Male Pattern Boldness is proud to be the world's most popular men's sewing blog!

May 18, 2010

"Polyester brocade, YOU are the weakest link..."


Readers, I tried, really I did.  But this polyester brocade fabric was the worst possible choice for my 1953 dress project.  Well, maybe not the worst -- polyfleece might have been the worst.

Here's how things looked after just a few hours of work. 

I'd forgotten (ignored?) that this fabric has the drape of a canvas tarp and the kind of vertical and horizontal pattern that nauseates on the bias -- IF you can even line it up correctly.

Readers, I'm a big believer in cutting one's losses and OK, so I'd already bought a spool of orange thread and an orange invisible zipper; I wasn't investing any more time in this fabric-from-hell-via-the-crappiest-fabric-store-on-35th Street-that-only-cost-$2/yd-and-now-I-know-why.  I'd had it. 

Did I mention that it frayed so badly I had to cut the skirt panels out with pinking shears, and it was so slippery and shifty I ended up with about 2 inches more skirt on the the left front than the right front -- this despite their matching perfectly in length and being pinned together

I guess I should thank you, loyal followers: you knew this was a bad choice but in your infinite wisdom decided it was a lesson I needed to learn for myself. You intuited correctly that if you'd tried to talk me out of it I only would have resented you forever.  So, thank you!

I'm not sure what to do with the remaining three yards of this stuff -- burn it or give it to the Salvation Army.  Is anyone doing "Kismet" at their local community theater?  How about "The King and I"? "Flower Drum Song"? 

Not to let my fabric setback ruin my day, I squeezed a visit to the fabric store into my already-overbooked afternoon.  I turned over bolt after bolt hunting for something that felt like 1953 and friends, it was tough.  Finally, I settled on this: 

It's a lovely cotton sateen in oyster; maybe a little bridal for a with-it girl like Cathy, I'll admit.  But it was cheap and now I'm thinking I'll do the dress in this and pick up a yard of the black they had in the same fabric for the jacket.  Otherwise she's going to look like something served on the half-shell.

As if that wasn't enough drama for one day, I go running in the late afternoon and I trip.  And I fall.  But not just fall: I take one of those epic flops one associates with four-year-olds -- a running skidding-along-asphalt spill that if I'd been forty years younger would have sent me crying hysterically into my mother's arms, and twenty years older sent me to the ER.  Instead I just picked myself up and completed my run.

I don't want to upset you, so I won't show you my right knee or (what's left of) the skin of my left palm.  But here's my right shoulder (I know: knee, hand, and shoulder too?).

Luckily, my face was unharmed.  Is there something going on with Mercury, astrology nuts?

Readers, have you ever abandoned a project after just a few hours, dumped your fabric and started anew, or just moved on to something completely different?

Should I have struggled longer, pinked further, tried to make that exotic orange into something, if only a tablecloth or sewing machine cover?  I really just want it out of the house -- and fast.

Can I just heal today and sew tomorrow?

Happy Tuesday, everybody, and watch your step!


  1. Peter, I am so sorry about the fall and the fabric. I'm not sure which is worse ;) Although, I think the oyster will be lovely. Can you still use the orange zipper with the new fabric? I think it would be a nice pop of hidden color (I assume it is a lapped zipper?)

    I have not yet abandoned a project after a few hours, but should have. Instead I press on being more miserable and spend useless hours making something I know isn't going work. Good job for knowing when to quit.

    Please rest up and heal. Your sewing machine will be there tomorrow :) While you rest, you can read my FULL post of the 80's prom dress. It is up.

  2. Ack! Thank goodness you didn't break anything!

    And Mercury went direct on May 11, but we're still in the shadow period ...

  3. Ouch! I hope that looks worse than it feels... but I doubt it. You might need to rest for a couple of days, and since you're probably not feeling up to a lot of moving around my I suggest some online shopping! Fabric Mart has a $1.00 and a $1.99 section that might get your mind off the pain.

    As for ending your project, I think you did the right thing. No sense in wasting time on something that clearly isn't working. Get that evil poly out of your house quick! It threw off your grove so bad that you nearly killed yourself, proof that polyester can be dangerous!

  4. Oh, no! Trajedies on both counts.

    I, like Maggie, can only remember projects I should have abandoned earlier.

    Have you considered dying the white fabric?

  5. OMG, oyster sateen gives me horrible flashbacks of my most recent sewing disaster (check out my Ralph Rucci caftan/dog bed liner review on Pattern Review). It went together just fine but looked just awful when it was complete! I received a number of suggestions as how to salvage the fabric, but I decided to donate it to the closest landfill and move on to the next project! I think you should consider doing the same with your brocade. Hope you heal quickly from your running incident . . . ouch!!!!

  6. Oh Peter, your shoulder looks very sore. I do hope you fell in spectacular style, there's nothing worse than taking a tumble in front of an audience.

    Regarding abandoned projects I had one last week. I was working on a 'comfy' dress and despite the fact it looked like a sack I kept on. Needless to say I should have gone with my instincts; it looked stupid & I felt stupid so I threw it down in disgust. However, several days later I took great pleasure in attacking it with the seam ripper. There was lot of fabric in the sack dress and I've a bit left so there should be enough to turn it into something else.

    Hope your grazes heal quickly & you're back on form real soon. x

  7. You did the right thing. It takes courage to say "this is not working", place the item in a fireproof container and set fire to it. I've always felt that passing along devil fabric to someone via Goodwill is like digging up an invasive weed from your garden and selling it to someone as a hardy flower. Not nice. Best to destroy and avoid further suffering.
    Life is too short to waste on crappy fabric!

  8. Sometimes, you just gotta know when to say "when" on a project. I call them "wadders" (b/c you just want to wad them up and throw 'em away!). I wrote about my latest wadder project on my blog:

    They happen and then you move on! Donate the rest of the fabric – maybe someone needs hearty pillowcases!

    SO sorry to see your owies. I hope you heal fast! Arnica on scrapes and bruises helps expedite the process!

  9. Yep I have thrown out disasters both early and late (even after a wear or two). No point wasting your time, orange zip or wardrobe space.
    Hope you heal fast - ouch!

  10. Ouch, Peter. Well, they could be used for cushion covers for your couch :)

  11. I tend to press on, and only when it's done do I have a "what was I thinking?" moment. Ouch on your fall! I recently had one of those just walking so I feel your pain.

    I like the oyster, and would love to see it paired with black to avoid the bridal effect.

  12. Peter, that fabric just needs the right dress! How about a Jackie Kennedy tribute? McCall's 6759 calls for brocade for the full skirted version and it is a direct homage to Jackie's "trip to India, 1962" dress. It would be awesome! (I'm not that adventurous with the fabrics, so I'm going to make my version in a coral linen, hopefully soon.)

    Pattern on the Wiki here:'s_6759
    Pictures of Jackie's dress here:

  13. Take a break--you deserve it! You've sewn quite a bit lately. Spend some time perusing patterns and fabrics while you heal.

    Stopping a project that isn't working makes more sense than plodding on with it, knowing it won't work and wasting time. (Which I've done).

    As someone else mentioned you could experiment with dying fabric.

  14. Ouch! You need some Hello Kitty bandaids, stat.

    It think it's okay to let go of your brocade, and I can totally understand wanting to remove the source of your stress from your living space. Feel better!

  15. goodness, of course you can abandon a project partway through! I have a secret stash of half finished skirts and dresses that, upon basted fitting, have realized that I must have been smoking crack when I decided on the fabric or when I bought the pattern....

    dresses that make me look pregnant, skirts that emphasize less than desirable body imperfections, bodices that put an obscene amount of attention on womanly attributes, fabric that turns out to be WAY more sheer than I expected, fabric that's itchy, fabric that's too hot, casual wear that was abandoned when I got a job, office wear that was abandoned when I no longer had a job, and stuff that simply, I don't like anymore....and that's only two or three projects! :)

    Heal, heal, and put that poly brocade out of your mind! (maybe you can make a halloween costume out of it? I'm thinking a clown, perhaps?)

  16. Hi Peter,
    Owwww!!! Please rest yourself. I never let the two sisters: Poly & Ester deter me. Okay, so you can't breathe in it and it is highly flammable but I love your fabric! If you want to be rid of it, PM me and I'll send postage. I agree with Jenny. That Jackie O-Visit to India dress would be perfect.

  17. If a fabric just isn't working, I put it down and move on, forcing a project in an unsuitable material is never going to end well.

  18. I say move on if it's not working. That was a nasty fall. Give yourself a little time to heal.


  19. Peter - first - take care of the shoulder. I just broke my shoulder falling off a bike and who knew how painful shoulder injuries can be? well, I do now. I think that your sewing gut tells you when it's time to move on - you did, and that's good. No "shoulda's" from me.

  20. I used a similar brocade for my Hot Patterns Nouveau Pyramid bag. It shreds, but it made a good bag.

    Use the remaining three yards for a carpet bag for Cathy? (But don't use the Hot Patterns pattern without thinking it over carefully. And reading my quibbles. You'll thank me later.)

    As for your run, ouch. Ouch twice, because runners ALWAYS look as if they're in pain. And that shoulder? Hurty, hurty, hurty. Mend fast.

  21. I'm sorry you've been having a crappy time of it. :( And to answer your question, no, I haven't. I have, however, screamed, cussed, thrown a project across a room, and generally thrown a temper tantrum in which I probably looked like an oversized toddler when things weren't working out. It was the first doll I ever made, you see, and it just wasn't working! The instructions were crappy and I swear that dolls and other stuffed toys are the hardest, most time consuming projects in existence. And now I've made several of them in different patterns for various little people in my life.

  22. Willing that your all right.... Anybody see you?

    If you burn that fabric it will smell bad... real bad. I have a dramatic flair and have burned garments before. Polyester smells terrible. But if you donate it, someone might purchase it and go through the same hell you have. It's a tough call for sure.....

  23. Oh Peter I'm sorry about your falling down ....I agree you need hello kitty or sponge Bob bandaids to heal :)
    About the brocade forget about it, taking some rest and move on to the next fun project will help.

  24. Ouch, ouch, ouch!! I hate those kinds of falls, I am all too familiar with them. Feel better soon!

    I have certainly given up on a project before, but rarely have sense enough to get the bad juju out of the house by getting rid of the fabric...maybe this is where I am going wrong? I vote get rid of it!

  25. Poor Peter! On Saturday, I saw my 4 year old nephew take one of those epic tumbles. Only one thing to do: dust yourself off, slap on a few spiderman band-aids and go back to playing.

    Knowing when to walk away from a doomed project is a good skill to have!

  26. ouch! i'm glad it wasn't worse (nothing broken or sprained!), but bumps/bruises/scrapes are just plain awful. this is just one more proof as to why i should never try to run - i fall while walking, let alone at high speeds...

    if you're not in love with the fabric, get rid of it! otherwise you'll just get a headache every time you see it peeking out at you... i have a sad little wad of beautiful golden kimono-esque fabric which was perfect for a little border-print skirt - simple pattern, simple shape, but that evil fabric - we butted heads, and i spent more time than i should have trying to make it right. i still love the fabric, and one day i will overcome it, but not now.

  27. Wow, I'm not the only person having a bad, bad day? That makes me feel better. Hope your shoulder feels better soon! I vote for either making cushion covers or donating the brocade.


  28. Oh cr*ap. Get out the frozen peas that may hurt in the morning :-/

    I took a nasty slide on concrete once and took all the skin off my forearm. It proceeded to ooze for an hour or so till I got home to clean it. Awful. I'm sooo sorry you tumbled too.

    Now, that brocade. It's jinxed get rid of it.

    Elle suggested pairing your oyster fabric with black and that is so classic. Cathy's got some great accessories in black so why not go that route. You'll get crisp details with this newer purchase and maybe this fabric will love you back. What a concept?

  29. I'm truly glad to see a reader above really wants this fabric. Against my better judgement, I was thinking of offering to take it on as a challenge. As if I don't have enough to do.

    As far as "failure" goes... take heart. You've only been sewing a couple of years. I've been sewing since I was 12 and I still don't get everything right the first time... or at all, sometimes. Generally I throw my problems in a corner and deal with them when the emotion wears off... after a year or ten. If it's not fun, move on.

  30. Ow! Please feel better! And, yes, it has been a bad week...already!

  31. So sorry about your tumble! We must have some similar karma--last week I ditched a who-knows-what-fiber striped knit jersey that I was trying to make into a skirt and then promptly got dragged by my dog along the pavement. Broken right pinky finger! Thankful that it's not worse. I can still sew. Be well.

  32. I think the orange paisley could work as a 60's shift dress.
    And it will show off your shoulder scar nicely ;)
    Or an opera coat!
    Or both!!

  33. oh peter... i feel your pain. it was only last week when tragedy struck. A dog ran in front of my bike and i swerved to miss it and *BAM* i was flung off to loose half the skin on the left side of my body(Face also not included...phew)There were many spectators barbequeing with their families and not one came to my aid. i did the walk of shame back passed all of the shirtless volley ball players. oh the shame. you should stay indoors and rest your wounds and ego! hehe thanks for keeping me amused yet again! take care :-) oh and ps. dont mind my spelling, its only 8:30am here and freeeeezing!

  34. Oh, what a bad spill...heal strong!

    I have been having lots of fun with polyester brocade skirts (from Joann's, at more that $2/yd even on sale), but only easy half-circle and simple A-line. I'm too new to sewing to even worry about matching patterns at seams. And the stiffness means I can sorta fold it, which I can't any other fabrics that I bought in "ooh, shiny" mode.

  35. I had a sewing teacher who's mantra was "Polyester makes you fester". I've considered embroidering this motto and hanging it in a prominent place as a reminder to wean myself off the stuff.

    That said, the print is pretty, and even if it wasn't the best choice for this project, maybe it could be recycled into something else? Pillows? Lampshade? Trim? Parrot costume?

    (also, I'm not trying be bitchy or score hits here or anything, but judging by the hang of that skirt I invite you to share in my bias breakthrough here:

  36. Diggers like that are so embarassing! It happens to everyone. A girl in front of me today fell down the stairs in heels. I tried to make her feel better by pointing out that I had done the exact same thing a few weeks ago. But at least I feel onto carpet and not asphalt. Ouch. :(

    Could you find a cheapish linen for the dress? Perfect for summer! I don't know if the oyster *is* too bridal for Cathy. We don't want her to scare off suitors when they see what they interpret to be a wedding dress in her closet.

  37. I'm glad you were able to let it go and not waste any more time on a project that wasn't working out. Take care of those battle wounds!

  38. OW!! Peter that looks painful! How is that collar bone feeling? Does it really hurt or is it just the angle of the picture? I think you need a few days rest and maybe a trip to the ER. I hope you feel better soon.

    I envy you with giving up projects when the time is right.. I stick it out till the bitter end... and then never wear it... what a waste of time...

    get well soon.


  39. So I just stumbled on this and want to know what happened to the fabric. Because, honestly, I want it. I work with this stuff all the time (not for clothing, thank god) and have a lust for that particular one. Our fabric store has the most pathetic selection of polyester brocades.

    So anyone wanting to get rid of their polyester brocades - I welcome all your donations!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails