What To Do When a Sewing Project Goes Wrong

What To Do When A Sewing Project Goes Wrong

No matter how long you have been sewing for, it happens to all of us.

An error of judgement, a mistake when measuring, pieces cut incorrectly, an omnivorous sewing machine.

A sewing project that goes wrong.

I have made dresses that were too small, clothes that were too big, a dress I finished a couple of weeks ago was baggy around the shoulders. My sewing machine has chewed holes in stuff, I’ve sat for hours trying to unpick button holes and of course there was the car seat cover fiasco of 2 years ago.

Thankfully, most mistakes are fixable! Some might require some creativity, others are more straightforward.

So if you are reading this because you have a sewing project that has gone wrong, here’s a virtual hug and a cup of tea!

There’s no need to panic.

There is no need to feel discouraged.

You can probably fix it.

Obviously what to do when a sewing project goes wrong will depend on exactly what has gone wrong, so here are some suggestions based on common sewing related problems.sewing projects wrong infographic

It’s Too Small

I’m not going to remind you here that you should always check your measurements. If this is the cause of the problem, it’s probably too late so not helpful!

I will remind you though not to trim seams or darts until you have tried it on!sewing project goes wrong how to fix it

  1. If something is too small, the first thing you can do is let the seams out as far as you can.
  2. If you need more, let any darts out too.
  3. If that’s still not enough, you can patch in some extra pieces. You could use the same fabric or you could use something in a contrasting colour.
  4. For a skirt that is too short, add a contrasting band or a frill.
  5. For a top or a dress that is too tight, you could add extra pieces at the sides. Follow the curves of the pieces to cut a new section for each side, both the back and the front, and sew it in. Try contrasting fabric or something stretchy.

It’s Too Big

This is much easier to fix!sewing project goes wrong how to fix it

  1. Taking it in at the seams might be enough to fix the problem. Start with the side seams.
  2. The darts might need redoing, either to take in more fabric or because they need moving.
  3. If taking in the side seams is not enough, try taking it in at the back too. This works especially well if something is too baggy around the top. If there is not a back seam, you might have to make one.
  4. Adjusting shoulder seams can also help with bagginess in the top area.
  5. If it is a dress that is too big, you could try cutting it down the front and adding buttons.

The Sewing Machine Has Chewed a Hole In It

The best thing to do here is to cover the hole up. There are a number of options:sewing project goes wrong how to fix it

  1. Make a ruffly flower. Cut a long strip of fabric, sew along one edge and gather. It will start to curl around itself. Sew to hold it.
  2. Applique something over the hole.
  3. Hide it with lace or ribbon.
  4. Make a bow and sew it over the top.
  5. Hide it with a decorative button.
  6. Sew a contrasting band over it.

These suggestions also work if you have have had to unpick something and the stitches have left marks on the fabric. Cotton is usually fine, it tends to be fancier fabrics like satin and oilcloth.

It Just Doesn’t Look Right

There could be a number of reasons for this. It could be that the grain isn’t straight or that some of the pieces are upside down.sewing project goes wrong how to fix it

  1. The first thing to do here is to unpick it.
  2. Check that the piece is the correct way up.
  3. Check that you have the right piece. Perhaps you got into a muddle and sewed the wrong piece on, or the right piece on the wrong side.
  4. Check that the grain is running in the direction that it should be, usually up and down.
  5. Check that you have sewn the seams accurately.
  6. It might be necessary to re cut some of the pieces if the grain is off or if some errors were made at the cutting out stage.

The Zip Has Gone Horribly Wrong

Zips can be tricky. Doing them the proper way can be a nightmare, and I know of people who will go to any length to avoid putting a zip in.

Thankfully there is an easy way of doing them, so if you are having difficulty sewing a zip in, then please take a look at this tutorial here.sewing project goes wrong how to fix it

Some other suggestions for fixing zip issues and problems with other fastenings:
1. Unpick it and have another go. It sounds obvious but sometimes that will do the trick.
2. Try adding some interfacing to stabilise the fabric and make it a bit thicker.
3. If it’s a total mess, these pretty lace zips can be sewn onto the outside, making it all a bit easier and hiding any unfixable disasters (affiliate link).
4. If you have holes caused by fastening issues, you could try some of the ideas above for covering holes made by a hungry sewing machine.

The Button Hole Has Gone Horribly Wrong

Button holes are very difficult to unpick, so your best option is probably to hide the button hole and try something else. You could use some of the suggestions for covering up a hole caused by the sewing machine, or here are some more ideas.sewing project goes wrong how to fix it

  1. If you need to have a button, sew the button over the hole and use a magnetic snap instead. These are very easy to install. There’s a tutorial showing how to do this here.
  2. Instead of a button over a snap, you could make a bow or a flower.
  3. If you don’t want to use a magnetic snap, you could sew in a loop of elastic instead.


  • Keep measuring! If you are making clothes, keep trying them on. This is the best way to avoid the situation where a sewing project goes wrong.
  • Only trim the seams once you have tried it on and you are sure that it fits.
  • Wash the fabric before you use it because sometimes things shrink. I need to remember to do this myself!
  • Keep an unpicker handy.
  • Don’t panic! Things are usually fixable by letting seams out, taking seams in, patching in extra pieces or hiding pear shaped situations with a ruffly flower.
  • If it does turn out to be unfixable the universe will not implode. Just put it back in your fabric pile and you’ll be able to turn it into something else.
  • What have you learnt? Not that you can’t sew, no. That you have to label the sections once you’ve cut them out? This is what I learnt from the car seat fiasco. Or that your sewing machine needs a good clean or a trip to a repair person? Or that you need to find/ buy a tape measure because a bit of string and a 6 inch ruler isn’t doing the trick? Something else I learnt!
  • If you are having difficulties with particular techniques, please take a look at my Tips and Techniques section. Or email me. I’d love to help if I can! And don’t forget, you can sign up for regular updates, tips, freebies and extras!

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About AnnaWilson

I'm Anna and I live in Norfolk with my four beautiful boys, my husband and a three legged cat. I don't have an actual craft room due to the fact that we are six messy people living in a not very big house. I do however have a pile of unfinished projects. Thankfully there is plenty of room in cyberspace, so make a cup of tea, pull up a chair and make yourself at home! And please leave me comments! And maybe like me on Facebook :)

6 comments on “What To Do When a Sewing Project Goes Wrong

  1. What a great list, we’ve all had almost all of these things happen over the years – I know I have.
    If something really goes wrong I like to put it away for a bit too, come back to it once some time has passed, I often find a solution then when I couldn’t see one when disaster had struck!
    Julie recently posted…Simple DIY Name CanvasMy Profile

    • It’s unavoidable that things go wrong sometimes! Putting it away and coming back to it later is a good tip 🙂

  2. Thanks for this Anna! I’m a sewing novice so found this really handy. I’m also looking at a dress I just bought (it was super cheap) where the neckline is a high scoop, but the bust is a teensy bit small. I’m wondering if I cut a V neck, if that will fix the issue?

    • Hi Louise, it depends on where it is tight. It might help but letting out seams is more likely to fix the issue, but that will depend on them having not been trimmed too closely.

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