Sunday, 4 October 2015

Captain's Log, Supplemental: Failtastic top, red alert!

The title of this post is because the top I failed to sew successfully this weekend turned out to look pretty much like what I imagine Starfleet issue to pregnant crew members. I am sure it's possible to make many pretty variations of this top, but between my slightly shiny tactel knit and the black and white colour blocking, and then the way the weird drapey bit at the front hung on me: weird Star Trek pregnancy cosplay look is a go!

Or, rather, it's not, because this top is a big old FAIL! in all-caps and I won't be wearing it anywhere.

Fail: Simplicity 1063 in black and white
The pattern is Simplicity 1063, in which I was absolutely RAPT when it first came out back in August or thereabouts. Admittedly, I was never going to wear views A and B with the weird back cape swoopy thingymajig, but I was mad keen on views C and D. I was so keen, in fact, that I got someone in the US to buy this for me and mail it to the UK so I could make it as soon as possible rather than wait the 6 weeks until UK pattern sellers get the new catalogues. Of course, I then got sick (again, still, whatever) and I had to shelve the immediate make, but it's been right at the top of my list nevertheless. This week I decided to get stuck into the pattern and decided to make view C with the sleeves from view A.

I am kind of overwhelmingly disappointed with how it turned out.

Simplicity 1063
What was my problem? It's a bit hard to tell from the photo above -- or, you can only just see the problem -- but basically, EVERYTHING about the neckline is FUBAR.

On the positive side, some things did go well:

  • After measuring everything and doing a certain amount of baffled approximating on the pieces of the front drape, I decided to make a straight size 14 with basically no alterations except my standard square shoulder adjustment. There is a LOT of room in this top because of the bust and the "finished bust" measurements on the pattern are a GIANT lie. I got to the point of having the bodice done, pinned the sides and put the top on and I was, well, I was taken aback by how much I looked like I needed a Star Trek insignia on my shirt, but I was actually quite pleased! The fit was really nice, even though theoretically a 14 is rather too small for me.
  • Despite the fact that the front drape does make me look kind of pregnant I actually really like it. It's quite cunningly constructed as well, and so the major feature of the top was a win for me.
I got to this point and went to bed patting myself smugly on the back.

That lasted until I tried to finish the neckline.

See how Simplicity have a big old dramatic KNITS ONLY text on their pattern envelope? Doesn't that make you think, oh, this will be a really modern knit pattern? Except no, not so much. At various points in the pattern the instructions are all about finishing all your edges with zig zag and setting in the sleeve woven style with easing, which is so VERY VERY far from what I think of as modern knit garment construction for home sewers.

The instructions for the enormous facing
The big, BIG problem though is that the neckline is finished with a HUGE interfaced facing that flaps about in the neckline like a mad flapping thing. It's at least 5cm wide, and you sew it on as a single pieces around the neck and down into the V of the neckline and it's HIDEOUS.

I absolutely HATE facings. HATE THEM. I especially hate them in knits, and I triple hate them when they are ENORMOUS. So really, I was not at all excited to see that I was going to have to sew one. However, I felt like I liked the top enough to risk it, and also, OK, I am willing to admit I can be wrong about facings! I just made a knit top with a facing and it was well-designed enough that it worked out fine! So, I was going to give this a chance.

I genuinely don't know at this point whether the result I obtained was more because of bad design or more because of bad sewing on my part or some non-replicable combination of the two. I really REALLY tried to sew the neckline/facing seam perfectly, and then I trimmed it and understitched as suggested. HIDEOUS. It makes for such a horrid lumpy finish all the way round the neckline and then again 5cm out from the neckline where the facing ends. It also does NOT stay put, even with the understitching. I put the top on and the facings puffed out of the neckline like I was wearing a ruff. I fiddled with it to get it all nice and lying flat, went downstairs to look in the better lit mirror in my hallway and by the time I had ambled from my bedroom to the front door, the facing had rucked up and popped out of the neckline again. ARGH.

Taking a hint from my recent Ottobre top I therefore stitched the facings down. This made them stay put but UGH, the seam remained lumpy, prone to flipping up a bit and overall ugly, and the facing edge is visible where it ends over the shoulders (not helped by the fact my facing was black and my shoulder yoke fabric is white). It was basically unwearable for me. I therefore decided to take the facing off around the actual neckline, even though this meant unpicking black thread from a slippery black knit that absorbed stitches beautifully -- a big plus until you have to unpick -- and decide then what to do next.

Today I sat down again and tried to decide how I could fix it. I decided to leave the facings on for the V, and bind the neckline by attaching a normal binding strip, turning it to the inside and then coverstitching. This does look a LITTLE better than the faced version, but the process of sewing, unpicking and then binding stretched the back neck all out of shape, and it gapes away from my neck horribly. This looseness at the neck has the overall same effect as the original facing: the edge of the neckline flips up and looks lumpy. I'm not saying it wouldn't have worked if I'd done it that way the first time, but as a second fix: no.

I can't think of a single other way to fix the neckline and I've overworked the fabric now to the point where I think it's unfixable, so I have given up and trashed the whole thing. I am really very fed up about this. I hate throwing perfectly good fabric away, I hate that a pattern I was really excited about sewing turned out to be such a dud, and I am currently questioning whether I should even bother to TRY sewing my own clothes since I have started to think I can't sew anything successfully!

This despondency is not helped by the fact that I then trashed another 2m of fabric trying to cut out a very simple pair of PJ bottoms. To be fair to myself, the fabric was so horrendous and off-grain that it's no wonder I struggled to cut it properly. I ended up with pieces that bore no relation to the pattern pieces they had allegedly been cut to, and that I would have to be suddenly HIGHLY asymmetrical to wear. I am not sewing with fabric that ridiculous, and I didn't like the print much which was why it had been relegated to PJs, so whatever, good riddance to bad rubbish.

Still though. Not a good weekend for sewing.


  1. Annnnnnd this is why a lot of people get turned off by Big 4 patterns (or their instructions, at least) and turn to sometimes questionably drafted indie patterns with better instructions. Big 4 knit patterns seem to be particularly bad about this.

    I will say that it seems like the excess ease has gotten better in the recent Simplicity patterns that I've made (both for myself and my daughter), although that doesn't sound like it was the case with your pattern.

    1. FACINGS. On a KNIT. I'll stick to my Ottobre/Burda mag collection I think in preference to both Big 4 and dodgy indies. :|

  2. Bummer. It looks quite good on your dress form but no one should wear annoying clothes. I would not have arrived at Star Trek myself but your vehemency made me laugh.

    I made the Dotty top from without too many problems (well only those created by me, I wanted to use a single sided fabric, and changed the grain so the stripes ran diagonally, and slightly failed on my hipline increase so had to piece a wee bit...). I wear it though and have even had the odd compliment. They also have a knit version. You might like to check it out - SA instructions tend to be brief but the drafting is great and they hold no truck with knit facings or other sillinesses. They are now for sale on Etsy if you don't want to spring for shipping.
    I so want to be able to sew from the Big 4 but I confess I have given up and use Burda, Ottobre, Style Arc and Lekala only these days. Combination of the whole excess ease thing with weird instructions does my head in.

    1. I have so many Big 4 patterns, I don't want to dismiss them out of hand. However, they are so inconsistent compared to Burda/Ottobre and so on that it's always a crap shoot whether they'll work or not.

      I was very tempted by the Dotty when it came out but didn't buy it! Now I wish I had since the Simplicity version was such a disaster. I'll have to think about that one.

  3. This is my fault. I take the blame

    I sewed this as soon as it came out (I never did the facings and it's been in the UFO box). When you said you were making it I dug mine out to see if I should finish it. I gave it a big ole "meh". I should have said DONT DO IT!

    Sorry :/

    1. Oh no, don't feel bad! You don't owe anyone a review of anything! Sorry to hear yours didn't work out either though -- I vaguely remembered seeing SOMEONE I trusted had sewed it but I couldn't find it when I (briefly) looked and to be honest, I was so enamoured of the pattern I probably would have tried to make it anyway!

      I did decide to do a review on PR -- which I don't usually do for patterns I feel negatively about because you get (a) people telling you it's fine and you should wear it and (b) a bunch of unsolicited commentary on why the pattern is actually the best thing since sliced bread and my impression of it is wrong. However, I felt like on this occasion people probably needed to be made aware up ahead that there's a big old facing issue ahead of them if they choose to go ahead with it.

    2. Oh my gosh I'm always hesitant to post fails not because I want to "appear perfect" but yes, you are assured that it's just fine! I've tried to be more mindful and not do that to people. Just offer a "sorry you hate it!" :)

      There's gotta be a better way besides the ginormous facings, right??!

    3. I think the answer on this top is to bind the neckline like a tee and turn it under, and do a narrower facing on the V-neck. It's not going to work on my top because I've stretched the neckline all out of shape, but I do think it would work for the pattern for any future user.

  4. Don't quit sewing ! I think you are doing a great job for your stage - you have only been sewing for a few years ? Perhaps you could morph the front drapey feature onto one of your ottobre patterns. I think this can stil be a winner for you. Feeling sick doesn't help either.

    1. I've been sewing garments for about 3 years, although I have had to take multiple breaks from it due to this long stupid illness. I do feel like I should be capable of more complex stuff, but on the other hand I know that there's no call to be hard on myself and at least I can make easy stuff when I need to! :D