Wednesday, 31 October 2012

It Was Bound To Happen: My First Wadder

Remember this dress that I was excited about making?

M1262 from MyImage A/W 2012-13
It's from the MyImage magazine that I was ultra excited about. You might remember I made a muslin of the bodice a couple of weeks ago. Well, I went to work with this pattern and the fabric I had earmarked for this project, but instead of a dress, I ended up with an unwearable mess. :(

What went wrong?

The dress, sort of :(
I should probably make it clear I'm not really blaming the pattern: I think 90% of what went wrong is user error, and the other 10% is a relatively fixable pattern/instruction problem that a more experienced seamstress would not have a problem with. I'm not going to review the pattern formally because I don't think it's fair to post a pattern where the problems with the outcome are really my fault to Pattern Review.  (ETA: And then I decided I WOULD, because I felt like I had Useful Information to impart about fabric choice) However, this is my journal where I'm trying to think critically about what I sew and how successful I am, so I'm going to dig into what went wrong here. In fact, I'm going to divide my problems up into four parts: a. pattern flaws; b. sewing problems; c. Oh No What Have I Done! D: and d. Was this ever going to look good on me?

a. Pattern Flaws

Facings that won't stay put -- and in this shot they're pinned!
When I reviewed M1152, I said that I had a problem with the facings and didn't find the instructions very helpful in this respect. The same holds true for this dress: the facings are terrible. In particular, nothing I did, not pressing, not top stitching, not anything, convinced the front facing to lie flat and not flip open. I sewed it into the shoulder seam and into the waist seam and top stitched it and still: no way was it staying tucked into the bodice. It's a mess. If you wanted to make it, I strongly recommend finding an alternative way of finishing the neckline -- maybe just turning it over and twin needle stitching it would work better, or you could easily bind it. As I've mentioned before, the instructions are also incredibly brief. I was fine with this dress, though it took me a little while to puzzle out what I was meant to be doing with the facings, but the brevity of the instructions really puts me off trying anything more complicated from these magazines. All you really get from them is construction order, and that's fine except that for a magazine aimed at beginners that seems very limited.

Back of dress: probably the least problematic part!

b. Sewing Problems

This is one of those "pride before the fall" things. I was so proud of how I was doing with my overlocker, but I found this really difficult. The main problem was that this was not such a simple pattern. I set up the overlocker to sew the initial seams -- so two layers of the fabric -- and was really successful with that. However, as soon as I started to sew through the extra layers of the pleats in the bodice, I came unstuck and had difficult getting it to stitch without either (a) breaking the needle threads or (b) "pulling" so that when you wear the garment, the stitches become visible on the right side of the garment. This became noticeable when I sewed the shoulder seams connecting the facing, pleats and bodice parts. However, the absolute worst seam was the front waist seam, where I was connecting the front bodice with the skirt. At one point I broke both needles in a single stitch, and I still have no idea how or why. I also, somehow, screwed up sewing the back and front in such a ways that not one of my hems matched, even though they should have. To make the even, the skirt was going to end up way shorter than I expected or like.

These problems caused me to get so frustrated that I started trying to ram the fabric through the overlocker, and...

Oh noes! A hole D:
c. Oh No, What Have I Done! D:

... I managed to accidentally catch part of the skirt in the front waist seam D:. Since I was overlocking, I cut a huge hole in the fabric in the process. The piece I caught was a few cm into the upper part of the centre front panel of the skirt. I only had 2m of this fabric so I really didn't have enough fabric to recut that whole piece, and I ended up doing the most insane thing ever, and cutting a semi-circle and replacing it. I did this on the theory that the front is already seamed and it made more sense to me than any of the other alternatives that I came up with. At this point, I'd experienced enough problems with the dress that I'd already decided that at best, it was going to be a lying-around-the-house dress, so I wasn't too worried about the design, although this was really the point where I started to think that this dress was a wadder. Also by this point, I'd started to ask myself:

d. Was this ever going to look good on me?

The 'hole fix' -- also visible, the "pulled" seam stitching
The strangest thing about this question is that, looking in the mirror, I don't hate this dress. Looking at the photos I took for fit purposes, I absolutely loathe it. Some of it is that (for reasons of long-term illness) I gained a huge amount of weight recently and it distresses me to see that reflected in my body. My confidence in my body image is shaky at the best of times and absolutely rock bottom at the moment. It is very challenging to confront photos of myself, since they tend to be less flattering for all sorts of reasons.

Dress, as modelled by me -- observe the neckline problem
However, apart from that, I also have the problem that (a) I am not sure this was ever a good colour/pattern combo for me; (b) I am not sure the design, which emphasizes the bust so strongly, was ever really going to suit me. It really shows off that I have not very much waist at all. Even at my lightest weight, I don't really have much of a waist -- it's just not the way I'm built.

I also have some fabric issues. This was a heavy weight cotton blend fabric. I wore it for about 4 hours after I made it even with the crazy wonky hems, because I wanted to get a sense of what it was like to wear and whether the facings would behave (answer: no). The fabric was so heavy and didn't breathe as well as I expected, so I spent most of the day feeling hot in the long sleeves, and cold where the neckline gapes open. It would definitely be a depths-of-winter dress only.

What next?

There are so many problems with the dress that I could fix -- I could resew some of the seams that have "pulled" or have little problems, hem the sleeves and try to do SOMETHING with the facings to get them to lie flat. For the moment though, I am kind of burned out on this dress, so I've decided to leave it, and the pattern it started from, alone for a while and move on to something else. I do think it could still be rescued, but I am not in the right frame of mind to think about it for now. I am bummed that it went so badly, I have to admit, because I loved the idea of the dress and I really dislike the waste involved when I made a muslin and then a wadder -- I've easily spent £20 making this dress and yet I do not have a dress to show for that money or the time and effort. :(

A couple of positives

On the plus side? I know a little more about MyImage patterns. I know a little more about my overlocker and how to sew. I was reminded all over again that no, really, don't sew when you're tired. Don't sew when you're frustrated. Better to stop when you want to throw it out the window than keep going and ruin something you've spent money on. If only I could actually just LEARN from those mistakes, instead of making them over and over...!


  1. I hear what you are saying about photos being confronting. I think the dress looks great - shape wise. I can't see the issues you see.

    I have learnt that being new to sewing and new to the overlocker to sew my more complex curves etc on the regular machine on a long baste stitch to get it right before taking it to the overlocker. It holds things in place way better than pins.

    I like the shape of the dress - and recieved my order of the magazine but might just leave this dress until I am more confident in sewing. Thanks for the review. I would post it on PR because it will let other new sewers understand the complexity.

    1. I think you can kind of tell yourself that the added weight, in my case, is not that bad, but when you see it on camera it's like, no, this is bad. :( Ugh. I try not to get too caught up in weight/weight loss etc, but it's hard not to when you have a sudden major change in weight for reasons out of your control.

      I will definitely try that basting trick. I am going back to making a top next and there's a couple of curved seams that will definitely benefit from basting first I think!

  2. I am sorry you had so many issues with the dress. I decided to buy this issue of My Image when I saw your initial post on this dress. I liked the style so much. Based on your picture, which is a bit dark, I think the dress looks really nice on you. I don't see the midsection issues you mention, The dress appear to skim over that area and the fun polka dot print catches my eyes, not other things. My serger has trouble cutting more than two layers of fabric, so I sew seams on knit dress with the sewing machine and just edge finish the seams on the serger.

    1. Oh, I hope I haven't discouraged you from trying the pattern -- I really do think the problem was 90% my sewing + it not being a good dress on me, and probably not even 10% the pattern itself. The only thing I would warn you about is the facings, since they really didn't work out at all well for me.

  3. I made this pattern as well, and belatedly realized that the facings are not supposed to lie flat at all (look clearly at the detail photo's in the magazine and you can see that: facings and pleats together create something of a shawl-collar).
    Very flattering pattern I found, not too difficult for a beginner.

    Westmoon: if you are unsure about your waist, maybe try wearing it with a waist-belt.

    1. Ah, that would make more sense! I just couldn't make sense of the facings at all when I made it. Glad it worked out for you better than me.

      I never wear belts because they just accentuate the fact that I have no noticeable waist. I look like a sack of potatoes tied in the middle.