How I Battled the UFOs- and Lived to Tell About It!

Summer is winding down, and I wanted to share what I’ve been up to since my last post. It’s so hard to want to sit down and write or even sew when the weather is so fine! But all has not been sunshine and roses around here.

(cue ominous music)

As my title suggests, the UFOs invaded my house. I did some fighting against overwhelming forces. It wasn’t easy. The battle raged most of the summer, but I was victorious in the end. Now it’s just me against the very last one. Both of us battle weary, I can tell it hasn’t got much fight left in it. My strategy for taking it down is simple: attack the weak spots until it’s completely finished. That unattached collar and tight shoulder seam will fall first, and then it’s all over but the buttons…..

No, I didn’t join The Guardians of The Galaxy…though I wouldn’t say no if they asked….UFO in crafterspeak is an acronym for Un-Finished Object. Now it all makes sense, huh?

We all have them. Projects that for one reason or another, are unfinished and abandoned, taking up space. In my case, it was close to epidemic. So much frustration! I had a blouse that was too tight due to a cutting error on my part, and needed a couple of inserts to make it wearable. A pair of pants with a botched zipper. A dress in pieces that needed re-dyed because the color wasn’t even. A tank top not yet started. There were so many, my project drawers were full and there was no space for new projects, which ended up on the sewing table, in baskets, on the ironing board, on the floor…in short, my laughable attempts at organization fell apart and the UFOs were taking over! I decided to do something about it. My summer project was to fix some of these UFOs and clean the studio for new fall projects and just generally tidy up my space.

We all make mistakes, especially when doing something as challenging as taking a flat piece of fabric, cutting it into a bunch of pieces, joining them together, and making adjustments until we turn it into a garment.  Sewing is not one skill- it’s a collection of skills that work together and sometimes I’m better at one of those skills versus another. This is often how my UFOs come into being. I get frustrated with a project that isn’t going smoothly and I shove it in a drawer and ignore it for a while so I don’t do something regrettable to it. Then one day when I’m in between big projects, I take it out and fix it.

So my first UFO of the summer was a beautiful sheer voile blouse with embroidered navy flowers. I used the prettiest pale blue buttons, printed with, yes, more flowers. It was feminine, summery and a perfect addition to my wardrobe. And very me.

I used Colette Patterns’ Violet. It was my second version of this great top, so I can’t account for why I proceeded to cut it in too small a size. Those who have made Violet know the back is pretty roomy with a small center back gather under the yoke, so that wasn’t a big problem. The front was another story. I wore it one day and it kept riding up. I spent the whole time tugging it down, which is far from an ideal fit. Something had to be done!

So I began the terrifying and tedious process of ripping out sides, arms, hem and collar to figure out where the big problem was. I noticed that I needed about three inches on my front panels to make them fit. First, I cut off the button plackets to make a space where inches could be added. Then I cut two five inch strips from my remnants. At this point I had very little left, so I had to be careful because I had no room error. Using a tutorial from The Coletterie blog, I made two panels of tucks and added them to my bodice. This was a good way to get those extra inches where I needed them, but not have it look like I fixed a horrendous cutting error! Then I put my button plackets back on, and redid the sides and sleeves.

pretty pin tucks, a little bit off center, but nobody's perfect

pretty pin tucks, a little bit off center, but nobody’s perfect

So far, so good, but my original collar was now too small, so I looked at my fabric remnants. I cringed. Not enough to make the collar! Cussing ensued.

Taking my original collar, I cut it in half, and ripped the seams. I cut a new piece to add the inches needed to the center back for top and bottom, stitched it back together and called it done. Unorthodox, but it worked. It isn’t as nice as having it all one piece, but at least it has a collar! Chances are nobody will scrutinize it anyway, as the extra seams are on the back, and who stares at shirt collars from the back anyway? That was one tough UFO to beat!

All fixed! Isn't it pretty?

All fixed! Isn’t it pretty?

This is what we call a “style opportunity”. When you make a huge goof in a sewing project, you can:

a) cry and throw it out a window

b)burn it

c) make it look like you did it on purpose by using creativity to fix your blunder

If you chose answer c, you’ve got it! I suppose the other answers are options, too, but I think burning projects is a little bit extreme. Therapeutic, perhaps, but extreme.

Right, repeat after me: style opportunity. Not huge goof up. Style opportunity!

I had some UFO pants, too. I botched the side seams and the zipper, and in trying to rip out, I put a hole in the front of the left leg. Not so good. Style opportunity to the rescue! My front left leg was ruined. I had just enough remnant left to cut a new leg, but it was three inches too short. I did it anyway, because I couldn’t find a way to fix that hole and make it look good. The new leg was the lesser evil. Then I cut the pant legs the same length, so they were both too short. Um…yay? The big hole was gone…but we still had a problem!

These were a LOT of trouble, but they came out just fine in the end.

These were a LOT of trouble, but they came out just fine in the end.

How can I fix this? After some thought, I improvised some cuffs for the legs and stitched them on. Not bad! Style opportunity to the rescue!  Now these pants are smooth, long enough and very  flattering. The high waist makes my already long legs look even longer, which is kind of cool. I also made that lace blouse I’m wearing.

But there were many  more! I had that dress in pieces that looked like a train wreck! The original color of the fabric was a really strong lime green. That works for some people, but NOT ME. I’m waaay to fair for that. Strong brights overwhelm my delicate coloring and wash me out. It’s not pretty. Why did I buy such an unflattering color, you ask? It looked mint green online…

So I had the brilliant idea of dying it. It has worked in the past to repair clothes that got stained, so why not? It’s a cotton knit and should take the dye beautifully.

Well, sort of. Dying clothes is kind of a touchy process. Sometimes, if you don’t stir enough, or the water temperature isn’t even, or warm enough, or some other factor is off…you might not get the results you expect. This was certainly the case. I chose a denim blue by RIT to knock that lime green way down to a more muted teal. Which was a great color, except that something was a little off, and my dye job wasn’t even. It was downright blotchy, and not in a “Oh, isn’t that cool!” kind of way, more like an “Oh, geez, that’s awful!” kind of way.

you would never know it now, but this dress began as a very yucky lime green, became a murky teal with splotches, and is now a lovely denim blue.

You would never know it now, but this dress began as a very yucky lime green, became a murky teal with splotches, and is now a lovely denim blue.

So, I decided to redye it, same color, but this time, I was much more careful and dyed it longer in very evenly warm water and I got much better results. It is a lovely denim blue now, and it even fits better after the seams were resewn by hand. I hand-stitched the dress together one rainy afternoon in June and added some pretty lace at the yoke for a more 1920s feel. I love this t-shirt dress now! It looks very cute with a sweater and tights as well, so I think I have a fall transition piece, which is great.

So there you have it, folks. It might seem like you’ve made a dire, unfixable blunder, but maybe not! Give yourself some time away from that botched project, and you might have a style opportunity instead of a UFO hanging over your head.


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