Monday, 25 July 2016

Early Sewing Disasters

While decluttering my room recently I found some pretty horrible things. Things from when I began trying to teach myself to sew, which I scarcely remember making. So I figured I should document them here before I cannibalized them for the useful bits.

This first one is a blue waistcoat I made without doing any research into how shawl collars work. Or rather, a waistcoat I mostly made and gave up on when I realized it could never be wearable.
It's the same fabric I used for my sequined waistcoat sleeves, and for this book.
After taking this picture I cut the silk bits off and saved them.
It's interlined in what appears to be part of an old cotton futon covering, and there's no interfacing anywhere but the collar. I didn't get as far as buttonholes. Probably because I tried to sew the collar on and realized it was never, ever going to sit right.
I do still like the embroidery I did on the collar, but I think the print really takes away from it. If I were to make it again I would not use a print. (The print happens to be from my first time screenprinting! Though it's also not up to my standards anymore, since my drawing has improved since I did those octopi.)

I think this "coat" was one of my first sewing attempts ever. (Not counting the tiny hand stitched felt things I did in Elementary school) I have sketches of it from 2011, though no photos of the thing itself in its entirety.
A lot of actual fabric scraps were painstakingly represented here.
Sadly, this looks pretty decent compared to the coat I ended up "making".
 It was basically a blue cotton lab coat with a whole lot of junky fabric scraps sewn onto it.
I stuck a teacup on one of the patch pockets
and I'm pretty sure the teacup fabric was old bedsheets.
 Here's what was left when I found it. The greenish bit with the stripes was from one of the sleeves, and the blocky section is from the back. The squares are from a drapery sample booklet, and the beige scale pattern stuff is from a chair I found in the garbage. Yup. I cut a piece of upholstery fabric off someone's yucky old chair for my yucky coat. Teenagers are known for doing foolish things and I was no exception.
(Not that there's anything wrong with getting furniture from the garbage! I have a nice hardwood swivel chair that I salvaged and reupholstered. But this beige scale fabric was very synthetic and gross.)
Garbage fabric that has finally been returned to the garbage.
There was also a pocket made out of a glove that I had stuck on the front of the coat. A knitted cotton glove (the kind you use for handling artifacts and stuff) that I'd felted a layer of green wool over. The thing that amazes me most about this is that I took the time to change the thread colour and buttonholer template so many times for entirely useless buttonholes
There's a tiny little brown cotton pocket bag in there.
I still want to make something out of scraps, but when that happens I'll do it very differently. I got rid of most of my synthetic scraps, and when I sew my nice natural fibre remnants into something I will sew them together nicely.

My first actual attempt at patterning & sewing a coat is another thing I don't have a picture of, but I do have the sketches from around that time! 
I think I was about 17 or 18.
I made it when I knew absolutely nothing about patterning, and so of course the seam placement was awful. My sketchbook also included a drawing of the terrible, terrible pattern pieces.
I got the general shape of the fitted sleeve ok I guess,
but the top part of them is still quite wrong.
I made the pattern by cutting up the aforementioned scrap-covered lab coat along whatever lines I felt like and then tracing the pieces. I apparently had not heard that 18th century coats only have one set of side seams placed very far back, and that nearly every kind of coat ever has a back seam.

I sewed it up in a horrendous polyester drapery fabric, which was thick and scratchy and frayed a huge amount. It had nice looking black & gold stripes though. This was also before I had gotten it through my head that lining should be at least somewhat slippery in things with fitted sleeves. So it was lined in a very thin brown plain weave cotton. It also had no interfacing anywhere.
I was a lot worse at painting then too.

I don't know what happened to the coat. I'm pretty sure I never finished it. I assume I must have cut it up to use the lining fabric for something else, because all I found was the outer part of the collar.
At least I got the stripes more or less centred.
Update: I found it! It was in a box of horrible fabric and scraps that I'd forgotten I had! The lining was missing, and it still had the collar, so that other collar mush have been a failed first attempt.
Look at all that fraying!
I should have tried it on, but didn't think to, and it is thrown out now. It really was an incredibly disgusting fabric.
Those back seams... ugh, no.

I can recall 3 early attempts at making cotton shirts, only one of which I finished.
The back, sleeves, and ruffles are made of a fine cotton, while the rest appeared to have been made out of yellowed and slightly flannely old sheets. The cuffs are tremendously bulky. I'm pretty sure the collar and cuffs were interlined with more futon cover fabric. I hadn't yet learned that late 18th century shirts didn't have any sort of interfacing.
It didn't match at all in colour, or weave quality.
And why did I put the nice cotton piece on the back??
I cut off and kept the nicer pieces of cotton, and the buttons.

I think this purple waistcoat was the second one I ever made. (The first was a big shiny brown thing made of 3 different drapery fabrics, which I don't have any pictures of.)
 I found a sketch and a whole lot of notes with this one! I haven't cut this up yet, but I do want to re-use the fabric for something because I really like it. It's a thick cotton with a woven spiral pattern, and it's lined with actual lining fabric for once! (Because I took it out of a coat someone was throwing out.)
Once again, it isn't interfaced. The back is the same fabric as the front, and I made 2 rows of buttonholes because I didn't know how to do double breasted stuff. The brass buttons are all the same size, but are 3 different designs because I didn't have enough of any one.

I think the biggest problem with this one is the pattern. Especially the lapels.
I wore it quite a lot in my late teens, along with the horrible sheet shirt,
and thought myself very smartly dressed at the time.
 These stays are from a bit before I started this sewing blog, and they're okay enough to be wearable, but not great. I used a commercial pattern and even though I lowered the back by a considerable amount it's still too high. They're boned with strips cut off of some sheet of plastic that Papa had in his workroom, and it doesn't hold its shape well at all.
I also stab stitched the entire binding on, which cause my fingers a great deal of pain and left very visible stitches. Nowadays I do bias binding with a very small slipstitch or whipstitch.
I eventually gave these stays to a small theatre company.
Also, note the wonky spacing of the eyelets.
The pattern didn't have them all the way to the bottom, so I added more later.

 This waistcoat was slightly better than the others, but still terrible in terms of materials. Especially the "interfacing".
I have since given it away at a clothing swap.

I'm including a picture from this post because I don't have any better pictures of my first shirt, which was also the first garment I ever made. It was for a grade 11 sewing class. I did well on the assignment, but it was not a good shirt. It was made of silk (NO! Bad bad bad shirt material!), made from a commercial pattern (Circular ruffles! 2 piece collar! THE HORROR! And such a wasteful pattern compared to historical ones.), and the edges of the ruffles were serged. I think it wore out pretty quickly, which is precisely why you do not make 18th century shirts out of silk.
At least there's nothing wrong with the red cravat thing.
And there you have it! The sorry results of me trying to sew without any sort of instruction! I cringe at them now, but everyone has to start somewhere. I've improved so much since these projects and am always learning new things.
Have you got any early sewing horror stories? Might you be persuaded to post about them? (If so, please leave a link in the comments so I can see them!)


  1. Most of my first sewing attempts were a million years ago (ok, 20+) so there are very few pictures of them (I did find some though). The first was a Star Trek jumpsuit made out of flannelette (inappropriate, massively attractive to cats, and also redonk warm), a couple of Sailor Moon dress jumpsuit things (I have a picture online of one of them...), and a Babylon 5 uniform that I still have. The materials are nice enough, but the sewing is really bad (I was 16 when I made it) and a lot of the accessories that go with it are sometimes just printed and laminated paper with a velcro back (oh pre-internet days, I don't miss you that much).

    Three cheers for sewing progress!

    1. That does sound terrible, but yes! Hooray for learning experiences!

  2. Bravo on you for sharing these. I seem to recall a couple disasters, but on the whole my sewing career hasn't had that many horrible disasters: probably because I was extremely research oriented even in my early stages, and less creative than you.

    Although, there was my Irish "leine". Pleated sleeves and all, neckline cut too wide so I "trimmed" it to make it smaller...and didn't hem the neck (Horrors). On the other hand, there was the "druid's robe" I made for around the house with the same pattern, but bigger. Out of old, plaid flannel was quite comfy until it fell apart on me.

    1. Raw edges? Oh no!

      I'm still not nearly as good at research as you, but at least I'm better than I was in my teen years when "research" meant just looking at pictures of clothes.

    2. ....I may have run a zig-zag stitch around the edge to keep it from fraying too much...

      But I think I attoned for the sin of that project...with lots more research, lol.

      I thoroughly enjoy research--it allows me to procrastinate without feeling as guilty! It really isn't difficult; main things are persistence and organizing what you've found out.