Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Top Five of 2013: the Misses

Everyone's gone out. I'm on my own, in my parents' house, for the first time in almost three weeks. This bit of England is currently wet and windy and brown and grey, and I just realised that what I'm enjoying most is how everything is suddenly quiet and normal. Thank goodness festive seasons come to an end eventually! However your 2014 is starting, I hope it's peaceful and good too.

Well although it feels slightly off balance on New Year's Day to look back at last year's fails, I'm going to do it anyway, because sorting out my list of 'misses' in 2013 was not only slightly cathartic but also really useful in pinpointing where my sewing needs to go next. I can't quite jump ahead to my goals for the coming year until I've done it. Plus, who doesn't like to read about the fails? I know I do :-) It's just so great to know that everyone has them (though in my case, I'm fairly sure you weren't in that much doubt!).

So here we go - here's my list of the things that just didn't work in 2013...

1) Getting to grips with knits

Right off the bat I'm going to have to admit that this is a double-edged fail. A lot of my projects with knits just didn't work out - but this is in large part because I had very little experience using them, and through my unsuccessful sews I've learned a MASSIVE amount this year about stretch fabric choice, and matching that with the right design. I think this was most epitomised by the two fabrics pictured above. I got them on special offer and thought they'd make good simple but nice projects - but when it came down to it, neither of them are the kind of thing I like to wear. Too thin, and I had no idea how they would behave. The white/cream had very little stretch, and turned into a Renfrew that clung in the wrong places with no redeeming slinkyness. Plus it tore like paper when I approached it with the iron, and despite an improvised patch is basically not something I'll ever wear.

The pink became this: 

It's a Mandy boat tee (a free Tessuti pattern), which was great the first time I wore it (although it took me a long time to make an outfit I liked with it, because I don't like how sheer it is). But the fabric immediately stretched hugely at the neckline and it now falls off both shoulders, becoming instantly not me. Moral? Sew twill tape along the shoulders and neckline of unstable fabrics. Like many of my stretch projects of 2013, it's a fail with a lesson.

2) Concept vs. execution

This one's about being inexperienced, lazy, sloppy or all three at once. Again, knit fabrics feature!

I really wanted this sweatshirt-weight Briar to work. I wear sweatshirts a lot. But although I still think this concept is a good one, I had never sewn with a heavier weight knit before, and had never put a zip in any kind of stretch fabric. It was a recipe for disaster, which I did nothing to improve by steaming ahead without researching how to do it (stabilise! stabilise! stabilise!)

And then this. Again, I still like the idea: a slouchy, stripy neon dress for easy summer. But I just dashed into it thinking that slouchy = no bother to fit, and on top of that I didn't match the stripes. Guess what? It doesn't fit (too big on top, too tight at the waist) and I can't stand the un-matched stripes. Good concept, bad execution.

(Both these items blogged here).

 3) Concept & execution vs. wearability

Here we have ideas I love, executed with care, that seem to be hits. And then, even though there's nothing whatsoever wrong with them, I never, ever wear them. This basically is the result of what I was talking about in this post. There's a wearability learning curve, which is entirely different to the sewing-skills learning curve, and these makes both fell off it (the pictures link to the original posts.)

The above pose is the most comfortable I'm capable of looking in that dress, and I don't even know why.

4) The badly-fitting skirt

This skirt made it to the blog in plan format:

I never blogged the final product, mainly because I can hardly fit into it. My fitting brain obviously went on strike at the fact that this skirt is drafted to sit somewhere between the natural waist and the hips, and I fall into two desperately different sizes at those points.

Plus, for some unfathomable reason I trimmed the pocket seams. So when I had finally squeezed into it, the first thing I did was put my hands into and straight through the pockets. I mean, honestly. FAIL. I feel especially bad about this because I got the last metre of this lovely, slightly sparkly fabric, and as I was paying I overheard another customer expressing great disappointment at having missed it. She would no doubt have done a better job with it than I did...

5) Sewing for the boy

And finally, time to face up to something I have been feeling guilty about. These are the only two things I made in 2013 for my son:

They're cool, but they're no match for the approx. 15 items I have made for my daughter. And every time I make something for her, he asks me to make something for him too. Time to man up - boy clothes are fun, and I owe him!

So there you have it. On balance, I wouldn't classify most of these as actual fails but as learning experiences - only the too-small skirt is a real, proper failure. But it's so helpful to examine what didn't work, and I want to give another THANK YOU to Gillian for doing the Top Five series again this year (see here for her linky round-up post). It's a lot of blog-writing, and I might try to merge my reflections and goals - but then again, it's a great process and maybe I won't :-)

Either way, I feel like I have such a blog backlog for you. The kids' Christmas nightwear, the party dress that did get made in time, and - I can hardly believe it - a finished cardigan! Blocked this morning - oh the things one gets done in a free, quiet hour :-)  But the kids and G are back now and we're off to the cinema.

Enjoy your New Year's Day too!


  1. I'm so glad you've enjoyed writing the Top 5 posts! I hope you keep going with knits - there definitely is a learning curve, but i swear it's worth it! One of my resolutions for the year is to never buy knits online, because I'm always disappointed. I think the success of a knit project depends so much on the fabric, and thin, crappy fabric just can't be saved! I've experimented enough that I can usually tell what will be successful when I feel the fabric IRL... and you'll get to that point too! : )

  2. SeamsOddLouise.Blogspot.comJanuary 01, 2014 4:43 pm

    Found this post really interesting, thank you for being so honest about what went wrong sewing with knits. I am so afraid of knit fabric at the moment but its high up on my to do list.

  3. If I ever make it to the stage of sewing knits I will keep your lessons in mind! Thanks for sharing. I did something similar with a wool skirt - but it ended up 4inches too big, pockets too low down and waistband too small - I wish I'd been blogging then and I could share some terrible pics to make you feel better (now used as duster)!

  4. Super cute tops for your boy though! And I quite like the second dress that you never wear. Looks lovely on you. Well done for getting stuck into knits. I learnt much the same way as you, with much the same errors...and to be quite honest, even now I have disasters if I am lazy or in a rush. Thanks for sharing! ;-)

  5. I agree with Gilian - I don't think I'll buy knits online anymore - I'm invariably disappointed. But also, I'm just crap at sewing with knits - so hope that 2014 will be better for both of us in this area. (great post btw x)

  6. Every fail I've ever had has been with knits...they hate me but I love to wear them. Knits are not great for newbies like me so I've taken a step away from knits...maybe we'll meet again one day!


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