Sew Disastrous- A handsewn experiment

The Challenge: To finish a hand-sewing project and actually make usable item.

My Inspiration: When I did the no-sew Elmo costume, I dreamt about what I could have made for my son if I knew how to sew. The first problem is: I don’t have a sewing machine. Second, if I DID have a sewing machine I certainly wouldn’t know how to use it. Third, I don’t even know how to handsew anything, let alone using a big fancy machine.

What I Need: I found this kit on Amazon and I figured it would be a good place to start. The description promised it was “easy” “beginner” and “suitable for kids over 12”. It sounded like a perfect way to dip my toe into the world of sewing. I bought the kit for $16. It came with all the pre-cut fabric pieces, a needle, thread, a few buttons, beads and a packet of written instructions.

I also needed:

  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Needle threader (I went through 3 of them because they kept breaking…)

Who is Helping Me: The Chicago Cubs. They were in the World Series this week and as a diehard fan, I was full of intense anxiety all week and sewing was both therapeutic and perfectly distracting while I waited for the hours to tick down before game time.

Who is NOT Helping Me: THE INSTRUCTIONS! See explanation below.

How I Did It:

1. I opened the kit, set out all the fabric and read the instructions.

2. Okay, these instructions… I had read one of the reviews that had said the instructions came in Chinese, but they sent you a way to get a PDF in English. I was pleasantly surprised that my instructions came in English, but they could have very well been written in Chinese and been as equally helpful. Here’s the first page of the instructions:

img_8359My stomach sunk. I knew this was going to be way harder than I imagined. I need super detailed instructions and these instructions were extremely vague. Go back and look at the #2 step: “Make tooth cut at radian places”.. I googled “tooth cut sewing” to make sure my confusion wasn’t because I didn’t know a basic sewing term. Google provided me these helpful results:

Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 3.36.51 PM.png

NOT HELPFUL! I did, however, learn that your cheek can get sewn during oral surgery and it’s apparently very painful.  But seriously, what’s a “radian place”? I thought maybe if I knew what a radian place was, I could infer what a tooth cut is… I googled that too. A “radian place sewing” search yielded:

Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 3.39.36 PM.png

Even more unhelpful. I noticed all the various stitches I was supposed to use had pictures to describe how they are to done:


WHAAA? I could NOT figure out these pictures. Let’s take a closer look at the “Patch Stitch”:

Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 3.50.07 PM.png

Questions that come to mind: What do these numbers mean? What’s the front and what’s the back? If 1,2,3 are steps.. I don’t see how they connect? What are those dots in the 3rd picture? I started feeling nauseous. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to do this correctly.

3. I read this line in the instructions:
Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 3.56.05 PM.png

and I realized that if I was going to finish this owl, I was going to have to follow the pictures alone and sew these pieces of fabric together in whatever way I could. I truly think the directions were written in Chinese and then put through Google Translate. I have said before that I love to throw caution to the wind and that’s exactly what I did.

4. I’ll spare you the step-by-step instructions of how I pieced the owl together. Below is the advertised finish product (left) and my finished product (right):

Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 4.03.57 PM.pngIMG_8337.jpg

You should know that I ran into the following difficulties that increased my frustration:

  • I completely forgot to sew on the body piece of the owl- No white belly for my owl… Whoops. I think I forgot it because it was literally the first step and I was very upset when I began this futile project.
  • They show their owl with some white circles under his beaded eyes. I did not receive this. 
  • There was a huge discrepancy in the scale of their photo and the scale of the pieces they provided. Note the eyes especially. The wings that they provided were waaaaaaaay too big. As you can see, I had to attach them on the side of the owl because they would have looked absolutely goofy attached on the front. I’m aware that they also look absolutely goofy attached to the sides. 
  • The needle they provided was insufficient. I could only thread it with one type of thread. The cute orange thread they show on the wings was so thick that I could not possibly thread the needle with it. Therefore, I did not use it and I did not make any cutesy stitches. 
  • I mentioned before that I used 3 different needle threaders. They literally disintegrated in my hands as I used them. Such shoddy design and material! I have a love-hate relationship with these things.  I was so frustrated by their flimsiness but I was so desperate to use them that even after they broke, I was using the tiny bottom wire piece with my fingers to thread the needle. Needle-Threader.jpg
  • I really wish I knew how to use different stitching techniques, but my brain could not figure them out. I decided to use a haphazard stitch technique and attempted to hide the stitch as best as possible. I did not do this very well. Here’s the final product:

I am calling this project “Sew Disastrous” because I’m truly mortified with how disastrous the final product turned out.



Would I do it Again?:

I certainly won’t do this kit again. It was awful. It wasn’t “easy”, it wasn’t “beginner” and my skill level is definitely less than that of a 12 year old apparently. I also will not try another kit until I learn basic stitches. I know I could have done much better. I could have tried a lot harder.  I kinda gave up, to be honest. I think that’s what I am most embarrassed about. I could have tried a lot harder to make it look nice rather than focusing on just finishing it. The truth is: I accomplished my goal. I finished it and it’s actually usable. The zipper works, it holds stuff and it isn’t falling apart (yet). However, it looks like total junk. If I was a person who used owl purses, I still don’t think I’d use it because it would be way too embarrassing.

I will definitely save it for the inevitable white elephant gift exchanges that will be taking place next month.


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