Thursday, March 13, 2008

A College Lesson that Applies to Sewing.

A prelude to my wadder review at Patternreview. Here's the story:

At one time (seems like yesterday but is a long time ago!), I was a college sophomore sitting in approximately the 5th row back of a small lecture hall in my Business Management class. There were about 100-150 students in that class with Dr. R as the prof. My major was Business Education but at the time my major was still in the College of Business as opposed to the College of Education. My core courses were virtually the same as any other Business major. Most of the students in that class were Business Management majors with maybe two or three Bus. Ed. majors, me being one of them. Dr. R was a former Bus. Ed. major himself.

The time came around for the first test. I studied, took the test, and Dr. R gave the class a lecture about the test as he was returning it. I guess he examined by hand the test results of the top 10% of the class or something like that. So he's talking about the tests and he tells one tale of how a student changed/erased 7 answers, all that were correct, to the wrong answer! Guess who that was. He looked right at me and said, "Always go with your first choice! Your gut instinct is usually correct." Gulp. Okay.

Second test rolls around. He's handing them back but does his usual pre-handback speech. And then he announces, "The student with the top score on the test isn't even a Business Management major, she's Business Ed!" He looked over at me beaming with pride. Gulp! Big smile. I was proud--a moment that I remember like yesterday. (BTW, it was also a good feeling when all these guys are looking at me aghast that I wasn't a dumb blonde either, especially the guy next to me that was *supposed* to be really smart.)

I always remember that day and the lesson learned from it. It's about trusting your gut instinct. Your first thought is generally the correct one. So why don't I always apply that concept to patterns??? Is it because they're so cheap on the $1 pattern sales? Is it because I don't want to miss a good bargain? Who knows. But here's a case in point. It's Simplicity 4183 , a Patty Read design. What the heck was I thinking when I bought this pattern???

I'll tell you what I thought. The first thing that popped into my head was it could look kind of dowdy on me. Next thought, "But maybe I could make it into something cute." Now where in the world would I get the idea to make something from those two thoughts--dowdy and cute? It doesn't work. But in one of my dim-bulb moments, I bought the pattern with thoughts of (GASP!) making something from it for Patternreview Weekend 2006. In retrospect, thank goodness I was so busy working on Halloween costumes and couldn't make it. It would have been a terribly disappointing endeavor. The fabric I bought for it eventually made it's way into a fave jacket of mine from McCall's 5007, a Jackie Kennedy type of garment.

So recently I pulled out that pattern (first mistake) because I had grand images in my mind of making a cute, slouchy minidress. A copycat one from a mini I saw in Lucky. In my stash was some suede-y, chamois feeling knit fabric that was purchased eons ago. I know it was inexpensive too. But I thought it would make for a cute minidress. That was my second mistake. Not only was the fabric not the right type and not recommended by the pattern, it was a royal pain-in-the-a$$ to sew. It is rare that I come across a material that is so uncooperative that all I want to do is throw it away, but this was it. My machine hated it and skipped stitches like crazy. Tried every needle in my stash in various sizes--universal, jersey/ballpoint, stretch, microtex--and nothing worked. I had to use a triple stretch stitch and stitch each seam twice. (Wouldn't you know, I just got my Sew News yesterday and it mentioned trying Needle Lube...)

I got to the point where it was almost done except for the sleeve/dress hems and buttons so I tried it on (fairly excited at that point despite the stitching woes). Even put on my black tights and ankle boots I was planning on wearing with it. Took a look in my full-length mirror and was quite unprepared (although I did think while making it there might be a possibility that it could look dumpy) for the disapointment. It looked like a big, blue potato sack! No shape and visually adds 15 lbs to my frame. It was anything but fun, flirty, and cute. DH sees it and asks, "What is that?!?!" My teen girls see it and give me "the look". Even the boys just stare. Okay. It's definite. I have made a wadder.

So now I get wadder thoughts. In Ladies' Home Journal magazine, there is a regular column called, "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" That's my favorite part of the magazine. So now I'm asking myself a similar question with a sewing focus--"Can This Wadder Be Saved?" I put it on my dress form. Yeah, it looks dumpy on the Phat Chick too. DD#1 says, "Maybe you should cut off the bottom." I decide that's the right thing to do. Cut, cut, cut. Bottom is off. Then I look. Stop. Look again. Yeah, it's definitely better without the skirt part. But those shoulders! They drop down so much, the fabric just isn't crisp enough for the style, and then I think of the stitching woes. No, this wadder isn't worth being saved. Here's what's left of the ugly wadder:

And there it stays on my dressform to remind me that I should always go with my gut instinct. Trust thyself. Such simple words really that you'd think they'd be easy to follow. Maybe I should buy a plaque that says that at our local fair this summer and hang it in my sewing studio. Think of it as wadder prevention.

Moving on. Focus on the next project. Letting go of wadder thoughts.

Happy Sewing!


Lindsay T said...

Having a similar exercise with a Butterick pattern that I made a couple of years ago. Wasn't crazy with it then. But memories fade and I saw it in my pattern stash last month, thought "hey, this is cute," and pulled it out and made it again. And of course then remembered why I didn't like it in the first place. I'll see if some trim might save it, but I think I have a wadder on my hands too.

CharityinAlaska said... you're scaring me. Because I have that pattern and I LOVE it. This is making me doubt, as they say on Project Runway, my "taste level." Sorry you're frustrated. I'm having a similar love-hate thing with a baby doll style dress right now. I should trust my guts and not give it a second chance in a radically different fabric. I probably will do one more go around. If I don't I'll always wonder whether it was the pattern or my fabric choice. but if I end up with a second wadder, I'll be kicking myself for not trusting your sage advice and my own gut instincts.

Kat said...


Oh no! I don't want to scare you into not making the pattern, but it was a wadder for my particular figure. If I wanted a mini dress, I should have chosen a mini dress pattern. When the pattern has something like 10" of ease at the bust (and says so on the pattern), I should have known better. I think I was trying (or hoping) that this pattern would turn out to be something it was not. It just had too much ease that was overwhelming for me. And sometimes I should just follow the recommendations for the fabric on the pattern.

Live and learn. Sew and learn.

Karen said...

Sometimes going with your gut is the hardest thing. I think most of us tend to over-think what we're doing, and when you have such a clear picture of the destination in your head it's hard to grasp that you're using the wrong map.

With as much as we sew, there are bound to be a fair amount of wadders. It doesn't mean they're easy to accept.

And saw your comment on Cennetta's blog - you need to head down this way sometime, Kat, and I'll drag you out shopping.

Linda T said...

Hmm, interesting that I also was a Business Ed major and I also have that same Simplicity jacket pattern in my stash. I saw it just a few days ago and thought, WHAT WAS I THINKING WHEN I BOUGHT THIS THING?????

Dana said...

While I was at home one summer during my college years, I was making a dressy dress for a party out of a black polyester chiffon print. The fabric was causing me all sorts of stress and axiety. My mom walked by while I was ripping out some stitching picked it up, looked at it, and threw it in the garbage! I just kind of looked at her in shock as she said "that's the ugliest thing I've ever seen (or something like that)". She was right! LOL I never even attempted to take it out of the trash.

Too bad our mom's aren't around as much to put things in the proper perspective!