A Thing I Made and Never Blogged

Sometimes things don’t turn out like we want them to. Sometimes we have a vision, and once the vision comes to life it isn’t good. Even if it’s well-made!

I sewed up the dress in today’s post way back in the summer, after coming in on a weekend to sew for fun. I was feeling the need to make something just for the enjoyment of sewing. With all of the sewing I do for instructions or tutorials, it’s nice to make something with no strings attached now and then. It didn’t turn out well, but it didn’t turn out disastrously enough to make for a good story. So I never finished the blog post about it. (Why blog about something I feel unattached to, when there are more interesting things to talk about?)

Anyways, I thought I would share this project anyways, since it’s finished. Proof that sometimes I make things that are okay, but not exactly as I hoped.

In the first post I drafted, it’s like I was trying to convince you (and myself) that I liked it. I edited out the ‘it’s bold but I like it anyways!’ lies out of here so it would be more true. Can I tell you a secret? This dress is still hanging in my office, unworn.

Pattern is Simplicity 8498, from 1969. The design lines on the front are simple and flattering, but unfortunately you can hardly see them at all in this fabric!

(looking at these photos reminds me of how hot it was this past summer!)

I did some nice finishing techniques on the inside. The facings are trimmed with bias tape, and to make them look more professional I stitched them with a small stitch length. I think it looks rather nice! (You can see the interesting design lines better on the inside-out photos.)

Personally, I like when there are two separate facing pieces for the armhole and the neckline. I know many patterns do the all-in-one facing but I like sewing these type of facings better. I like that I can understitch completely around  the armhole or neckline, instead of understitching only as far as I can work the facing under the machine. (Simplicity 3965, the pattern I made three times, has these type of facings too.)

I had just enough to add bias tape to the hem, too!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a hand-picked zipper, and it’s still my favourite zipper technique. (Want to know how to add a hand-picked zipper to your projects? Click here to read a tutorial.)

The fabric is a cotton twill I bought ages ago on sale. The only modifications I made were to shorten the dress by 3″. I had added extra ease at the hip, but in this A-line style I didn’t need the extra, and took the seams in after the dress was sewn.

Here’s the pattern cover. (Notice that they’re all illustrated in solid fabrics? Hmm… the pattern is giving me a hint that I clearly ignored.)

I love the golden brocade maxi version, with the sequin trim! Look closely, there’s sequin trim along the hemline as well.

For a test dress, this version turned out all right. But here’s the thing – normally, things I love get taken home and worn right away. I’ve even worn sweaters I knit before the buttons are even attached. (Partly out of love, partly because I really need sweaters!)

So what don’t I like about it? For one thing, the fabric isn’t quite right. It’s way too stiff – closer to the weight of a heavy denim – and feels like it could stand up by itself. It’s way, way too bright for my liking, and I usually like bright! It looks better in these photographs than it does in real life. And it’s pretty much a summer-season only dress, it looks garish and showy in the fall and winter.

It’s also a little loose on me, partly because of the style, and partly because the heavy fabric makes it stand out from the body like a board. I’ve changed shape a little and now it’s definitely too loose, but not softly draping loose, which would be pretty, but thick and tent-like loose.

And lastly, it lacks the things I like about dresses. I like fitted waistlines, full skirts, pockets for practicality. I can’t belt it and I’m not certain it feels like me. This pattern design is pretty, but different from my usual style, which means that it’s going to be less likely to be worn if I don’t absolutely love it. (It’s kind of like if you never wear dresses, or bright colours, and then try to jump into dress-wearing with a brightly coloured, bold printed dress. Too much change!)

So what did I learn from this project?

  • Identify what you like about a pattern, style or garment, and stick with it! I liked the simple, clean lines of this dress pattern, which are best shown in a solid fabric. The illustrations are all done in solid or textured fabrics, no prints. I immediately envisioned a simple, navy dress where you can see the elegant seaming, but decided to make it in floral cotton twill instead. Compromising on your original vision means it won’t be the dress of your dreams. (Which can work out into a pleasant surprise, but it could backfire too.)
  • If a garment doesn’t feel like ‘you’ you’ll never wear it. And sometimes even when things seem like they’re adding up – interesting yet subtle pattern details, a bright print, a colourful dress – the finished product might not have the right look and feel. When you’re just learning to sew, it takes practice and experimentation to get really good at matching a pattern with the right fabric. Sometimes even if you’re experienced, the stars don’t align and the project bombs. (It might even be worse if you’re more experienced. Beginners are more cautious when selecting materials. I look at a scary-bright fabric and never-used pattern and think, maybe I could make it work!)
  • Fabric hand and drape is very important. Not only is this fabric stiff on its own, but it’s the type of print where the ink sits on top of the fabric, creating an even stiffer hand. Too-stiff fabrics can make your projects look homemade rather than handcrafted. I think that might be my biggest issue with this dress, it doesn’t look elegant or sophisticated, but stiff and homemade.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, learn from it and try again! Am I giving up on this pattern? Absolutely not! It has the potential to be gorgeous, in the right fabric. Again, I am going to focus on what I liked about the design at first glance – the interesting seaming – and focus my project on that. (And maybe some sequin trim.)

Have you made a less-than-perfect project, and what did you learn from it? Did you ever come back to the pattern a second time with better results?

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Here’s hoping all of your creative endeavours turn out just like you want them to. Happy sewing!

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51 Responses to A Thing I Made and Never Blogged

  1. trumbelina December 7, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    This totally reminds me of a shirt I made last year right around this time. I fell in love with the fabric and spent a bazillion hours making multiple muslins trying to get the fit right, used black grow grain ribbon as a trim down the button placket, bought special buttons I could use for the french cuffs etc. etc. etc.— I sewed the SH*T out of that shirt. It ended up looking like a bad hawaiian shirt. I don’t like the fit. The french cuffs are too small. I spent way too much time on it. I never wear it. I did end up wearing it (in all it’s gaudiness) to my Christmas party, ’cause I’ll be damned if I was going to let it win. Black blazers come in handy.

  2. Tessa December 7, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    I actually love this dress, but I understand about the boldness. I have a dress in a bold print (in several ways very similar to yours) that I adore…. on the hanger. I’ve worn it two times, but my issue is that I don’t always want to be SO eye catching. Such a bold print begs for some attention in public. Plus, you can’t wear it casual. To pull it off you need great shoes, a nice undo, and accessories to compliment. Go understated for any of theses, and they just disappear in the print.

  3. Katy December 7, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    Tasia – is there anything you can do to rescue the dress? For example turning the bottom into a skirt and pairing it with a plain jumper or cardigan. There would be much less bright print to deal with and the stiffness wouldn’t be an issue with a skirt. Such a shame as it’s so well made , but I agree if you don’t love something it doesn’t get worn. I have a dress that I love but the shoulders are tight. Because of this I avoid wearing it. On the subject of confessionals (sort of!) did you ever finish the other 2 Pendrell blouses from your sew-along. I looked forward to seeing them and wondered if you finished them!

  4. STL Mom December 7, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    I struggle with matching fabrics to patterns, and with figuring out what will look good on me. I learn a lot from this kind of post, so thank you!

    Completely off-topic, I saw a photo of Samantha Barks who is in the new Les Miserables movie. I was curious who she was, so I looked her up on IMDB. I kept looking at her photo thinking she looked like someone I know — and then I realized she looks kind of like Tasia! Does anyone else see the resemblence?

  5. K-Line December 7, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    Really good post – I have definitely made things that didn’t work (though they were nicely assembled). Sometimes I make them again with better results (often it’s the fabric that just doesn’t drape right for the project I’ve chosen). Sometimes I just say, meh, not gonna bother again. But it definitely has taught me as much as the patterns and finished objects that work well. Just not as satisfying. :-)

  6. VictoriaR December 7, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    I have definately experienced the “blah” feeling from a project that doesn’t turn out quite right. I made a blouse last year that just never fit properly and there was no amount of adjusting that would fix it. It hung in my closet and taunted me. I finally gave it to Goodwill so I didn’t have to see it and feel badly. The thing about sewing is that you often don’t know something won’t work until it is completed. If you just go to a store and try it on, you may know at the start that it just won’t work. That is the trade off with sewing. You get to end up with well-made, well-fitting clothes most of the time, but you always have to accept the fact that it may not turn out as envisioned.

  7. CarmencitaB December 7, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    I have once made that dress and it turned out ok, but it was a smidge too small, so I never wore it. I gave it to a friend who loves it and still wears it 10 years later, so I don’t feel so bad.
    Find a good soul, organize a giveaway. I would totally take it from you if size 12 wasn’t a tad too small. I do plan to make it again. You should too, it’s very flattering.

  8. Mary December 7, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    This is such a helpful post! Thanks for explaining what went wrong. Sometimes I have the darnest time deciding whether a fabric substitution I want to make is going to be brilliant or just awkward.

    • Tasia December 7, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      Glad I could provide an example of awkward! :)

      Fabric choice, and matching fabric to pattern is one of those challenges that can make or break your project. I like to think you get better at it the more you sew, but the truth is that even people who have been sewing for years and years still make questionable choices. (Like this one! It isn’t so terrible that it’s laughable, but it’s not quite right..)

  9. Buffy Ramm December 7, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    this happens to me all the time! With knitting and sewing.

    I have had some experience teaching sewing classes and I find fabric choice is a ‘make or break’ the project element. I often wish I could be there with students when they choose fabric to say, very gently, ‘don’t do it’!
    But then I turn around and sew something up for myself and think ‘what was I thinking???’

    Ah, well! it only makes us better!

    I think this dress would look beautiful in a sea foam green cotton pique! Solid colours with a little texture. Or an eyelet fabric with a scalloped hem would be pretty too!

  10. Buffy Ramm December 7, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    just looking at it again…I think there is too much fabric up near your face. it would look much prettier on you if the neck line was scooped out a bit and if you bring the armhole shoulder line in a bit. The slight proportion change will streamline the dress.
    Just my 2 cents!

  11. Tasha @ Stale Bread into French Toast December 7, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    I’ve definitely made things that came out not too great, and after so much work it’s hard not to be disappointed. But I try to tell myself that it’s just part of the process, after all if I don’t learn then I can’t get any better!

  12. Pavla December 7, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Hello Tasia,
    this dress is exactly the style I could call mine (and yes, I’m apple-shaped). In my experience, this kind of dress looks much better if it is a little bit shorter. It helps to overcome the “tent-like” character as well. If you don’t weare it anyway, try to cut the length a little bit and see how/(if) the overall look of the dress has changed.

  13. Skylar December 7, 2012 at 10:49 am #


    This is a great post! I just finished a top in fabric I absolutely love, but the pattern I picked makes it look so frumpy, I won’t wear it. And I was so looking forward to it! It makes me feel better to think that this is just a learning process, and feel less bummed about feeling as though I wasted such good fabric.

    I like Buffy’s idea about opening up the neck a bit. Maybe taking in the sides just a bit, too? Would laundering it make it less stiff?

    Good luck, and I love your blog.

  14. caro December 7, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    I was actually just wondering about a coat that you started last year and I don’t remember seeing any more of… I think it was blue and brown wool? Was that you? I’d love to hear what happened with it!

  15. gulsah December 7, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    it is a lovely dress just my type…

  16. Jill December 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    You have that “hourglass” figure that looks so good in a fitted waist. This was my style in the 60s with my straighter lined body! I do think it would look good on you in a solid and a bit shorter. These mod styles were meant to be almost minis back then. Actually the A-line style was made in stiffer fabrics or at least those with body to actually stick out and hold the shape. Check out the old pics of Jackie Kennedy and you’ll see what I mean. I think the brocade version would be gorgeous.
    PS I’m curious about the coat too. The one with the big lapels.

  17. Grace December 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    I’ve made a couple that just didn’t work. You live, you learn. :/ Maybe that’s why I make the same patterns over and over again.
    The print of that dress is fantastic — you are braver than I am!

  18. Linda December 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Think of the dress as a muslin…it fits well, but does need to be above your knee as shown on the envelope…the 60’s were about short. I doubt you would like the fabric sewn in anything else, so it has served a purpose and not nagging you in your stash plus you don’t “have” to feel like you must wear it. I love the high cut armholes of this pattern, not found in today’s patterns….very comfortable and flattering.

  19. Heather December 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Tanit-Isis is running an impromptu sewalong with that pattern! Will be interesting to see how everyone makes it up.

  20. Lisa December 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    I really like your dress but if you wanted to tinker with it you could replace the front bodice with a plain colour that picks up one of the shades in the print but in slightly more muted version, perhaps a mint. You could add the short sleeves in the same plain for a totally new look. I agree about shortening the hem to be true to the mod style. If that is too much bother, a plain but pretty cardigan ie cream can tone the look down.

  21. Bella December 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Great fabric & what an interesting pattern…so flattering!

  22. Emily December 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    It’s unfortunate, but it happens to us all. I give those away and move on. Sad, but true. It’s better than seeing it all time feeling angst.

    • Tasia December 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

      I totally agree. Best to get it out of our head that spend more energy worrying about how to fix it, or feeling bad that it didn’t work out!

  23. Eleyna December 7, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    The fabric looks totally vibrant in the photos! I have a very beautiful floral piece fabric in my stash that reminds me of this one you made the dress out of. You mentioned that it has the heaviness of denim, and mine does, too! You’ve given me an idea… maybe I should make a pair of jeans out of them! Hopefully the printed jeans trend is still in style by springtime. I think your fabric would look gorgeous in a skinny pant, too! Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  24. Lisa December 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    How about experimenting with overdying this dress & see what comes out–or dip dying techniques. If the color is too bold/bright for you, an overdye might tame it & possibly the washing might soften the fabric a bit…just an idea, since you don’t love it anyway, might as well try some experiments on it :)

  25. Meredith December 7, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Thank you so much for blogging something you don’t love! I learn so much from blogs, and I learn just as much from the missteps as I do from the successes! Plus, it makes me feel so much better. If you’re still learning, then it’s definitely okay for me to make mistakes, too!

    The bias tape finishing on the inside is beautiful! If you ever want to show us how you do that, I’d definitely be interested!

    I do like your dress, but I understand what you mean about not loving something and not wearing it. The pattern is wonderful, and I hope you give it another go!

  26. Jo Upton December 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    I love this dress! I’ve just gone and bought it on eBay. Please make it again in a nice plain teal colour! I think you’re right about showing off those design lines!

    I’ve been following your blog for about a year having just got into sewing myself! You’re a real inspiration so thank you so much. I love looking at your outfits and all the extra trims you use!



  27. Tanit-Isis December 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    Bahahahahaha! This is in my queue (and Sown Brooklyn and Sewing Scientist’s) right now!!!! I am actually feeling some of the same hesitations as you, but I really like the lines. And at least TECHNICALLY this is a good shape for me. Here’s hoping!!! :)

  28. Jo December 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Funny you should post about this. I just now put up a post about a failed top. Oh! It was a Pendrell blouse, too! lol! But I am so sure I can make the Pendrell of my dreams if I use my right fabric!

    Pop on over if you have an fitting advice to give, heh! :) I can’t wait to make the Pendrell a success :D

  29. Lorinda December 7, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    I don’t think the dress is a fail, I think the fabric print is the problem. Look again at the photo with the facing out. I think if you redesign this so that you have a solid dress with just a little of this fabric as a trim, like with the facings out it will be something you really like.

  30. Donna G December 8, 2012 at 3:43 am #

    Well, I love it. It’s summer here and it would be perfect here in tropical North Queensland. I think that cut would suit my figure, something to look out for in future.

  31. Joyce Wilson December 8, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Love your dress. This brought back memories for me because I was a young woman in 1969 and had this pattern. Lots of easy patterns back then. Note the price. I have some of my mother’s old, old patterns that go back to the 50’s (some I have seen as retro in the pattern books) that cost 25 cents and 35 cents. Love these type f facings…..don’t like the bias binding that so many recommend now. I’m an old lady now but sure enjoy your blogs. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Keep up the good work and continued success with your business. Joyce in Georgia

  32. Kessem December 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    I have to be honest here, like you, I’m not as keen on this dress as the other garments you make. I appreciate it so much that you shared this with us! I think sewers always forget that EVERYONE makes garments they don’t wear and it’s kind of fun to be reminded I’m not the only one!
    Other than that, I do like this dress I think it’s cute! I also love the way you finished the facings even though I don’t think I share your love for separate facings.. I feel like they add more bulk and move around.

  33. Caroline December 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Ah yes … my first sweater like thing for myself – a lovely long sleeve shrug in a white wool , 100% wool … it’s really beautiful but tough to wear, it rarely gets cold here (in Texas) and when it does a shrug doesn’t cover enough. I was envisioning using it to cover up in AC in the summer, with sleeveless dresses, but 100% wool is too warm for that. … such a pity, I spent 2 months knitting it. Now I know to look for lacework, etc. I will knit another sweater for myself one day … I love working with wool, but not so nice when we are still wearing sandals in December ….

  34. Vicki December 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Yes, Tanit-Isis, Sown Brooklyn and I all bought this pattern around the same time and decided to do a co-post (not a proper sew along, but a comparison of how three people can interpret the pattern differently). Since we decided last month, we keep seeing it everywhere! My first instinct was to use a vintage double knit with a very busy print, but you’ve convinced me that a solid or a textured fabric is the way to go. Personally, I think it looks great on you, but if you aren’t happy with it, don’t let it languish. I’m sure that if you did a give away, you’d have lots of takers! Or maybe a Christmas present to someone?

    • Tasia December 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

      That is cool! Perfect timing for me to show you mine then. I’m glad that my version helped you pick out your fabric. You know what it looks like in a busy print now! Solid or textured would show off the great seamlines better so that would be my recommendation. It will be neat to see this dress three more times, on completely different bodies!

  35. Laura December 8, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    I will admit, I LOVE this dress. It looks completely gorgeous on you and I kinda want to steal it.

    But at the same time, I know what you mean about feeling uncomfortable in something because it’s just not you.

    It’s such a pity when something doesn’t quite work out.

  36. Jessica December 9, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    I agree that it’s a pretty fabric but not your usual style. I don’t like those late 60s A-line styles either. Books always say that if you’re larger on the bottom than top you should go a-line, but I don’t agree – it always makes me feel frumpy. I have tons of projects that haven’t turned out the way I wanted (I’m picky!) I just made a shirtdress out of a peachskin print that started reminding me too much of choir robes, so in the rag pile it went!

    • Tasia December 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

      I’m picky, too. If I don’t love it, I probably won’t ever wear it or reach for it in the morning when I get dressed!

      I think those books mean A-line skirts, not necessarily A-line dresses that are A-shaped from the shoulders down. Or that’s how I always interpreted it anyways! Either way, I agree, I prefer more waist definition.

  37. PerlenDiva December 10, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    What a pity you don’t wear it, it’s so well made. I really like Katy’s suggestion of turning the dress into a skirt. You could add pockets, too. But sometimes it’s hard to revisit a project that doesn’t feel right and has caused more problems than fun.
    More luck with your next projects!

  38. Laurie December 10, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    I think your dress looks great and very summery! I have similar problems with sewing clothes for myself for the last several years…they end up in the corner of the closet never to see the light of day and it has discouraged me from sewing. I am looking for time to play with my patterns and figure out what I truely like the best on me, using my stash of fabrics I have set aside to be used as mock ups. This way I can fiddle with the fit, then if halfway through I decide I am not liking the look at all, I can stop that project and know that I can either alter the pattern or put that in file 13.

  39. Annette December 10, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    I just orderd this pattern on ebay because I like those A-Styles . But I agree with you, in the right fabric, it should get a second chance.

    I love visiting your blog and getting inspired. Thank you so much.


  40. Tasia December 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    I’m pumped that many of you looked at this dress and thought “that’s totally something I would wear!” That’s one great thing about sharing projects that don’t work out well. My loss is your gain! And there are tons of copies of this pattern out there for sale so it’s easy to find.

    I wouldn’t wear it any shorter, even though I bet it would be cuter on its own as a mini-dress! I’m not really a short-skirt person unless it’s always with tights, and even then I prefer a little more coverage. (I am certainly becoming conservative as I get older!) On me, skirts are more flattering when they cover most of my thigh. So perhaps this is the best style for those with amazing toned legs, to take the focus off the upper body and focus on great legs.

  41. Peggy December 10, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    I love the seam details on this dress, but I agree that a different – perhaps plain – fabric would have worked better. I have been sewing for 45 years and I learned a long time ago after many, many “failures” (aka learning experiences) that matching the fabric to the pattern is the most important thing to guarantee success.

  42. Emily December 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Great post and tips! Would you love it more if it was bleached? (not sure what your fabric content is).

  43. Melanie December 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Oh yes, this happens to me too. It isn’t always easy to know what the finished product will be when you look at patterns and fabric. Although you don’t love the way this project turned out, you are sharing some valuable insights. I have started – after reading this advice in the Colette handbook – to sketch designs when I’m in the planning stages. I also look at all the reviews I can from patternreview.com to see what fabrics others have used. Still, it doesn’t always work out the way you imagined! I suppose it will get better with practice. My trouble is what to do with those projects. Maybe I like the fabric, just not in that pattern, so I don’t want to part with it. Or, I like the pattern, but not with that fabric, so I want to keep it as a reference for making another. Probably, I should frog most of them so they don’t take up space in my closet.

  44. Vernelle December 17, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    It may not have come out exactly as planned, but it is beautiful. Love the inside details. You can’t find that kind of care and workmanship in a store. Beautiful job.

  45. Linda January 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    Go back and add red binding or trim to the armholes and design lines- same color as what you used inside. That will show off the lines and break up the pattern a bit. Next time you have a print that busy, color block it with something else.

  46. Gayle Gardner February 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    I know the feeling. I have given stuff away to Goodwill after spending hours sewing and adjusting but couldn’t figure out what I didn’t like, until I realize its the fabric itself. Some ideas I have used before:

    1. Cut off the top and make a nice skirt.
    2. Cut off the skirt and make a tunic style top.
    3. If its the color, over dye, or tea dye the fabric, even after its made.
    4. Rework the area I’m not pleased with, if possible.
    5. Cut up the fabric and make a purse, bag, etc…
    6. Get it out of the house so I stop thinking about trying to fix it…. LOL


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