The truth about my Lonsdale

Do you ever feel - despite relevant experience and plenty of passion – that you are getting worse at something instead of better? I feel like that about sewing at the moment.

Unveiling my beautiful Lonsdale dress should be a happy occasion and you'd be forgiven for thinking at first that it is indeed a dream dress:

Forgiven, because the terrible truth is…my Lonsdale is an epic fail. Just look at that too-small bodice, not so visible from the front, but glaringly obvious from the back! The most messed up thing about this, is that I actually made muslin for the bodice...which fit. So I'm left scratching my head over what went wrong with my fashion fabric...I honestly don't even know!

I'm so sad about this, because I took my time with Tasia's sew-along and it really is my neatest make to date. And such a darn cute little dress. Right now, I don't have the heart to take it apart and re-do the bodice, nor do I have the energy to even think about making another. To add insult to injury, we don't even have enough of a summer left to warrant the effort. I'm sure I'll give this another go next year though...or more unlikely I'll follow my boyfriend's suggestion to just get skinny!

Anyway, I don't just want to dwell on the negatives, because there are so many great things about this dress...even if mine doesn't fit! Design-wise, the Lonsdale has some great details which really set it apart from shop-bought dresses:

I love the knotted bodice front and faux halter neck straps

The straps are fully adjustable and tie into the cutest little bow at the back

There are small pockets too, ideal for storing any light essentials

As far as sew-alongs go, this is my second Sewaholic one, my first being the Crescent Skirt, and I can't fault the experience. Tasia is such a thorough tutor, covering each step in great detail and providing different options to suit all preferences. She also goes to extreme lengths to design garments that can be made as neat and beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside:

Following Tasia's suggestion I finished the side seams and pockets with french seams

I turned under the centre front seams

And finished the back seams with bias binding and hemmed the skirt by hand using a pretty lace trim

Most excitingly, I inserted my first hand-picked zip for this dress! I am notoriously bad at zips, so I thought I'd try a new technique and I'm so pleased that I did. The result is almost flawless and I can see myself investing the time to do this for future projects. I know the zip teeth are very visible, but in a desperate attempt to make this fit, I tried to save every last bit of fabric I could! 

So to put it mildly, I'm inconsolable about the fit of my Lonsdale, as it's perfect in every other way. Do you have any stories of sewing woe to share? Please make me feel better…

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing everyone else's Lonsdale dresses, as I know lots and lots of people took part in this sew-along.


  1. Oh Marie, I'm gutted for you! The dress is absolutely gorgeous, and I just love the straps crossing at the front and tying at the back, so pretty. Is it uncomfortably small? Its just that it does look perfect from the front so if not you could always just wear it with a pretty cardi!
    I dont do clothes, but my quilt basting seems to be getting worse instead of better if that cheers you up at all!

  2. Ooh, you poor thing! It looks beautifully made too. I can't imagine what went wrong between the muslin and the fashion fabric :S
    My biggest sewing woe was the Sencha blouse. I so wanted it to fit and suit me, I spent ages underling the silk crepe and . . . it didn't suit me and looked awful! I gave it a friend as there was no saving it.
    Ashley x

  3. Oh no, that sucks! It is finished so beautifully, I can understand why you can't bare to touch it to try and adjust the bodice. What fabric did you use for your muslin? Was it the same weight as your actual dress fabric, also was the muslin lined? Maybe the bulk of the lining has made it a tighter fit than the muslin was?

    Take some time out, do a fun easy project and come back to the dress. It’s so lovely, I’m sure it’s fixable.

  4. Aw, I can see you've put so much time and effort into the finish of it, that really sucks. I've just been cutting out the pattern of the Rooibos dress and have already messed up by cutting 2 different sizes out - I was trying to cut a smaller size for the bodice and a larger for the skirt but got confused. Am now wondering if this is just a bad omen for the project before I've even made a muslin.

  5. oh no!!!! I hate it when that happens! If it makes you feel better...I made muslin of my 1950's patio dress that fit perfectly and then when I made it was too big (and the design makes it hard to take in) the 2.5 metres of gathered skirt fabric went all awry. blah. I hate that! Your dress looks perfect in every other way. My advice would be to walk away for a time... (or even until it starts to get warm again). The construction looks fabulous!!!

  6. The dress looks so lovely but of course what good will it do you sitting pretty on a hanger? Ugh. I feel your pain. I can't even measure myself correctly. I made a muslin for a Rooibos dress and ended up chopping off 2 inches from the waist. Huh? What? I feel as though I am going backwards and need a lesson on using a tape measure. Seriously, I honestly considered losing weight so I would just use the pattern as is and not fiddle with grading or FBA.

    But chin up! This is a learning experience. You need some distance from the project. I bet you'll be ready to sew up a new one later. As for me, I am ready to give that Rooibos muslin another go and show it who's boss...I hope.

  7. Oh no :( That's so weird. Hopefully at some point you can solve this by making the centre back seam smaller? The fabric is gorgeous, it's such a shame. I'm working on mine today...I'm praying I have no major adjustments to make as I am very very pushed for time...opps!! x

  8. Oh, Marie! That is a truly beautifully made dress - just look at the finish on those seams. Perfection! My only quibbles with making a toile is that different fabrics can perform very differently and calico will not replicate every final finish. I was shocked at how different the fit was on my third Sorbetto, made from a slippery fabric rather than a voile. It can make all the difference. Stay strong and keep the faith. You are clearly an excellent seamstress who's had one unhappy experience with fit.

  9. This dress is gorgeous! I love the fabric and the colour. It looks great on you. I totally feel your pain on getting to the end of a project and having it not fit. What I have learnt is to leave it alone for a couple of days and do something else then come back to it in a few days and adjust it. That way you aren't as stressed out when you are adjusting it.

  10. oh no it's such a lovely dress. Is there anyway you could let the side seams out a little maybe that would help, or perhaps you could put this dress to one side and maybe sell it in the etsy store you talked about opening, it would be such a shame to cast it to one side.
    I too have times where i feel i get worse not better I sometimes put it down to a lack of concentration for me :(

  11. Oh how frustrating! Can you breathe in it? ie. Is it too tight to wear
    or is it just that it looks too tight? If the latter, I'd wear it
    anyway if I were you, as other people don't seem to notice these flaws
    that seem all too obvious to sewists. If the former, hide it away until
    you're ready to do something with it, otherwise it'll just annoy you
    every time you look at it. I have various makes that I never wear for
    various reasons - they're all a learning experience. Was your toile
    fabric a different weight from your fashion fabric? That could have
    been the issue. Another lesson is that it's always worth checking the
    fit of the real thing before sewing it up, even if you've done a toile.
    Oh well, these things are sent to test us... It's probably not any
    consolation but you've done a great job with the rest of it - it looks

  12. Yes, that's the trouble with muslins and one reason I am not a fan of them - they can make relatively new sewistas over confident about fit. The fact is that you STILL need to check the fit on the final version. Unless you are a machinist with years of experience, you never sew a seam twice exactly the same way. And French seams sewn just slightly too wide can easily take a quarter of an inch off EACH seam so if you have done an exact fit on your muslin, you're in trouble.

  13. Aww I really feel for you. It really is gorgeous! I agree with the first poster, if it is not uncomfortably tight then I would wear it with a cardigan or jacket.

  14. Thanks for all the insight ladies and for sharing your sewing woes! It's good to know that we're not alone in the occasional heartache ;o)

    To answer your questions:

    - Yes, sadly the dress is too tight to wear eveb with a cardi on top. I can hardly breathe in it!
    - I think Law hit the nail on the head...although my bodice muslin was made of similar weight cotton, I didn't line it. A definite lesson learned!

    I will put it to one side for now like you suggested. It really would be an ordeal to alter it. I would have to take the bodice apart completely in order to change the side seams etc. I'm not one for mending either I've I'm not sure I'll ever get round to it. Sarah suggested selling that's an option...we'll see!

    Good luck to you all with your current projects! I hope they turn out perfectly!

  15. Oh no! That fabric was beautiful too. I'm wondering if you could somehow do a sort of border up to the zip? Maybe the same colour as the bias binding you used, and topped with a bit of that lace to make the zip a 'feature' while sneaking in an inch or two of fabric!

    My sewing fail of the week was buying the pattern that my mum had finally chosen for her September party dress (after a month and a half's procrastination) and getting the wrong size - argh! It was online and it didn't indicate that there were 2 sizings for this pattern, so I had to make up a muslin for what should be the simplest dress ever so that I could take a flier on adjusting up the way and hope it fit, on the one weekend I'd see her before the event. I got lucky is all I can say!

  16. Aww, I'm really sorry about this unpleasantness. I'm still fighting with my Lonsdale. I've had all kinds of annoying issues, so this has turned out to be a bit of a grind to work on (not Tasia's fault at all, just me being a novice and being in a bit over my head, I think). Set it aside and don't think about it for the time being. Maybe eventually you could remove the bodice, replace the zipper, and make a nice high-waisted skirt!

  17. I'm so sorry it didn't fit! You did such a beautiful job of it too. I joined the lonsdale sewalong too but I've been too busy to get started :(

  18. Ugh, sewing ruts... the worst. I'm really excited about your hand-picked zipper, I'll be attempting one soon! Also, you most certainly do not need to get any skinner! You'll be a stick, and that would be gross. Your dress is beautiful. I hope you find the energy to do something with it :D

  19. I so feel for you! Been there, but the dress is beautiful all the same.

    You could sell it or maybe a giveway :) Okay I'm being selfish!

  20. Oh Marie, I feel your pain! And why did it have to be on a dress that's so beautifully finished, with all those perfect little finishing touches? It's not fair! Could you wear a corset?! x

  21. I don't know, it seems like it fits you OK. You did a beautiful job on it. I wonder if you maybe just cut it about an 1/8 of an inch smaller?That i so easy to do. Just cut it a tiny small on accident.It will make it 1/2 an too inch small. The zipper and pockets are so well done. Cute pattern, I could never pull it off.IN the future fit your main fabric too. I made the same mistake. The muslin fit my daughter perfect but the silk finished bodice was gaping. I didn't fit the second bodice either.I also did a ton of work on it and she only wore it once : (

  22. Aaaw, thank you all for the great suggestions...I'm feeling a whole lot more positive about the experience now. Maybe once I gain some distance from the dress, I'll figure out how to fix it!

  23. Oh what a shame! It's so beautifully finished too. If it's any consolation it does look gorgeous from the front...

    You could just keep it on a dressmakers dummy and admire your handiwork as a piece of art..? Or like someone else suggested sell!


  24. Hi Marie,
    what a shame it's a little on the snug side but if it's not too uncomfortable you could still wear it.with the fabric you've chosen it could easily be worn in winter with some chunky bold tights and a cardi.and perhaps you might feel upto redoing the bodice at a later stage. or maybe putting 2 tiny panels in the would only have to take out the zip for that.

  25. All I can say is that your crafts(wo)manship is fantastic. AND, that's when you realize the utility of a blog: your attention to detail gets to be eye-candy for us -- independently of you actually wearing the dress or not. I do think the style is super flattering to you, and it would be worth the effort to adjust it. xx Adrie

  26. It looks so pretty :( ... but I see that your mother has benefitted from your woes, so all is not lost, your dress has found a beautiful new owner...

    Just to ask, did you interface the straps, they look so well constructed. .. I'm plucking up the courage to even make the muslin, it would be my first dress ever and first proper garment.. (nail bite!)

    thx Juls

    1. Hi Juls, thanks for your kind comments! As far as I can remember, I didn't interface the straps, just lucked out on some wonderful fabric! I'm sure you'll do a fab job of it and you'll feel very proud once you're wearing your Lonsdale ;o) If you're feeling a little nervous, there's a great selection of sew-along posts from Sewaholic here: