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Feb 18, 2013

Revisiting the Official MPB Shirt + My Cathy Nightmare



OMG, what horror I experienced last night, friends.  I dreamed I ran into Cathy on the street thirty years from now and...



I woke up in a cold sweat and at nearly 2:30 pm I'm still clammy.

In other news, occasionally I like to revisit sewing projects from long ago, not only to bolster my fragile ego by reminding myself how far I've come since those early days, but also to remind my beginner-level readers that we all start out as knucklehead newbies and improve with time and practice.  There's nothing wrong with taking pride in a project even if it doesn't look perfect.  When it comes to sewing, there's almost always something that we woulda-coulda-shoulda done differently, am I right?

Anyway, many of you will recall the flowered shirt I sewed in August of 2009, just two months after I started sewing.  It won the Pattern Review Beginner's contest that fall, and shortly after, became part of the slightly-off-center header of this blog!



So you might be wondering, What does this shirt actually look like up close?  How about the inside?  Or perhaps you've never wondered these things.  Either way, today you're going to find out.  This was, roughly, my third or fourth shirt back when I was still sewing with cotton-poly sheets found at the thrift store.  This floral sheet was a fabulous find and, I believe, was originally a gift-with-purchase from a box of Borax, back in the early Seventies.  (Or was it Fab -- anybody remember?)

I'll never forget how proud I felt when I first wore this shirt out in public.  I even got complements from strangers -- OK, one stranger.  But it was a memorable moment I haven't forgotten.  Of course, the biggest thrill I get wearing it today is noticing how little I've aged in the last three and a half years, especially from the back.



Let's be honest: the best thing about this shirt is the floral print, so reminiscent of a Singer Genie.  I used Butterick 4712 (in a size 36) which was to become my TNT pattern for the next few years.  The fit is pretty good; I didn't alter anything because I didn't know how (nor, at that point, why).  It's not as well-tailored as my recently completed, bordering-on-overexposed (and exposing) V8889, but it's still the right size.



Look closer, however, and you'll notice that this shirt has problems, among them puckers galore on the armscyes, unbalanced stitches, and too many raw seam allowances.  The collar stand is a mess inside and out.













But you know, something?  At the time I made it, this shirt brought me joy and a sense of accomplishment.  I'm still proud of it.

Whatever your skill level, you should do the best you can confident in the knowledge that with experience you'll improve.  Tasks that seem overwhelming will get easier and even years down the road there will still be stuff to learn.  Enjoy the process and don't worry if your projects don't look perfect.  Believe me: nobody ever mentioned that my sleeves had puckers or my stitches looked wonky.  Most people wouldn't know an unbalanced stitch if they saw one.  Have fun and keep moving forward.

And that's today's sewing sermon; peace be with you.

In closing, do you ever revisit old projects to remind yourself how you were sewing way back when and acknowledge your progress?

Are you generally pleased with what you see or -- affectionately, I hope -- appalled?

Have a great day, everybody!

47 comments:

  1. I still have the outfit I made in 4-H when I was 14, as a reminder. I am sort of sentimental about it, having picked out the wild flower power fabric and trims, and pattern, myself. It won a prize at the fair too. It is definitely a reminder of where the journey started, and how far I have come along with my sewing. No matter how long you have been sewing, there is always more to learn. And I have never had a project where I felt it was a "perfect" sewing job. I love that sewing is a constant challenge to myself, with no expectations from anyone else. It is nice to get compliments on your work, but that is not why I do it. The freedom to express yourself in such a creative way, well, it is priceless.

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  2. Yes, I definitely revisit old projects, often to see how far I've come, but also just to admire how gung-ho I was when I first started. Strangely, I didn't seem to have any fear about trying scary techniques such as invisible zips or full linings!
    ps. your nightmare photo of Cathy made me laugh out loud! x

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  3. Everyone starts out there. Some of us just don't admit it.

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  4. That Cathy nightmare? Oh, my... And I hate to admit it but my sewing isn't much better today than it ever was so I have to keep most of my stuff simple:-(. But at least I still have fun.

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  5. I think a lot of people don't start sewing because of the fear of the item not looking like store-bought. And because there really IS a learning curve (shoot, I've been sewing for, ahem, 50 years and I'm still learning new stuff all the time about sewing, working with fabrics, how to be brave with it and so on), people just ... won't. Which is really too bad because sewing has brought me so much joy and as you say, Peter, a sense of accomplishment. I've made everything from baby clothing and snow suits to formals and home dec and it's always just a tremendous amount of fun.

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  6. Cathy nightmare - that's hilarious!
    Lexi

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  7. Good sermon! I love that you are still proud of your shirt -- you should be. Every time I make something I am ridiculously proud of it. Of course our skills will improve, but how awful and discouraging if we have to wait until we are at a "professional" level before we can take any pleasure in it. Let's enjoy the journey. Also, let's hope your nightmare never comes true!

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  8. I was 10 when I made my first dress entirely without any assistance from my mother, and it was like that. Age has nothing to do with it, a newb is a newb. What I love is that with sewing, most of the horror is on the INSIDE. :)
    I love that you posted this - as a teacher I sometimes forget to let my students do less than perfect stuff, not for their sake but because I can't think why they don't just get it right. That's a horrible place for a teacher to be coming from, but I don't mean to! S thank you Sir for the reminder!

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  9. The wonderful thing about sewing is that it forgives so much. Less than straight seams, skipped stitches, wobbly cutting -- most of it only shows when you get up close, and most of it doesn't matter. what matters is that you chose colors and styles you liked and concocted something to please yourself. What power!

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  10. Isn't it fascinating how life imitates art? Speaking of Cathy, of course.

    I do love that floral shirt! Thanks for showing us what was behind the curtain.

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  11. Thank you for showing the inside ugly of your really cute shirt. I've made quite a few narrow hems that don't catch in the middle, and it's nice to know someone as experienced as you has gone through the same thing and has nice outside/ugly inside pieces they still like and are proud of.
    I am usually pretty happy with my finished garments, but I always see room for improvement- in finishing seams, or fit, or fabric choice. But that's what learning and practice is all about.

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  12. I thought I remembered that towels (not, I think, sheets) came in Duz. But Google tells me that was glassware, and that towels came in Breeze.

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  13. The Cathy Nightmare made me laugh out loud — so loud. So very, very loud.

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  14. When I think back to my pre-serger projects I just sort of shudder, and we won't even speak of the flashbacks re: Things That Just Didn't Fit. But all of it went into the great pile of learning that makes me much more confident--and discerning--today.

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  15. This is a brilliant post, Peter. Thank you. I'm preparing to reboot my sewing hobby after a few years of "downtime". But my confidence has flagged so this is just what I needed. I remember receiving a compliment from the dry cleaner on a very early project (a raincoat). Was I chuffed!

    Spud from Down Under

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  16. Honestly, I'm almost never truly happy with my end results - but that's probably because I know exactly where the problem issues are. But I do like to revisit older things on occasion, though I don't have as many of them as I wish I did. My 1st wedding dress (we got married by a judge before he went to basic training and then had the big wedding about 18 months later when we could afford it) is one of those things. I remember that I'd never used the rolled hem foot that came with the Singer I inherited from my Grandma and I chose to try to use it on that dress. Except that was before internet as we know it and before I had any real 'reference materials' for sewing, so I had no idea that it wouldn't necessarily work on the curved hem edge, given that I had no experience whatsoever with it. It gave me fits and at one point I threw the dress across the room. I ended up redoing the hem and it came out okay, though not as nicely as I would have liked, since it wasn't the narrow hem that I'd pictured in my mind. It reminded me why I like to do my hems by hand.

    I was wondering why your shirt fabric seemed to remind me of sheets that my parents had, though they were in a blue and green color. Now I know why. :)

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  17. I am almost never satisfied with my results until I look back years later. Last week I did the "why do I bother to sew when I just can't do it" whine after numerous muslins trying to fit a top. Just then I noticed JillyBeJoyful's inspirational sayings including the one in which Picasso said he did what he couldn't do in order to learn. So I'm standing up straight and learning with a huge heap of muslins to show for it.
    Lillian

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  18. Peter, thank you so much for posting these pictures! Sometimes I watch you Super Diva Sewists churning out amazing project after amazing project, casually commenting how you altered this or that, totally ignored the pattern instructions, or -- horrors! -- when you showed us that the pattern pieces often don't even fit together properly the other day -- and I think there's NO WAY I could ever learn all of that. My own sewing disasters are probably still at the Goodwill where I immediately dropped them off after completing them so I would never have to look at them again. You have come so far in your skills and knowledge in a relatively short time -- that does give me some hope!

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  19. Great post, and I love the flowered shirt. I want to make some A-line dresses from similar fabrics. I am very hard on myself, and so lightening up, and enjoying my sewing more is the way to go. Re: dreams, last night I was sewing with niece Stephanie, and organizing my fabrics in bins, at a comfortable pace. Not frenetic.... Cathie, in Quebec. And Stephanie is making silk bras and panities, out of old, clean shirts I gave her. Brave girl!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  20. Oh for &$#@'s sake. I have to remind myself NEVER to have a beverage near my mouth upon reading a new post from you! Oh my gosh. Toooooooooo funny.

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  21. Thank you for showing us the inside of this shirt. I can't tell you how many of my early garments looked just like this. (Only they didn't look as good as yours on the outside!)

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  22. What a wonderful, inspiring post!

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  23. Thanks for this post. As a beginner sewist the few things I have made look sad (and crooked) in comparison to those on your and other sewing blogs. I needed the encouragement before I tackle the dreaded neckline facing of my blouse project this week.

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  24. LOVE that comment from Mrs C.about "...most of the horror is on the inside..." Seriously LOL! And so true! But we all have to start somewhere..the important thing is to START! And the next is ...to keep going!

    And yes, Peter, you HAVE come a long way, haven't you? That is some serious "horror" you got going on inside that sheet-shirt! But it looks GREAT from the outside, and at a distance! ;-)

    And that "Cathy nightmare" pic is seriously FUNNY, too! Did you just run across that lady at random, or what? It's just too weird that she is doing the same thing, with the same hairstyle, and in a funky outfit! orrrrr... was she your INSPIRATION?

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  25. Cathy's nightmare-- gahhhh!!!! Where did you find that photo? Is this someone you saw? I'm horrified AND I can't stop laughing.

    What I like about your flowered shirt is that it looks terrific even with all of those little problems. Which is pretty inspiring-- you don't have to be perfect to get good results.

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  26. As a novice sewer (I've upgraded myself from beginner because I've finished my first project!), this is extremely comforting to know and to SEE. It's also timed perfectly as I have gotten about one month into my sewing journey and that is typically the time that I tend to burn out on a project if I don't keep at it. Now I have a little extra motivation to roll my sleeves up some more and get at it!

    Matthew

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  27. I'm a perfectionist, so I never get back to old projects - I put them in a bin and recently dumped them all as their crookedness was just too painful to see (and yes, it happens today as well - if something is not 100% right an neat, even on the inside, it won't be worn).

    I thought that you were born a perfect tailor, like Athena born fully armed from Jupiter's head !
    Your post is helpful because even with such a mess on the inside, the shirt is still beautiful on the outside.

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  28. On most of my garments there's at least one sewing horror, but it is often balanced by one sewing triumph, as in '' damn I wish I'd taken a bit out of that princess curve, but golly gee those flat felled seams look good". Thanks for a post that reminds me to file the damn for future improvement and take pleasure in the golly gee!

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  29. The Cathy in 30 years time pic really made me laugh. I swear I used to see her (or her Doppelganger) every day when I lived on the Old Kent Road in London. Maybe she has emigrated? And thank you for reminding us novices that even the experts started off messy. I still love your shirt, more so having seen the insides as it proves that those little things don't stop a project from being wearable, or a success. Pretty much everything I've sewn has flaws but I do see improvements with each project, and that is enough to keep me motivated.

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  30. I'm glad you showed what the inside of your shirt looks like. I always compare my projects to store bought clothes and get despondant because it's not all neatly overlocked with matching thread! Perhaps we could see what seam finishes you use nowadays?

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  31. This post is inspiring. I was much more fearless when I first tried sewing, because I didn't know any better. Now I'm so hesitant and slow. I need to just make lots of things because that's how we learn and get better. Off to sew!

    Side note: Puckers Galore would be a great drag name.

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    1. You know it's a great day when you spot a potential drag name.

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  32. Thank you, Peter! What a nice gift to give to all of us who are not as accomplished as you. I love your new shirt, and your first shirt is very cool. I hope I improve as much as you have. As for running into Cathy, the beauty of physics and the space/time continuum is that we won't run into ourselves, which is a very, very good thing, as I am much closer to looking like future Cathy than you are!!!

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  33. Well, you've inspired me. After months of reading through your posts, I just picked up my first shirt pattern last night (McCall 6613.) Given my unwarranted drive for perfection, it's good to see that it will still work out if it's not perfect. Thanks Peter.

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  34. You have just received many jewels in your crown of life for showing me that you didn't begin as perfection. I have been sewing off and on for 35 years (gasp!) and there are many things I've never mastered. Maybe I should say few things I have mastered. But I do find joy and appreciation in completing a project, and occasionally am even pleased with the inside as well. Thanks for baring your insides for us!

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  35. This was so fun seeing the inside of your original shirt! I still love it, regardless of the wonky stitches and maybe-not-perfect-fit!

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  36. I don't sew clothes for the most part. The only time I would sew is for my daughter. I use to make her lovely simple vintage baby/toddler clothes. Now that she is older we just buy her clothes. I always made simple things with a good clean style and went all out on fabric which made things look very stylish. I only make things that I need or want and I enjoy making these more than clothing. I can't really go back to my old projects and look at them and say I have come a long way because they were very easy and the mistakes would be very minimal. I don't have the patience or the skill to make some of the amazing items of clothing that many on here make.
    Oh, I do remember something. My crappy sleeve insertions. I could never get the ease to look neat, and then I just did it the way I felt was best.
    Sometimes it worked and other times the top or dress became sleeveless. Haven't tried one since. Usually just add something store bought.

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  37. I think it was Duz. (What ever happened to that brand of detergent, anyway?)

    Yes, definitely everyone gets better with practice. And most people will NOT notice your minor mistakes--really.

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  38. Thank goodness you posted this, Peter! I always marvel at how perfect your sewing is and now showing us the inside, I understand now that it is a process.

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  39. Peace be with you too Peter. It's a pleasure sharing your joy in sewing. And you're right, most people don't see or care about the details.

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  40. I love this post! And what great timing :) I just started sewing a few months ago and am currently pouring blood, sweat and tears (literally, all three have fallen on to the fabric) in to a shirt for my husband. I set out assuming it would turn out perfect and have finally settled for "finished". I'm proud of what I've accomplished and, more importantly, what I've learned along the way.

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  41. Thank you for this inside view! I have always loved this shirt for you and thought it turned out perfectly. I often get frustrated because things don't turn out the way I want them to, especially in terms of fit. Thank you for reminding me that it's all part of learning and a good way to improve!

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  42. I LOVE that showed all the parts of this shirt. I'm primarily a quilter, and it's a riot to think about the things I did when I was just starting out. Thank you for linking to the Singer Genie, too. I've never seen one of those machines, and it's super awesome how your wonderful find of a sheet resembles that print so much :-)

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