Category Archives: Craft Fails

Craft Fail: Tova Mittens from Upcycled Sweaters (Updated!)

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Craft Fail:  Tova Mittens from Upcycled Sweaters (Updated!)

Update:  check the end of this post for an update related to this pattern.

It’s been awhile since we had a good ol’ Craft Fail on the blog, but this project was a complete and total loss.  I would say that three-quarters of it was my fault–poor fabric choice, and silly mistakes were most of the problem.  I also had some trouble with the directions.

Craft Fail:  Tova Mittens from Fulled Sweaters

I bought this pattern, the Tova Mittens, along with two hat patterns, from Last Stitch during the Black Friday sales.  I was really excited about these patterns (and I still am), partly because it looked like you could use shrunken/upcycled sweaters to make them.

This seemed like a fun way to use up some of my favorite shrunken sweaters, which I save for interesting projects like this.  The intended recipient and I went through and picked out a fun combination of sweater pieces so that I could make mittens that would sort of match in an offbeat way.  I also had a few scraps of sweatshirt material (from this project) that I thought would be perfect for lining.

I think problem number one was the fabric choice.  The shrunken sweaters, specifically the pink sweater, weren’t as stretchy as they probably should have been.  Another VERY IMPORTANT thing that I didn’t pay enough attention to was the right side of that pink sweater fabric.  In its shrunken state, both sides look really cool and could have been used as the right side.  Sadly I wasn’t careful enough when cutting and sewing…and…I MADE TWO LEFT-HANDED MITTENS.  Yes.  I did.  And to ice that cake, (and probably because of it), one of the lining pieces on one of the mittens is the wrong way out.  Bad, bad, and worse.  Also funny…once you stop being mad.

Craft Fail:  Tova Mittens from Fulled Sweaters

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Craft Fail:  Tova Mittens from Fulled Sweaters

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Craft Fail:  Tova Mittens from Fulled Sweaters

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Craft Fail:  Tova Mittens from Fulled Sweaters

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Craft Fail:  Tova Mittens from Fulled Sweaters

The pattern itself is interesting.  I made the XS size.  The seam allowance is odd if you use Imperial measurements.  For those of us who use inches, it’s 1/5″, which I’ve never seen before, so I just tried to use 1/4″.  I was tracking with the directions until step 5.  I found the picture really confusing.  I ended up sewing the thumb right sides together and then turning it right side out before doing the next step.  Then everything was good until step 8.  I stitched the front and back together with right sides together, which meant that my thumb was on the inside, and I had to be careful not to stitch it.  This is different from the picture (adding to my confusion), but maybe I did step 5 wrong.  I could also see that I was going to have a hole where the thumb joined to the side seam.

Once I got to the cuffs, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to use the fold line shown on the cuff pattern piece in step 9 or 11.  It wasn’t shown in the picture or mentioned in the directions.  Step 11 was very confusing in general.  Was I supposed to fold in half what I had already done or fold half the cuff up so the seam was enclosed?  It didn’t end up mattering, because the cuff I had made was never going to fit the mitten.  This was undoubtedly my fault–I’m sure my fabric wasn’t stretchy enough, so I chucked it and used ribbing from the green sweater, which worked much better.  Unfortunately, I attached the cuffs wrong-way-out.  Yep.  I did.

Craft Fail:  Tova Mittens from Fulled Sweaters

I think a big part of my problem in understanding the directions is that I’m coming at this from an American sewist’s viewpoint.  We are used to having a lot of hand-holding.  Even the Big 4 patterns, for as much as people complain about them, actually have a lot of information included in them if you take the time to read it.  I think that sewists in Europe (where this pattern is coming from) who are used to Burda patterns are a lot more self-sufficient and used to figuring things out for themselves.  While there actually are a lot of directions and illustrations, I found them hard to understand at several points.

I would try this pattern again in a fleece with a distinct right and wrong side, and I think things would go a lot better, although I do wish the directions (pictures and words) made a bit more sense to me.  At this point, I have shoved these mittens in a corner, and will probably recycle them after publishing this post.  On to the next thing!

Update:  11/6/19

Since writing this post, Johanna Lundström of The Last Stitch, creator of the Tova Mittens pattern, contacted me and told me she had read my review and was revising the directions to make them clearer.  She added photographs and clarified the directions that I was unsure about.  All the changes she made look really good, and are so helpful to someone like me who doesn’t have a vast amount of experience sewing with sweater knits.  I think sewists of every level can have a successful experience making this pattern, and I’m looking forward to giving it another try.

On a more personal note, I was really nervous about writing my original review because I didn’t want to offend or hurt Johanna.  I wanted to be honest about my experience with the pattern as well as my own mistakes.  When she wrote to me and told me she had read this post and was going to work on making the directions clearer, even asking for my opinion, I was really amazed.  I already had a lot of respect for her and all she does in the sewing community, but now I feel that tenfold.  She really cares about her customers and her products, and I can’t wait to see she does next.

Craft Fail Lands Sewist in Fashion Jail

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Failed Pajama Pants

Blogger Lisa Poblenz failed in her recent attempt to create pajama pants.  This failure landed her in fashion jail, a dark recess policed by her daughter.  “These pants are a hot mess,” reported fashion guru Tim Gunn (Just kidding–Tim Gunn doesn’t know Lisa Poblenz…but if he did, that is what he would say.).

Failed Pajama Pants

Thankfully for good fabric everywhere, Lisa used an old flannel sheet to test the selected pattern, so no precious or rare fabric was sacrificed in the making of this garment.  “The drafting is fine,” Lisa says.  “Unfortunately, it was made to be worn at your natural waist, which isn’t my preference.  When I put the waistband just below my belly button, the crotch is so low that it looks like I have short, short ape legs.”

Failed Pajama Pants

Failed Pajama Pants

For those who love to wear their pajama pants at their natural waist, this pattern could be a winner.  It’s also quite long, which is nice for the very tall among us, as it can be hemmed to the desired length.

For all those out there who love to wear their pants a bit lower, however, it may be a match made on The Planet of the Apes.  In fact, this garment has not even survived to the point of this writing.  It has already been cut up and put into service as scrap fabric so that Lisa could teach herself how to sew exposed zippers.  Maybe that will throw the fashion police off her trail long enough for her to right the ship and try again.

Failed Pajama Pants

 

 

There’s Winning, and There’s…Learning

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My husband has a friend whose son is in a chess club.  In the club, they tell the students that “there’s winning, and there’s learning”.  Losing somehow got left off the list.  When we heard that, we laughed, chalking it up to some sort of self-esteem gimmick intended to keep kids from ever feeling bad about themselves.  But then, as sometimes happens, I started to think about the concept.  So now I get to laugh at myself for being so cocky because, in certain areas of life, that principle holds true.  In fact, in sewing as in chess, the only real losing happens if you fail and learn nothing from it.

So, today, I have a few sewing failures learning experiences to share with you.  These are garments I completed awhile ago, but in wearing them I discovered that they weren’t really right somehow.

#1:  The cross-back shirt (McCall’s 6751)

 

 

McCall's M6751 by Pattern and Branch

McCall's M6751 by Pattern and BranchThis summer and last made me see that I really wasn’t wearing this shirt.  I like the concept of it, and I love the fabric and the binding I (finally) managed to get attached, but when I wear this, I’m always worried that it will blow open in the back.  I also can’t wear standard undergarments with it without worrying about my straps showing (something I’m not a fan of, despite current trends).  The shirt never lays right (which I think is due more to my fiddling with the seam allowances and binding than with the drafting of the pattern).  So, I declare this a fail learning experience.

What I learned:  It’s better to spend my time making a bunch of shirts I can wear with standard undergarments rather than making ones that will cause me to worry if anything I don’t want to show is showing.  Maybe five normal shirts equal one that calls for strapless support.  I also began learning to use my binding attachment on my Featherweight, something I had never tried before.

 

#2:  The overly long infinity scarf

Infinity Scarf by Pattern and BranchI thought I was so smart when I made this.  Rather than following the pattern lengths given in the tutorial, I used as much fabric as I had because I loved it so much and didn’t want any to go to waste.  And then I never wore it.  Because it was too long/big (actually, this picture brings the word “goiter” to mind).  Now the former scarf is on my sewing table, recut into a woven tank top.  Hopefully that will work out better.

What I learned:  Sometimes it pays to follow the directions, even if it means a little bit of “waste”.  Because, really, couldn’t I have used the leftovers for something else and then had a useable scarf?  Also, even though I could have reworked the scarf to a shorter length, sometimes you are just done with a project and need to move on.  And that’s ok.

 

#3:  The Soma Swimsuit Hack

Well, some of you knew this was coming!  My latest attempt at a swimsuit gets an A for looks, but is a fail for wearability.

Soma Swimsuit Hack by Pattern and Branch

I wore this suit once while in Michigan and, in addition to the issues I detail in the (very detailed) post about this suit, one of the underwires started to come out.  That was when I decided: I’M DONE!  Then I promptly bought a too-big tankini top from a thrift store and started fiddling with that, trying to get it to fit.  Sometimes, it can be hard to know when you need to walk away.

What I learned:  Know when to walk away!  I’ve put myself on bathing suit probation for a few months.  I’m still determined to get “mad bathing suit sewing skillz”, but I need to take a break before diving in again.  Also, there may be something to be learned in the realm of not trying to make a pattern do something it wasn’t intended to do…but you can’t always know until you try.

Maybe that’s the larger lesson to be learned from each of these projects:  TRY.  If there’s no “losing”, if you can learn from it, it’s probably worth it to try.  Of course I’m not talking about “trying” stuff with massively expensive fabrics on someone’s wedding dress or something.  The stakes were never even close to that high with any of these projects.  But I’m glad I did them, even if they aren’t going to become part of my wardrobe, because now I’m a better seamstress/sewist than I was before.

 

Hits and Misses: T-Shirts, Exercise Top, Exercise Leggings

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I think it’s time for a little catch-up around here.  I took a break from sewing bathing suits after making my tests runs to try a few pattern alterations and to begin exploring exercise clothing.  My goals were to give my basic Alabama Chanin long-sleeved t-shirt pattern tapered sleeves and a boat neck, to turn a New Look dress pattern into a t-shirt with a curved hem, to make an exercise shirt, and to make some exercise leggings.

During the winter I had wanted a long-sleeved boat (bateau) neck shirt pattern.  I had some fabric in mind for it and I thought it would be a useful addition to my pattern library since it’s a style that is versatile enough to work in casual and more dressed up settings.  I took the basic t-shirt pattern with long, fluted sleeves from the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and, using the directions in Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, tried to create a boat neck that would not be so wide as to show undergarments, but would still have that classic look.  I also decided to taper the sleeves so they would no longer flare out at the bottom.  I think the sleeve alteration went well, but the neckline needs to come together in a point at the sides rather than being a flattened oval.  Here is my test garment, made from knit sheets and sewn with yellow thread for contrast.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

I’d call this a partial win because even though it doesn’t fit my entire vision, the sleeves are good, and my wardrobe desperately needed some brightly colored t-shirts for spring.  I can always come back and work on the neckline later.

Next is my alteration of New Look 0595 from dress to t-shirt.  I love raglan sleeve t-shirts and have been looking for just the right pattern, so I decided to experiment with altering this one.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Because it has a lot of ease, and I would be making it with a knit fabric, I sized way down and made the 10 (going by my measurements, I should have made a 14/16).  I traced the curved hem of a button down shirt that I like to get the hem shape, and decided to bind the bottom edge a la Alabama Chanin by simply covering it with a folded piece of jersey cut on the cross-grain and stitching with a stretch stitch (in this case, a zig-zag).  Here is version one:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Version one turned out shorter than I had planned and anticipated, so I added a few inches and came up with version two.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Just right!

My too-short shirt and the sleeves of version two were made from some clearance fabric (probably poly/spandex).  I’m hoping it doesn’t pill too badly and get gross, but we’ll see.  Remember these leggings?  The fabric on them is pretty pilled/nasty now, so they don’t make it out of the house any more.  For the front and back of the second shirt I used some skirts from Old Navy that I don’t wear anymore and, by a happy accident, I cut an extra front and back, so I dug out the knit sheets again to add sleeves and got this second just-right shirt:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

You can’t see it very well in these shots, but the skirts had some seaming on them that adds to the interest of these shirts and also makes me look like I did more work than I actually did.  Nice!

Version Two:  a hit!

Next up is my first try at an exercise shirt.  I was intrigued by PatternReview’s Activewear Contest (although I didn’t enter) and I love looking through the clothing and patterns on Melissa Fehr’s website, FehrTrade.  So, thanks to some wicking fabric and poly/spandex from Joann Fabrics and McCall’s 6848, I ventured forth.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

This McCall’s pattern is one you may remember from when I made these shorts in a wax resist/Ankara fabric.  The pattern is actually for pajamas, but the shirt was perfect for the gym.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

This was really fast and easy to sew.  Even though this pattern is for wovens rather than knits, I went with my measurements and made a medium.  I like workout tops that are a little loose for airflow.  This one feels great.  For the edges, I hemmed the bottom by folding the fabric up and sewing with a zig-zag stitch, and for the arm and neck edges, I cut strips of my back fabric cross-grain, folded them over the raw edges, and zig-zagged them on.  Since the knit fabric won’t fray, you don’t have to fold the edges of the binding under or double fold it at the hem (or finish any edges on the inside).  I love knits!

When I went to they gym to test it out, I felt like the coolest person there.  I would definitely make this one again (and probably will).

Workout shirt:  a hit!

Lastly, I made myself some leggings using the same wicking fabric I used for the front of my shirt (above) and a self-drafted pattern (you can see a post on that here).  This was a bit of a learning experience.  The pants came together quickly and easily and, while not as stretchy as the fabric I used the first time I sewed this pattern, I could get them on fine.  Here’s what they look like:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Not too bad.  Maybe the fabric is a little thin, but it was a start.  I took them to the gym to test them out just by shooting some baskets–nothing too strenuous.

First, I realized this:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Oops.  The waistband’s a little loose.  OK.  I could fix that.  I folded it over for the time being, and kept shooting baskets.  It was winter.  I was cranky.  I needed some form of exercise.

Then, I had this problem.  Can you see what it is?

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hm.  My pants started to slide down a bit.  The crotch was getting lower and lower as I hopped around and chased the basketball.  Nothing indecent, but not what you want out of the pants you wear to exercise in.  Good thing I wasn’t on a treadmill!  I had to go through this sort of thing a few times:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Pull up one side.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Pull up the other side.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Make sure the front is pulled up and fold that waistband over again.

Hm.  Maybe this was more than an elastic problem.  Luckily, no one is really looking at you as much as you think they are, so it wasn’t like I was a spectacle or anything.  However, I started to think that maybe this problem had something to do with my inexperience and, um, my fabric choice.  I went back to Joann’s and looked.  This fabric only has about 8% spandex and definitely stretches more in one direction than the other.  So, these leggings got chalked up to “a learning experience” and they are going back with the other fabric to be reused in another garment.  I also bought myself the FehrTrade PB Jam Leggings Pattern to one day try exercise pants again.

Exercise Leggings:  a miss and a craft fail (but a good learning experience).

I’m hoping to finish one last project and then get back to bathing suits (and more!).  I really, really want to try adding underwires to the Soma Swimsuit while simultaneously turning Bikini Variation 2 into a tankini.  Even after plenty of online research, I’m not confident I know what to do as far as adding the support I want.  Any advice?  I think I’ve been avoiding it.  It could bomb or it could BE the bomb!  Stay tuned!!!

 

Craft Fail: Roasted (Burned) Wheat Berries

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It’s been awhile since we had a Craft Fail, hasn’t it?  Either my creative skills are exceptionally fabulous, or I’m just working harder to fix my mistakes.  I guess I should quit projects more often so we can keep the Craft Fail section going strong.  😉  OK, I’m not going to do that.  It’s too satisfying to turn a failure into a success, but some things are just unsalvageable.

That’s the direction my last cooking experiment went.

Craft Fail:  Roasted (Burned) Wheat Berries

My unfortunate final product

 

I was going to meet some women to discuss a book, the Bible, and life, so I thought I would bring a snack.  I have the More-with-Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre, a Mennonite cookbook that my Mom used when I was growing up.  I found this recipe in the snacks section and, since I had some wheat berries around, and no other snack ideas, it seemed like a perfect match.

Craft Fail:  Roasted (Burned) Wheat BerriesThe recipe said the wheat would puff up after a bit so, even though I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I kept checking it…and it had a sort of interesting smell…and it got a little darker…and the smell got stronger…and the wheat turned black.  Oops.

There was no saving this one.  I preserved it in photograph form for your enjoyment, and cut up some apples before heading out the door.

Craft Fails

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Craft Fails

In the spirit of sharing, honesty, openness, and just laughing at our own mistakes, let me introduce Craft Fails.

Sometimes you have a great creative project going, and it just tanks.  You know, you just botch it.  The idea is great, but something in the execution goes awry.  I’ve had many projects like this.  So what do you do?  Sometimes you power through it, and ignore your mistakes.  Sometimes you just want to cuss (yes, “cuss”, not swear or curse).  But what about the real failures?  Well, I think we should share those projects because shouldn’t we all laugh at ourselves once in awhile?  I’m fairly open, so I don’t mind sharing my disasters with you.  I hope that some of you will send in your craft fails from time to time, too.  For more information on that, see the Craft Fails page.

Now!  Down to business!

I’d like to share a few Fails today to get us started.  For our first project, I give you Exhibit #1, the failed sweater project.  Behold:

Craft Fails

This is a picture of my wonderful and kind husband, wearing the sweater I lovingly knitted for him over a few years with yarn I bought from a farm in Vermont.

How lovely!

How touching!

It’s sized for a giant.

Yes, I did a gauge (a little test swatch to see if your knitting is the same size as that of the pattern’s author).  Yes, I followed the pattern.  I even tried felting/fulling it (shrinking it in the washer and dryer).   You can fit at least two people in there.

Now, sometimes these failures make me so mad I just want to cuss but this one was so bad, we just laughed (and almost cried, in my case).  It was terrible!  Sometimes my husband uses it instead of a coat for sledding, so I guess it’s still useful.

That leads us to Exhibit #2, ANOTHER sweater fail!  This was supposed to be an A-line chunky sweater, but it morphed into…a maternity sweater.  You can see me wearing it while pregnant here.

Craft Fails

I tried to save this one by felting/fulling it also but, sadly, it didn’t help.  It did keep me warm when I didn’t have a maternity coat, though.  It’s all about perspective, right? (Right?)  It’s ok if you laugh.  I do, too, when I look at that picture.

Needless to say, I’m off sweaters for the time being.  I got a blast of false confidence when my first sweater fit perfectly.  Unfortunately, every sweater since has been giant-sized.  I’m sticking to hats at mittens and little things for now.

Finally, what about the project you think is success, only to find out, much later, that all those looks you were getting, that you may possibly have thought were looks of admiration, may possibly have been…um…not that.  Maybe people were laughing on the inside but, you know, it was on the inside, so you couldn’t see it.  It was kind of them to keep it inside, wasn’t it?

I give you, The Christmas Dress Made Without a Pattern.  A wonder of invention, draping, and stuff…

Craft Fails

Flattering, no?  Yeah, I thought I was so cool.  Looking at the pictures a few years out, I realize this was a craft fail.  Ha ha ha ha ha!  Yes, I am laughing about myself as I write.

Now, before I sign off, I just want to encourage you.  If you, like me, have worn your craft fails in public, do not dismay.  Fashion is fun, it’s experimental, and that outfit is just one day in your clothing life.  A vintage jewelry vendor at Brimfield once gave me the best fashion advice I’ve received.  If you like something, just wear it. Someone will probably think it’s awesome.