Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sew NOT a Seamstress: Goal #4 Complete

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.
Goal #4: Sew an article of clothing and wear it in public  - COMPLETE

I've mentioned before that I know the basics about sewing but to actually sew an article of clothing and wear it in public? Well, that's something I've never done (and probably for good reason).

My original plan was to sew this cute little number:

"Sewing Level 1: Very Easy" the instructions promised. I can figure this out, I reasoned. Then I opened up the pattern which was covered in letters, symbols, notches, and dotted lines of varying lengths and thickness and felt my head start to swim. Yeah... that's not gonna happen without some semi-profession help.

On to "sewing an outfit" round two. I hunted down this simple, old tank + elastic + fabric = dress on Pintrest:
(source here)
Simple enough right? Yeah, that's what I thought too. Then a few thing happened which slowly unraveled my sewing aspirations. 

Thwart #1: Discount bin fabric. If you've hung around these parts long, you know I'm a gal who loves a frugal bargain. So off to JoAnn's discounted fabric rack I frolicked. I found a fabric that I really liked for $2 a yard! Problem was that it only sorta matched the old tank top I was planning on using for the project. Don't buy fabric that sorta matches. Just don't. 

Home again (home again, jiggity-jig), I happily began my project.

And then... Thwart #2: Attempting to cut fabric on the floor while fighting off two curious twins. Trying to avoid accidentally removing the fingers of my children with my extremely sharp rotary fabric cutters, I wasn't exactly paying close attention as I quickly sliced the fabric while also nudging the twins away from the dismemberment zone with my foot, elbow and/or knee. The result was that I cut the fabric too short and the wrong direction. Awesome. 

However, stubborn and cheap as I am, I did not scrap the unfortunate fabric that had been improperly sheared by my careless wielding of rotary cutters. Instead, (though I'm embarrassed to admit this because I know is at least one individual reading this post who happens to be completely brilliant at garment creation (yes, I'm referring to you Jordan N.)), I patched together the too-short, wrong-direction fabric with a panel of the remaining fabric. Resulting in a double seam on the back of the dress  which was made more noticeable by a pattern that did not line up.

Thwart #3: Buying patterned fabric. 

Thwart #4: Impatience, a short-attention-span and laziness. When I start a "just for fun" creative project, especially with something I'm not especially talented at (i.e. sewing), I like to crank it out fast and have instant results. Compounding this need for instant gratification and lack of skill was the frustration that the further I got into the project, the more I realized it was no turning out like I wanted it to. Not only did I have a double seam, but a funky, not-hanging-right hem. To confirm what I suspected (that this dress was beyond saving), I put it on and tried (unsuccessfully) to avoid the thirty pins holding the mess together.  And it looked awful. 

The colors did not match (please refer to "Thwart #1), the fit was all wrong and not even a little bit flattering. There was obviously only one thing left to do (give up you say? heavens no, that would be too easy). I only half gave up - and the top portion of the dress was given a new home: 

Whatever. The tank top was over ten years old anyways and too short. But daggonit if I didn't pay good money for the skirt fabric and elastic. I was determined to figure out something else, double seam, awkward hem and all! 

My Solution: Leaving the hopeless hem and irreversible extra panel as it was, I hiked the skirt portion of the dress up to my armpits, folded the elastic to the inside, tied on a sash to create an empire-waist and hailed my simple, strapless, shift dress completed.

Now for the second portion of the goal - wear it in public. Gulp. I don't get many opportunities to wear a dress in my line of work (that is, a stay-at-home mom), so it seemed my only option was wearing my creation to church. To my young, urban, artsy, hipster church. Double gulp.

But I did it. And when the whole outfit came together, even though I knew my dress was a bit haphazard, I still felt attractive wearing it. 

The moral of this sad tale? Sewing clothing takes patience and skill, and should not be entered into lightly. But (should you forego the aforementioned advice) with enough of the right accessories and a little confidence, just about any mess of a homemade dress can look pretty good.


  1. haha... you're such a great story teller! And you definitely pulled off the *solution* :)

  2. p.s. that was Alejandra (wouldn't pick up my google account for some reason)

    1. Thanks Ale! That means a lot coming from someone who puts together such amazing outfits!

  3. I love it Jen! I, too, tried to make the same dress one evening. Five hours later I cut below the elastic waist and am using the bottom material for fabric banners! Ha! I didn't even think about turning it into a strapless dress or top! Great save!

    1. Bethany - that you couldn't make the dress work either makes me feel a lot better considering you actually KNOW how to sew (I remember you making skirts for Cedarville, not to mention your adorable banners and aprons!). My last resort was going to be turning the fabric into a banner and some fabric headbands. Might still do it if I don't get the gumption to wear the dress again.

  4. Wow, I've been speechless (comment-wise) since I read this the first time a few days ago. I'll take my mention as a compliment ;) A big part of being "brilliant at garment construction" involves correcting mistakes, so you've taken the first step! I must say though, one can't be brilliant at everything and you certainly have some things you're brilliant at, so don't feel bad about your first attempt at making something wearable. You accomplished your goal, even if it didn't come out just the way you envisioned it.

    PS Thought you might like to know that I've been asked to help out with some costumes at Waypoint!

    1. :-) Thanks Jordan for the kind words. I'm considering having my mom help me make that "sewing level one" dress, so I perhaps I can redeeming myself and learn a little something along the way.

      I am SO EXCITED that you are helping out with Waypoint. Melanie is incredible and I miss that troupe so much. Looking forward to seeing what you create and so glad you made that connection.

    2. P.S. Your mention was ABSOLUTELY meant as a compliment! :-)


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