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More Sewing Misadventures

This illustration by Ross MacDonald was featured with Allison Page's tale of expanding pants in Threads no. 156.

We couldn’t possibly fit every funny story into “Misadventures in Sewing” for Threads no. 156. I received more tales of sewing disasters than a single feature could possibly contain! Luckily, the Threads blog allows us to share additional catastrophes – and encourage you to share your own stories here on ThreadsMagazine.com.

What was your worst sewing mishap? And how did you deal with it?  We all know there’s no use crying over cut fabric. And sometimes a project has to “rest” a long time before a necessary reconstruction can be faced. Then again, you can just forget any expectations (or the image on the pattern envelope) and just wear your creation anyway. 

Here are a few more sewing calamity stories. I’ll add more a few at a time, and I hope you’ll add your own!

Zip on the flip side

“Several years ago I quickly made a pair of black linen pants. I used a very simple pattern with full legs, two darts front and back, a waist facing instead of a waistband, and a side zipper. I sewed up the side seams, leaving one side open for the zipper, basted it closed, and inserted the zipper. When I took out the basting  Idiscovered I had sewn the zipper on the right side instead of the left!

I decided to leave it since it really didn’t affect the appearance of the pants—it was a centered zipper—and I was sure no one would notice my error. However, I was aware of it every time I wore the pants. In fact, one time I even wore them backwards because I was so used to zipping on the left side instead of the right.

But that’s not the end of it. I didn’t use that pants pattern again until several years later. When I did, I remembered my zipper insertion blooper and really thought I was paying careful attention. But, lo and behold, I made the exact same mistake—this time with an invisible zipper. And, once again, I decided not to rip it out.

Yes, they’re awkward to zip, but I love the style and I put a label in the back to avoid wearing them backwards. I always get a lot of compliments on those pants. Do I dare make that pattern one more time?”
—Mary Ray, a Threads contributing editor, teaches fashion design and sewing techniques. Her website is MaryRayDesigns.com.

Haste makes … fashion?

“Always short on time, and meeting a deadline , I spent hours perfecting a scalloped hem on a chiffon skirt. I finished with little time to spare, and while dressing I realized that the back of the hem was at least 5 inches longer than the front! Did I follow my rule to ‘measure twice, cut once’? Nope, but after getting several compliments on the unique style realized I was the only one who REALLY knew the mishap!”
—Charlene Phillips, owner of TheSewBox.com.

Waist of time

“All excited about a new technique I had just learned, I got up early on Christmas day with just enough time to put the zipper in a skirt I was making before I had to put the turkey in the oven. My objective was to accomplish the task in less than 3 minutes. I succeeded. It was beautiful! The only problem was that I put it in the hem rather than the waistline.”
—Judy Barlup teaches and writes about sewing. She’s the founder of UniqueTechniques.com.

The eyes have it (Not!)

“Late one night, I was trying to finish a notepad cover by zigzagging over the edges. I broke the needle, so I took a new one from a pack I’d just bought and put it in the machine. I threaded it with fancy rayon variegated thread and started zigzagging.

Something was wrong, however. The thread kept coming out of the needle! Then I couldn’t thread the needle at all. It didn’t matter if I used the attached needle threader or tried it by hand. I thought I got the thread through – when I pulled on it, I’d swear it was through the eye. But when I pulled on it again – it wasn’t in the eye!

I thought my ‘old lady’ eyes were bad. I fought this needle for 15 minutes, then screamed, turned off the machine and left it.

The next day, a friend was visiting and I asked her to thread the needle. She did, but then the same problem occurred. The thread was in the eye, then it wasn’t … then it was in again, then it wasn’t… 

I thought I was losing my mind. ‘Now I can’t thread a needle?’ I thought. ‘Is that a sign of early Alzheimer’s?’
I said to my friend, “Let’s throw out that needle and get another.” I went to my notions and grabbed the needle pack, which I suddenly realize has ‘Handicap’ on it! I really looked at a needle and saw that the eye has a small slit on one side so it can be threaded easily!

I had just bought the needles at a quilt store, from a sale bin. I only noticed the size – 90 – when I grabbed the pack.”
– Linda Teufel is the founder of the Dragon Threads
publishing firm (DragonThreads.com and the blog DragonThreadsOpenBook.BlogSpot.com).


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  1. Sewkitty | | #1

    I made a beautiful sun dress last summer with a "burn-out" fabric with embroidered embellishments.I didn't rush the job and it turned out lovely. All I had to do was hem it. I put the dress on to mark the hem and it was TOO small on top.There was not enough seam allowance to fix it, so I threw it in a bag and took it over to a friend who is smaller than me; she hemmed it and wore it church the next day and got lots of compliments!!! Lesson learned: now when making a new pattern I first make it up in fabric from old sheets. I can make any necessary changes without ruining beautiful fabric again!

  2. User avater
    ncquilter | | #2

    A few years ago I had a favorite pattern for easy pull on shorts and sleeveless top that I made many times, it was my around the house outfit for warm weather. I had a tropical fishy print that I cut and quickly sewed. Well, when I put it on and looked in the mirror, I had two fish facing each other in the crotch area. Never could wear those shorts.

  3. MariaKie | | #3

    Once I was helping a lady from a bridal store altering some bridesmaid dresses. In a rush, I forgot about one thing: fabric needs to be totally out of the way when using a serger. I ended up cutting (with the serger knife) a big hole in the front. And of course just NOT covered by the front overlay. I brought the dress back, told her about it, and luckily she had a dress same colour front, same size, only different colour binding used. I had to insert a whole new front from the other dress......... Now I always make sure any fabric not needed is totally out of the way of my serger knife.....

  4. Moonbeams | | #4

    When I was a child, my seamstress mother taught me the basics of sewing. I thought. I wanted a pair of corduroy pants for a special party. I bought the fabric with my own birthday money in a soft silver grey. I fit the pattern on the fabric and cut it out ever so gently. The waistband went in perfectly. I even had an easy time putting in the zipper. Then they were hemmed! I was so excited. I even had the perfect sweater to wear with them.

    I dressed up in my special outfit and showed my mom, making the customary circle to show her front and back. I couldn't understand the face she was making -- she didn't like it? When she was able to finally talk (she was howling with laughter), she pointed out that I didn't follow the nap of the fabric. One leg was light grey, one was dark and imagine, I had a matching side when I turned around. I was crushed and couldn't wear the pants. I learned my lesson quite well.


  5. Chrisclothworks | | #5

    This may not be quite fair, as it was my sister's boo boo, not mine, but funny none the less.

    Joanie was taking a home ec class and had to make a peasant blouse and had discovered that sewing was not something she enjoyed doing. The blouse needed to be finished for a fashion show that night and it was already late into the afternoon. She sewed the sleeves into the neck and hem and became a complete basket case when she couldn't get her head through the armhole. Fortunately, my sister Heidi was home and able to rescue this for Joanie.

    Joanie has never so much as sewed a button back on since, and has been known to staple hems. She thinks her sewing sisters are magicians and regularly comes to us to create for her.


  6. User avater
    Sewingirl2000 | | #6

    Similar to MariaKie's story...The serger blade cut a big hole in the back of my daughters dress on the day of the dance. About 15 years ago I made a beautiful Dress for my daughter's dance. It was a beautiful chocolate brown velvet on the bodice and a silk skirt. The day of the dance I decided to tweak and perfect the dress by finishing the seam allowences with a serged edge. I ended up cutting a large hole in the Behind Butt part of the dress with the serger blade!!! There was no sewing solution and no extra fabric. The only solution was to go to the nearest boutique and purchase a dress. Fortunately, there was a dress almost exactly as I made so the jewelry and shoes matched. WATCH the serger balde!

  7. nightmama | | #7

    I am so glad to read about alll the sewing disasters. For years, I thought I was the only one who ever made mistakes and I was really giving myself a hard time about it. Then I discovered that my sewing friends made terrible mistakes but they didn't tell anyone. I have sewed sleeves in backwards, struggled with zippers, picked out and sewn again so many times. The stress I caused myself was incredible.

    Then I happened to see other people's sewing that the customer was just thrilled about. Mistakes all over the place. Crooked seams, serger stitching caught in the sleeve etc. etc. I realized that I am a perfectionist and was driving myself crazy. Non-sewers don't even realize that you made a mistake. They just think what one does is magical.

  8. User avater
    curleyque | | #8

    I loved the fish shorts story - I've experienced the flowers on a blouse, strategically and embarrassingly placed. So glad to see that there are other "un-sewers" out there. In teaching others to sew, I've often explained that despite the measure twice, cut once, something is bound to go wrong and learning to "unsew" is part of the process.

  9. mspatscreations | | #9

    In my High School Home Ec class, we made long-sleeve, knit dresses for one of our projects. I struggled through the entire project, swearing I would NEVER sew on knits again. Finally, I finished and triumphantly held up my project - only to discover I had sewn one of the sleeves to the neck hole so that the dress looked like a turtleneck dress for a giraffe. I still laugh when I think of that one, and, yes, I still won't sew on knits!

  10. sewnmom | | #10

    A few years ago I was asked to hem a pair of silk crepe pants for our pastor. The pants were part of a dressy suit she planned to wear to a wedding a few days later. I carefully marked the hem on one leg - rechecked the measurement and cut the extra fabric from the leg. I then proceeded to use this cut section to measure and cut the fabric from the remaining leg-or so I thought. I took the pants to the serger to clean finish the cut hem edge only to discover I'd cut the fabric from the same leg TWICE! After much pacing and deep breathing I came up with the perfect (well, acceptable) solution. The jacket had a thin piece black satin piping in the lapel area. I matched the color as closely as possible and inserted piping at the bottom of the cut pant leg.
    I then attached the section of fabric I'd cut off in error to the piping. The pant leg was now restored to the length I needed! I then very carefully repeated the same error on the remaining pant leg. Disaster averted.

  11. rocbed | | #11
  12. rocbed | | #12

    When I met my husband at the age of 18, he had a best friend who has remained his best friend for 35+ years. We were the 3 musketeers, or 3 stooges, depending upon what we'd been into lately.

    When we were all mid twenties, he came to our house asking for my help with a halloween costume. He wanted to be a flasher! He had an old army surplus trench coat that he brought with him, along with some jean legs he'd cut off. What he wanted me to do was to create and attach the appropriate appendages to a pair of flesh colored briefs he already owned.

    Soft sculpture with nylons was very popular at the time, so I took a knee-hi and created the three appropriate appendages the size of which any man would envy. I backed it with a triangle of black faux fur attached it to the briefs and sent him to the bathroom to try it on.

    He walked back up the hall from the bathroom and as he stepped from the hallway into the living room, it all fell off in the floor, fur and all! So back to the drawing board after about 5 minutes of us all staggering around the living room howling with laughter.

    For the next try on, we were hysterical again, as I'd sewn it all on upside down!!! The third time was the charm, I finally got it right and he pronounced it perfect. Evidently perfect it was, since he met the woman who is now his wife at that halloween party!

    Looking back at it now, I believe we spent more time laughing over the mistakes I made, than I spent making them!

  13. kafree2fly | | #13

    When I was a kid, I sewed only sporadically; the pattern shapes and how they fit together to make garments made perfect sense to me...but I didn't yet have a full sense of how to *implement* my spatial awareness, and wasn't giving myself a lot of practice. So, when I made my second-ever pair of pants, I knew that the crotch seams fit together to follow the shape of your body and legs--but somehow (and, to this day, I have NO idea exactly how) I managed to sew them to that the front and back of the crotch pointed *outward*.

    My mom was able to restrain herself for about 1.5 seconds before absolutely *keeling over* with laughter. It was almost obscene, and utterly humiliating. I don't remember whether I corrected my mistake to make the pants wearable or just set them permanently aside in embarrassment. For the record, though, I have had fabulous success in making pants since then--and can laugh at this mishap even harder than my mom did!

  14. LucyJane | | #14

    My in-laws were due for a visit and I wanted to impress them with eilet lace trimmed sheets. What I did was sew the lovely eilet lace on the side of the top sheet. Lucky for me it was a king sized sheet on a queen bed. I just turned the whole sheet around and no one was the wiser. I won't tell if you don't!

  15. LucyJane | | #15

    When my daughter was in high school the band was scheduled to go to DisneyWorld in Fla for a performance. She burned a lovely iron shaped area on the back of her "uniform" white blouse. So quickly I found some matching white material and very carefully made another left back for her blouse. Whew.
    She wore it for the rest of her high school band performances.

    Another time I made a victorian blouse for myself to wear at a living history museum event. When I got home I realized that one of the very full sleeves at the top was not a mirror image of the other sleeve and lacked the same amount of fullness. The calico type print was very busy so I hope no one noticed, or they didn't say anything.

  16. tissy | | #16

    I took Home Ec my senior year in high school. Never sewed a stitch up to that time. We had to make a suit. I picked out an unlined scoop neck jacket with an a line shirt. Easy, right??? It went together so easy! But I got confused when matching the side seams - the armholes were almost the same depth as the scooped neck! Okay, a clue MIGHT have been the darts.... Yep, sewed the left front to the right side of the back and the right front to the left side of the back like my arms grew out the front of my body. At the beginning of class my teacher had on eye makeup. By the end of class she had laughed it all off. Needless to say, my Mom (a first class seamstress) helped me with my "final exam" suit. I'm proud to say Mom got an A. :)

    1. J_J_King | | #34

      I _love_ your description of your teacher having laughed her eye makeup off!

  17. Momstheword | | #17

    When I got engaged at Christmas, I asked my sister to be my maid of honour. Later that day, she announced that she was pregnant with her first child. I planned on making her dress, so picked out a beautiful silk fabric and matching chiffon, found a regular dress pattern I liked and would look good on her. Bought a similar maternity pattern as she would be 6 months along when the wedding would take place. We lived 8 hours apart at the time and the wedding was another 8 hours away, so I was getting regular updates on her size and and shape. I finally cut out the tunic style dress and the hankerchief hemmed 'slip' about a month before the big day (She had gained 40 pounds!)- leaving huge seam allowances. I basted the dress and slip and sent it off to her on the bus. A shoe box with a small tear in it arrived back a week before the wedding. It contained the slip, but not the dress. A frantic phone call later, we realized the dress had slipped out the small hole and was gone. I totally panicked, fortunately had bought way too much fabric,and was able to remake the dress from scratch over the next few days. I finished it the night before the wedding when we were finally able to get together at our mom's house.

  18. knitternana | | #18
  19. knitternana | | #19

    When I was a teenager invisible zippers were a new item. I was in about my fourth year of clothing for 4-H and making a sleeveless dress. I had chosen a beautiful fabric, but it was a stripe. My mother suggested it might be difficult to work with, but I liked it so much that I used it anyway. All went well until the zipper. I don't remember how many times I had that zipper in and out, trying to match up the stripes, but it was enough to make me fear zippers ever since. Finally it looked perfect. You couldn't see the zipper at all. I went to try it on and discovered that the zipper was BACKWARD. Being in the back of the dress, I had to have someone zip it up for me. It was too late, and I was too frustrated to rip it out again, so I took it to the fair that way.
    when the judge looked at it, she marveled at how nice it looked done that way. I ended up being awarded a blue ribbon and then champion.

  20. User avater
    ustabahippie | | #20

    I, too, have learned the serger lesson the hard way. But one of my worse mistakes was cutting a piece of beautiful 1-way stretch silk jersey in a pattern that called for 2-way stretch. The pattern was all ruched up one side, so it never fit comfortably, pulled to one side at the neck and armhole and looked so awful that I cut it apart and pieced it back together, patching and leaving raw edges. It looks ok, but I'll pay close attention to the fabric requirements from now on!

  21. lsepeda | | #21

    I seem to manage to make "animal" type sewing mistakes. When fleece was a new thing, I made a raglan sleeve gray fleece jacket for a friend. I sewed the ragland sleeves, then sewed the left side seams, I thought. It was really the left and right side of the front, and I had a "trunk" coming out the front of the jacket. The reverse sewing was very difficult on the fleece. Shortly afterward, I was altering a shirt for another friend. "Athletic build" dress shirts weren't readily available then, and his shirt was very blousy. I pinned the darts in the back, then sewed them and gave him the shirt to try on. This time I'd made a dinosour shirt. The darts had been made on the wrong side and stuck out of the back of the shirt. Fortunately I was able to fix the problem.

  22. Robert1and2 | | #22

    It was pure pleasure to read all the "mistake"-stories.
    I have not laughed that much in a long time and,oh,how
    "familiar" some of them are.
    I remember many times in my sewing-life saying to myself: I dont believe I did this!Have you ever tried to sew the leg-parts together as the bodypart and THAT part as the legs??
    Those were my very first PJ-pants!I can still see them today.
    But one really can learn the fast way from mistakes,so : sew
    and enjoy and laugh at yourself (unless it was very expensive material!!).

  23. Jenerator | | #23

    not sure whether this counts as a sewing misadventure or not... I was helping out in a "fashion design" class at the school where I work in the office. Some of the girls in the class had never been NEAR a sewing machine in their lives, it appeared (what they were doing in that class I'll never know, unless it was so they could skip sports!)
    I was helping one girl out cutting out some fabric when I glanced up and noticed that another girl was trying to sew on a machine with the presser-foot up, so of course she had very little control over where the sewing was going. I called out to her to,"put the foot down!" - and she proceeded to push her foot harder on the pedal!

  24. BossyGrace | | #24

    I had a date to go country western dancing with a man I was dating. I'm a bit on the chubby side and found it really hard to find a western outfit that didn't make me look rediculous. So I went to the mall and found a denim dress that was too small and I had the idea that I would just find some denim to match and put a gusset in on each side and a gusset at each shoulder to drop the dress down a bit as well as gusset the underseam of each sleeve to allow for my ample arms. When I was finished, it was really beautiful and you could not tell I had added anything. It fit like a glove and actually was a bit slimming.

    My date arrived and took me to the country western nightclub. I was standing with him around the dance floor which was really dark and had these "black lights" overhead. I felt so beautiful and just a pretty as the other girls. I noticed my date continually looking at my dress and trying not to be too obvious that he was starring. At first, I thought he was liking my dress and thought I looked great, when all of a sudden, I happen to glance down and found that everywhere I had added denim fabric to my store bought dress, was shinning like a neon light under the "black lights". Apparently, the denim I matched to the dress had a greater white cross thread count and the black lights were picking that up. I looked as if I had added white fabric to my sides, under my arms and across each shoulder! I wanted to cry and run under one of the tables away from everyone. Needless to say, I didn't dance and said I just wanted to sit and talk - away from the dance floor. My date never said a word but I couldn't wait to get home and rip the dress off and never see it again! Now I get a big laugh everytime I think about my great repair job.

  25. deb222 | | #25

    It is so refreshing to hear everyone else's mistakes! I thought I was the only one! I've been sewing since I was about 7 or 8 years old, but had been away from it for awhile. I decided to try again, so I went and bought beautiful fabric for a blouse and skirt. The blouse was so bad, I threw it away. The skirt I took my time and did everything excactly the way it called for on the pattern. It was perfect! Until I put it on and there was a flaw in the material right in front in the middle. Well, I learned that lesson. Go over the fabric very carefully before you cut. I haven't given up, though, and all of the mistakes everyone else makes, it makes me wonder why we still sew.

  26. lizziesews | | #26

    My sides are sore from laughing! I, too, was sewing a dress for 4-H. It went fine until zipper time. I put that thing in 4 times! Have been zipperphobic ever since. One mistake I made several times before getting myself in gear, was in sewing long sleeves with cuffs. At least 3 times I had two left sleeves.

  27. kajac | | #27

    As a teenager I made alot of my clothes, particularly pants because I was tall. This time I made a jumpsuit with matching (bright yellow) with a matching green (and I mean kelly) shirt. I covered the buttons of jumpsuit with the shirt fabric. Well, it was a very colorful outfit, it fit well, but the fusible interfacing on the collar of the shirt puckered so bad that it looked like seersucker fabric. Plus the interfacing on the shirt fabric would adhere so it raveled. I still wore the outfit thinking that one day the puckering could be ironed out. Cute outfit, disatrous finish.

  28. WorkshopDirector | | #28

    As director of a summer fashion camp in Alexandria, VA since 1998, I have witnessed many, many gut-wrenching errors by my students. Sometimes I commiserate, but sometimes I laugh until I cry, my stomach hurts, and occasionally I get asthma. I've always prefaced the camp by saying that I've made worse mistakes than any of them ever could. In my early years, when I sewed with my mother who had a Home Ec degree, I can't remember the errors so much as the point of no return when I would explode into tears. But as a young assistant volunteer in the costume shop of a French Theater Company in Minneapolis, I was asked to sew sleeves onto the Cardinals costumes. There were 8 sleeves and I sewed every one of them on backwards. Time was tight, but the sleeves were very full, and luckily went unnoticed by everyone but the Costume Designer. She was aghast.

  29. User avater
    jennyebner | | #29

    When I was dating my husband (of 35 years now), I wanted to "impresss" him with my sewing ability, so for his birthday I decided to make him a pair of trousers. I took two days off work to do it, and when he found out I wasn't working, he decided to pop in and surprise me periodically during the day. Each time I would hear his car in the driveway I would frantically hide my sewing project, only to get it out and start sewing again as soon as he would leave. Needless to say, I made several mistakes which I would rip out and fix; however, when I had the pants completed and went to do the final pressing, I had all the pockets sewn on the outside of the pants!!! I just gave them to him that way, explaining the interruptions that distracted me, and never made him another pair

  30. sandysewin | | #30

    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 29 years; and no, I still don’t care for him at all.)

  31. greymodel | | #31

    When I was about 12 years old I decided to make myself a new dress. I found a white cotton with lime green polka dots. The dress was going to be a princess seamed dress. I was very excited to get started and decided I could get away without preshrinking the fabric. The dress turned out so nice and was to that point one of the nicest jobs I'd done. To bad I only wore it once. It was knee length when I made the dress, after washing it was a about 4 inches shorter. WAY to short to be worn in a conservative family. I now preshrink everything that I believe might become a little smaller. It was a lesson well learned since I'm now in my 50's.

  32. pamawar | | #32

    My story's not really mine, either, but boy does it make me laugh anyway.

    Home Ec, making dresses. I was in the advanced portion of the class, so I was working on something else, right across from me a girl I'll call Ginny was making a simple shift dress. She had it cut out and was beginning assembly when she called the teacher over.

    The teacher took one look at it and exclaimed rather loudly before bursting into laughter, 'OH GINNY, WHAT have you DONE? Why are there 2 armholes cut on each side???'

    Ginny was a jovial girl, a great singer, but she had no sewing skills. She replied, 'Well, I couldn't visualize how it would go together, so I cut my own armholes where it looked like they should be!'

    Needless to say, she had to get more fabric and start over. Almost 40 years later and it still cracks me up.


  33. darnellhall | | #33

    Very nice indeed

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