SEW BAD Saturday #4

Meet Stephanie, while her fascinating blog contains travel photos, artwork and sewing, she felt compelled to share her latest creation with us. I will just include everything she said to me:

Hi Mrs. Mole,
I have an entry for your Sew Bad column, inspired after seeing Kate of Fabrickated’s version a few weeks ago. I’m not the most experienced seamstress so I don’t know if this would be of interest to your readership. Something I find frustrating about blogs is that people are generally “nice.” I’m not suggesting that people should be mean, but I like a debate and an honest opinion, as I’d like to learn how to sew properly and don’t have any in-person guidance. I think I can trust your readers to provide sincere feedback. (I write a journal/blog here: , although I write about things other than sewing for the most part.)

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Why did you pick this pattern?

I can’t remember! Knowing me, I probably liked the floral fabric in the picture on the pattern envelope. I also had not made a shirt yet at that point and so didn’t understand that this shirt does not have a collar stand. Oh, I remember – I was thinking of making the shirt dress version, to wear belted, although I decided to try the shirt version first to get the hang of the pleats. I am also a big fan of vintage patterns generally, especially pre-1970, although as a relatively inexperienced seamstress I am not yet the best judge of whether a vintage pattern will produce a garment that can be easily worn as a contemporary style.

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What size did you think you were according to their envelope numbers?

The pattern is a size 12, bust 32, which is what I consider to be my base size, based on my shoulder size and upper bust measurement.


What size did you cut and did you alter before cutting?
Same. I think I did narrow the bust darts a bit out of a fear that they would be too pointy. I could definitely have moved the darts down on the finished product, as my bust is not sufficiently pointy (or rather my undergarments are not) and sits lower than the dart! I recall measuring everything on the paper pattern and deciding that I would go ahead with the darts in the pattern’s position.

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Did you encounter difficulties others would like to avoid?

This is not a difficult pattern. The instructions were clear and I had no problems putting it together. I actually quite enjoyed making the front pleats. I’ve always liked pleats.

One thing to note is that I know that the sleeves are not set in properly. There was too much sleeve ease when I got to that stage, so in the end I allowed them to pucker in the back. I’m not sure whether there was too much ease because I had originally cut the shirt fronts and back for the sleeveless version of the garment and had to cut some of the armscye out once the shirt was sewn together and I realized my mistake. I could probably have taken the sleeves out and hacked away at the underarm a little bit to make the sleeves fit, but by that point I was sure that this was not going to be a shirt worn as is. I don’t like the length or the cuffed look of the sleeves. The shirt might be nicer if I take the sleeves off and turn it into a sleeveless version – a project for next summer.

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Is there anything in the photos we cannot see that you wanted us to know about?

As I mentioned above, there is no collar stand. I don’t like a collar with facing, as it turns out. It feels a bit flat to me and doesn’t open out as I would like.

Is this garment wearable with tweaking or not?

As I noted above, I think I might wear it if I were to shorten or remove the sleeves, although the bust darts kind of bother me. I’m mostly thinking of it as an “experience” garment and if I make the shirt again I’ll make a sleeveless one in a prettier fabric and with lower bust darts.

Thumbs up or thumbs down on buying this? Worth the effort?

I haven’t tried making the pants part of this pattern yet, which might also suit me, so I can’t dismiss that part of the pattern. As for the shirt and the shirt dress, I wonder if with some tweaks to modernize a bit and a nice fabric they could be attractive summer casual wear items. That said, I don’t think this is a spectacularly interesting pattern. I am excited to receive comments from your readership.IMG_5510 (683x1024)

Do you want to make any suggestions on how to “make it work” or is it beyond that?

As I noted above, the shirt suffers from my poor fitting and sleeve sewing. I also think the cotton voile that I chose is not the greatest pick for this style, especially in Pepto Bismol pink. I don’t know what I was thinking. The button placement also makes it look dowdier than it has to be. Oh and oops – I did reverse the button placement to the wrong placket, but that doesn’t bother me. Improving each of the above, however, would probably improve the style.

I suppose in summation I would say that with the sleeves that length and with their cuffs, it looks to me like a uniform for cleaning or for working in a cafeteria, or possibly bowling, which are all fine activities, but not what I was aiming for on this occasion. I think I was thinking something a bit more Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, perhaps as she is learning to dance on a log in the forest with Patrick Swayze…as one does! In other words, the final modification that I would make would be to go sleeveless or shorten the sleeves.

Any thoughts from your readers would be welcome, as would suggestions of alternate patterns.

Please direct your comments to Stephanie so she can make this pattern work for her. Thank you, Stephanie for sharing and being the guinea pig for this post. The SEW BAD Saturday spot is always open for new talent and submissions!

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36 Responses to SEW BAD Saturday #4

  1. prttynpnk says:

    Excellent post. I left a gratuity by the door.

  2. This pattern has potential for you, Stephanie. The pleats are nicely done and would nicely accent a crisp white shirt. The pink is not strong enough for your coloring and that accounts for some of your feelings. Yes, you did cut the wrong armhole for the sleeve so change that. Also measure the amount of ease in the sleeve cap, from notch to notch. You do not need more than 1″ of ease in the sleeve cap, so take a little tuck in the pattern (or slice, or slide ) to eliminate some of that extra fabric and remeasure. I would suggest trying Peggy Sagers’ method for inserting sleeves “in the flat”. You Also, I would suggest shortening the sleeves for a more updated look. You can also take off the cuff.

    At 24:34 in this video, Peggy shows inserting a jacket sleeve in the round, also using the feed dogs to help ease in the sleeve.

  3. Mary says:

    Hi Stephanie, I think this is a great 1st effort for the pattern. Consider it a muslin and make the changes you mentioned. I see that the sleeves are the biggest issue and agree with Patricia above. Check the amount of fabric in the sleeve cap and remove what is not needed. I also think you can update the pattern by shortening the sleeves. One tip I can offer on that score is to avoid trimming the sleeve hem straight across, but do trim it with a small angle upwards so it has a more sporty look.

    You may want to consider adding some back darts for shaping, or doing an alteration to the pattern for ?swayback. There is a lot of extra there also.

    You have such a great figure and this blouse can be a nice addition to your wardrobe. Ditch that pink though! (I am wearing a knit top in the very same shade right now…it is a dog walking top)

  4. Mary says:

    Mrs. Mole, My blog is I hit enter too soon when adding identity info. Thanks.

  5. Bunny says:

    I agree with all that has been said. I think the sleeves are the biggest issue and can easily be tweaked to look great, shorter and more on trend. I also think the shoulder could come in just a smidgen, maybe an eighth or max a quarter inch.

  6. Suzanne says:

    I see drag lines from the bust diagonally to the side seam (and above the bust), it does not lay flat. This is a common problem for me. I’m not an advanced sewer so I would appreciate other people weighing in. Is this a FBA or something else?

  7. jen (NY) says:

    It’s pretty nice for a first shirt (far better than my first one which wasn’t even wearable!) I think you need to start with a smaller size and do an FBA. That will eliminate much of the cafeteria lady aspect of it. (Sorry!) On a plain blouse I would suggest adding waist and back darts if a more fitted vintage 50s look is desired, but that would interfere with the front pin tucks here. I tend to think that adding darts to the back only might throw the balance off.

    I like Mary’s idea to angle the sleeves for a sportier look. Also, I think that shorter sleeves would look more proportionate on your figure. Thanks for sharing!

    • jen (NY) says:


      • Stephanie says:

        Thanks, Jen. I have tried an FBA on other items (dresses) and have had some difficulty with this. I am a bit on the borderline I think for an FBA, although the photos make me look quite busty. Perhaps I do need to try an even smaller size than the 32 and the FBA though. Thanks!

  8. paisleyapron says:

    The pleats and collar look fantastic. From the side it looks like your bust dart is too high and that you may need a full bust alteration. It seems there is a lot of pulling and wrinkling toward the bust. You cut the size that matches your shoulder width and upper bust measurements, but if you wear a larger-than-B cup size, you will need to alter your patterns in the future because the pattern companies’ blocks are for a smaller bust. Although it may be the lighting, it seems to appear that your left shoulder is lower than your right. That may need a minor alteration when you cut another shirt that is similar. I agree that the sleeves are poorly cut/set (backwards, maybe?) but it very fixable if you want this shirt to be more than a muslin. Rip them out, re-cut, and take your time to set them properly, paying attention to the front and back.

    Definitely chalk it up to learning. When ever I have had poor fit issues in the past, I make note of the alterations I made and keep a running list of the ones I always have to do when cutting out a pattern to make things fit well. Very, very rarely do patterns fit well straight out of the envelope. Nobody is shaped like a dress form.

    As for the color, there is always the dye-pot! You would look fantastic in saturated colors like a rich purple or blue. My favorite source for dyes is Dharma Trading Company. Good luck!!

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks for the ideas. I appreciate the feedback and will give the FBA and the shoulder adjustment consideration. The sleeves definitely need to be set again. 🙂 I did wonder if they were backwards but I checked and I don’t think they are.

  9. Siobhan says:

    I think you’ve done really well for a first job. I’m no expert, but you probably need a full bust adjustment (see the pulling over your bewbs?) and maybe that sleeve cap could be rotated towards the front to eliminate the diagonal drag lines. But it would look best with no sleeves IMHO 🙂

    I wonder – could any of you sewing experts tell me what the drag lines from the back of the neck pointing towards the front of the shoulder indicate? They’re not so prominent here but in some of my garments they are very pronounced and it’s almost like the front of my shoulder is bursting out of the pattern!

  10. Stephanie says:

    Thanks so much everyone for the comments and helpful feedback. It’s all very helpful. Love to have expert eyes on what I’m doing! I hope I haven’t missed responding to anyone.

  11. I used this blog post to fix the sleeves on a vintage dress pattern for my grand daughter:
    It worked like a charm!

  12. Susie says:

    Stephanie, you did a great job for a first shirt!

    I am not an expert, but I wondered if the sleeves were reversed or backwards, also. I’ve done that before 🙂 or maybe a forward shoulder adjustment is needed, I can’t quite tell.

    I agree that an FBA would help you, too.

    Those patterns with only the fashion illustrations always sucker me into purchasing them, too. Problem is, it’s tough to tell what they look like on a real body.

  13. Ines says:

    Call me crazy but I actually like it, it’s clearly a 60’s blouse, very much a prototype blouse of that time and that’s what I like about it. White would be nice, but the pink is so 60’s it totally goes with the style . I see the sleeve issue but other than that I like it , what can I say … It’s very Mad Men.

  14. Anne Frances says:

    Thank you Stephanie for your honest appraisal. I notice that all the pattern illustrations show the collar buttoned right up. I think that is how it was meant to be worn, as such blouses and dresses usually were in the 60s: yes I do remember! An open neck was regarded as a bit informal, and as for wearing a stand collar open, well I don’t think I ever did that until well into the 80s!. So the collar wasn’t really designed as a convertible one, which may be why you aren’t quite happy with it.
    But I do agree that the tucks are very neat and sharp and would look good on a white shirt.

  15. fabrickated says:

    Well Stephanie you had me rolling around laughing about the cleaner uniform, when you had Dirty Dancing in mind. I agree with everyone else, in the following order – colour too pasty, sleeves not fitted properly (my guess is that you didn’t really ease them in sufficiently), slightly too tight on the bust and bust dart too high. Like many others I would persevere as the matching skirt and (sleeveless) blouse is a great look. The fact that the blouse is meant to be done up is obvious now that Anne Frances has said it. I made a sixties summer dress with a similar collar and it was drawn done up. Thank you for bravely sharing your pain, and I know that many of us learn from these posts – much more interesting than mindless “cute!” “awesome!” and trite “that dress rocks!!!” comments.

    • mrsmole says:

      I agree, Kate…here we can say what we think about a garment and add suggestions because the sewer asked for help not just applause and pats on the back. We all learn from mistakes and weird drag lines and they are an important fact of sewing. Thank you to all the readers who tossed in their two cents and good ideas and links.

    • Stephanie says:

      Kate, that’s a good point about the matching top and skirt. I do like that outfit. Will definitely give it a go with the adjustments suggested to the blouse.

  16. Hi Stephanie from another Stephanie 🙂

    i think this is a great effort for an ‘experimental garment’, as i like to call them. You learned a ton which you can use to create blouses more to your liking in future, and speaking of blowing sunshine it’s ridiculous to think that you can be turning out wonderfully fitting, gorgeously made garments which intimately express your personal style without some trial and error first.

    I’m starting to notice a trend in these “sew bad” posts – the phrase, “I don’t know what i was thinking…” I know that sewing for most of us is a fun hobby, and it’s great to think you can just pick a pretty pattern, pretty fabric, doodle along at the machine and *poof* perfection!

    But, again for most of us, you really need to think through every aspect of your project if you want to knock your piece outta the park. Pattern design, style aspects, construction techniques, fitting, figure flattery, appropriate fabric….it’s a LOT and that’s why i still find sewing so challenging and rewarding 30+ years on.

    It’s a lot of work but at the same time if you take the time to experiment (as you have!) and think through what you like and didn’t about past projects, and research similar projects online and on your own your successes will really increase. Of course there are badly drafted patterns, crummy instructions, creepy fabrics and notions out there but – that’s not the whole problem. You have to develop a lot of pretty high level skills to reliably knock out wearable garments.

    Brava for a great project Stephanie! Can’t wait to see what you whip up next!!

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Stephanie! What a great comment. I know exactly what you mean. I don’t expect perfection of myself and although an unwearable project can be disappointing, I look forward to the next challenge. I will definitely try this blouse again with the encouragement and ideas I have received here and I am sure that I will be able to make something better after a try or two. Thanks!

      • right on, go get ’em you 🙂

        i also have a bit of a beef with the ‘on a real body’ comments….even if a pattern is photographed on numerous figures, you still have to take into account your own shape and proportions unless you have a body twin amongst the models. Then there is the sloper for which the company drafts, the effects of different fabrics, and so on.

        In the end there is no quick fix. That’s what makes sewing so interesting and also why i feel over the moon when i make something great, ha!

        Happy Day, steph

  17. Roseana Auten says:

    I really don’t think this is so bad! Give it another try.

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