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What’s your worst sewing disaster? How did you resolve it?

Most sewing bloopers are correctable despite the frustration they cause.

My more common blunders
I’ve made plenty of sewing bloopers in my day, including common blunders like putting a zipper in backwards or cutting two right sleeves. Years ago, I measured incorrectly when designing my wedding veil, which was a costly mistake because I ended up buying yards and yards of extra tulle. In college I inadvertently made a dress in the incorrect size, forgetting that pattern sizes aren’t the same as ready-to-wear.

My daughter’s dream dress
Probably my worst sewing error happened on the night of my daughter’s 9th-grade dinner dance. What made this event extra special is that she (and her friends) planned to wear a long gown for the first time. She worked with me to design the dress of her dreams. It was a winter dinner dance, so her dress had long sleeves. She chose a rich, burgundy velvet in a simple, but dramatic style. The dress was stunning and fit her to a tee. She felt like a princess wearing it, and I was proud to have created it for her. Let’s face it, we parents are most happy when our children are beaming with joy—especially when we played some part in bringing about that joy.

She had a try-on the night before to show my husband, and when she took her dress off, she tossed it over her bedroom chair where it remained until Saturday night—typical for a 15-year-old. It was seriously wrinkled. 

The horrible blooper
The night of the dance was an emotional evening. Although I shared my daughter’s excitement, part of me was sad to see her growing up—sad to see my little girl, my last born, reaching toward maturity. I had spent the previous few days thinking about how quickly she was growing up, and in a way I mourned the end of her childhood. With my mind occupied with sentimental thoughts, I turned the iron on, but didn’t adjust the fabric control which was set on high. I didn’t plan to put pressure on the velvet with the iron, rather I intended to let the steam ease out the wrinkles. But in my haste, I must have pressed harder than I realized. It was enough to make an iron-shaped impression on the left back side of the dress at hip level. I knew I was in trouble because brushing the velvet didn’t remove the mark.

My cover-up
I think this was the only time I’ve ever out-and-out lied to any of my children. When she put the dress back on and noticed the mark, I said, “Oh, it’s just a mark from the iron. It will disappear in no time.” Thankfully, it was far enough toward the back of the dress that she couldn’t see it once the dress was on. When she came home that night, however, she commented in a puzzled manner, “Mom, the iron mark never went away.” She said it with a tone of surprising disbelief. Luckily for me she had a fabulous time, and the iron mark didn’t stop her from having fun. However, I’ve seen that iron mark in my nightmares. It’s a horror I’ll never forget, although I can say I will NEVER make the same mistake again.

What’s your most horrible sewing disaster? How did you deal with it?


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  1. User avater
    Thimblefingers | | #1

    My worst sewing disaster ended in a better design than the one I had planned. I was making myself a black dress for a Christmas party. One of the features was black lace sleeves that were fitted. I put invisible zippers up the sleeve almost to the darted elbow to make them as narrow as possible and sewed covered buttons up the side of the zipper. Alas, it was time to leave for the party and I still didn't have the hem sewn. I had to find something else to wear. After the party, I decided that I would finish the dress right away so that next year, my dress would be ready to go. The next Christmas came and I was excited about finally wearing my beautiful dress. The day before the party, I gave it a quick try-on and discovered that I could not even get my arms into the sleeves, let alone zip them! That was when I realized that the weight-lifting I had taken up since the last Christmas had really made a difference in the size of my arms! I spent all night painstakingly ripping out the tiny double stitched seams I had used to sew the invisible zippers into the chiffon-backed lace. (I backed the lace on the sleeves and yokes with chiffon as I am always cold in the winter.) I made several graded circular ruffles out of chiffon and inserted them into the slash which I had extended and sewed the covered buttons back along the seam. I have since had many compliments on the sleeves (as well as the dress) and I really do like it better. I would never have come up with the unique sleeve if I hadn't had the disaster!

  2. Sondraleigh | | #2

    A few days before my wedding, some 22 years ago, I decided to make a special dress to wear to the big going away party that we planned for the night after our wedding, as we would be moving far away soon after that. I had drawn my design and made a test garment and LOVED it. Then I bought very nice crisp white cotton to make the dress. But I had made the test garment from rayon! Needless to say, the dress didn't even come close to fitting. It was too short at the shoulders and wouldn't meet at the back where it was supposed to close. I called my aunt (my sewing mentor) to my rescue. The dress turned out far more beautiful and interesting than my original design. We added a panel from contrasting black cotton at the back and two small black inserts at the shoulder seems. Then we added about 30 tiny black buttons down each side of the back panel. It was very distinctive and much better than my original design.

  3. geopeach | | #3

    Years ago when my husband was in the US Army I had a very good business at home sewing for the top seven officers at Ft. Gordon, Georgia. I was going to hem a dress for the general's wife that was made with a full bias cut skirt. I cut the hem at the length mark, so I cut another piece from that and sewed it back on the skirt. When she came to pick it up I showed her how I had put the piece on so it would not require any ease and then asked her not to tell the other lower ranking wives because it was too much trouble and I did not want to go to that much effort for them. She left believing she was the honored one. I sewed for all of the General's wives at every post we were at. When President Eisenhower and Mamie came to Ft. Gordon I had seven dresses at the ball given for them and some of my clothes went to the White House. Me....I stayed home with my kids and sewing machine, very happy.

  4. Sewshirl | | #4

    When my granddaughter became engaged she asked me to help her make a dress for the engagement party. She came over with a pattern and beautiful white satin fabric. We got to work on the dress and when we were almost finished I stuck my finger with a pin and bled on the white satin. Thankfully she had extra fabric, we had to cut out another back bodice ,but we managed to get the dress completed.AT THE PARTY SHE CAME UP TO ME AND TOLD ME A GUEST ASKED HER IF SHE WAS WEARING A VERA WANG......NEEDLESS TO SAY WE WERE BOTH PRETTY PLEASED....

  5. Mariesainte | | #5

    Long before I met my husband, I had a very special boyfriend who was tall, handsome, blond, and very poor. I volunteered to make him a much-needed shirt, and struggled with the pattern measurements. I knew he was a large man, but surely only an orangutan has arms 36 inches long???! I measured again, studied his arms and mine, and decided the pattern was wrong so I shortened the sleeves appropriately, I thought. I lovingly finished every detail, from the lapped cuffs to the collar and hand embroidered pocket monogram, and he put it on for the grand gifting. Fortunately he had a sense of humor--the cuffs ended at his elbows! I learned the hard way that sleeve lengths on men's shirts are measured from the center of the back of the neck, not from the shoulder! He was such a good sport he laughed with me and admitted he probably wouldn't wear it anywhere. I kept the buttons and recut the body to make something else, but he teased me about that for a long time. I recovered from laughing enough to try again, this time for a superb fit and a new confidence.

  6. ColetteV | | #6

    Many years ago when my daughters were 1 and 3, I was making a beautiful little swiss-style dress for my older daughter. It was the kind with the full dotted-swiss skirt, little white top with puffy sleeves, and a black velvet cumberbun laced up the front of the bodice. I had been working on it all day and was nearly done. I needed to add little metal eyelets up the front of the cumberbun. Having never done this, I waited until everyone else went to bed so I could focus uninterrupted. I did several practices on scraps of velvet. Then I went for it--three eyelets perfectly spaced on each side. Suddenly, something looked wrong. OMG! One set of eyelets was going across the bottom instead of up the front!!! I was devastated!

    The next morning, I figured the only way to save it was to remake that side of the cumberbun. Luckily, I called my mother first. She gave me the best idea in the world! Since the first eyelet was in the right spot, I added the other two up the front and laced the cumberbun fronts together with ribbon. Then I took an extra piece of ribbon and laced it through the two wrong eyelets and tied it into a bow. Voila! I turned it into a designer original! Both of my daughters wore that dress many times. Only my mother and I knew the little bow was actually a cover up.

  7. writerinfact | | #7

    OK, so other than asking my mother to cut out a Renaissance gown from 8 yards of velvet (she "approximated" the pattern pieces so that none of them were the same size - and nothing "went" together!), my worst sewing disaster happened years ago when I was in high school - and wanted an appropriate dress to wear to the annual Barn Dance: fitted bodice, really full ruffled skirt. All went well (even adding a "midriff" piece to lengthen the waist), until I realized that the piece in the center front of the skirt was stitched to the bodice and the lower ruffles with the seams - on both ends - were on the outside! Solution? I wadded it up and tossed it in the wastebasket. Mom rescued it and ripped out the offending seams - but I still refused to wear it to the dance. Talking about cutting off your nose!

  8. temeculasewandsew | | #8

    I LOVE sewing costumes so when a friend asked me to sew an elaborate jacket for him to be used in a musical production he was appearing in, I jumped at the opportunity. The look he wanted required a massive re-design of about three different pattern looks. We've all heard it: "I want it just like this, except for this and this and this....". I had sewn for this fellow before so I boldly skipped the first couple of fittings and I had the jacket nearly done when I first put it on him. It looked absolutely fantastic on the hanger and my friend was anxious to put it on, but when he did.... oh no! The front had a gap of at least 6 inches! I did some very fast talking, blathering about panels in the front would complete the look. Not a sewer, he just nodded happily and I grabbed my disastrous garment and virtually bolted out his door. I was indeed able to add a couple of panels to the front of the jacket and he loved it, but I never, never, never skipped a fitting again!

  9. User avater
    wicked_stitcher | | #9

    i made a very curvy girl a prom dress from electric blue panne velvet. it was a gorgeous pattern -- princess seams with gigantic, trumpet sleeves that would draw the eye to her most flattering spots. again, the velvet ironing challenge -- i let the iron linger in the front of the v-neck a bit too long. there was an impression that was a bit too obvious. so i tore out the facing, took some bias cut silk charmeuse and turned the edge out to create a beautiful wrapped, finished edge. once i treated the sleeve hem the same way, the entire dress was bursting w/drama in all the right places! whew.

  10. thehuntress | | #10

    Many years ago as an inexperienced sewer in college I made a lovely blue polyester double knit dress. I was very careful in following directions and my dress was perfect for my first date with the man who was to become my husband. He was very complimentary on my appeareance and I proudly explained that I had made the dress. After wearing the dress I laundered it with my other clothes. Imagine my horror when I went to wear it again only to discover that my size 12 had turned into a size 6!! That's when I learned the benefit of checking the washing instructions of every fabic I purchase and now nothing gets to my sewing room untill it has met the washer and dryer first.

  11. momachoma | | #11

    My daughter was serging the outside seam of her dress pants for her 9th year 4-H clothing project (the night before fashion revue and construction judging, of course) when she accidently caught the slack leg in the the cutter. Now she had a one inch slash about 1 1/2 inch from the seam at knee level. There was not time to remake them. Luckily she had chosen A VERY FLARED leg version to make, now she slimed down each leg, finished the hems and then went to bed for 4 hours before we had to leave for judging. At 5'11" she looked great in her dress grey slacks with her dressy black jacket( she also made)She went on to Butler University where she majored in Ballet. She wore this outfit for those four years and for a couple more years before the pants just got two thin in the seat. If the legs had still been flaired the style would not have lasted so many years..I judge 4-H clothing and often tell this story to help the kids and parents know "life" happens and it usually works out in the in...

  12. fun2sew | | #12

    While I was altering a wedding dress for a friend of mine, I unknowingly pierced my finger with a straight pin. You know the rest....I bled all over the dress....some spots were small, others looked more like polka dots. Of course, I freaked! I knew I had to get to them before they dried. After hanging the dress up under a good light, I ran to the bathroom, grabbed my oil-free eye makeup remover, cotton swabs, and jumbo cotton balls. I dipped the cotton swab into the makeup remover, blotted it and dabbed the blood spots while holding a cotton ball underneath. Once the blood was out, I "dried" each spot by pressing each area between 2 clean, dry cotton balls. My guardian angel must have been in the room....SUCCESS!

    I never did tell the bride to this day

  13. redandredder | | #13

    A few years ago, I made a very attractive turquoise linen dress. I sewed well having taken many sewing classes but I knew less than nothing about fabrics. Unfortunately I washed the dress and of course it shrank to an unwearable disaster. I saved it for a long time trying to consider what I could use it for, but at that time there was little information about recycling so I ultimately gave it to a charity.

  14. sandysewin | | #14

    When I was 17 my mom got remarried. I decided to design and make a special outfit for her wedding.

    After choosing a lovely white satin jacquard for the top and a burgundy satin for the skirt, I carefully took my measurements and sketched out my designs, making sure to add in seam allowances. I was so pleased with myself.

    Then came the first fitting. Both skirt and blouse were skin tight! I couldn't figure out where I'd gone wrong.

    My stepfather-to-be saw the form fitting garments and accused me of trying to look like a hussy. He gave me money told me to go buy a dress for the wedding. I was crushed and didn't try to sew anything for many, many years after that.

    It was only much later I learned the concept of wearing and design ease. ===sigh===

    (And, in case you were wondering, yes, they’re still married, even after 27 years; and no, I still don’t care for him at all.)

  15. User avater
    carsons23 | | #15

    A chill went through me when I read Sondraleigh's (June 10th) story about the rayon not being an accurate test fabric. Was that a stretch rayon or the regular? I am about to make my daughter's wedding dress and was going to make the lining first to determine any alterations needed in the very fitted bodice. Now I'm scared that I am doing the wrong thing. Effie

  16. artclothconsiglieri | | #16

    To Carson23 re rayon as a test fabric:

    Sondraleigh didn't say that rayon (in general) is not an accurate test fabric, rather her story illustrates that the fabric, and the way it drapes, affects the fit of the final garment. She made her fitting muslin of rayon which is drapey and then apparently used that muslin to cut the final garment out of non-drapey crisp cotton which hangs and fits differently from the rayon.

    The trick is to make your fitting muslin from fabric of similar weight and drape as the fabric you've chosen for the final garment. You haven't said what your final garment fabric is but if you use a similar weight/drape fabric for the bodice fitting muslin (ie test garment) you'll eliminate problems. Also cut the test garment with 1 to 1 and 1/2 inch seam allowances to allow for adequate room for adjustment.

    (this I've learned from my own mistakes . . uh . . creative opportunities . . . .)

  17. NanaBevrly | | #17

    My daughter and I were collaborating on her dress for the Junior prom. She had purchased a shantung finish satin fabric in a beautiful peacock blue - of course it was the last of the bolt. She had finished the dress and was going to press it one more time when she accidentally melted a hole in the right front side. She thought the iron was on low when it was actually flipped to wool. She was sooo upset. We talked about options, like going out and buying a last minute dress. Her boyfriend's mother is a talented painter, so I casually suggested maybe having her paint somethig on the dress. She did a test first and then painted the most beautiful peacock I've ever seen on the dress. My daughter was the talk of the prom with her original dress. It is still a chuckle for us every time we set the ironing board up!

  18. Sherrmann | | #18

    I've made two beauties! My eldest dtr asked me to make her wedding gown and all the gowns for her attendants, two of whom were her little sisters. I was anxious to get going on the bridesmaids dresses so I made my eleven year old's dress first, about seven months before the wedding. What was I thinking? Naturally, she developed during those seven months. Her shape was changing by the day, so I waited until the last month to apply gussets to the side seams of her lined silk princess seam dress. What a nuisance!

    The second was when that same dtr, now a junior in high school, wanted a prom dress in a certain color. To achieve that color, we needed forty yards of fabric! She decided to have the bodice of her dress have the top two layers of chiffon pulled and ruched to achieve a fine, pulled effect. Did I cut the chiffon on the bias? Of course not. Which meant that two layers of chiffon fell to her waist rather than pull into folds around her body. I had to sew her into the dress with fine stitches holding the chiffon in place.

    The finished gown was an absolute dream, though, sort of like a pink cloud, even though it was heavy as lead with all those layers, boning, etc. One of my favorite creations.

  19. User avater
    carsons23 | | #19

    I could have killed the bride! I recently made the dress for my daughter's wedding reception (she eloped in Las Vegas). A rich deep red silk in a Vintage Vogue pattern. When she came for a fitting she had just applied very thick and sticky sunscreen. It bled through the front of the dress, across her chest and a bit on the short sleeve. I was fit to be tied. I looked online and found a suggestion to soak the stain in dry baking soda. It helped but I could see the stain. A lady at my sewing machine store said soak it in dry corn starch. It made a real mess and got all in the seams, but the stain was GONE!

  20. Cutout2bqueen | | #20

    I just had to laugh when I saw the title of this thread. My worst sewing disaster(s) - I throw them away of course! I can't bear to look at them. My most painful discard? $125/yard lace that I cut wrong. I still can't even stand to go into details. I took me a year to finally give up on searching for solutions before I threw that away.

  21. SeaSprite | | #21

    It seems Murphy's Law targets projects according to their cost and importance!

    I had a near disaster when making my Victorian inspired wedding gown.
    I had 10m of heavy bridal satin fabric that was the end of the roll in a champagne ivory. The gown took 8.5m and could not be recut or replaced. The front was princess line reaching from shoulder to floor. The bodice had narrow off the shoulder straps with the low cut bodice front filled in with sheer organza and lace motifs that ended in a lace collar at the neck.

    While overlocking the edges along the bodice towards the shoulder... the narrow shoulder section turned back and went under the knife before I realized what happened. I could have cried!
    The cut was the depth of the seam allowance and I had to carefully hand stitch the fabric together again. Luckily the seam and lining took care of the mistake and you had to look carefully to find the end of the cut peeping out of the seam. If it had been more noticeable, lace and beading would have been arranged to cover the spot.

    Lesson learned??
    Don't become relaxed or complacent when overlocking! Keep track of all the garment edges so you only run through the overlocker the egdes you want overlocked and trimmed!

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