First failure of the year. McCall’s 6927 in destroyed velvet

“You can always use the fabric for a Barbie dress”

You know you’re project is a failure when your kid tells you that.fail2

This was a classic case of misplaced bust darts ruining a top. Not only are they too too high, but pointing in different directions. Niiiice. Then I tore them out three times and tried to resew them lower. In a stiff vintage velvet. It just kept getting worse! Needle puncture holes showing in the fabric and well, you know….

Failures. We all have them. Well, at least, most of us. Best to move on and not worry about lost fabric and lost hours. I’ll look on the bright side….


I figured out a few things about fitting sleeves and raising armsceyes and lowering too high sleeve caps and narrow shoulder adjustments!  This still needs more work, though. Why oh why didn’t I lower the darts? I could see on my muslin that it was too high! I guess I wanted to believe that my breasts would magically perk up an inch and a half or two if I put on a better bra. armafter

And the poor velvet fabric looks like it was mauled by goodness knows what. I had the bright idea that if I threw the velvet into the washer and dryer that it would become softer and less stiff and easier to work with. Instead, it wilted and became very sad looking.

Also, a big bust dart in a velvet top is just never a good idea. After all the work I put into Gigi’s pink velvet Christmas dress last month, you would think I’m a glutton for punishment to try to sew with a stiff woven velvet again.

So I guess I can always use the fabric for a Barbie dress.

I haven’t given up on this pattern yet. I put a lot of work into the sleeve and armsceye so I just need to lower the dart for my next version. And figure out the shoulder pulling.

  • If the sleeve looks incredibly wonky on a pattern photo, don’t even bother trying to fix it. It’s more trouble than it’s worth
  • Never throw rayon velvet in the dryer.
  • Make sure your darts are pointing in the same direction and are at the same height before you sew. Basting them first helps.
  • Don’t pick a pattern with big darts if sewing velvet. Because you can’t really press it.

Stay tuned for one more version of this pattern in linen.  Because I’m a glutton for punishment and will not stop until I conquer it’s many problems. I’ve come too far to go back now.

If any of you have any other fitting observations or tips pipe up in the comments. Sometimes a project needs a fresh perspective.

Happy sewing!

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  1. says

    What a shame about wasting that lovely purply goodness. It seems you have a fair bit of fabric there, is there any chance you could re-cut another top from it? Something like a nice easy dart-less Scout perhaps? If pieces aren’t quite big enough, you could always piece fabric together. Just an idea.

    • says

      Yes I’m going to hang onto it. It may come in handy for a future costume project. It was free so I didn’t waste any money on it.

  2. Sandy Osborne says

    Man, that’s too bad — the color really is lovely. And your girls are too funny suggesting it be made into a Barbie dress. Just don’t try to make any darts for Barbie
    Better luck on your linen. And even though I’m sorry to hear about your failure, I can empathize — I have a couple of projects in “time out” because I can’t quite face giving up on them yet.

    • says

      I know ! barbie dresses are way harder than big ones. all those teenny tiny details! I once made a silk vintage pattern strapless evening gown for Lily’s Barbie and man, it was hard!

  3. Ms Wilder says

    If you want to salvage this top, I believe it is quite possible.

    Find a lace and lining that you like which will coordinate and make a new upper front with bust darts in the correct location. You could replace the entire front or just the upper front with your new lace piece.

    If you’re creative and want to work with curves, you could just do a lace insert such that you can lower the front portion with the darts. This is more tricky than a new front because of armhole location likely necessitating a curved insert rather than straight lines.

    Obviously you need a truly correct fitted muslin for the front before attempting either of these potential fixes so that you can place the bust darts appropriately.

  4. Ruth L says

    Ahhhh, velvet.. Every sewers NIGHTMARE! I tried using some for window treatments a few years ago. Needless to say, it wasn’t my best work! Thanks for making me laugh! Love your blog, your straightforward honesty, your style and your sense of humor!
    Warm regards,

  5. Justine says

    I still think you’re awesome, Justine! You have a right to have one not turn out perfectly, once in a while. I’m remembering so many beautiful outfits you’ve made that have turned out, fitting beautifully and there no doubt will be many more! 🙂

    • says

      Thanks Justine. I think I have conquered this pattern. Photos and post to come as soon as it stops raining around here!

  6. says

    I love that you share your failures with us. As a sewist that is not as skilled as you are, it is really helpful to see what doesn’t work. And it encourages me that everyone makes mistakes, even very talented and skilled people like yourself. Thank you so much! And I love that purple. I know you will find a way to recover the fabric.

    • says

      Thank you so much! It’s important to share failures because it can be discouraging to newer sewists when it seems like many bloggers never make any mistakes and every thing they make turns out perfect…. Sewing is hard and mistakes are the best way to learn sometimes.

  7. karen says

    Justine, I have an old ladies figure, (all out in front, no butt to speak of), which entails a lot of adjustments to deal with all kinds of issues. Given the fact that a lot of fabric has varying degrees of stretch, those issues come into play as well. So I start out with a sloper of what I have established that works. The collar shoulders arms and bust placement on a bristleboard silhouette. I place the fashion pattern over the “karen” sloper front, back, sleeve etc. and check the pattern for finished garment ease. Sometime I even draw the 5/8 ” seam allowance on the pattern to better visualize the differences between sloper and paper pattern. I have sloper pieces for “karen” princess seams as well. This is the best way I know to ger a good fit for me. Pattern sizes traditionally did not go high enough, and the pattern styles were tent like or elastic waisted “no fit” pants.
    Patterns are a little better in this regard now, but I think that having a cardboard no seam allowance sloper with all the adjustments for your figure in it, is the best solution. I read once that, it is easier ro make sure the fit is right for collar, shoulders armsceye and adjust the pattern as necessary for bust, waist etc. as those were easier to deal with. My slopers have already dealt with wideneck, rounded shoulders, large arm, bust point, FBA, swayback, full tummy, petite length, before I decide on a pattern.
    Being able to match point to point between sloper and pattern makes it easier for me to deal with fitting issues I know I have before making a muslin.
    Unfortunately for me, many of these tips do not benefit me as my sewing is I sew garments suitable for my current (unexciting) lifestyle. I do have slopers for my nieces, as they do have more exciting lives and sartorial needs.
    Long comment. Basic slopers are the way to go. On coloured craft cardboard, with no seam allowances, lots of notations, clipped together.

  8. Pamela says

    Ha! Thanks for the laugh! I appreciate your posting this – as you said, so many blogs only show the “good” stuff, yet we’ve all been there. Today I decided it would be a good idea to a tweak a finished garment by adding topstitching at the neck. It was a complete mess. I spent another 45 minutes ripping out the stitching praying I would not damage the fabric! My lessons learned:

    1) Sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone
    2) The seam ripper is probably my most indispensable tool, LOL!

    Love your blog!