Tuesday, 25 February 2014

two sewing projects, two mistakes

A few weeks ago I was looking through an old photograph album I made of the first holiday my husband and I took together. This was before we were married so over twenty five years ago and we went on an escorted tour of the (then) Soviet Union. As I looked through the pictures and remembered the holiday, I also noticed what I was wearing. Most of my clothes I had made myself. We were on holiday in July and it was hot, I was wearing cotton skirts, knitted summer tops in cotton and a couple of cardigans all of which I had made.

I stopped sewing clothes when the children were born, lack of time and space and the availability of cheaper clothes to buy. Now with more time although the same lack of space (just one small table in the house which needs to be completely cleared for meals if more than two people want to eat together!) I decided to restart this hobby.

To keep it simple I chose a cotton summer skirt.  I downloaded the pattern, printed out all the peices and pieced them together, so far so good. Of course this American pattern was in American sizes so I looked at the measurements, found an online dress size converter and chose my size. I am a UK size 10 and so made a US 8.

It is far too big. I wonder does anyone know if American patterns are made on the generous size?

It looks ok in this photo,

and I was pleased with the gathers at the front.

However to get it to fit, even allowing for the dropped waist I had to pull the elastic up so much at the back that the side panels have ended up at the back and the back panel is soooo tightly gathered with masses of material - not very flattering. If I wear this during the summer it will only be at home when no-one will see it which was a disappointment as I like the fabric and the design. Where did I go wrong?

I should have stopped there but there was a discount on further pattens so I downloaded a pattern for this tunic which I thought would be perfect for wearing with skinny jeans in the summer. This time I was determined not to be caught out by the sizing so I made a size 4 which is equivalent to a UK 6. This seemed a bit ridiculous since I am a size 10 but I went ahead anyway and now I have the most enormous tunic! It isn't finished, I just tacked the skirt to the bodice last night when I realised that it looked on the large size.

I measured across the bust

40 inches, this is not a UK 6. With gathers front and back there is so much material in this. What have I done wrong this time? I have checked that I cut out all the peices correctly and used the right seam allowances.

Again I really like the fabric and both projects seem like such a waste of time and money.

What to do next? I feel loathed to try another project since problems are said to come along in threes! Perhaps after a while I will buy a paper pattern and try again, I enjoyed the process but I wanted wearable garments at the end.

Any advice would be appreciated. Meanwhile I will watch The Great British Sewing Bee and see other people sewing whilst I sit and knit.

I want to say that I am not criticising these patterns, just saying that I couldn't get them to fit me and I don't know why.


VintagePretty said...

Hi Willow,

Firstly, what a lovely skirt! Re: your sizing problems, I have heard it said that a UK 10 can either be a US 8 OR a 6, which implies that there is some variance. I have been onto the UK Land's End website (an American brand) and they say for their jeans that a US 10 is a UK 6, which would seem right. If I were in your shoes, I might be inclined to remove the elastic from the waistband (as you don't like it) and take a wedge-shaped piece of fabric out of it and re-stitch it so that you have something that you are happy with size-wise. After all, you're making it for yourself - it might as be tailored to your own measurements! How annoying though, as it is such a beautiful pattern and fabric :-/

As for your tunic, I have had the same happen to me. Definitely go on the small(er) side (unless it's a pattern with the UK in mind, like Burda/McCalls/New Look etc) and make sure they supply measurements on the patterns if getting them online or from the US. I know that tunics are usually on the roomy side, but is there anything you can do with some creative gathers? I'm sure it can be salvaged, but maybe with a bit of creativity!

Good luck and do let us know how it turns out! :)

Best wishes
Tash from vintagepretty.org

willow said...

Thank you Tash,
I think I will leave it for a bit and then have another look. The skirt could I think be rescued in the way you describe, the tunic I am less sure but perhaps when I am less fed up with it, I will come up with some ideas.

Heather L. said...

Love the skirt fabric!!!! Being a USA size 10 I usually can only fit UK size 14 (really never a 12). US sizes are always so much bigger than the rest of the world! And, they vary between name brands too!!!! Crazy! Also hard to find things by size -- much easier by fit. :) I wear jeans in sizes from 8 to 12! crazy! Actually, I think I looked at my measurements once and found I would need to order something like a 10 in the bust, an 18 in the waist and a 6 in the hips -- ha ha ha! no garment is going to work for that!

willow said...

Hello Heather,
Its been such a long time since I made any clothes that I followed the pattern exactly. I wonder if I was to do a bit more sewing I might be able to rectify these mistakes before it was too late. As you say, get the fit right rather than choose a particular size.

I think its a matter of confidence in what I am doing. When I am knitting I virtually never knit a garment without making some alteration to it, usually longer sleeves and more waist shaping, but then I am used to knitting and know what to do.

The List Writer said...

I agree that American sizes come out very big, and my usual UK 14 is normally equivalent to a US 10. I also find that when I make clothes I always end up making at least 2 versions o a new pattern; the first following the patten exactly and the second with all the alterations I need (usually for me added length and taking in at the waist). It is frustrating and I'm sure a better sewer would adjust first time, but over the years I have become more accepting and now expect to make 2 versions so the first attempt is often made from an old sheet or similar! Don't be too disheartened - give them another go! Nancy x

willow said...

Thanks for the encouragement Nancy. I like both the tops you made recently but I can see that you like to tweak them to your liking rather than follow the pattern exactly.
I might get some more inexpensive "Fabricland" material and have another go rather than trying to modify what I have done - not sure my sewing skills are that good and it might be even more frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I'm English but live in the US. I wear a UK10, but in the US, that's a 6. But like anywhere, there seems to be no agreement on what a size is. I find that if I try and shop in the UK too, basically I just end up trying on a couple of sizes and know which shops to avoid completely as they'll never fit properly no matter which size I buy!


willow said...

Thank you, Brenda. I think that in future I must be more confident in my abilities to assess the correct size rather than following the pattern because I think it should fit. As I mentioned I would do that with knitting but I'm less sure when sewing.