sharing the lessons you have learned, and I wish you fewer lessons in future ( ic that makes sense…)

    1. Thanks. I’m not really worried. The beauty of sewing is that often these things can be fixed or I can use the fabric for something else. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for this post, Andie! Sure, reading about sewing perfection is great, but I very much appreciate a good dose of sewing reality. I would love to read more from sewing bloggers about their “mistakes” 😉 and possible solutions, if there were any.

    1. I’m glad you liked the post, Brigitte! I love posts like this. No one is perfect. No matter what we learn, we can still make mistakes and have sewing failures. 🙂

  4. I enjoyed reading this! Especially “Your Winning Note” 🙂 The best way I’ve found to regroup is to make something small like, a purse. And it gets me back in the mood … FIESTA 😉

  5. I understand the weight up and weight down. I have a closet full. I sew for the size I am and sometimes I have to put it away until I am that size again. But at least i enjoy sewing and didn’t buy all those clothes! I agree with your idea – change things up a bit. A difficult project then an easy one!

  6. Thanks so much for this post! I’m still very new to garment sewing and have yet to make anything that’s wearable. It’s very enlightening to read about what went wrong, and if/how it can be addressed. My biggest problem is understanding how fabric choice affects fit. I understand the basics, but I’m constantly surprised at how a small change (slightly less stretchy cotton knit) can have such a big effect.

    1. Thanks, Margaret. Fabric choice is a huge thing that can really change your garment even if you are using a TNT pattern. However, don’t let it deter you from different fabrics. A muslin always helps, but most things can be fixed. ❤

  7. After seeing all the love for the peppermint peplum, i tried it – and was disappointed as well! I didn’t notice the armholes as much as the wide neckline. Oh well! It’s a good at home top. I hope your current inflammatory flare abates soon, I have just come out from one ( aided by increasing vitamin D, it really helped me!)

    1. I’m glad you have a good at home top. ❤ Necklines can be fixed for the next version if you ever want to make it again, but it's tough to want to do that when it's clearly an issue with pattern grading. 😦

      Vitamin D is a great thing to take! I am working with a doctor to get me on the right dosage. 🙂

  8. Guilty as charged on not usually posting my failures. I think my thing is that I feel like I *have* to post a modeled picture of everything I make, and I don’t usually want to model my failures publicly (unless it’s so bad that it’s comical). I like your approach of posting hanger shots.

    And just to add to the thread, my biggest failures tend to come from overfitting (I’m guessing that this is common when you need a huge FBA, where the FBA can throw off other things) and from bad fabric choices. I have a tendency to sometimes push the recommended fabrics because I *really* want the final garment in a certain print or a certain color. Not even muslins can save a garment from that.

    1. So true, Michelle. I am guilty of the fabric choice too. I get it in my head that it must be a certain pattern and I can just make it work, but it usually doesn’t. LOL. And yes, big FBAs can cause big problems. :/

  9. Andie, thank you so much for this post. I needed it to get over a sewing hump and move on. Hope you’re feeling better soon.

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