Sewing fail

Somehow I never got into Project Runway before now. Recently I was looking for knitting-on-the-weekends TV, and decided to rectify that deficiency. I started with the most recent season on Hulu, Season 9, and am hooked.

For one challenge, the contestants are paired with kids from the Harlem School of the Arts (?) to collaborate on a painting, which will be the inspiration for the garment the contestant makes later in the challenge. Laura Kathleen was paired with this incredibly articulate 11-year-old, Kai. Laura was telling Kai about being on the bottom the previous week, and how hard it was to get the negative feedback. Without missing a beat, Kai says, “Failure is just an opportunity to learn in disguise.”

Which is to say, I have been learning this weekend!

One of my wardrobe holes is nice short-sleeved tops I can wear under suit jackets and cardigans, so I decided to try making Fancy Tailor Crafts‘ Sailor Top, which looked like a good convergence of my clothing wants and sewing skills.

So here it is, almost entirely finished (absent only the hem, though you can’t see that in this picture).  

It actually looks pretty decent here, doesn’t it? (Barring the terrible nighttime lighting turning everything drab.) The fabric is Cotton + Steel Mochi Lawn in Speckled Navy, and I like it – it’s light, hangs nicely, and has a slight sheen. It’s not something super drapey, but it’s not quite as sturdy as quilting cotton. It was also easy to work with.

And I tried really hard to do everything properly. I even used French seams on the side seams, which worked really well with the weight of the fabric.  

The one bit that looks decidedly amateurish is the yoke facing – you sew the facing to the yoke, then you sew the yoke to the neckline, fold the facing over, press the bottom of the facing under 1/4″ and pin, then stitch in the ditch from the front. It worked pretty well, but my “press the facing under 1/4” was eyeballed and while I managed to catch the edge of the facing all the way around, the seam looks kind of drunken in the interior. But no one but me would see that, of course.

So what’s the failure, then?

It’s too small – I made the wrong size! Such a newbie mistake, right?

I can actually get it on and off (though the latter was a little dodgy), because it’s a loose-fitting shape without closures, with a lot of built-in ease. But it pulls across my back. Some of that may be because my “gather fabric evenly” around the yoke isn’t the most even – the yoke feels like it sits just a little bit skewed – but really it’s because I need the next size up.

With respect to the learning, though, this was a useful reminder of the difference between knits and wovens, and the importance of ease. I chose the size based on the measurements I use for knitting, but knits are obviously much more forgiving than wovens. Also, I tend to use a high bust measurement for knits (based on Amy Herzog‘s advice that what you really want is to have the sweater fit your shoulders), but I’m realizing that’s probably not what I should be using for wovens, especially when I compare my high bust and bra measurements.

(If I’m being brutally honest, there’s also the little matter of working off measurements that are about 5-7 pounds ago. Again, for knits this isn’t that big a deal, because stretch, and because I tend to wear slouchy knits anyway. Alas, for wovens I probably shouldn’t rely on them right now.)

So anyway. I’m disappointed that I haven’t yet finished a “wear outside the house” garment (my fantabulous pajama pants are going strong, and in fact I want to make more in flannel, but they don’t go outside the house, except maybe to the courtyard to feed the feral cats), especially because I think if this one had fit, it would have been outside-the-house-worthy. And while I got the fabric pretty cheap, I like it a lot and am disappointed that it’s been sacrificed on the altar of failure learning. (But speaking of “learning,” I just realized tonight that I had completely misread the fabric requirements and this top was supposed to take 2 1/2 yards, so I’m fairly happy I managed to cut it out of 2.)

But to look on the bright side, the pattern was great and easy to follow, and I think if I made this in the right size it would be a great top I’d wear all the time. I made sleeves for the first time (okay, they’re raglan so not that complicated, but still, sleeves), and I made a yoke facing for the first time. I got French seams to work on a garment (rather than practice scraps). And I gathered a neckline for the first time (second time ever gathering anything). So that’s all pretty positive, right?

So sometime soon I will buy some new fabric and try again. I think this would be great (for my wardrobe) in something a little flowier, like a nice rayon twill, and I’d also really like to try making this in a knit (and then I think this size might actually work well). In the meantime, maybe I will cannibalize the fabric to line a zippered pouch or project bag. Or maybe I’ll leave the top as it is, to remind me of those opportunities in disguise.

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