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Conversational Threads

Your worst sewing disaster?

carolfresia | Posted in Talk With Us on

What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to one of your sewing projects? Was there a “thrill of victory” after the “agony of defeat”?

Please feel free to share your horror stories–we’ll commiserate first, and then congratulate you on whatever solution you came up with to solve the problem. Including if you decided to toss the whole thing into the trash and move on, heroically, to the next challenge.



  1. KarenW | | #1

    It's interesting that the next topic down is on getting rid of wax marks...

    I've never had a disaster so bad it couldn't be fixed or didn't have time to be redone, but it was ALMOST my wedding dress.  I was working with $60/yd (and that was 22 years ago!) alencon lace which I'd hand beaded/sequined.  Not knowing much more than what I'd learned on my own since 7th grade home ec, I marked it as I always did... using dressmaker's carbon.  Well those light blue marks for the bodice darts were NOT coming out!!!!   A friend recommended Wisk, telling me it would get out ANY stain (which has since proven pretty much true, except for wax based dressmaker's carbon).   Soaked those pieces in Wisk, in bleach nothing happened.  Luckily I'd been losing weight so I was able to take in the darts, I stitched multiple rows of white over the blue marks to conceal it and the lace and beading were busy enough that you really didn't notice the dart "shadows" so no attention was brought to the extra rows of stitches.  Had I needed to let it out I'd have had a real problem, both in terms of budget and time. 

    I was delighted when I found wax free carbon tracing paper years down the road!


    1. carolfresia | | #2

      The wedding dress, huh? Pretty much anything that goes wrong on a wedding dress is a disaster! But it's a great opportunity to learn things you didn't know before. I wonder if Wisk's formula is still the same--if so, I'll start keeping some on hand for other laundry mishaps, and meanwhile will always avoid the wax-based tracing paper.


      1. Teaf5 | | #5

        I've had so many disasters, it's a wonder I still sew! Still, most if not all disasters taught me something or encouraged me to change my plans so that the final product was better than it would be if it had worked fine in the first place!I wore one of my favorite disasters to work yesterday, and it garnered three compliments, which is unusual in our office. A lined raw silk vest with welt pockets, it never fit right, so I had to add armhole darts that point down to the bust (and one is longer than the other). The shoulder seams were too wide, but I didn't realize that till it was finished, so I chopped off an inch on either side and bound the armholes in self fabric bias binding that was pieced together because I didn't have much fabric left over. The first welt pocket was so irregular that I decided not to make second and had to do a lot of invisible hand stitching to make the first lie flat. The buttons looked a bit too casual and big and dominated the garment, so I did a free style floral motif in fabric paint on the upper left side to draw the attention there. I should've started over with a new piece of fabric, but couldn't get any more; I still love the fabric, and all the modifications apparently have made it something beautiful to others.My second favorite disaster was putting a zipper into my daughter's skirt upside down and inside out from the hem up. (Think about it: would it even be possible to make any more mistakes on a zipper?) Since it was a straight skirt for a little girl and the fabric was a nice plaid from either side, I turned the piece upside down, recut the waistline, then reversed the front piece and sewed the two together rather than replacing the zipper. I finished it quickly, she wore it forevere, and I laughed every time I saw it.Other favorites include ruining the collar (and using a different fabric to replace it), sewing the wrong seams together in pants (leading to one leg and two torsos), incorrectly cutting valuable fabric a single layer at a time (ending with two left sides), attaching cuffs to the wrong end of a sleeve, etc. Can you tell that I sew a lot, sew under pressure, and get interrupted a lot?As many people have said, successful sewing depends on making friends with your seam ripper; nowadays, I consider sewing mistakes to be a good excuse for sitting outside in the sunshine, carefully ripping out seams.

        1. luvstosew | | #18

          I laughed so hard reading your comments that I scared my cats out of the room! I totally understand all of your situations having made just as many wonderful excuses to be friendly with my seam ripper as you have - probably more! But, if you can't laugh at your mistakes and keep on going, then find another hobby...right? Thanks for helping me know I'm not the only one who can botch up a project while keeping a sense of humor! :)

        2. Camielle | | #24

          I certainly can identify with your sewing disasters. Seems I have them regularly. I am pretty much teaching myself to sew; have someone around me almost all the time and as we know; that makes for not too good concentration! I have put on a lot of weight, making a pattern impossible to use as is. I always have to make them bigger from bust down past hip areas. Neck and shoulders are always too big; gaposis. I have to use a way too small pattern to get the neck and shoulder seams to fit right, then increase from bust on down. How frustrating. Anyway, I'm not giving up and have made a couple garments that do fit fairly nicely. I love trying. Who knows, maybe one day I'll even master the fit thing. Sincerely, Camielle

          1. MaryinColorado | | #36

            I have the exact same problem with fitting.  Have had good luck with some of the designer's patterns instead of the typical commercial ones made for the tall slim ladies.  This year I finally cleared my closet of all those "tiny" clothes taking up unnecessary space.  Now I have to finish my projects since I have about 3 casual outfits and one black pantset that fit!  It's sink or swim or should I say a stitch in time to cover my behind...lol...so I am not a poet...just a wannabe fiber artist...

            My grandkids say there are no mistakes...only artistic lisense!

        3. Josefly | | #25

          I laughed so much at your tale that I couldn't see to read through the tears! I've made so many of those same mistakes, and they were never so funny! Joan

          1. Teaf5 | | #26

            I've discovered that the key to staying sane while sewing and while aging is to find the humor of any situation as quickly as possible. I have to admit that I wasn't laughing when I made those mistakes, only awhile after the tears had dried....

            Edited 4/28/2006 5:52 pm ET by Teaf5

        4. sewinglover | | #27

          I teach what I call "sewing 101" in a Bernina dealership.  I teach the computerized sewing machines, and I'm always amazed at the number in my classes that have bought expensive machines and haven't sewn in years, or never!  Anyway, I always tell them that a mistake is a chance to make a "designer decision."  It's very rare that you can't use it to make it "your design" and often improve the garment or quilt.  And I quite often have them come back and tell me that that remark kept them from being discouraged.  I also tell the classes that sewing is a skill and can be learned.  Talent, and art, are the design decisions you make in deciding on fabric, embellishments, etc., that make your own personal article.

          1. autumn | | #28

            Don't know where I heard this, but someone said, "There are no mistakes, just surprises."

          2. mygaley | | #29

            My friend the decorator and I call that "designer options".  LOL  Galey

          3. Elene | | #30

            My mother always told me that errors or flaws in any garment, whether sewn, knitted, or crocheted, was proof that the garment was really handmade and not "store-bought"    Elene

          4. mainestitcher | | #31

            I have a friend who once commented, "If you're not throwing away half of what you sew, you're not taking enough chances." I can't afford to throw away that much. There is some truth that if you never make mistakes, you're probably not taking any chances. I had a boss, who had a boss in his younger days who made quite an impression on him. He'd walk up to him and say, "Jones, you screwed up again. You're always screwing up. And do you know why? You're the only one around here who's doing anything."

          5. Marionc032 | | #32

            That is so, so true! Over the years I've had a number of projects that just weren't working out, or in a couple of cases, I had miscut. Although I was tempted to just toss them and cut my losses, I would keep them and set them aside while I decided what to do about fixing them. Most often, just walking away from the frustration for a while was the solution and I'd wonder why I'd had trouble the first time around. In two cases where I had miscut, I was able to change or add to the design to fix the problem and ended up with garments that were better than originally planned.My worst sewing disaster occurred in my early years of sewing when I had to attend several formal occasions over the winter and I decided to sew a full-length formal cape of velvet. The velvet was very expensive especially to me as a poor student at the time. I was so focussed on buying the least amount of fabric possible that I completely forgot to take into account the nap of the velvet. I even cut out the pieces and it wasn't until I sewed the garment together and tried it on that I saw the nap running in opposite directions! I even debated whether I could get away with pretending that it was a "design feature", but I bit the bullet and went back to the store for more fabric and finished the cape. It turned out very well in the end and I wore it often enough to justify the cost, but it just killed me to have to buy almost double the amount of fabric I had originally budgeted. Since then, I've never again forgotten to take the fabric nap into account.Marion

          6. nmog | | #35

            I did the exact same thing with a velvet cape! The front now looks a bit more grey than the black back, but no one has ever said anything. I'm sure that I've spent more time worrying about everyone's reactions than time I've actually spent wearing it. Anyway, it now resides in my mother's closet and is her annual 'witches cape' for Hallowe'en!

          7. Marionc032 | | #38

            LOL! Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one who's had mishaps with velvet. In my case though, I had cut the pieces on a single layer and I ended up with the nap going down on the left front and up on the right front, then up on the left back and down on the right back so NOTHING matched anywhere! If at least the fronts and backs had matched as in your case, I would have just lived with it too. I can't remember what ever happened to my cape, it probably got left behind in one of my moves. Glad to hear yours is still doing duty.Marion

        5. Oook | | #51

          I have a slogan that I tell apprentices.  There are no mistakes in sewing, there is just redesigning.  I haven't come accross anything that I couldn't redesign,and usually for the better.  I did have a disheartening misshap with a fleece poncho that had been hand blanket stitched and was quite a nice design.  The first time my daughter put it on one night when the lights went out and got a good deal of wax spilled.  I was given suggestions like, iron it out, freeze it and crack it off.  What I did was shave it off where I could but it didn't work well and so now my options are to recut it into something else,using the blanket stitch I spent so much time on, or put it in the car for emergency bundling.  Any other suggestions.  I didn't use the iron or the freezing because the fabric was thick and the wax had sunken in and I thought it would not iron out enough wax to avoid being left stiff.

          1. Teaf5 | | #52

            What about appliques?  I often use a leaf design to cover the damaged parts and then scatter more of the same around the garment, often in sets of three.  Leaves are nice because you can use all kinds of sizes and shapes and look perfectly natural.

            If the base fabric is patterned already, you could use a shape within that pattern in a coordinating solid color as random appliques on top of the damaged parts.  Then, take a look at how many others you can add to balance the overall design.  You could get really creative with blanket stitching around the appliques and probably end up with a stunning poncho.

          2. User avater
            Becky-book | | #53

            About the wax... if you have removed all that can be physically picked off, then use a warm iron and lots and lots  of paper towels.... put paper towels under and over the wax spots and use the iron to melt the wax enough to let it be absorbed by the paper; you will need to go over the same place several times until the wax is out, but it will come out.  If there is color left over from the wax try a citrus based cleaner like "De-Solv-it" (this product will even help get the last little bit of wax out). At least try it before you give up on the poncho!


          3. kayrosie | | #54

            Hi all, My worst sewing experience and I have been sewing 30 some years.  11 years ago my daughter was getting married, I made her wedding dress and attempted to make her sister's bridesmaid dress. We evidently did not think well enough when we picked out the pattern and material.  It was a disaster, when she tried it on we all looked at her and began to cry.  It was awful, awful color, awful style and a disaster.  Needless to say, I called it the dress from you know where.  It disspeared in the junk and I called the bridal shop/prom store where we had shopped before.  All we needed was one purple dress in certain size and I told her we would be down to get it.  All worked out. Good think we did not have five bridesmaid dresses to fix as I am taking on the job again. My son is getting married in March, and I am making all the bridesmaid dresses. We are being much more careful with picking out the patterns ( all are different) and the material. I have learned my lesson well.  So that is my one disaster.  There have been many more and if sewers say there hasn't been any then they are lucky.  

          4. susanna | | #55

            My latest sewing mistake involved making mittens from a Green Pepper pattern out of some berber-type fleece. I presumed (why? why do I presume?) it would be no problem, since I had made many pairs of mittens from fleece previously...trimmed, quilted, with molas, blah blah. So, this ace went ahead and made two left mittens. Then, I did it again. Not to be outdone by my own self, I then did it AGAIN.

            I now use them to hold the ice scrapers for the car in winter.

          5. Oook | | #56

            That thing of making the same one twice,are you dislexic?  I am and it results in just that kind of brain flipping.  What I do to counteract it is to mark the wrong side of each piece with chalk or a fabric marking pencil that will easily come out.  This is especially important when it's some fabric that shows no difference,like fleece. It is best if you can lay out all the pieces like a puzzle so that you can easily see the reverse of each shape.  Don't get discouraged if you are deslexic,it actually helps in seeing the negative space in art and design. You just have to learn to deal with it.   Thanks for the tip about the wax.I'll try it when I have time.

          6. susanna | | #57

            Hi. I'm not dyslexic. It was one of those situations where I was not paying good attention, and was presuming myself to be such an ace that I didn't need to check my work, since I had made mittens many times before...but mostly with embellishments, where I did mark the pieces and visually check them.

            The thing is, it still strikes me funny. Every so often, I goof, and it brings me up short from a potential hotshot mentality. So it's a good thing.

            Happy sewing!

          7. User avater
            Becky-book | | #58

            Speaking of "hotshot mentality".... I am in the midst of what might turn out to be my worst sewing disaster EVER.  Sewing a dress for a friend.... fit the "tissue", made changes... made a gingham "muslin" to check...tried on dress w/o zipper or sleeves or lining Everything looked good. Put it all together and sent her home with it....Phone rings half hour later...."It doesn't fit"  So she had no new dress for church on Sunday and my ego is crushed (deservedly so!) Her boys start back to school this week so I don't know when I'll get a chance to see just what doesn't fit and if I can fix it!!!    My copy of Fit For Real People just arrived so I have some ideas to check out next time I see her!

            Pride goes before a fall!


          8. dsrtrt2 | | #64

            Hi, Susanna.  Reading your story made me laugh.  Although I am not dyslexic either I have had a few times when I wondered if I was.  I am most suseptible when I have to cut a pattern piece 1 layer at a time.  Sometimes I forget to reverse the pattern.  One day I was cutting out a swimsuit and I think I cut 2 left pieces 2x.  When I went to sew it of course things didn't line up.  SO, I had to cut it a 3rd time.  It was most frustrating.  I have been sewing for over 40 years and that day, I was out done by a bathing suit!

          9. laural | | #59

            That is awesome. I can now probably face some of my own ridiculous cutting errors.


          10. Teaf5 | | #60

            Thanks for the giggle!  I, too, have had many, many cutting mistakes, most of which were made when I was hungry, rushed, tired, or all three.  Nowadays, I make myself wait till I'm in good condition before I lay out the pattern, and then I go have a cup of tea and step away from the project for a bit before I cut it out.

            Coming back to the project a bit later, I've often noticed oddly-placed motifs, areas I should've matched better, or even a more efficient layout.  It's slow, but really, really worth it in the long run!

        6. Sanah | | #65

          Thanks so much for recording your mistakes -- I've had such a good laugh!  It's also inspired me to "just do it".  I love sewing, but fear of mistakes has made me such a procrastinator.  I also keep purchasing fabric that I know I'm afraid of cutting because of a possible mistake.  I've just got to break the eggs......

          You really had me splitting my sides!





        7. thehat | | #69

          is`nt that the truth  even if nobody can see the mistake you know about it and it has to   come out

    2. User avater
      Thimblefingers | | #73

      I've sewn so many garments over the years that I can't possibly think what my worst disaster was!  But I had one memorable one that happened after the dress was completed.  I was trying to finish my "Christmas" dress in time for the party but ended up wearing something else because I just couldn't get it done in time.  So after the party I finished it up and put it away for the next Christmas.  Over the year I started body-building.  Then the next Christmas came.  I had lost a few pounds so "knew" that my dress would fit.  A couple days before my Christmas party, I decided to try the dress on just to get a feel for it again, but I couldn't get my arms in the sleeves!  I had given the dress very fitted (lace) sleeves with invisible zippers up to the elbows with tiny covered buttons all down the zippers.  Although I had lost weight, the body building had built up my arm muscles below the elbow so much that I couldn't get the sleeves on (let alone done up!)  I was devastated as I loved the look of the narrow sleeves and tiny buttons (which I also put down the back of the dress.  I ended up cutting 2 stylized circular shapes for each sleeve out of chiffon (which I had lined the lace sleeves with - I'm always cold), removed the zippers (what a job!), and inserted the circular shapes into the slit as if they were godets.  I resewed the buttons to one edge of the opening.  It doesn't look like a "repair" and in fact I've had numerous compliments over the years about my unique sleeves. 

      I've taught sewing for years, and I always say "If you can't make it right, make it different" (It's not a mistake - it's an opportunity to be creative).  My students and I have come up with some pretty interesting and creative solutions to mistakes - often leaving the new garment better than the intended one.  

      1. Bettefan | | #74

        My worst sewing disaster was not actually a sewing mistake. I was making a gorgeous quilt for my DD..she picked out the desing and the fabrics...it was a totally beautiful design. I made labels for every block to show myself the order for joining them...and then I left them on for weeks while doing some other work. Of course, nothing I tried removed the glue residue from the fabric. So the quilt is still sitting in a box, years later.  I have since made her another really lovely quilt, which is now on her bed in her dorm room, but I still feel terrible about ruining that first one which was to have been a combination of our tastes and a real labor of love.

        1. User avater
          Becky-book | | #75

          About that quilt.... if it is washable, try a product called De-Solv-it  it is a citrus based cleaner, best I know for sticky stuff.


      2. From my Stash.... | | #76

        Thanks so much for the great outlook on our less successful efforts. I need one about now. I am sitting here getting ready to tackle a "new creative option" on a longer straight skirt that I serged the side seams and then noticed that I had reversed the back panels. (The shaped side seams now were the centre back seam and I have no extra seam allowances.). Did I mention that it was a lovely houndstooth wool ? I should know not to try to do these things later in the evening.

        I made this mistake last winter and couldn't face it until  recently.My dear mother-in-law, who has sewn professionally, has come to the rescue with an idea that if it works will result in a more creative, but much shorter skirt, but one that I can at least wear.

        1. vwren | | #77

          I've been known to pick out serged seams and re-serge without cutting off any additional fabric.  The stitching line remains the same, so it works, although the un-picking is tedious.

          1. thehat | | #78

            I use my embroidery sissiors and makes the job a little faster  happy picking

          2. Ralphetta | | #79

            There is a ripper with a curved, knife-lke blade that whisks right through a serged seam.  It's sort of like a curved Exacto knife.

            you have to be careful but it's great. It costs a little more, but I thought it was worth it.

            There have been projects that required so much ripping that I wondered if I could get my ripper resharpened like my scissors!

          3. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #80

            If you're unpicking 3-thread serging, you can remove the needle thread first by unpicking but not ripping a couple inches so you have a tail then pulling it it out.  I find it usually comes out quite easily.  I don't use 4- thread, but I think you do the same with 2nd needle thread.  Then looper threads just fall off.

            Rippers can be sharpened.  I use a fellow here in Edmonton who sharpens medical equipment - scalpels, etc. and he does scissors, pinking sheers, rotary blades, the curved blade thread cutters, and, yes, rippers.  You might be able to find someone in your area who does the same.  (Unless you have a special ripper, it might be cheaper just to buy a new one, though!)  

  2. autumn | | #3

    My worst disaster is the "Reading Pillow" that I made for my granddaughter, from a Simplicity (I think) pattern.  In the first place, it was very difficult to understand the instructions (I've been sewing for 60 years), but I finally got it together. When I tried to figure out how to use it -- you were supposed to be able to hold a book open with straps, have a sewn-in book mark, and it had incredibly LONG shoulder straps to carry as a back pack -- it did not fit any book in my house, there was NO WAY it would work as pictured on the pattern.  It was not cheap to make, either, since I used a good quality upholstery fabric and bought those little styrofoam beads to fill it with.

    Now it just sits in my garage waiting for -- I don't know what. Any suggestions about how this things is supposed to work?  I had to hustle to find another Christmas present for my granddaughter after all that work and money.  GRRRRR.

    1. Teaf5 | | #4

      I would take the straps off and use it as a regular pillow or take it apart and use the beads for stuffed animals and the fabric for a nice table runner or placemat. I'm an avid reader who adores books, but I would never use any gadget or gizmo with them; it sounds like an idea that someone who doesn't read a lot might think a reader would want. Instead, I'd enjoy a pillow with a pocket to carry my book and/or my reading glasses or keys, but not all the straps. Let us know what you do!

      1. autumn | | #9

        I think the reason I have not done any of that (take off the straps, re-use the fabric, etc.) is because I put so much effort into it that I did not even want to look at it again. Now that it has been put away for a year, I might take it apart and do something else with it.

        I think we should start a discussion about our greatest triumphs, as opposed to disasters. We all must have had some of those.  

    2. thehat | | #68

      just a thought maybe if you made it an art pillow you have the strapes make a couple of pockets and put art supplies in it and make it to travel with

  3. solosmocker | | #6

    I can't tell you how many times I put sleeves in backwards. Thats just for starters! Then there was the time I discharged dyed black linen and it came out yellow green instead of the turquoise that the rest of the yardage did. My biggest problem is racing thru reading directions and just starting. I can usually fix the ensuing errors but you would think i would learn to go slowly. Oh, well.

  4. Susan -homedecsewing | | #7

    On contemplating this question I find It hard to recall . But then yes ,I remembered a good one. When I was 16 I thought I was a sewing wiz and made my rock and roll drummer brother a pair of stretchy tight silver blue lame' pants for the concert stage at the Agora in Cleveland. Anyway in the middle of the 1st set the crotch ripped from knee to knee, and he wasn't wearing any underwear.It was hot up there under those lights ,hey it was the sixties. Boy was he mad at me.go figure, you try to do something nice for somebody.oops



    Edited 4/18/2006 2:26 pm ET by Susan -homedecsewing

    Edited 4/24/2006 9:33 pm ET by Susan -homedecsewing

    1. thehat | | #70

      when I think of all the things this last one was not my fault a piece of the pattern was missing and I didn`t catch it in time after I had sewenit up and it did not fit right and no more of that fabric so what I will do  is make it in to an out fit for one of my grand daughters  it was one of those texured peices  but she was wanting a dresscoat and a dress to match  and she is small it will work.

  5. cafms | | #8

    One near disaster and one disaster stick out in my mind and both were a long time ago.  I made a shirt for my then new boyfriend's birthday.  Since I couldn't measure him,  I guessed.  I knew he was 6'4" so lengthened the shirt tails what I thought would be proportionate to the difference in our heights.   He  was so pleased with the shirt except that he said he really had to work the shirt down in his pant legs to get it all in.  Also, something was funny about the cuffs.  Turns out I had put them on backwards, plackets and all. I was really embarassed but he wouldn't let me change them.  I've been making his shirts for 34 years, this July, and now have it down  perfect.  We still have the shirt - long tails, backward cuffs and all.

    The real disaster was a swim suit that went together so nicely and looked so good until I tried to put it on.  I had the greatest stretch going up and down rather than around so there was no way to get it on.   It may have been just as well because it wasn't really swim suit fabric but some of that knit polyester quiana (I think that is how it was spelled) stuff from the 70s so I might have been even more embarassed had I actually gone in the water with it.

  6. SewNancy | | #10

    Well I have had a lot over the years, but my best save was in a vest with single welt pockets before I learned Sandra Betzina's trick of sewing the top line smaller than the bottom. Well, the lining showed so I sewed pearls over the welt(it was in a dressy black crepe) and covered the botch and no one ever knew it was a mistake that prompted the pearls.

  7. mygaley | | #11

    The worst-looking and most stressful sewing I ever did in my life:  I was asked to alter two rtw gowns, one for the Bride and one for the Bride's grown daughter who was MOH.  Well, the dresses were so snug, they would barely zip, but I thought I could hem the skirts without disaster.  In the 5 weeks that I had the dresses, the ladies each gained 15 pounds.  After the first fitting, I let out the bodices and hips as much as I could; then I couldn't get them to come back for another fitting.  Two days before the wedding, they came and those zippers lacked inches of meeting.  I shopped for fabric, and was able to use lace to cover the pieces I had to add, but I thought it was obvious--and the customers complained, of course.  I have a new rule:  if your garment is not big enough around, or your pattern is not your correct size, it's $25.00 extra up front for the aggravation.  It was a nightmare that I hope never to repeat.  Galey

    1. autumn | | #12

      That reminds me of a disaster that was not mine, but my sister-in-law's. Her son was getting married, and his young sister was to take care of the guest book.  She had on a beautiful dress with a very scooped-out back. (She was a full grown girl, not little). I complimented her on it and she said her mother had made it. When I told my sister-in-law how pretty the dress was, she said that it was not supposed to be backless, but the girl had gained so much weight after the dress was started that it would not close, so she just cut out the back.

    2. KassCamille | | #13

      I had a similar wedding disaster. One of my close friends was getting married for the second time and was on a tight budget. She asked me to make her wedding dress and a dress for her daughter. We went to the fabric store and found patterns that she thought were suitable and fabric that she absolutely loved. Not being a sewer, she didn't realize that patterns don't follow regular sizes and she didn't know the current measurements for either of them. I sent her home and told her to have her daughter measure her in her wedding undergarments and she should do the same for her daughter. She called me with the measurements and I bought the patterns and fabric for the dresses. Thank God that I also bought some very inexpensive cheap fabric to sew up for a first fitting (her fabric would have shown alteration marks and I needed to be sure). She came over for her first fitting and the jacket and skirt were several sizes too big. I asked her if she has lost a lot of weight in the last two weeks and she said no, that she had actually gained some weight. I felt so bad that I had possibly made the wrong size so I reviewed her measurements while she was there. They were completely different from what she had given me. She went from a 22 to a 14. It turned out that her daughter hadn't been available and she had her very shy fiance measure her while she was wearing a heavy sweatshirt and snowpants. Needless to say, I made another sample before I got to the real fabric. Everything turned out just fine in the end, but it taught me not to trust anyone but myself to measure the body of the person I'm sewing for.

      Edited 4/19/2006 5:38 pm ET by KassCamille

    3. mainestitcher | | #22

      I work part time in a bridal shop. One of the things the fitter does is to take the customer's measurements at the first fitting. Saves a lot of arguing later.I have gussetted many costumes for community theater, but it would make me wince to have to "real" clothes.And I remember when there were few choices for activewear fabrics. I think I had a terrycloth bathing suit, myself. What were we thinking?I block out most of my disasters...but a friend of mine had one that was just mortifying. She'd made her own bathing suit, and it had come out nicely. She had chosen white knit (maybe it was Qianna, remember Qianna?), because back in the day, we didn't worry about cancer so much, and she did tan beautifully. One day, the professor who employed her for work/study decided that it was too hot to work, and told all the students working for him to go change, they were going to the beach!Into the water she goes, and the first thing she realized is that the elastic sagged as soon as it got wet. The next thing she realized was that her white, unlined bathing suit was now close to transparent.

  8. sewnutt | | #14

    It is ALWAYS the simple tasks that get me in my alterations business!      Several years ago a customer brought over a pair of size 10 boys white pants for Easter wear. The child was a size 8 but she had me take them in and then hem them.  In the process of serging the hem, I caught the thigh area in the blade and cut them.  She then had to trek to the store to find more, finding the correct size 8 this time.  After paying her for the pants, I realized how much money I lost on this simple job!

    I do not do garment construction for customers anymore.  Inevitably they pick the wrong size pattern, wrong notions, and a totally unsuitable fabric or a fabric that is time consuming to work with.

    I have gotten stuck (twice--you would think I would learn!) helping out neighbor girls at prom time.   Both times they intended to make their own gowns, doing so with no sewing experience on their part!   One of them is eternally grateful, constantly sending me new customers.  The other never so much as said thank you!

    My hat is off to those of you who work on bridal attire!  It can be the most challenging to make from a pattern or to alter!  

    1. User avater
      ehBeth | | #15

      Two doozies in my memory. One - the fabric choice. The second - being cocky.It's about 1972 and I'm going to make myself a bikini and matching poncho and floppy hat - all in paisley floral TERRYCLOTH. The bikini, as required by the pattern, is lined. I think I'll wear my beautiful new bikini <and it is beeeeeeeeeauuuutiful> to the beach and go swimming. First time in the lake, the bottoms fill with water and sink.Pulling them up from the bottom of the lake, putting them back on <think of all that nice waterlogged terrycloth > and getting back to shore was an event and a half. A couple of decades later, I had some extraordinary Alfred Sung pinwale corduroy and was making myself the "perfect" jumper. It was lovely, except things went too well, I stopped looking at the instructions and put the pockets in backwards. Didn't notice until everything was done. Everything. <sigh>

  9. gothlita | | #16

    Does someone else's disaster count? I recently bought a horribly made (obviously new seamstress) dress. I bought it because I loved the fabric, this was at a garage sale and the seamstress was only too happy to hand it off..The fabric is a blue and white seersucker with cherries printed on it, none of the seams were finished, zipper was sloppily put in and the dress, well it just looked funny-so I finished all of the seams, shortened it and fixed the zipper and then added a corset style belt with a large bow in back, made a double ruffle on the hem of contrasting fabric( same as belt, with gathered lace on top and embellished the bodice with lace..It's so adorable I can't stand it..LOL..only thing is I'm wayyyy tooo old to wear it..So some lucky young lolita sweetie will get to buy it on ebay..

  10. suesew | | #17

    About ten years ago I made an entire wedding party, male and female and mother and father of the bride outfits for a Renaissance wedding theme. The bride was a very large women. I didn't have too much trouble fitting her since she was in town and could come for as many fittings as I asked, but her sister, the Matron of honor didn't come to town until the day of the wedding. She had never sent measurements but the bride said she was the same size. Well, the dress was too tight in the arms and we couldn't get it over her very ample backside. So I took a pair of scissors and slit it on both sides from about the hip level right up to the sleeve and then three quarters of the way down the sleeve. Then she could get it on. They both found this to be very funny. I did some quick measuring and inserted two yard long gussets that I thought looked trerrible. But they were thrilled. I was never so glad to see customers leave. But that afternoon I did go to the wedding. I just had to see it all together. And in that old church setting they actually looked pretty good.

  11. Elene | | #19

    When I first started sewing 47 years ago, I picked out a party dress pattern that had the entire back as a  triple-volume ruffle. I made it out of a beautiful white on white taffeta, but I didn't know the tricks for successful ruffling. I must have basted that long, long strip of fabric at least 6 different times and each time it would break as I was halfway done ruffling. And, I would have to start all over again to sew down that lonnnng strip. I got more and more frustrated, and angrier and angrier until I finally just threw the whole thing across the room !  After I cooled down, I did figure out how to do it and the dress came out beautiful. It was a very unusual design and I still wish that I had not discarded the pattern as it would be back in style today.  Today, I'm much more experienced and calmer about my sewing, but I still laugh everytime I "see" myself throwing that dress across the room.

    1. Elene | | #20

      I have just now come into this discussion, but thank you all for making me feel like I am not the only idiot around.  I've only been sewing for 47 years, but I STILL put things together upside down, wrong sides together, sleeves backwards, etc., etc.  I've called myself a dope out loud more times than one---only my cat can hear me of course!   One good thing: a few years ago, my daughter's friend had to make a dress for her marketing class in college and had never sewn before. She asked to borrow my machine. Of course, you can't just sit down at a sewing machine for the first time and sew. So, of course, I made the entire miniature dress for her in 4 hours time.  I sweated it out until she got her grade for it, but SHE GOT AN "A",  so I wasn't embarrassed!!

    2. greeneyes21 | | #42

      I was just reading your post. I recall using that same pattern or one just like it. I can't remember what happened now, but I never did wear the dress. I think it just didn't look right on me after I had finished it.

      1. Elene | | #44

        I'm not surprised that a devout sewer would remember the pattern because it was very unique. Actually, it did look good on me and I wore it for a "party" dress as I made it out of a white on white taffeta.  But, back then, I was very thin.  It had been a long time ago, but I still laugh about how I threw that dress across the room from sheer utter frustration!!

        1. greeneyes21 | | #45

          Let me tell you about my mother-of-the-bride dress. My eldest daughter re-married in 2003. I was to make the wedding cake. Also, I was making my dress. I bought a lovely sheer floral fabric and silk for the slip. Well, the fabric frayed so badly; no matter that I zig-zag stitched the edges of seams, etc. By the time I finished it I didn't have enough fabric to properly finish off the long slit in the back. So, daughter and I went shopping for new fabric. Now, it's close to the wedding date. I'm working on the 3-tiered cake and on my new dress. While I'm sewing I watch public tv and they show how to make "Italian Wedding Soup". Ah, just what I can make for the bride and groom. On TV they showed how to make the soup in the crock pot and, she "poured" in a box of ancini de pepi (small macaroni). On Thursday, I made the meat balls, vegs, broth in crock pot and as I "poured" in the box of macaroni I thought something was drastically wrong. In about 15 minutes I had a crock pot full of paste. Ever resourceful, I took a colander with holes large enough for the mac to go through, but not the vegs and meatballs. I returned the vegs, and meat to a pot ON THE STOVE, made new broth. Cooked the small macaroni separately. The following day, Friday, the day before the wedding I had my dress finished, I delivered the cake, the Wedding Soup and macaroni. My daughter called me late that night and said that they had just gotten home from rehearsal, etc. and the Wedding Soup was just what they needed. Everyone commented on how lovely my dress was, at the wedding. Talk about disasters and near-disasters!

          1. Elene | | #47

            Oh you are a lady after my own heart. I always try a new recipe on company instead of trying it out first to see if it's going to work or not.  Some times it actually works out, but sometimes it's a total disaster and then I'm in trouble. Glad everything worked out for you. I, too, have sometimes had fabric that ravelled endlessly. The manufacturers ought to be shot.   Regards,Elene

          2. greeneyes21 | | #48

            In the 60's we went to Expo in Canada for a week. One night I wanted to eat in a Mexican restaurant and the family went elsewhere. I had Chicken Mole Poblano. It's made with peanuts and chocolate. MMMMM! I looked for that recipe for years and many years later found "Chocolate chicken". I thought that must be it. I tried it out when my daughter had one of her friends over. It was so bitter we almost had to spit it out. I apologized to the friend and everyone else and served up something that I whipped up quickly. Since then, I have found a recipe for Mole poblano. Marjorie

          3. Teaf5 | | #49

            What do you bet that many of our cooking disasters have been caused by trying to solve our sewing disasters? Or that many of our sewing disasters have been caused by trying to avoid a cooking disaster?

          4. autumn | | #50

            I'd rather sew than cook any day, so I rarely do both at the same time.

        2. greeneyes21 | | #46

          Isn't it interesting how one disaster story reminds us of so many more?
          My niece is in dance recitals. The costumes are always too long by about 8-10 inches. Last year I marked the length of one pair of pants and proceded to cut. Then I cut the other leg. Whoops! I cut the same leg twice! Fortunately, I was able to fix it up.

  12. Sarahbelle | | #21

    I was making a jacket (an Anna Sui design) of wool/silk blend gabardine, and purchased a new type of fusible interfacing  on sale that I had never seen before. [My first clue ignored].  Instead of fusing, the interfacing melted and disappeared into the fabric -- fortunately the wrong side.   No harm done, I thought, until I stitched and pressed the pleated sunburst design on the jacket's front and discovered that the iron was coated with the melted residue, now transferred to the jacket's right side front.  It appeared completely ruined.  The only way to fix the jacket front was to re-cut from new fabric.  Alas, I had purchased the fabric in Dubai, U.A.E, so there was no chance of replacing it.  When I went back to the fabric store to purchase new interfacing, and complain about the melted mess, I was shown the end of the bolt which clearly stated "Do Not Iron".  I had not bought interfacing.

    A product called Un-Do disolved the glue without harm to my beautiful jacket, and the suit remains one of my favorites.

    I do plan to go back to Dubai for more fabric shopping, however!!!



  13. CrystalDyes | | #23

    My worst sewing disaster had to be when I was 9 yrs. old and just learning to sew. I thought I was pretty good, after all I had been sewing for a whole year. I wanted to make a skirt to wear to school. Mom had a remnant of red-orange antique satin drapery material so I measured myself very carefully and "drafted" a pattern out of newsprint. I was very careful to add the seam allowances. Got it all together and even managed to put a zipper in. I was very proud of myself and could just see myself wearing this skirt to school. After it was all together, I tried it on . . .uh . . .nobody had taught me about wearing ease . . .I'd have done any hooker proud because that skirt was truly skin tight! That was 48 years ago and I have learned a couple of things since then . . .especially about wearing ease. Crystal

  14. FyberSpace | | #33

    My darling daughter called (1 PM) and needed a dress for the theatre (6 PM). I had a wonderful large, leafy, and "jungley" print cotton that I knew would be wonderful for a spaghetti strap dress. I cut it out, sewed it together. She flew in the door at 5PM, wiggled into it, looked in the mirror, said, "I LOVE it, it's perfect!" She did, indeed, look georgeous. What neither of us realized was that there were parrots hidden in the leaves of the pattern. And, they were all upside down.

    To this day we refer to it as "The Dead Parrot Dress."

    1. Teaf5 | | #34

      Delightful! Isn't amazing how the worst mistakes make the best and most lasting memories?

  15. Elaray | | #37

    My worst sewing disaster? Where do I begin?!?!

    The hardest thing for me to learn was to choose the right fabric for a pattern/design. I remember a skirt with a gathered waist and I used a heavy twill - fuschia, no less! I really should have used a much lighter fabric for the skirt. Most of my disasters have come from choosing the wrong fabric. Now, I'm very careful to follow the recommendations and suggestions and I take fewer chances. That might not be such a good thing. We truly learn from our mistakes -- especially in sewing!

  16. TJSEWS | | #39

    I remember making a pair of pants, silk dupioni in a beautiful burgundy color.  I put in an invisible zipper at the center back but the top of the zipper was too low from the top of the waistband, which was a faced waistband.  What I did was make a decorative and functional tab that covered the opening and it worked like a dream!!

    I also sewed a pair of pants with the front crotch hanging too low (back was ok) and I tried fixing it but the more I tried, the worse it got so I just threw out the whole thing.  I tried a different pattern and got a better result.  I also once made a blouse with a collar with stand but I just made a disaster out of it and threw the blouse and pattern away!  Anyway, a couple of years later (after having more experience and learning under my belt) I tried again and was able to pull it off and rather nicely I must say!

    Anyway, I view mistakes as opportunies for creative solutions or challenges that teach me how to go on to the next level. 




  17. mary lynn | | #40

    I was doing lots of sewing for the bridal party for my nephew's wedding. Down to the wire...3 days before the wedding, my sewing assistant (orange, furry, 4 legs) walked across the long skirt of the maid of honor's outfit.

    It was a cotton sateen...no problem, wash it. It lost color, no longer matched the top. No way I could get more fabric. washed the top, too. They still were different colors.

    Sister recommended i get some new blue jeans and wash with the skirt. That didn't work either. Finally threw the top and skirt in washer with color remover. Turned all the fabric to griege. Then had to do a gazillion test swatches with dye to get the color right. Finally used my math degree to get the proportions right to dye the outfit. ARGH

  18. estelle | | #41

    I first learn to sew when I was a bride and my loving husband bought me a sewing machine.  He was in the navy at the time and was gone and I was alone in a place away from friends and family.  So in order to keep myself occupied I "taught" myself to sew.  He was so proud of me. He made me wear my first outfit and took pictures of me and took me out to dinner.  Year later, and after much experience, as I was looking at old pictures I realized what was I thinking? At that first experience  I did not know anything about straight grain of fabric or nap among many other things. Need I tell you what that outfit looked like.  I have improved a great deal since that 42 years ago.  However, needless to say his incouragement and pride in me mand me want to sew more and now I live to sew and teach others.  One of the first things I teach my students  is about straight  grain and nap.  My outfits are now great.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

  19. Remelle | | #43

    My worst moment was, I used to smoke and I took a puff of the cigarette and a hot ash fell on the dress burning a hole in the middle of the skirt.  I went out and purchased a long stem rose applique.

    It turned out to be an eloquent ADDITION.

  20. mimi | | #61

    You mean besides making complete outfits that didn't fit once they were finished?  I did that a lot as a teenager, no one had ever told me that RTW sizing and pattern company sizing were not the same.

    My most recent disaster was putting together a top using border print fabric from India.  I cut out the front side backward not once but twice.  I ran out of fabric, of course, and had to piece together the two backward pieces to make a correct side front.  It looks fine now!

    Today I was attempting to make a lining for a dress.  I sewed the outside of the front to the inside of the back, not once but twice.  Thank goodness for the seam ripper, it gives me a chance to sit down and collect myself before I sew again!

    I should know better, since I have been sewing since 1967 :)


    1. lilah | | #62

      My worst sewing disaster, hmmm... Well, it would probably have to be my daughter's senior prom dress.  I had a third shift job and was working a LOT of OT.  She couldn't decide on the dress she wanted until two weeks before the prom.  It was a strapless, satin gown with a sheer overskirt.  The instructions in the pattern had a little boning in the sides, but no other support built in.  The first muslin looked pretty flimsy, so I bought Susan Kahlje's (sp?) book and the bodice was fabulous.   The fit was great.  The fabric was a nightmare because I didn't really know how to handle fabric that would fray before my eyes.  However, I got it all together, except for hemming the overskirt and putting an extra hook in the back closure.  I had to work the night before the prom and I had to have a couple of hours of sleep before I finished the dress.  I had spent every waking hour working on this dress and I was so exhausted! I overslept and didn't wake up until about two hours before she was leaving for the prom!  I was sewing the hook on as she walked out the door.   We were both almost in tears by that time.  It's funny now but at the time, WAH!  I learned some really valuable lessons: (1) pick out what you're going to make VERY early; (2) PRACTICE; (3) pay someone else to do it if you work and don't have the time! 

      My mom made my senior prom dress and it looked fabulous.  It wasn't until later that we realized she had put the skirt on upside down.  Actually, it looked great because the skirt was slit and the way it went on (upside down) it opened a little wider at the bottom, showing off my legs from the knee down (and my platform shoes)!  I got so many compliments on my dress.  Good thing, because when I look at pics from it now, my hair was pretty scary looking! LOL 

      1. mimi | | #63

        lilah, we can't be held accountable for any hairdos of the '70s and '80s.  I have a wedding picture where you can see my platform shoes.  I kept them for the longest time, too :)  What were we thinking??!


  21. Tangent | | #66

    I've had many disasters and 'creative opportunities' in the 50+ years I've been sewing, but one that stands out was in the early days.  It was in the first year of home-ec class, we were told to go buy a pattern and some fabric.  I thought a pair of pants would be nice. They were sort of plain, clamdigger style.  Not too much problem there.  Then I picked out the fabric.  Mom was with me, she should have argued some sense into my head, but I can be stubborn.  I picked out a heavy poplin (intended for a canvas deck chair??) in a bold yellow,white, green, and red pattern of 1" stripes.  I remember trying to get the stripes to line up on CF and CB.  I would trim a little off an edge and re-sew the seam. It kept getting tighter. Somewhere along the construction I must have suspected this wasn't a good choice!  That project was never finished, and I think Mom discreetly 'mislaid' it.

    I have cut pieces from the wrong side of the fabric, cut with the nap going the wrong way, misjudged how much fabric to get and been short, discovered fabric flaws where they can't be cut around, sewn a section together and had to rip it out because something else had to be inserted first, cut on the wrong side of the line, taken on jobs that took way longer than they should have because of complications, had an iron tip over onto wool fabric and scorch a big hole in a customer's trousers, and lots of other dumb things.  It is a relief to know this doesn't only happen to me!

    A tip for keeping track of the right/wrong side of the fabric when it's not obvious-  masking tape.  Put bits of tape on the WRONG of the fabric before cutting, when you have decided which will be the right side. When laying out the fabric for cutting, move these bits to the scrap areas, and put new strips of tape with pattern info on them, such as 'left sleeve', onto the wrong side of the cut out parts.  Remove the tape when the piece is pinned for sewing.  One caution... remove the tape before it gets 'old', or it may not be easy to remove all of it.  Sometimes the glue on the tape gets gooey.  I also tape up broken needles, knife blades, etc, before discarding, so they can't fall out of the bag.

    1. ayelean | | #67

      Mistakes, oh where to begin. I am 70+ and started sewing when I was about 13. I never had a lesson. I bought a simple pattern and followed the direction. Somehow I missed the part about top stitching the facing close to the seam line. I continued to miss that part for years so I always had trouble with the neck facings lying down. Years later I discovered that little part and I had a bittersweet moment. Bitter that I had missed it for so long and sweet that I finally was able to solve the facing problem.

      Early when I was sewing I had a pattern for a sleeveless blouse, a criss cross vee front attached to a wide sash-like piece for the waist part. I bought my own fabric and just loved it, it was a polished fabric with vertical rows of white alternating with a stripe of tiny floral print. I showed the fabric to my mother and grandmother (I was never her favorite grandchild) and she scoffed that I had bought pillow ticking!! I defiantly made the blouse anyway and loved it despite my GM reminding me everytime she saw it that it was meant to be put on a pillow.

      We had a saying in our house to discourage us from sewing on a Sunday. It was: 'What you sew on Sunday, you will rip out with your nose on Monday'. Even though I love to sew and don't consider it labor or work of any kind, it seems to be a self fulfilling prophesy that whatever I put a needle to on a Sunday I inevitably have to rip out later. It is usually not an easy rip out either, so I guess that is why the saying says rip out with 'your nose'.

      My worst sewing mistake happened when I was a toddler! I was playing on the floor near my mother sewing on a treadle machine and I was fascinated by the treadle and yes, I pushed the treadle while mom was threading the needle and I put the needle right through her middle fingernail! I have always felt so bad about that and the only thing that made her upset was she had some urgent sewing to be done but had to wait for the bleeding to stop so it wouldn't ruin her fabric!

      1. scp | | #71


        I am a newbie and am so overjoyed that I have found a forum where the some of you ladies are nearer my age. (Let's just say "Over Fifty"!)

        Your stories are so funny.  I've had my share of disasters too, which I will tell you all about when I have more time than I have today!

        So happy to have 'met' all of you that have posted your disasters.

        Sincerely; scp 

        1. MaryinColorado | | #72

          Welcome!  I look forward to hearing your stories too.  I have learned so much from all the people here.  What a wealth of knowledge all in one place!  How blessed we are to have this site and that Threads and Taunton allow us to express ourselves and discuss such a variety of sewing information.  Mary

      2. Elene | | #82

        Here's another way to do neck facings:  match the shoulder seam of the facing to the shoulder seam of the garment, and "stitch in the ditch" on the garment side.  The seam will be virtually invisible and will hold the facing in place without having to tack it down. Tack down at the opening as usual.   

        And, BTW, I have blood on almost every garment I've ever made. Once, I sewed the side of my finger to what I was sewing, and ripped my flesh rather than take apart the item (it was only the top layer) and, I also sewed down through my fingernail myself  once! That hurt like anything and taught me a good lesson about being careful not to get so intent on what was being sewed.

        1. ayelean | | #83

          Thank you for that info. One time I had a sleeveless dress and noted that they put all the facings, neck, and armholes together first then sewed it to the front like it was a reversible garment. The neck facings were very large but it was comfortable.


          Sorry about all your boo boos.



          1. Elene | | #84

            Yes, I had a pattern like that too once, where all the facings were sewen into one piece. It had to be done very precisely otherwise it caused ripples in the garment. It worked out, but I didn't like it very much. If the fabric doesn't fray, I have occasionally just turned in the seam allowance on sleeveless garments and  topstitched it down decoratively without using a facing at all.  It all depends on what the item is and what the fabric is as to how to treat the situation. That's what's so wonderful about sewing, you can use your imagination and do whatever you want.

        2. Ralphetta | | #85

          It's comforting to hear that so many other sewers bleed on their projects.  I didn't realize I wasn't alone. Oh, it applies to embroidery as well.

          I've been so engrossed and intent on where I was sewing that I've hunched too close to the machine and gotten whacked in the forehead by the "arm." I've only sewn over my finger once, luckily it wasn't bad.

          In the 50's while making a brown sheath dress with a side zipper I basted the zipper to the dress AND the ironing board cover enumerable  times.  Each time I stared in disbelief that I had done it again.

          1. Elene | | #86

            I had to laugh about the ironing board cover. Now, that's one thing that I haven't done. I've never tried to baste something while standing over the ironing board. That's probably the only reason I've avoided that boo-boo.

          2. User avater
            Becky-book | | #87

            You are not alone!!

            I have basted things to my skirt several times before promising myself not to sew in my lap any more!!! Now I sit at my sewing desk with nothing else near when basting! LOL


          3. Tangent | | #89

            I've pinned large projects to the carpet, and often pinned layers together unintentionally.  I found a simple solution:

            At the Dollar Store, in the kitchenware section, they have a plastic sheet, 12" x 15" Flexible Chopping Mat, 2 per package, that works great for a portable backing.  Place it on the ironing board, carpet, your lap, or wherever, move it along as needed, to keep the pins or scissors from going further than they should.

            They are also thin enough to cut out a template from, or trim to a handy shape- like the end of the ironing board!


          4. User avater
            Becky-book | | #90

            Cool Beans!  as my teens would say!   I must go right by the Dollar General this AM, hope they have some!



    2. Elene | | #81

      Instead of any kind of tape - because I am afraid of the glue coming off - I just use 2 pins in a "crossed" fashion. That way they don't slip out as easily and they don't ruin or mark the fabric (usually)

      1. Tangent | | #88

        Another twist on using pins instead of tape-  use little safety pins.  You could even fasten a note to it.

        The tape idea works best with a project that will be completed soon, and all tape scraps removed when it's done.   Leaving the tape on, and packing it away, is asking for ruined fabric!

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