August 20, 2014


It doesn't happen to me that often anymore, but sometimes something just doesn't work out. And it would be unfair to keep those items from the blog, wouldn't it?
Case in point:

File this one under: Don't try to be too clever.
I was having misgivings about this dress even when drafting. Gathers don't always work for me, which is why I usually confine them to small sections or one side of a pattern piece (as in a twist). However, I silenced them, and blogged about how I made the pattern... Famous last words.

I will insist that the design idea itself isn't wrong. It should be possible to make a dress with lots of gathered sections. It just requires very fine, well controlled gathering and negative ease and/or gravity to pull those gathers taut. 
I kind of knew that but I was too worried about this fabric creating a straightjacket-like fit so I stuck with the basic shape of my new sloper. And I had forgotten the slight stiff-ness of this fabric. Which meant it didn't like being gathered by methods which involve machine stitching. 
I used basting thread instead but that made the gathers too big and too easily moved about.

I started to see the issues last night but decided to soldier on and at least finish the bodice. So, I continued, pinning carefully.
I hadn't made things easy for myself. Remember those sections in which I had eliminated the side seam? Those meant that there was only one possible order of construction and I really had to pay attention to that. All the while dealing with fiddly pieces of thin lycra lining and heavy gathered jersey full of pins...

The creative seam lines also mean that I can't take the bodice in at the sides to try and fix the fit. I'm sure the hip yokes would look a bit better if I attached the skirt, which would weigh them down and make the gathering look better. However, I don't think it's worth it. It wouldn't fix the top of the bodice. 
I have been too clever for my own good here, I've over-complicated things. And although I made this design to try and cope with the qualities of this particular fabric, it definitely didn't do the job. This fabric has simply too much bulk to work with so many gathers.
I've thrown out the bodice. I'm keeping the skirt pieces and the sleeves. The skirt consists of large rectangles (with curved tops) which could be cut up for something like a top and the sleeves have been drafted without gathers so they are probably OK...

Time for something else now.


  1. Too bad! The line drawing was gorgeous though - maybe it's worth making the dress without the gathers?

  2. What fun would life be if we just sewed boring "Tried and True's"? It's not a failure, because you learned what doesn't work.

  3. I'm thinking keep it, and pleat it! You're on the right track for something different.

  4. The idea is fab! And it looks as if it would work with finer fabric.

  5. I love the term "constructive failure." It actually means dealing with failure by being kind to yourself and taking away something learned from the experience. For people who sew it has a whole second meaning! I have constructive failures on a regular basis, so thanks for sharing so I know I am not alone. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  6. I'm not sure it is a total failure but simply your first toile. With such a complicated style the first toile will always need adjustment, even for experienced pattern makers. And it is possible that it would take at least two to three toiles before a style this difficult would be worthy of final fabric. You are too hard on yourself. :) Looks like all that is required is for the fit to be tighter to place the gathered drape under tension for it to work. Great work!