I'm a HUGE fan of Petit Main Sauvage's Lauriana, who is an incredibly accomplished stitcher and seems to literally rock every decade. So this heartfelt account about the challenges of sewing, and specifically the 'failure' of her #VPJuly project, really resonates with me. After all, we've all been there at one time or another, but I hardly think Lauriana can class anything as a failure given her gorgeous vintage makes from this year alone!
If you have read my blog before, you may know that I’m not a beginner anymore. Not by a long shot. Although there are plenty of people who have many more years of sewing experience than I have, I think I sunk a lot of sewing time into the years I’ve have. That also involved learning to draft my own patterns, spending time helping a local designer and a lot of fabric shopping (with or without buying anything).
I’m not writing all of this to brag, I’m writing it to give a bit of background. After all, failure is sometimes an unavoidable part of sewing. And I can tell from experience that the chance of absolute failure of a sewing project grows less as your skills and experience increase.
A lot of early garments fail because we pick the wrong fabric for the project. Or a design, which looked great in the picture, but doesn’t actually suit us. Mistakes like that can be avoided with more knowledge and more experience.
Add to that the fact that pattern making, although it is time consuming, does kind of guarantee a garment that will fit (again, once you have enough experience with it) and you may be able to guess where I'm heading…
I don’t have many issues with failed sewing projects these days. There may be the occasional thing of which the making feels more like hard work than expected. Or something which looks good, but is not that comfortable. But real failure? That’s rare.
It did, however, happen to the dress I wanted to sew for this post.
I have taken part in #VintagePledge since the start and every year, I have used it not just to motivate myself to sew from my vintage pattern stash, but also to get out of my comfort zone. Because of it, I have, on occasion, gone back to using patterns, tackled new pattern systems and new-to-me eras of fashion history. Of course, it would go wrong sometimes (I had some long struggles with 1930’s fashion in the past two years).
This year, I had started well. After a bit of a struggle, I made a 1920s dress I’m really happy with. 1920s is so tricky. I’ve tried two dresses and both times ended up adjusting the patterns to make them a bit less sack-like. Which may completely ruin the period look.
I found out that the 1950s patterns from Beyer’s Mode work for me without a lot of work.
And I made my first (actual vintage, not re-print) early 1940s dress from a 1943 copy of the same magazine.
And then came the moment I really had to decide what to write about for this post. My original plan was quite ambitious, but I won’t tire you with that (it had something to do with the sharing of old “draft to instructions” patterns which I am also doing on my blog this year).
In the end I decided to make this dress, from the same magazine as that first successful 1940s dress.
At first I wasn’t in love with the tiered skirt, but I had warmed to the look. The pattern was actually for one size smaller than mine, which gave me the opportunity to try something: Make it from jersey.
A lot of 1930s and 1940s dresses should have a sleek fit, which we could achieve most easily and comfortably by using jersey fabric. I’ve seen this done on other blogs, but I had never tried it myself. I thought it would make for a nice, comfortable dress and something interesting to write about.
I happened to have some thin jersey in my stash with little to no lengthwise stretch. I thought it would work well for this dress. Maybe the colour was a bit boring but I actually have good precedents in my sewing career for making complicated dresses in grey.
Tracing the pattern was not a problem. Yes, it can be daunting to do this for the first time, but I’m an old hand. I chose not to make a toile because I don’t think I have another fabric which behaves in the same way as this one. I did remember the one fitting issue with the first dress (not enough length in the front bodice) and and decided to cut more than double width seam allowances on the top and bottom of the front bodice piece.
Then came the cutting. The subtle stripe, which I liked in this fabric, is actually on the wrong side. It is the most stretchy thread in the fabric. It actually gathers up the thin grey knit. And it forms ever-so-slightly wavy lines…I did a lot of adjusting with the cutting out of those skirt tiers. And that was after I had to consider whether or not to adjust for a fabric lay-out on 140cm instead of 90cm.
The pattern doesn’t give any lay-out information, but the skirt tiers are pieced to fit on 90cm wide fabric. I cut everything apart from the bottom tier. By now, I was starting to regret going for this skirt.
Sewing usually makes me feel better about a project. It didn’t this time. Gathering this material is SO annoying. It seems impossible to get the thread tension even and if you pull the threads later, they sometimes get snagged.
There is nothing really wrong. Not yet. It may not be fun to sew this dress, but it is not impossible that I might still be able to turn it into a wearable garment. However, I lost faith in making this dress. It is still in pieces on my sewing table and chair (and maybe some pieces fell to the floor). It put me off sewing for a week and when I returned, I felt I had to go and do something else.
So here I am, as much as I love the #VintagePledge, it also presents me with the occasional failure, UFO and the frustration that comes with that.
P.S. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Marie and Kerry for their great work for the VSPP, which is made even more impressive by the fact they still keep up the good work over the years!