Sewing, What I wear

The Can of Worms skirt

The Can of Worms skirt

Sometimes sewing projects go to plan.

And sometimes sewing projects seem like they are really simple, and then get more, and more, and more complicated…

I’m sure you can guess which one this is from the title!

The Can of Worms skirt

The Can of Worms skirt  didn’t even start out as a skirt.   It started out as a dress that looked like this:

I bought the dress while op-shopping with  Lauren of Wearing History after Costume College last August.  It wasn’t quite right: the zipper was a terrible mess, and it needed a sway back adjustment (SBA).

But the fabric was amazing: hand worked embroidery, indigo dyeing and reverse applique.  I suspect it’s Hmong in origin.

The Can of Worms skirt

The Can of Worms skirt

The Can of Worms skirt

So I bought it, figuring I’d put in a zip, do a quick SBA, and everything would be fabulous.

Haha.  Famous last words.

I bought it in early August, but didn’t get around to altering it until mid  November, by which time I’d entirely forgotten about the SBA.

So I unpicked the terrible zip, realised  that the stitching holding the skirt to the waistband was ridiculously shonky, unpicked and re-attached the skirt, put in a proper zip, put the dress on, and discovered that 1) it REALLY needed the sway back adjustment and 2) it didn’t fit me at all over a strapless bra, which was what it had to be worn over.  I’d tried it on over a light summer bra when I bought it, and that was fine, but the straps showed.  Over a strapless, with a bit more padding?  No dice.

So, time to take it off and see about that SBA and adding bust-space!

The Can of Worms dress

I took a closer look at it, and realised there was no way to add space for my bust, because the bodice was just a rectangle of fabric with no side seams, and it seems a travesty to cut up such an amazing textile to insert gores for space at the side.


There was also no way to do a SBA, because the bodice was horizontal stripes, which meant that raising the back waistband would look really, really weird.


What’s a girl to do?  I figured I’d try it on again and see if I could come up with a solution.

As I tried to do up the zip on the very-snug bodice a second time, I felt a bit of a sharp stab in my back.

I figured I’d pulled a little muscle, would take a nice bath, and be all good.



It was not all good.  It was the worst thing I’ve ever done to my back in my life.  I was off to the South Island the next morning for Thanksgiving.  So I spent five days on serious prescription painkillers (which I have for something else but rarely use), or struggling to move without crying when they wore off, before I could see my doctor.

(yes, this did happen at the same time as my final fight with TV E01.  Oct/Nov was not my best sewing session!)

When I’d finally come right, I glared at the skirt, carefully unpicked the zip and my beautifully re-sewn re-attaching the bodice-to-the-skirt stitching, inserted a new short zip, and turned it into a skirt.

So it didn’t get worn for Thanksgiving, but I did wear it for Christmas.

The Can of Worms skirt

It’s all for the best in the end.  I think I like it better as a skirt, and it’s more versatile.

The Can of Worms skirt

It does need a tiny bit more work done.  I took these photos with help from Nina of Smash the Stash, on the same day as I took my preppy Miramar pictures, and at the end of the photoshoot (whether or not I’d intended it to be the end…) I did a little jump, and heard a suspicious ripping sound…

The Can of Worms skirt

Yep.  The original stitching up the back seam of the skirt had given way, and the skirt was no longer fit for public consumption…


So I need to re-sew that, and while I’m add it I’m going to unpick and re-sew the waistband one more time, because it’s just a bit loose.

The Can of Worms skirt

But for a month at least it WAS done, and  did get worn a half dozen times!


  1. I always manage to put my back out on a long weekend approx 15 minutes after my chiropractor’s office closes for three days. Sigh. Bring on the ice packs and stretching on the floor with “help” from the cat! I hope you’re feeling better now. The skirt is lovely, and oh that handwork!

  2. Deanna says

    Yikes! Your poor back! Those are lovely textiles, and you certainly ended up with a very cute skirt after all your perseverance. I hope you find an interesting use for the bodice fabric.

    • Deanna says

      I’m sorry to see such a negative comment below, the tone of the conversation here is generally very considerate. I think you look really cute in your skirt, Leimomi!

  3. I’d say that the dress/skirt was cursed, if I believed in curses. I hope you get the skirt permanently finished, and that your back has healed.

  4. Julia Ergane says

    The skirt is too short. I am sorry for the bluntness. It does you no favours what-so-ever. This would have made a great maxi-skirt.

    • Looking at photos, I totally agree with you. But in person, I get tons of compliments on how I look in the skirt – and from completely random people who don’t usually comment on my outfit. And the comments are all about how I look (amazing), not how the skirt is (because it’s a clearly amazing textile). So I’m going to trust that the skirt is of those garments that really works in person, with movement, but just doesn’t translate on camera!

  5. Elizabeth says

    The skirt looks just right for hot summer days to me. It’s cute on you, and I love the textile. I’m sorry you got hurt in the process of making it. What lengths we will go to for fashion!

  6. Ack, some projects just won’t come together. Well done for making this fabulous textile wearable though! It should be worn and enjoyed.

    I do hope your back is better, and doesn’t do whatever that was again!

  7. Actually, I like the skirt on you even in the photos; it’s the white blouse I don’t like! I thought your preppy Miramar shirt would be a better match.

  8. I love that you gave new life to this dress! I think it might be Hmong too. I love Hmong and Mien embroidery (my mother is Lao) and I wish more people knew about it.

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