Category Archives: Fails

A year of sewing in review


Happy Christmas kids, hope you all had a good one. I was very spoiled like usual, and especially got treated to lots of lovely sewing goodies: a few books and a big box full of Merchant and Mills goodies from my sister. My handmade gifts for my mum and Josh also went down very well, so I’ll try to get some photos and share them soon.

As the year draws to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back on my first year of sewing and review what I actually wear the most from all my makes – and what didn’t get worn at all – and see how it can help me shape what garments I make going forward. I’ve enjoyed seeing ‘top 5’ lists on other sewing blogs, but thought I’d discuss all my varying degrees of success in a bit more depth.

Most worn


Coats: I wear both of my coats regularly, especially my biker coat. Hurrah for my most expensive and time-consuming garments being my biggest win!


Tops: The reversible raglan is definitely my most-worn garment: I wear it as soon as it comes out of the laundry and send it back there again! The fabric and construction have both held up really well and I love the shoulder detailing. I also wear my silk tulip Scout often, even in the cold layered with a cardigan.


Dresses: The feather tunic is my most-worn dress, I just love the colours and it’s so comfy. I wore it on Christmas Day, as you can spy in the photo up top. Likewise I’ve worn my Lola twice already and I’ve only had it a week, ha ha.


I wore my Simplicity 1800 a lot in the summer, and it’s transitioned well into cold weather. Unfortunately the poor quality fabric and construction mean it’s looking a bit ropey these days. I also wore the black and tan dress and Salme grey pussybow dress a lot, but again I’m not happy with my workmanship. It shows how far my skills have come since I made these, and I’d like to make them all again in nicer fabrics.

Worn a bit


Trousers: I wear my Papercut pants occasionally: I still struggle to put an outfit together around them, but because they’re wool they’re so warm and cosy so I want to persevere with them. I wore my Burda deco pants a bit a few months ago, but they don’t really work for winter. I’ll dig them out again in the spring.


Dresses: I’ve worn my storm smock once or twice, but the slightly off fit makes me not reach for it more often. Likewise my other smock is a bit off fit-wise too, I need to take them back to the machine to fix up.


Tops: I wear my two woven Scouts occasionally, but have found I tend to prefer either stretch knits or drapier/lighter woven fabrics for tops.

Not worn


A riot of prints, ha ha. I really love my midcentury mashup dress but haven’t found the right occasion yet: it’s a bit formal for a day dress and a bit cleavage-y for family gatherings. I have the same issue with my pansy dress too. I haven’t worn my staggy Belladone yet either; I think I got too entranced by the cute fabric but it’s a bit too much of a statement piece for everyday and also not cold weather appropriate. Ditto my Simplicity 1651 space dress: I wore it to a ‘Heaven and Hell’ costume party but I don’t think that counts!


Conversely, I haven’t worn my first Dixie ballet dress either, which is surprising as it has the hallmarks of something I should live in (grey, knit, empire line). I think it’s just a bit too plain and dull. I don’t wear my Kelly skirt as it’s just not really my style and it’s too big. I’d like to take it back to the machine and change it up a bit (shorter, different buttons), and perhaps dye it black.

Dead and/or gone

I truly loved my black and white Salme pussy bow dress and wore it a few times in the summer, but the poor quality fabric and construction meant it literally fell apart at the seams and became unsalvageable. I need to find a similar print in a nicer fabric as I always found myself reaching for it in my wardrobe. I gave my vintage playsuit to the charity shop. I had lots of fun making it but I was never realistically going to ever wear it. I wore my Victoria blazer once or twice but I’m not happy with the quality of my construction, so it’s gone to the charity shop too.


What can I learn from this exercise? Plenty, I think:

Invest in quality fabrics and construction:
The items I wear the most are the ones where I feel confident in the fit, my workmanship, and in the fabric’s durability. Easy care in terms of laundry is a big bonus, too.

Know what silhouettes work:
Sewing has made me know my body so much better, and I have a pretty good grip now on what shapes and fabrics I feel comfortable wearing. I won’t wear anything too stiff or structured; I don’t like excess volume in pleats or ruffles; I don’t like showing much cleavage but do like a snug fit around the waist. I wear knits way more than wovens, especially on the top half, so I definitely want to make more interesting knit tops next year.

Not novelty but not boring:
I haven’t worn any of my more outlandish printed pieces much at all, but don’t wear very plain pieces either. I should stick to graphical prints in muted colours or monochrome, and make more colourblocked pieces with solid fabrics.

Think about occasion:
Don’t make garments that only work in a specific season or don’t really have an event that they’re suitable for. Consider how separates will coordinate with other items and how ‘dressy’ dresses are. Given my work at home lifestyle I don’t need many smart dresses or trousers, so making more practical, comfortable garments is what I should aim for.

It’s been amazing learning more about sewing garments this year, and it really excites me that I’ve stuck with it so long (I tend to be a bit of an ADD hobby magpie, ahem). I feel like I’m in a good place now where my skills are improved and I have a better idea about the kind of garments I like to make and that suit me. There is always so much more to learn – I’d especially love to dig into drafting my own patterns – and I already have a long to-sew list for 2014 (including jeans, oh yes). Bring it on.

Recent sews and The Shop

Tania culottes

Here are the final things I made during the end of Me-made May. First, a pair of jazzy culottes! I love culottes: the practicality of breeze-resistant shorts with the cuteness of a little flippy skirt is a winner to me. The pattern is the new Megan Nielsen Tania culottes, bought from M is for Make.

Tania culottes

The pattern was really fun to put together – it felt almost like magical origami creating the pleats and crotch with simple folds and lines of stitching. The only thing I mucked up is the waistband with some wobbly topstitching – I might unpick and redo it neater. I also haven’t properly finished the bottom edge yet because I’m terrible at hemming, so it’s just overlocked for now.

Vintage fabric

The fabric is a vintage piece of 70s polyester with a gorgeous Scandinavian-looking mountain print. I love how the patten drape makes the peaks point up and outwards, a little reminiscent of fireworks. Just don’t make the mistake I did of ironing interfacing onto polyester with a hot iron – I burnt a clean plastic-scented hole through my first waistband piece, and luckily had just enough fabric to cut another. I’ll definitely be using this pattern again; in fact I’ve just bought some jersey that I think will make a great no-zip-required version.

Feather tee
Vintage fabric

(Excuse my face, I appear to have the dead eyes of someone who’s been worrying for three weeks straight..) This is another Scout, although radically different from my last one. The front is made from a vintage silk scarf, which was happily just the right size for the pattern piece. The sleeves and back are the same grey jersey as my ballet dress. Very pleased that this turned out just how I imagined it. The Scout tee is such an amazing pattern: so simple but hangs so well despite having no darts or shaping, and the possibilities for creative variations are vast.

Vintage fabric

Finally, a fail. I tried to take photos but they looked too awful to share! It was supposed to be a Sureau dress by Deer & Doe, made from a super soft piece of vintage cotton with an abstract tulip print, above. It seems in sewing that lots of small mistakes can add up to a big mess of a garment, which sadly I think happened here. I chose a size too big so the fit isn’t quite right. The neckline was gaping so I attempted a shoulder-line fix, then added a half collar which sits wonkily. The sleeve caps billow at the back. The skirt twists annoyingly to the side. I’m not sure if I’ll try and fix it some more, or cut it down into a skirt maybe. It would be a shame to waste the pretty fabric completely. Perhaps I should start making toiles before cutting the real fabric.


All of the fabrics came from The Shop on Cheshire St, which I visited with Jen one lunchtime (check out Jen’s blog for some much better photos and info, this unprepared blogger didn’t have her camera). It is indeed the treasure trove that countless bloggers promised: walls lined with shelves of vintage fabric, with even more stuffed into drawers and baskets underneath which you’re encouraged to rummage through. There’s everything from recycled curtains to half-finished handmade skirt pieces, plus loads of large pieces of 2-4 metre long cottons and polys, perfect for skirt or dress projects.


There’s also a great line in vintage notions, and basket upon basket of vintage silk scarves at around a fiver a pop. At the back are curtains, cushions and clothing and there’s also plenty of knitted scarves and crochet blankets. Prices are eye-poppingly amazing, ranging from a few quid for the smaller bits to no more than £15 for larger pieces (my take-home stash that made everything in this post was only £18). You’d be hard pushed to find such a lovely variety of prints in new fabrics for those kinds of prices. Find The Shop at 3 Cheshire St just off the top of Brick Lane – I’ll be back to replenish my stash very soon.