Lesson Learned: Must Use Patterns!


A maxi dress for a summer Bob Dylan concert. Over all, I guess I can list this as a success. I had something to wear for a lovely evening at Jones Beach. I used every bit of my two yards of ITY jersey bought from Fabric.com at $3.56 a yard last summer.

If you know me, it isn’t a surprise that I have a hard time finding patterns that are exactly what I want. So I pull together ideas from several places and then try to create my own pattern. This ends in tears, just as it did with the Swimsuit Nightmare of 2013. I actually started this maxi dress for the same summer vacation but ended up taking it apart in several places, seam-ripping right up to the morning we flew to Missouri so it was left behind.

I was hoping that I could find a pattern for a maxi dress with some Grecian styling that didn’t add too much bulk at the bust (I’ve got that covered on my own, thank you very much) and that included a waist detail, necessary to prevent a “could-she-be-a-little-pregnant?” silhouette.

(Maybe you think I have too many body issues but funny story: 12 years ago the janitor at my place of employ stopped me after hours, “No one wants to say anything but I’m just going to put it out there, everyone knows you’re having a baby! When are you due?” I wasn’t, of course. I couldn’t be too upset with “everyone” since what I was wearing had the shape of a tent. But listen, when you’re standing in front of a bunch of hyper-hormonal ninth graders all day long, it’s best to avoid showing up as Ms. Boob Von Boobs. And by the way, they don’t cover this in Teaching 101.)

I came across this Burda pattern, sewn up by another member of PatternReview.com:


I liked the shoulder detail. It was just what I wanted. There were links to the pattern image and a line drawing:


So I set out to make it without a pattern. I threw together a muslin first and found / remembered that I don’t like gathers as much as I like pleats so I made the change and cut out the fashion fabric. Then the problems started. If you aren’t looking for them, the busy print distracts your eye, but I know they are there and more importantly, I wasted a lot of time and felt a lot of frustration and anger working on the piece.

You can see here where the pleats are / should be and how I brought the back shoulder piece around to the front:


There are pleats on the back too, which I thought would create a nice drape effect. I was trying to avoid making an ordinary tee-shirt maxi but by the time I finished a narrow hem on the arms and the neck, the pleats were stretched out. What a mess. What a waste of time.

First, I’m not ready for rouge sewing. Always use a pattern. Since I have a hard time finding patterns that speak to me from the Big 4, I need to spend more time keeping up on independent pattern makers. There is a great list, here, and my pattern stash already includes Sewaholic, Jalie, and Victory patterns. I might also plunk some money into a Burda Style subscription (each magazine includes 60 patterns that are “on-trend,” as they say).
Second, I need to be more thoughtful about how patterns and prints work together. Neither the gathers nor the pleats were really necessary because the look of this piece really comes from the print.
Lessons learned!


4 thoughts on “Lesson Learned: Must Use Patterns!

  1. Pella says:

    Nothing venture…. the dress looks great

    • leuinda says:

      Good point, Pella! No matter how hard I try not to, I still end up combining patterns for almost every project. I guess I’m somehow addicted to a little risk in my sewing. 🙂

  2. gingermakes says:

    Really pretty! I love this on you!

    • leuinda says:

      Thanks! I was really pleased to have something to wear to the show other than a t shirt. But, as far as I can tell, Bob didn’t really notice. 😉

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