Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Clothes and the Sewing of Them

So I attempted to sew a ruffled wrap dress from a vintage pattern I picked up at a local thrift store. I invested pennies in the project, making the dress from super cheap lining and a vintage flowered bed sheet.

It is of my personal experience due to this project that choosing a pattern with 16 pieces as your first attempt at sewing is a poor, poor idea. And one of the those pieces was plan for that was to cross that bridge when I came to it.

I learned quite a bit from that major mishap that ended with me shouting at the dress "I HATE YOU" repeatedly. #1, never try to cut out pattern pieces on the floor because they won't be just right and #2, let's just keep it simple for now. 16 pattern pieces does NOT fit the definition of keeping it simple.

Armed with this new knowledge, I located a seemingly simple (foreshadowing, anyone?) pattern on Burda Style. It was a free download, and I had no problems printing the pattern out, taping it together and cutting it out. I intentionally chose a pattern with very few pieces (6, to be exact) and no complicated fitting requirements like darts or anything. I knew the zipper was going to be a problem (I quake in fear before zippers) but my grandma generously offered to help me when I got to that point.

Here's the dress in question:

I bought some cheap teal cotton fabric (on sale for $1.99/yard, woohoo!) and did everything I was supposed to do...washed, dried and ironed the fabric before cutting out, etc. I cut out the pieces on my cutting "table" (a cardboard measuring thing my mom scored at Goodwill set on top of my bed, it works very nicely) and last night I sat down to puzzle it out.

It all began well. The first step was to add the gathers in the middle of the bodice, which I had never done before, so I whipped out my handy dandy sewing machine manual and investigated how to add gathers. I practiced on a piece of scrap fabric first and the gathering was very successful. Encouraged, I proceeded to gather the actual pattern pieces with an impressive degree of success. Then I sewed the wrong things together, picked out the seam, figured out what actually needed to be sewn, obsessed that it was obvious I picked out a seam, got Alli's opinion (she told me I was being anal retentive), sewed the right thing together and then moved on to the next step.

Which makes no fing sense whatsoever. So I went to Burda's website where there was 1 commenter saying the instructions made zero sense and another 100 commenters who keep harping on how "easy" this dress was to put together. Which made me feel like a.) the instructions are vague, its not just me and b.) EVERYONE ELSE FIGURED IT OUT I MUST BE STUPID.

Also, a sewing blogger recently did a review on the pattern magazines she sews from and lo and behold, she mentions how obnoxious Burda's directions are.

I'm sure if I were an experienced seamstress, I could figure this out. But I am so far from that. I am a complete beginner, and instructions that assume I know all about garment construction are not helpful.

So, I'm taking over the instructions in question to my mom. My mom sewed us so many Halloween costumes, and she improvised and owl costume when I was the Owl in Winnie the Pooh. She makes T-shirt quilts and blankets too, she knows her stuff. If she can't help, then I'm taking this all the way to the grandma. She is an award winning quilter and she sewed countless garments for her 7 kids and for her many grandkids. When I was little, she always sewed her granddaughters Easter dresses.

I WILL figure this out.

Even I have to start making educated guesses and sewing what looks like it needs to be sewn together, together. Ripping out seams doesn't scare me.

This must be part of the learning process....that, or I just keep making terrible first project decisions.

Anyone else out there trying to teach themselves a new skill and hitting some roadblocks?

*Urgent Update: After posting on the blog I mentioned above about how Burda's instructions are driving me to tears, she wrote back and said that their online instructions are way, way better to the print-out ones. And after glancing at them, I now know where to put the pieces in questions, a million thank you's Fehr Trade! I just love the blogging world.


  1. Your persistance (in the sewing world AND in life in general :)) amaze me. I hope to get to see this work in progress on Friday!

  2. I can't wait to see pictures of the finale!!! Everyone has to start somewhere, so as long as you don't mind ripping out some seams, you will get the hang of it!!!!

    --I remember when I was younger, my sister was trying to sew a simple skirt, and she would sew the seem with the raw edges out, then realize and have to rip it out, then she did the same thing 2 more times before she gave up and made me finish it for her :) we still laugh about it!

  3. You are doing better than I would! I don't even think I would attempt a dress. Although you inspire me to be more crafty.

  4. Yesss . . . I am a sewing novice as well. I actually think I used to be much better as a kid wen I sewed clothes for my Barbie dolls. My mom was a sewing maven as well, which makes me feel as if I should've inherited at least SOME of her skills! The biggest project that I've taken on so far was a "simple" dress that I managed to do pretty well on, until I put the top and the bottom together and realized some of the mistakes I made; when going through the instructions I had to look up what the instructions meant. I never finished the hem, but I will do something easier for my next project. ANYWAY, this is all to say . . . do NOT feel stupid! I'm positive that it will all make sense someday!


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