Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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TheGoodTheBadandTheUglyAt this time of year the airwaves, are buzzing with everyone’s reviews of their year’s sewing makes. There are lots of “top 5” posts out there. I don’t think that would really work for me; I’ve only made 10 clothing items this year so there isn’t much to choose from. I thought I’d do my own take on a 2015 review with “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. So, I’m limiting my post to just talking about 3 makes and casting a critical eye on them. It takes, I think, a few wears to really be certain about whether a garment is a hit or a miss and looking back at older makes after a few months or more (2 years in the case of the dress) is, I think, a worthwhile undertaking.

The Good

Without a doubt, my helicopter jacket is in the good category. This year I have been consciously trying not to rush my makes and this jacket, which took me quite a few weeks to make, benefited from this enormously. I wanted desperately to get this jacket right as this was going to be a replacement for a much loved and worn jacket – I really didn’t want to have a jacket that wasn’t a worthy successor.

Jordan Jacket - Side View

Helicopter Jacket

I spent such a long time doing all the stop-stitching and matching all those helicopters across the panels, but all the extra care has definitely paid off and this jacket more than equals its RTW replacement.Finished 4

Original post – Helicopter Jacket

The Bad

My “bad” make is a dress that I haven’t blogged about at all. It was made back in 2013 before I started blogging.

If you are a follower of my blog you’ll know that I don’t tend to wear many dresses. I’m just not a big fan of them. I feel too dressed up in them and I’m too used to wearing jeans and t-shirts. I have been shifting my wardrobe so that I’m wearing more skirts now, but dresses are still a step too far for me.

Outfit 1 - Wrap dress

The question is why on earth did I decide to make a dress at all when I don’t wear dresses? When I first started sewing in earnest I was very uncertain of my abilities. I was very easily influenced by what other people on the “blogosphere” decided was “easy” and what was not. For this reason, I thought I would pick a garment that didn’t have any technically difficult fastenings, so no zips or buttons. Surely, that would constitute a good beginner’s project?

Over the past two years, my confidence has grown, of course, but more interestingly I have discovered where my skills are strong and where I need to improve.

Now, I wouldn’t be put off, or daunted in any way by a project that demanded the use of a new sewing technique. This year alone I have tried my hand at a huge array of new techniques, silk shading hand embroidery, piping, hemming knits, etc.

In contrast I have found that my fitting skills are often stretched. I have learnt in the time that I have been sewing that my body shape is far from a standard size and for virtually every pattern that I use I have to make changes. In fact, when I use a pattern from some companies, like Burda, the pattern I use seems to be radically different from the original, I often change every single pattern piece in at least one dimension.

Returning to my dress, I did make some fitting adjustments, but only with the circumference measurements. Basically, I made sure the bust, waist and hip measurements were correct, but these changes were not really enough. There are two further areas that I should have adjusted. Firstly, the body is too long, so this means that the waist tie either doesn’t sit quite on the waist or a bit of gape appears across the chest. I tried to compensate by taking a little off at the shoulder seams. But, there is no disputing that the fit is not quite right.

The end result is that I always wear this poor dress with a t-shirt underneath to “fill it out”. It’s strange no one has commented on the fit, but then I’m sure I’ve become far fussier in my assessment of fit over the last two years and perhaps I’m the only one who notices this fault.

What would I have done differently?

  1. Probably not make the dress at all! I only make clothes that fit into my usual style now. If it requires learning another sewing technique or tons of difficult top-stitching I don’t care!
  2. If I did make the dress, I’d probably spend more time establishing a better fit. Actually, given what I have learnt about my shape, I would probably draft, at least the top half, from scratch using bodice slopers, rather than try to go from the pattern.
Lucinda blouse toile

Should I finish this blouse?

Weirdly though, I still wear this dress to work. Perhaps I’m really stubborn, but for something that is in my “bad” category it does get worn – at least once a month. I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with this dress. Shall I keep it as it is, or shall I remodel it? I had made a toile for this shirt in the remains of the fabric. Perhaps I could cut up the dress and use it to complete this shirt?

The Ugly

I have worn this tunic very little over the last couple of years. It is actually very comfortable to wear and fits a treat. The tunic was sewn from a vintage pattern that I won in a giveaway. Sadly, I found that the pattern wasn’t complete and the very garment I really wanted to make was missing some important pieces. Thus, I was forced into my first pattern cutting foray. From the existing pieces I gleaned some information, but I did lots of measuring to get a fit I was happy with.


So what went wrong? I’m blaming the fabric! I wanted to find some crinkle cotton or seersucker, but just couldn’t find any at all. (Of course, I know so many more websites now, I’m sure I would find something). I bought some cheap crinkle cotton fabric in a local store. It was an off-white, so I dyed it a pale green, but unfortunately it didn’t dye evenly. It’s odd, I have dyed lots of clothes, but this the only time that I have had a something dye this badly and I’m not sure why.


Horrible streaky dyeing.


I managed to cut my fabric pieces around my dyeing disaster and then I came across the next problem. The fabric is a really loose weave. It tended to get mangled in the machine and I didn’t do any back-stitching to try to avoid this. The casing for the elastic and the shoulder ties were especially fiddly to create, because the fabric frayed so much.

Tunic - sleeve close-up

All this would have been fine, but I do think that basically this top just looks scruffy. It looks like it has been stuffed at the back of the drawer and then just thrown on. No amount of pressing seems to make a difference to its general shabbiness. I know it is supposed to be a crinkle cotton, but the hem just doesn’t sit right and nor does the facing. I’m putting the whole problem down to the cheap fabric, or am I missing something? Is there a better way to make those hems sit better or that facing stop curling to the front, even after it has been under-stitched.  I truly do think this tunic pattern has got potential. I’m imagining it could be a great throw on summer top. I’d like to make another, but will it be just as ugly?

Original post – Sage-coloured tunic

Sometimes I find myself succumbing to the temptation to just document the successes and gloss over things that didn’t work so well. I’m sure like most people, mistakes, while annoying, teach you just as much as the triumphs. So, it’s been good to evaluate in detail those three makes – I can learn from each of them and I welcome all your comments, perhaps I can learn some more from your wise words too.

Author: steelyseamstress

Sewing a new wardrobe

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