When mistakes become design elements


I was reminded today of a situation that happens to many of us when we sew: I made a mistake.

I was working on a very simple project, a t-shirt. (I'll keep the backstory short to avoid making excuses for myself.) I've been sewing button-down shirts lately. The back pattern piece is cut on the fold, and the fronts are not. This is because the front of a button-down shirt must open. For a t-shirt, both front and back are cut on folds since neither needs to open.

And now my mistake: I cut my t-shirt like a button-down shirt, meaning I created a right and left front where only one piece was needed. Not wanting to waste fabric (not that there was any left to consider wasting), I sewed my mistake right up. My t-shirt now has a seam down the front and...I like the look!

The reason why I'm writing about this is that sometimes we make mistakes in sewing that we can't undo and the best solution is to incorporate the error into our design. This also applies when removing stitches will damage a piece of fabric, or undoing a seam will take more time than sewing the entire garment.
I was recently working on a dress shirt using very fine weight cotton, extremely fine thread, and very small stitches. Ripping out a seam would be next to impossible. After setting in the sleeve, overcasting the seam allowance, and top stitching, I realized that I had put the sleeve placket on the inside of the arm! In this case there was no fudging it and certainly no taking out stitches. I put my work down, let out an extra loud moan, and went downstairs to clear my head. First, I reassured myself that the worst case scenario was a short-sleeve shirt (that's not so bad right?) Needing even more space, I went to the gym, where I got the answer I needed. Out of the blue it hit me: I'll just cut the sleeve off at an angle, stitch on a new sleeve end and redo the placket. Bingo! A design element! As you can see, it doesn't look bad at all.

I'm convinced that many established sewing techniques and designer details were born out of a mistake. (Think about french seams. Seems to me like a mistake gone good.) Next time you have that "Oh @#$%!" moment, take a step back and let your problem-solving mind take over. You might be surprised at what you and your innate creativity come up with!


1 comments :: When mistakes become design elements

  1. i've heard color blocking is in again (as well as the 80s). this could really work with your tshirt design feature ;)

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