Monday, 7 January 2013

The Empire-Waisted Top Travails: Part #3: Failure

The first thing on my list of things to do this month was "finish my Style 3997 tunic". I'll admit that even when I wrote that, I did so dubiously as it was not so much a "finish" task as a "try to rescue" task. I have not succeeded in rescuing it, and so therefore this is a tale of woe and failure. :(

Style 3997
To recap: the empire-waisted top in question was a shorter version of Style 3997, a vintage dress pattern with armhole princess seams above the empire waist. It was intended as a sort of mashup of a dress I saw in an Ottobre magazine and a top I saw on the Pepperberry site. I spent literally hours upon hours working on getting the FBA right and pronounced it a great success at the time. Even though there were problems with the "final" garment, I still think that (almost) getting that FBA right is a big achievement and I don't regret spending that time on the pattern.

I do regret cutting out the fashion fabric. In December I wrote a post called In Potentia where I said that I hated to cut into any fabric I liked in case I ruined it, then I got over myself and cut out the top I was thinking of, and then I promptly ruined it in the sewing stage. /o\

On the positive side, things that went well:

+ The FBA is (almost) right. Looking critically at the boob region of the top, however, I think I needed just a smidge more space in the centre front piece. The princess seams are just a little too far towards the centre of the top and there's some drag on the side seams as well. It doesn't look bad, but it could be better.
+ The length is good (although, er, due to errors listed below I don't have room for a hem).
+ The colour and fabric is very nice on me. This is relevant despite the ruin of the garment because I have enough left to make a dress one of these days.

Things that didn't go well:

- Above all else, the finish, as far as I got, was AWFUL, mainly because I tried to rush through the sewing and was in a bad mood/sleep deprived/had a headache pretty much every time I picked it up to work on. Things that I needed to be spot on to make the top look polished were a mess. The empire waist seams did not match at the side. The set in sleeves were a mess. The inside was even worse because for some reason I decided not to finish my seams properly until the end, then decided to pink them, rushed angrily through this process due to frustration at something else I was doing, and promptly snipped a small but unfortunate hole into the fabric under the left bust. Lesson learned: finish is EVERYTHING. If I sew in a hurry, in a bad mood, when exhausted or headachy, I am dooooooomed to failure, and that will just make me MORE cross and frustrated, and this improves nothing.

- Pattern problems. I made some changes between the final muslin and the actual garment, and this turned out to be a terrible mistake. I thought the empire waist seam needed to be lower so I added an inch to the length of the upper bodice. What I didn't realize is that this would flatten out the curve designed into the pattern, which I liked, and also make the bodice hang unflatteringly on me, making me look pregnant. I also forgot to fix the pattern for the back skirt of the top, which was too long due to a measuring error, and when I tried to fix it I got into that awful situation where I was cutting and cutting at the hems trying to get them right, and the top was getting shorter and shorter. /o\

- Neckline fail. I knew when I was working on the muslin that the neckline was right on the edge of being wider than I like (I hate showing bra strap) but I decided I could live with it. I forgot I would be losing fabric to the facing seam as well. End result: neckline definitely too wide, shows off bra strap. Also, facings. Ugh, facings are terrible. I sat there going >:( at the facings for ages, trying to work out what RTW does instead because no, seriously, facings are TERRIBLE. They flop about, they show through, they're hard to sew on, and they add bulk at the neckline, etc. My store bought clothes don't have this problem. I reached the conclusion that RTW mainly uses bias binding instead.

- Fit problems. Apart from the FBA and the neckline issues, I also disliked the fit across the back in this version. I think I may need to look into a broad back alteration.

In conclusion:

I'm going to move on from this pattern for now, I think, disassemble the top and see if I can use the pieces for something else. I feel kind of discouraged again about making clothes, but I'm not ready to give up the attempt yet. I went through a similar stage with bags, I remember quite clearly, and now I'm pretty much capable of making any bag pattern anyone wants to give me, so this too shall pass, given enough time and practice.

The frugal side of me is disappointed by the money I spent on this failure (about £5 for the fabric, plus overheads) and the waste of the fabric, not all of which I'll be able to recycle. However, this is how I am thinking about it:

Sewing is my hobby. Of course I want to be good at it, but it's still a hobby. If I were a golfer, or did horse-riding, or played the guitar, there would be no pressure to make every pound I spent on my hobby be productive. If I played a bad round of golf but enjoyed the experience, I wouldn't go home and be all "well, I've wasted my money today!" just because the result wasn't as good as I would like. In this case, to be fair, I didn't enjoy the process of making the top, really, but the lesson isn't "I am bad at this and should totally stop all sewing" but rather "don't sew when you're not enjoying it". I think that's the thing I want to take away from this wadder, more even than the things I need to learn about fit and patterns.


  1. Hey - there is no fail - just learning opportunities. Think of the money spent as the cost of training. That's what I do. Every wadder is a step closer to a great item.

    1. Good attitude! It's quite easy to get despondent about your sewing skills when things go wrong several times in a row, but I know for a fact that I won't get better unless I just keep trying.