how to sew a dress

Well, I’m stumped, I don’t mind admitting. I was all set to share a new make with you today. It was a third version of the Myosotis dress, having made two stupendously successful versions – here and here – that get worn week in, week out.

Myosotis Collage

Then, I tried on my WIP as it neared completion and realised it looked … awful. It was some sort of cross between maternity wear, hospital gown and Handmaid’s Tale. Suffice to say, momma didn’t take no blog photos!

I was working with the most beautiful brushed cotton in a tiny dogstooth check, bought from Fabrics Galore. Honestly, if you’re making a men’s shirt or something warm yet lightweight for yourself, I really recommend this fabric. I’m so sad I wasted it.

But I’ve realised that my versions of the Myositis work best with a fabric that has lots of drape and weight, and the cotton was a bit too pouffy for my dress.

And now, I’m stumped. My sewing hasn’t got off to the best of starts in 2019. I’m glad that the dress got me back into the sewing habit, but it’s always nice to have something at the end of the project. You know?!

Now, I just can’t decide:

  • Launch straight into another version of the Myosotis with some silk in my stash?
  • Turn to the coat I’ve been stockpiling supplies for?
  • Sew a quick and easy palate cleanser? I’m just not sure I need another jersey sweater…
  • Make something entirely different, like that quilted baby blanket I’ve been vowing to sew?
  • Stop navel gazing and just sew something – anything!

It’s strange when sewing occasionally hurts your feelings. I feel let down by my taste, my judgement and my sewing. Why am I taking it so personally? I’ve been sewing for over eight years now and I pride myself on my thick skin. Or is it just that time of year?

Honestly, I’m stumped. Do you have any answers?

sewing table daffodils

At Least It’s Daffodil Season

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77 Responses to Stumped!

  1. I blame the fabric for being deceptive. You’re talented!

  2. It’ll be the fabric! Try something else 🙂

  3. Cherry says:

    Well I share your grief. I’ve been sewing a lot longer and sometimes things just don’t work out and I am afraid you just have to take it on the nose. Your previous versions are lovely and so inspiring for others so take heart.
    I’d go for something quick and different. My personal obsession at present is little embroidered wool felt needle cases and patchwork pin cushions. Or go down the Pinterest rabbit hole? Or the baby blanket because it will be loved.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Yes, I keep wondering about the baby blanket. And you know, that baby ain’t gonna hang around for me to get my derriere into gear!

  4. Tracey says:

    Just see. Make something really easy that cheers you up. Bunting always does that for me!

  5. Anne says:

    It is a real downer for me too when all that work and fabric ends up as a disappointment or unwearable. I’d suggest a small instant gratification project. Use remnants to make a zipped bag for organising packing, a bag/cover for tablet etc (ideally with pocket for charging cable) or some glamorous underwear. Decide dress will do for around the house with bright accessories.

  6. Ann Warner says:

    The check dress looks lovely on the mannequin, how about jazzing it up with a long statement necklace

  7. lauriesannie says:

    I can’t see the whole thing, which I guess is the point. So I can’t declare this a “wadder.” But that’s an option.

  8. Claire says:

    I’ve had this so many times. The dreams…turn to disappointment… Pfff!
    The coat sounds a good idea. It’s cold enough for another coat. The challenge and time taken will be therapeutic.

  9. Have your thought about converting it into a top ??

  10. I think I would rip it apart and make something else from it. The fabric is lovely and you would feel that you overcame the failure. Just my humble opinion. Keep sewing and creating, no matter what!

    • Gill says:

      Yeah, that’s what I’d do too. Gets rid of the offending garment, and uses up the fabric which stops it nagging you.

  11. Wendy T says:

    Could you salvage the dress by sewing in a less gathered or more fitted skirt? Or make it a tunic by shortening the skirt pieces? It’s a shame to waste such nice fabric.

  12. Lynn in Virginia says:

    I would take off the sleeve ruffle and hem the sleeve to a flattering length. Then take off the skirt and cut straight-ish pieces to sew on making a seamed top. Or maybe even a seamed shift dress.

    • bracken says:

      I would take the sleeve ruffle off as well and maybe add to the skirt – or remove it and replace with entirely different fabric – so a two piece look if this fabric works well as a shirt maybe thats what it needs to be.- difficult to guess when you do not show all of it.

      TBH when I make a rubbish garment I still show it because people are very hlepful in the blogger world and they do give you some good ideas and advice. AND we all have things that do not quite work right you know. It goes with taking a risk and making things in the first place.

      Sorry this one did not work, but you need to get back into the sewing saddle and get on with the job. You have made plenty that works fantastically. You cannot win every challenge else it would not be a challenge after all!

  13. Barb says:

    Work on it to see if it can be saved. Add some trim or ribbon? Add a lining? Make it into a tunic or a blouse? Play with it before you chuck it in the scrap heap.

    • zuleikaa says:

      I agree with the idea of some sort of trim, either something bright and cheery, or dark sophisticated and velvety.

  14. Jan says:

    I made some awful trousers from some grey linen bought i Montmartre which stayed in the cupboard for a few years until I recovered all the usable bits – button zip fancy pocket linings etc and turn the far too wide legs into a tunic which works so much better.

  15. Becky says:

    I also totally relate to this experience! It’s reassuring to know this happens to all of us… Maybe lay out the different projects you’re considering and then see which one sparks the most excitement?

  16. Pal says:

    What about color blocking the dress….?
    Or Pattern blocking (Do you have any of the giant gingham left?)
    Or making it a straighter skirt instead of a gathered one?

  17. susanrotter says:

    I had something similar happen to me and I really needed a quick palette cleanser so I made a very satisfying doorstop with scraps from Roman blinds. It took very little time but I made a real effort not to cut corners and I’m delighted with the finished result- it wiped clean my annoyance with my failure and now I have a way to keep the bedroom door open so the (fleeting) sunshine came spill into the landing.
    I hope you find the right next project and get back on the horse (:

  18. Gillian Chappell says:

    Give the dress away to the charity shop and make some thing that is really outside your comfort zone ! I have done it soo many times too!

  19. Betty Jambanis says:

    If it makes you feel better, I’m still sulking from a fail a year ago. I will get over it when I get over it. I’ve learned not to force it else I become resentful of my hobby that’s meant to soothe me.

  20. Aw, when that happens to me, I CAN NOT make the same pattern immediately following. Sigh…We simply can’t be friends for a good while.

    Now, if the baby blanket is for a real live baby, 🙂 , well, you know where I’m going with this…

    Anyhoo…I know I’m not being a huge help, but I wanted to thank you for that last paragraph. Your dialogue is so, SO, good. I didn’t know how to articulate it, but sewing really does sometimes hurt our feelings.

    • Elisabeth Taylor says:

      I would take the skirt off your Myosotis and add a straight black one in order to make it took less frumpy. The neck and sleeve detail is too pretty to lose. Use the skirt to make a boxy summer top ! 2 new items and least amount of waste.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Thank you re your kind words on my writing. I do love blogging!

  21. Dalachin says:

    Omg, I had the same experience with the Myosotis. I sewed one over break and I was so sure it was going to be fantastic. The fit was perfect. Then I put the finished dress on, all set to wear it out, but the view in the mirror stopped me short. I still haven’t managed to take any photos of it. At least you had the courage to write about it. I sewed it in the most lovely silk velvet. You could be right about the puffiness factor… even though it is a light-weight silk velvet, it is certainly loftier than the suggested fabrics.

  22. Jenny Bowman says:

    After 50 years of sewing I still get so mad with myself when this happens, and it always happens either with a pattern I feel so (over)confident with or something I’ve spent extra time on! I’m with the baby blanket here, or you could be making it for a teenager in the blink of an eye. No matter how we get knocked back we still carry on creating because if you’re hooked on sewing you stay hooked come what may.

  23. Bess says:

    I have been sewing for a lot longer than you and this still happens occasionally. Having just started tidying my work room (shudder) I found a partially made jacket in the most glorious (very expensive) brocade, it had been buried under wadding/interfacings in a bid to make it disappear- it looks like something an old lady would wear to a wedding- I was wanting a funky every day jacket!
    Sometimes when you leave it for a while (Years) and come back to it you have a brainwave how to fix it, but realistically the best result to come out of this is “it was cheaper and quicker than going to college” and lesson learned.
    I have also been burned by small monotone patterns- they look lovely up close but far away they Can often look too flat and grey.

    If it was me I’d go straight to making something quick like a t-shirt to get my juju back. I can never have too many t-shirts and they rarely go wrong!

  24. Sue says:

    I’m jealous it;s daffodil season…I have at least 2 more months here in New England before they will even begin to show themselves!!

  25. says:

    My current cure for annoying dresses? Chop it straight down the front and wear it as a cardigan layer…or a dressing gown…

  26. Sarah says:

    Oh boy, this is me right now. My last two projects have failed because they made me look enormous. One, the fabric had too much body, a lovely indigo, Japanese cotton, and the other is pain straight too big. I can’t unpick as it’s jersey and the fabric and thread are a colour match made in heaven. I’ll have to snip the seams off. I find myself looking at it but not doing it and instead, sewing little bags of lavender for my draws so I smell like my nan used to when I was a kid.

    I never wear gathers at my waist. I always turn them into pleats which seem a bit less bulky. Might that help?

    Also, any project that ends in baby cuddles is worth cracking on with!

  27. The same has happened to me recently. Althou I have tried to get over my disappointment by sewing different makes, that one still leaves me feeling scorned. I have decided that I need to make another of the same garment out of a more appropriate and delightfully delicious fabric to completely recover. For you, I propose that you pull out that silk and whip up a magical rebound! I’ll do the same.

  28. Daisy Dianne Bromlow says:

    Don’t waste the fabric – use it for something else. Love your creations !

  29. Vicky says:

    A large glass of wine and plan B 😉

  30. susan roberts says:

    Oh dear…naughty fabric. Didn´t Ella advise you properly? Why don´t you try dyeing it black and see it becomes more wearable like that. Alternatively, the upper bodice looks great, could you not add a piece and extend it to make it into a shirt? Plenty of shirts have a seam about there. Or add a drapey fabric for the skirt.

    As to what next…the baby blanket. It´s for someone else and that will keep you going. Chin up and keep sewing.

  31. Lee says:

    Sometimes you have to roll with the punches 🙂 Deep breath, chuck it in the bin and move on. The back end of last year was a nightmare for me sewing wise, with said bin almost full to the brim with disasters. And although I considered the waste of my beautiful fabrics I knew that I just had to get on with it. My hobby, my money, my decision. I[‘m making a wool coat now. Fingers crossed!!

  32. Colleen says:

    Palette cleanser, definitely, if only for the immediate gratification to help you recalibrate your sewing mojo. Maker’s Atelier Stretch Pencil skirt. in a cosy jersey to see you through the next few weeks of freezing temperatures maybe. Meanwhile hide the pretty but problematic Myosotis for a while.

    Good luck.

  33. BARBARA ALSKO says:

    I’m a beginner compared to you and probably 99% of people reading this 🙂 That being said….It’s encouraging that other people feel sad about what they sew sometimes. But they get back on the horse anyway. I think the sewing looks beautiful, and since you love the fabric and obviously have the sewing knowlege, I think you should change the cuffs to something more structured vs. flowy, and maybe do that with the bottom of the bodice too. Someone mentioned color blocking? What about a wrap shirt? Not sure if you like those or feel like they suit you or not. But if you love the fabric try to save it and maybe you end up with a salvage/”win” at the end.

    Also loved your description of the finished garment… we all need to not take ourselves so seriously.

    Hope you post what you decide to do. Thanks for your honest post on a topic most of us experience but might not share very often.

    Good luck!

  34. Sheree says:

    Ironically this ties into your last post. We have all been there and it’s so disappointing after all that hard work. My suggestion is turn the sleeves into a “short” short sleeve. With bare tanned arms and legs in the summer I think it will look totally different to how you feel about it now.

  35. Karen! Do not dispair!!! A bad fabric-pattern marriage happens in every family!! Please, get yourself together and repair the dress! Look… somthing similar happened to me with a Myosotis knock-off I tried this summer (check my blog). It was in seersucker and it also did not work. So I changed the skirt until it was OK. In the picture you have posted the bodice looks awesome, I just hope it is not too late and you have already thrown it away, it would be such a pity… I imagine you like that bodice and it is flatering to you… you only have to change the skirt: half circle?, a shorter version? no flounces? some open darts on top of it? less gathering? a simple A shape? Even a pleplum and you get a blouse?!
    That is a creative challenge you have in front of you… SAVE IT!!!

  36. sewsew2015 says:

    Totally sympathise with you on this one. I made a Lisette shirt dress a couple of years ago from the Simplicity 2246 using a blue lightweight check/plaid. I spent ages matching the fabric pattern, cutting the pockets on the bias and stabilising them, measuring out the buttonholes etc. etc.etc. I took care with fitting and then I put it on it was disappointing. I showed my other half who said What are you wearing? You look like a school dinner lady!’ Now I have no issue with dinner ladies or their uniforms but it wasn’y quite the look I was trying to achieve. Result: the dress was in my to be refashioned pile and every time it came to the top I hid it again. I finally chopped it up and made shoebags for the grandchildren.

  37. Mary says:

    Happens to all of us. I just tried a cold shoulder pattern that ended up having holes too large for my taste. Putting it in Goodwill. I’d suggest you put tour dress aside and make something fun. Go back to the dress after you get an inspiration of what else to do with it or with its fabric.

  38. Move on to something new. Take the dress apart and salvage the fabric – it’ll be good for something, maybe the baby quilt?

  39. Candie Graham says:

    Just a thought, how about turning it into a peplum?

  40. SewAndrew says:

    Book a holiday and make yourself something nice for it… it worked for me! 👍🙏😀

  41. Lydia says:

    Just like purchasing an item of clothing that doesn’t work or fit the way we envisioned, sewing with a fabric that stubbornly refuses to enhance the pattern can be sooo disappointing. I have been sewing on and off since I was 19– I’m now 48,and this has happened so many time over the years resulting in tears and disspointment. I would like to say I often salvage an “off” make, but this rarely, though sometimes occurs. I end up donating the item as is, in the hopes that another can rescue it with a fresh perspective.
    I reset my sewing palette by making a skirt ( it’s always a skirt for some reason…), or simply buying something new in a store that flatters me ( after lots of trying on to better understand what fabric and patterns work in ready to wear). Good luck finding a new project, or taking a sewing break!

  42. Oh those fine patterns like houndstooth can read like a uniform so easily. It’s not you! I would put it into Make Limbo (or Make Hibernation, or Make Naughty Step) and calmly move on. It means nothing. Some future Karen will pull it out and think, “Oh my goodness if I just x the y then I will have a b!!!” and it will be a victory. Not a consolation prize. 🙂

  43. Kathy Lynch says:

    The nicest people read your blog, Karen. I’ll usually just skim through comments but I read every one just now because they were all kind & encouraging. Made my day. x

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Yes, hasn’t it been lovely? I agree, I have the BEST readers! It’s odd, you never can anticipate which blog posts will resonate.

  44. Kathryn Gutteridge says:

    Karen your blog is such a rich source of goodness that the dress is not a failure but has generated such a wealth of goodness from your readers.

  45. Sewniptuck says:

    Hi Karen, the small print/weave is quite busy. Design wise, I prefer to consider rain small print with lines, like what happens when we use piping. But also this fabric is just asking to embroidered over – the risk being that lotsa work and perhaps the lack of drape is just too hard to recover from? I’m quite obstinate when something doesn’t quite work. Perhaps put it away for serendipitous discover years from now?

  46. Sewniptuck says:

    *not rain, but constrain

  47. Tracey Nixson says:

    I found that I’ve hated nearly every item of clothing I have made for myself – the only exception being the octopus scout tee. Other scout versions -meh. Made loads of dresses- why? I rarely wear dresses but you know it’s a hangover from school and ‘dress’making. So I stopped. I’ve made quilts mini bags all sorts of little projects to develop my skills and decided that I shall now look at what I like to wear and then make a version of that 😂 total 💡moment.

  48. Lisa Pollock says:

    Having scanned through the lovely comments I love the idea of cutting down the middle, inserting a button strip and turn into a lovely summer cotton long cardigan which will look great with summer cigarette pants or Capri pants. If still bulky remove some of the excess ruffles. I definitely agree this design is best for flowy drapery materials. Equally the gingham can be a difficult pattern to wear.

    Lastly you have 2 beautiful Myositis you don’t need s third!!! Looking forward to seeing the baby blanket.

    Thanks for your great blog.


  49. Gill says:

    Just had another thought – if it’s a soft brushed cotton – would the skirt make a lovely soft backing for your quilted baby blanket You could even make the top in different coloured ginghams?

  50. Fiona Jones says:

    when I am disappointed with a make, or surprised that the outfit doesnt magically transform my looks,I do some charity sewing. There is no end to the things that can be made, using up rejected projects to benefit other people.And i feel better and more optimistic too.

  51. Bobbi Antonucci says:

    I learned to sew 50+ years ago and I have been making nearly all my clothes for the last 35. First – if you love the fabric – don’t throw it out. Put it aside, out of sight and let it age. Then work on something else that will be fun. Move on & continue. In a few months bring it back out again and review it – you will find a way to save all or part of it. You just need to get it out of your mind for a while. I had a dress that I created and I felt like I looked like my Grandmother’s floral sofa in it. I put it to the bottom of the pile. It took 3 years, but those prints are now all back in style. I dusted off the project, finished the hems & wore it. Got many complements. Time is often needed to solve a sewing dilemma.

  52. Debbie Smith says:

    Hi Karen. Sorry to hear about your dress. I had a similar thing happen to me before Christmas. I made a cowl neck dress in a gorgeous green stretch velvet thinking it would be amazing for my work Christmas party but when I put it on I looked really frumpy in it. I made a sash to go round it for the party which helped and at least I could wear it but I’ve put it away for now until I can fix it properly. Hope you get back into your sewing soon and I also think the baby blanket would be a good next project. Lovely to hear that we’ re not alone with our “failures”. Kind regards. Debbie

  53. coliclothing says:

    If you still have the top of this bodice, could you add a peplum to the bottom and turn it into a blouse? It might look really cute cropped shorter and over jeans or a pencil skirt. I love these other two and the new one! Nice work!

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