Learning from my mistakes

I used my seam ripper more last week than ever before. Everything I touched seemed to go wrong. I managed to sew all the wrong bits together on 3 dresses in one week! Maybe sewing late at night had something to do with this. Maybe I rushed too much trying to make quite a number of dresses for an upcoming market... Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I thought to myself, "It's OK. I will slow down and make something for myself for Selfish Sewing Week". Yeah, as if! That was a disaster too! I wanted to make myself a skirt. Simple A-line skirts are apparently a good project for a beginner. I grabbed my measuring tape and carefully took measurements. I was honest and didn't suck anything in. According to the size chart on the pattern I needed to cut out pieces for size 16. OK, I did that, sewed the pieces together and tried the skirt on. It fell off me since it was so huge. Oops. OK, my measurements kinda fit into size 14. So I adjusted the skirt and it was still enormous! By then I could not bring myself to use my seam ripper again. I was devastated.

I was chatting about disastrous sewing experiences with Victoria from As It Seams who also had a passionate date with her seam ripper that day. We talked about how we need to share our less than glamorous sewing stories too.

So yeah. Every now and then I fail. But that is OK. I see failure as a learning experience. Today I want to share a few of my failures with you and what I learned from them.

Pattern: Burda 9584
This is the very first dress I made for Little Monkey. I fell in love with the pattern. It seemed relatively easy to make and I could just imagine my little girl running around in a dress like this. So, While she was sleeping, I made my daughter a dress... that she never got to wear. Sure enough the dress is cute. But it was too big. You see, I did not measure her, I just went by ages on the pattern...

I learned that I HAVE to take measurements and not rely on age indications.

OK. Now I learned this valuable lesson I thought I would make a top and bloomers from the same pattern in her size. While she was sleeping, I made the cutest little outfit. However the top was still too wide! You know why? OK, this is a little embarrassing, but actually up until then I did not realise the markings on the plate of my sewing machine were seam allowances. So I guessed seam allowances while I sewed, and I guessed wrong!

Pattern: Burda 9584
 I learned to take note of seam allowances and to use marking on my sewing machine.

After making this little top I learned to check the length of a garment before cutting fabric. Luckily I had cute lace to make the top longer! Little Monkey got a lot of wear out of it! Oh yeah, the bloomers are from the previous example and got a lot of wear too!

Free pattern here



I love sewing with my grandma's fabric. When I was nine years old I begged my grandma to buy the fabric. I used it over 20 years later to make this sleeping bag.





Do I hear someone wonder why I am writing about it today? Well, have a closer look at the top of the sleeping bag. The design is somewhat unusual. Wanna know why? Because I made a mistake while making the pattern for it. I made the top of the sleeping bag too big. Since it was late at night and I was too tired to think of anything constructive I went ahead and chopped the top off... then let out a quiet scream and went to bed nearly crying thinking I have ruined precious grandma's fabric. The next day I thought of a different design and fixed the sleeping bag. This sleeping bag was a life saver last winter.

I learned that I shold not cut fabric when I am feeling tired. I also learned that even when things seem ruined I can try to think of a plan B and pretend that was the original plan.

Of course I made more mistakes... but I might leave them for another post.

If you have been sewing for a while I hope you are having a giggle remembering silly little mistakes you have made. If you are new to sewing... Well, I can promise one thing - you will stuff up. You and your seam ripper will become great mates. BUT you will learn from your mistakes, and you will make beautiful things and have fun in the process.

20 comments

  1. I have made every single one of those mistakes many times! My biggest lesson for me is not to sew when sleepy. I am bound to mess up many times when I am tired!

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    1. Thank you for making me feel more normal Teresa :) I have two rules. 1) Do not cut fabric when tired. 2) Do not cut fabric when tired. I must admit I constantly break both of them!

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    2. Do not cut fabric when tired - that's my mum's mantra. What do you do if you're slightly tired all the time though?;-)
      My mum, who is visiting me and is a perfectionist seamstress, just read your post.
      She told me about the day she cut the seven metres of silk to make my sister's wedding dress 20 years ago. She spread the fabric across four tables stretched out through our lounge and hallway and then BANISHED everyone from the house for the day,my dad, me, my sis and brother....It's only now I recognise her achievement and stress!

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    3. I think to cut seven metres od silk I would send my family to Mars haha Your mum sounds like a very talented lady :) No wonder her daughter is so hooked on sewing ;)

      Feeling at least slightly tired all the time is my life :) I must admit that I still cut and sew when I am tired. I do take my time and double check everything though. And still can write another million posts about my sewing mistakes haha

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  2. No matter how long you've been sewing, everyone makes mistakes and mucks things up. Fortunately, you can usually change directions and save the project, but not always. We learn from our mistakes!!! And I find patterns like Butterick are usually sized too large.

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    1. That's true Pam. However I get sad when a project cannot be saved. There is a newborn sized little dress in my bin... Oops :)

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  3. Thank you so much for this post Jenya - I have been having a giggle to myself over here. It's nice to know I'm not alone!! I am constantly guilty of sewing too late in the evening and with a glass of wine - yeah its goes wrong sometimes....

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    1. Sewing too late is what I do best hahaha You are taking it one level higher with a glass of wine! hehe

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  4. Such is the life of a seamstress/sewer !! My list is very long, but I can honestly say I've learned something from each one. That's what they call "experience" lol ;) Oh and my years of custom sewing, I have learned that no matter what you are making from a commercial pattern, use the under-bust measurement for women/chest measurement for child, as a guide for size choice, even if you are making the skirt/pants. Hope this helps a bit. Keep Calm and Sew On.....xx's

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    1. Thank you Kim. Here is to experience and experimenting ;) I picked up another commercial pattern thinking i might make a top, and yes, according to those measurements I am a different size full stop. I will keep in mind I will be the same for skirts. I will make a muslin first from now on haha

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  5. I sewed a beautiful neckband, topstitched the whole thing, into my armhole this week! Luckily I had enough fabric to just recut because I would have destroyed it trying to rip- selfish sew week started out bumpy for me too!

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    1. Oh I have done something very similar once so have been buying more fabric than recommended by a pattern 'just in case' :)

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  6. I think i made the same mistakes too. And is true, you don't have to do projects when you're tired but sometimes is the only time you have. Love this post!

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    1. I cannot imagine how people sew while their little ones are out and about! LM is so curious she needs to see what I am doing. I have sewed little things with her on my lap, but I had to keep one eye on her and one of the project as she wanted to actively participate by changing every setting on my machine! She is not a naughty girl, she is just a normal curious toddler :)

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  7. I realised the other evening that my seamripper is actually quite blunt from over use! Can it be sharpened I wonder? I am always stuffing up. I made a bodice the other evening which is too small, basically because I used the front pattern piece for the back. Doh! I'm always doing things like this. I rush, because my windows of time are so teeny, and I sew late at night.
    I really enjoyed this post Jenya, I think we put our 'best work' up on our blogs, but that's not always the most interesting! Good to sew and share! Especially as Mr As-it-seams thinks I'm nuts, I went to bed the other night, almost in tears because of my messed-up bodice, and he said,"I thought you sewed because you LIKE doing it,? It's meant to be fun?" He helped me put it in perspective, but it's good to share our sewing heartache too!

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    1. Thank you Victoria. I have been thinking about writing this for a long time, but decided to sit down and do so after our chat about ripping seams the same night. It is nice to be able to share our creations. Sharing our mistakes and frustrations might help us feel better as we all do that. I am sure even my grandma made mistakes :)

      Mr While-she-was-sleeping probably thinks I am crazy when I get upset over a sewing project gone wrong, just like Mr As-it-seams :) Yes it is supposed to be fun and it is my hobby (with a tint of business), but it is so darn frustrating when I spend precious little ME time I have doing something I enjoy and get nowhere. I just feel it is time wasted. Although of course it is not :)

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  8. I unpicked my plaid bathers in several places about five times!!! I was nearly ready to throw them in the bin!!!

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    1. I am glad you persisted :) Those swimmers/bathers look oh so cute on your gorgeous baby :)

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  9. Just nodded along to every word in this post! The funny thing is that sometimes mistakes are glaringly obvious to us, but then other people will look at it and say "WOW you made that?!" Haha!

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