All Twisted Up

Sian’s recent post about designing and making a prom dress reminded me of one of my early sewing adventures. It seems fitting, then, to share my sewing tale for Sian’s Storytelling Sunday.

Early on in my Navy career, I was assigned to a receptionist-type job where my superiors decided it would be more appropriate for me to wear civilian clothes instead of my military uniform. Until then I had no need for much in the way of civilian clothing since the only time I wore “civvies” was after work or on weekends. Naturally most of my off-duty clothes were of the jeans-and-Tshirt variety which, of course, were definitely not suitable for the workplace, especially back in the early 1970s. On an impulse, I decided to spend a big part of my small savings on a sewing machine and fabric to make my first outfit.

The pattern I selected was simple: a one-piece jumpsuit with bellbottom legs, raglan sleeves, and a zipper closure in the back (similar to this). I picked out a bright red polyester fabric—it was the 1970s after all and polyester anything was all the rage!

My previous sewing experience was limited to what little I had managed to learn in 9th grade home economics, so it was a good thing that my roommate, Gloria, had been making her own clothes and crafts for some time. She was especially helpful when it came to laying out and cutting the pattern since, at that time, my understanding of grain lines and such was almost non-existent. She also gave me a few pointers about the sewing machine before she went out for the day.

With no guidance to the contrary, I decided that if the recommended stitch length of “3” was good, then a smaller stitch had to be that much better—so I dialed the stitch length back to something so short that the fabric barely moved as I sewed. Things seemed to be going well, and I even managed to get the zipper in without incident. Since it was such a simple pattern, it wasn’t long before I had the basic garment finished. Having clipped the last thread, I sat back to admire my handiwork and…discovered that somewhere along the way I lost track of which was the right side of my fabric. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get all four limb sections to be right side out at the same time!!

I was discouraged, but I was determined to figure out where I’d gone wrong and fix it—until, that is, I tried to take out the itty-bitty stitches I used to sew the garment. They were so small and the thread was such a good match that it was almost impossible to see the stitches, and it was even more difficult to get them out without damaging the fabric. I gave up on that project, but Gloria saved it all and eventually managed to remake the pantsuit for herself.


Although my first experience wasn’t a success, I did continue sewing and over the next few months completed enough blouses, slacks, and dresses that I ended up with a full closet. I even made my own wedding outfit (that’s a story for another day). Later, when I was pregnant, I made a few maternity tops and, when our daughter was a toddler, I sewed up all sorts of cute outfits for her. I stopped making clothes a long time ago but do still pull out my sewing machine for the occasional home decorating project. In fact, I’m planning to make a new valance for our kitchen window over the upcoming Labor Day weekend!

13 thoughts on “All Twisted Up

  1. I’m sorry, Wanda, but I had a good belly laugh when I looked at that pattern and pictured you trying to make it in red polyester! Did we really wear such things? In high school, my girlfriend and I learned to make a dirndl skirt with a yard of fabric. You just had to gather the material onto a waistband and stitch up one seam. They were very short, but minis were in then (the mid ’60’s). We made tons of those skirts and thought we were oh so clever. Great post!

  2. It sounds like it was a successful adventure after all . . . even if there were some definitely learning moments. My Mama sewed many of our clothes when we were little, but I never really got the sewing bug.

  3. Wonderful story and it’s great that you persevered and were able to sew and you did a zipper your first try! I wish I had stuck with sewing but zippers and straight lines were my big issues. Maybe I should see if anyone around here offers lessons.

  4. I have yet to learn how to sew, still something on my bucket list, your story is encouraging, though I will start small I think 🙂

  5. I can just imagine you trying to remove the stitches and failing miserably but well done on persevering with sewing and even making your own wedding dress

  6. Great story – oh my goodness you must have been so annoyed when you had to unpick all those tiny stitches! Certainly was an ambitious design for your first project, and I’m pleased you went on to learn from it and make lots of other items.

  7. Oh your story reminded me so much of the when I decided to make a skirt to wear on honeymoon! The trials and tribulations I had, but nothing compared with yours! Thanks for sharing your lovely story.

  8. I loved this story – so much of it rang a bell and sparked off new stories in my mind too! I’m very impressed that you managed to put a zip in at your first sewing attempt – it’s still something I have trouble with. And the thought of those tiny little stitches and ripping them out! My Grandma was a stitcher in a shirt factory and I used to get her to do my ripping out for me because she was so fast and accurate. I can see her yet, bent over something I had messed up.

    Thanks for the story and the memories today Wanda

  9. Oh what a shame your first go at sewing wasn’t a success. Well done for persevering though and making your work wardrobe! I can’t sew at all, and still get my mum to fix things for me!

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