mid-year progress report: the misses

It occurred to me other day that 2017 is basically half over. I’m both surprised at how quickly time always seems to pass and happy to see summer coming right up. So, with half the year behind us, I thought it would be fun to review a few of my favorite projects and also talk about the ones that miss the mark, the “hits and misses” so to speak. To ignore the flops in particular does a disservice to growth, and I think it’s important to know why something didn’t work in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Most everything I’ve made this year is either a favorite or something I really, really love, which made compiling the hits list a challenge to narrow down. The misses, however, were a breeze to identify. The projects in this post are stinkers for a variety of reasons: overthinking, straying too far from my aesthetic, and making silly mistakes. In the case of this first flop, I’m guilty of forcing myself into a trend I knew wouldn’t work for me.

Miss #1: the off-the-shoulder top. I’ve worn this top one time, and I will never wear it again. Never. It sits my closet, looking pretty, but it’s completely impractical and I am really, really uncomfortable in it. It’s hard to resist a trend sometimes, especially when it’s everywhere and so many people look so cute in it. The off-the-shoulder thing is a trend so pervasive that you kind of look around and wonder if the fashion industry is having a good laugh at our expense. “Let’s do a bunch of the same top over and over and over again! They’ll love it! The’ll buy them all, and then everyone will look exactly alike!” Even the pattern companies are popping out top after top that looks exactly the same. It’s kind of a bummer.

Anyway, the thing with these tops is that you have exceptional skin to wear them comfortably, and I do not. I have a couple scars on my back that I like to keep covered, so a top like this instantly becomes a situation where I say, “I can totally wear this IF I wear my hair down AND if I wear a necklace . . . ” and that is no way to approach your projects or getting dressed. I’ve wasted a lot of time doing that, and it’s too frustrating and discouraging. I do like the color and the pom pom trim, but anything this baggy doesn’t do me any favors. And if the stupid off-the-shoulder part had popped up over my shoulders one more time the day I wore it, I was probably going to rip it off and chuck it in the trash right then and there.

Miss #2: The navy striped dress. I can’t tell you how much I despise this dress, and considering how much I love stripes, this one really stings. The original idea was to have all the stripes going in the same direction but in an effort to do something different, I decided to go vertical on the skirt. Shouldn’t have done that, it’s distracting and jarring to look at. Also, the navy stripes on the bodice should be more over the bust. So much white over the bust draws the eye to that area, which is awkward and unflattering. This bodice pattern is 1″ too short for me (I’ve since corrected that), so the waistline is sitting higher than it should which makes me look stumpy and messes up my proportions. My effort to hide that with the sash belt only exacerbates the issue.

This dress didn’t even make it to my closet. It sits in a spare closet, waiting for the day I finally just toss it or donate it.

Miss #3: the yellow striped dress. This one breaks my heart, because the fabric is some of the prettiest I’ve ever bought. I had big plans for this dress, after using a Butterick pattern with such success earlier this year, but I just couldn’t get on board with it. After deciding to scrap the Butterick pattern and go with something more classic and simple, I cut a new bodice and skirt. Trouble was, I cut the skirt in three pieces instead of four, creating an interesting dilemma where the side seams end up about halfway into the front of the skirt. I never cut rectangles for skirts, so I was really tripped up by an incredibly basic principle. (And maybe the two margaritas I had the night before weren’t helping?) I tried to cleverly pleat the fabric to hide the seam, but it just didn’t work. I do like the bodice though, so it’s possible I’ll be able to cut out a straight skirt with the scraps I have left and salvage some type of dress. But, quite frankly, I’m not terribly optimistic at this point. You can read about the progress of this dress as of a few weeks ago here. And, if you follow me on Instagram, you saw this fabric all over the place. Now you know how that worked out.

Version 1: 

Version 2:

Annnnddd, version 3 is a pile of cut up bits of fabric.

I’ve made a lot of garments so far in 2017, so I’m okay with having three things in the flops category. There’s a handful of things that fall into the middle somewhere–I don’t love them or hate them–but these three were without a doubt unsuccessful. I will note the mistakes, focus on what did work, and happily move on to the second half of the year. And, on Friday, I look forward to spotlighting the things that did work. Any guesses what they are?

Feel free to tell me all about your hits and misses. We can commiserate! Ha!

Have a great week!


  1. Amanda | 5th Jun 17

    Hello Emily,

    Long time admirerer, first time commenter. My husband gifted me a sewing room of my own this year and I am going gangbusters with clothes for myself, my kids, and practical items for around the house. I so appreciate your blog showcasing the love and care, thrills and flops so many of us experience but with better lighting. 😉 Wrap ups like this help to see the bigger picture and remember that everything is more layered than it can appear on a blog page. Yours is a beautiful balance of down to earth and inspiring! The striped dress is a stand out to me since its colors make my heart sing. I can see you’re going to try restyling it, and I hope it works out, but if it doesn’t would you consider selling it to me before tossing it? I know it’s the Vogue 9197 pattern so I was going to attempt the dress myself, but we have very similar proportions and style, only I’m short waisted. Many thanks and I look forward to reading more about your plans for June and beyond.

    • Emily | 9th Jun 17

      Hello, Amanda! Thank you for this comment. It absolutely made my day! My goal is to inspire and educate while also being relate-able and down to earth, so I’m glad to know that comes across. I’m happy to send you the striped dress. The dress is a 14 with no changes made. Is that your size? If so, will do you me a favor and email me? We can arrange something a little better that way. I’m incredibly excited about my summer projects, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Thank you again, and have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Meinhilde | 2nd Jun 17

    I kinda like the two directions of the stripes in the navy and white dress, it looks so cute! Also, I don’t understand how people wear off-the-shoulder tops and are able to get on with their day-to-day lives, and what do they do with their bra straps?!
    I love reading your blog and look forward to reading about your impeccable sewing projects!

    • Emily | 3rd Jun 17

      Hello! Thank you for your comment! I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the off-the-shoulder tops, and there’s so many of us in agreement that it’s a really uncomfortable style to wear. Glad I’m not alone! And I think I’ll give the navy striped dress another chance. Might be that some cute sneakers and a denim jacket would be cute with it. Sometimes, it’s all about styling! Thank you again, and have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Vava | 1st Jun 17

    I think both the striped dresses are great!
    I agree about off-shouldered tops…………..they are everywhere this season and I am not a fan. I also don’t like the ‘cold shoulder’ tops and dresses I’m seeing out there.

    I’ve had a few flops here. A cotton shirtdress that I made and used a piping I made with some sort of glitzy fabric that, as it turns out, does not launder or iron at all. If the piping had been made with a cotton fabric, the dress would have been nice. I’m going to cut the buttons off and make pot holders out of the cotton fabric. LOL. Or maybe I should figure out cotton rug or basket weaving!… ha.

    I adore your finishing techniques on everything you make. Every time I read your posts I learn something new – and I’ve been sewing a long time.

    • Emily | 3rd Jun 17

      Vava, you post the most thoughtful and kind comments. I appreciate them very much! I love how you’re going to repurpose the shirtdress with the glitzy piping. That’s a great idea! It’s a bummer when the misses happen, but the silver lining is being able to turn the project into something else.

      I’m so glad I’m posting helpful things on this blog. That’s what it’s all about! Lots of fun things coming up this summer. Thank you again for following along. Have a great weekend!

  4. Amy G | 1st Jun 17

    I think you should donate the striped dress. While I can see why those details would bother you, I think they would not be a problem for everyone, and some people would really like the look of the stripes going a different direction on the skirt. I think someone else would be thrilled to buy such a nice piece! Definitely too nice to throw away.
    I always wondered how people do normal things in those off the shoulder tops. Maybe that one could be repurposed? The trim and fabric combo is so cute.
    I think you’re right, it’s good to think about misses so we can actually learn from them! Thanks for sharing yours!

  5. Destty24 | 1st Jun 17

    yea I totally agree. I hate it when i make something just cause its trending. I mostly end up not wearing them.
    thanks for always sharing

  6. Norma | 31st May 17

    I too agree with the off the shoulder look that is so trendy right now., but I do love the stripe dress as well as the yellow! You do awesome work and I always look forward to your new posts of things you have made!!

    • Emily | 31st May 17

      Norma, you sweetheart! Thank you for the kind comment. I’ve always been quite hard on myself and my work, but I think it’s healthy to call out a few things that missed the mark a little bit. The navy striped dress might be better with different styling so I won’t give up on it just yet, and I have a little hope for the yellow stripe dress too. But the off the shoulder top is a lost cause! Ha!

  7. Alison | 31st May 17

    I love to see all your sewing makes, both successes and misses, not failures! I do think you are hard on yourself, though, as these both look lovely on you.

    • Emily | 31st May 17

      Hi Alison, thank you for your comment. I agree with you–I probably am a bit too critical of myself and my work, but I do like to review things every once in a while and weed out anything I’m not in love with. I will say that I’ve gotten a number of positive comments about the navy striped dress, so I might have to revisit that one. Could be that a change in styling will do the trick. Thank you again, and have a wonderful week!

  8. Heather Myers | 31st May 17

    This helps me see stopping something that I don’t like or doesn’t flatter me is not quitting but making smart choices. And will help me clean my closet as well as my sewing list. 😉 Thanks Emily!

    • Emily | 31st May 17

      Hi, Heather! Yes, you’re absolutely right. Because sewing is such a time investment, smart choices are a must. Even experienced pros like me make things sometimes that we don’t love for whatever reason. It’s all part of the journey! But I do still love the pattern I used for the navy striped dress, Vogue 9197. Different styling might help that one. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

  9. Faneisha | 31st May 17

    Emily– I only wish these were my flops! These are so gorgeous, but I understand that we’re our own biggest critics. Though, I’m with you on the off the shoulder tops. I never quite understood them. I mean, you just have to stand there with your arms to your side. Lol

    • Emily | 31st May 17

      Ha! Thank you for this kind comment! You’re right, we are our own worst critics, and I am especially hard on myself. But it’s good to know what works and what doesn’t, so as to avoid wasting time and energy in the future. I’m glad to know I’m not alone being frustrated with the off the shoulder tops. Movement is so restricted!! 🙂

      Have a wonderful week!

  10. RebeccaSews | 31st May 17

    I find it cathartic to call something a miss and get it out of my life. I was struggling along with a trench coat not too long ago: making it in a fabric I didn’t love; regretting the way I was finishing the seams; feeling like the pockets were too low; letting it sit unfinished while I did other projects (I rarely do this). Finally, I took it out one day and said to myself, “Okay, let’s finish this up so I can move on with my life.” And another voice said, “No, you’ve wasted enough time on this.” I listened to the second voice, threw it away and spent my afternoon doing something way more fun.

    p.s. I recently (finally) visited your blog after seeing so many of your lovely posts on the McCalls Facebook group and truly enjoyed reading all your entries. Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to share your gift with us. You have style for miles, Emily!

    • Emily | 31st May 17

      Hello! Thank you for reading, and thank you for the kind comment! I, too, find it cathartic to get rid of the things that don’t work and move on. As much as I’d love to make something work with the yellow striped dress, I think it might be best to just call it unsuccessful and take on new projects that I’m actually excited about.

      I’m so glad you have enjoyed reading some blog entries. Sewing and design are two of my biggest passions, and I’m more than happy to share that with the sewing community. Thank you again, and have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

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