crafts · Sewing

What’s your philosophy on mistakes?

When taking up any new hobby it’s important to consider your philosophy on mistakes.  Because trust me, you will be making them.  Will you cry and throw the item across the room? (Ok, everyone does this one sometimes!) Or will you make the best of your error, learn from it, and move on?

One comment I see a lot from beginners in any craft is that they are afraid to try new techniques lest they make mistakes.  But making mistakes is part of the process of learning!  I really hate to see that comment, because I believe that you can learn to do just about anything if you break it down into manageable steps, and accept that there will be mistakes.  I make them all the time.  For instance:  I’m working on Vogue 8577, a 50s style dress with a big circle skirt.  Here is the dress (sans lining) on the dressform:

Notice anything off?  How about in the back view?

Doesn’t look much like a circle skirt does it?  That’s because I somehow managed to not put in the side  panels when I sewed the skirt together.  When I went to sew the skirt to the bodice I thought:  “Hmm, strange that it tells me to gather the skirt when I don’t need any gathers!”  I thought I had found a misprint.  Ha!  But here’s the thing:  I tried on the dress before I noticed the mistake, and I love it.  Not having those panels makes it look more 40s than 50s, which is fine by me.  The hemline hangs fine.  The seams all line up.  So I’m not going back and adding those panels (I already trimmed my seams anyway) and I’m not sewing them in the lining.  It won’t look like the pattern envelope, but it will be fabulous nonetheless!  It doesn’t fit my dressform, which is about 1.5″ bigger than I in the bust, but it fits me great!

So back to the topic of the day: handling mistakes.  Sometimes you get lucky, like I did here, and your mistake turns out well.  Other times not so much, but as long as you’re learning that’s ok.  When I pick a new sewing project here’s what I do: I try to find a pattern that has one or two things I don’t know how to do, and I learn how to do them.  In this case it’s making a full lining and hemming a full skirt (not as full as I intended, but still a challenge!)  Don’t choose something too hard – you want to avoid frustration!  Just pick something that is a little challenging, enough to push your skill set forward.  And I always make a muslin if I can, so that I get practice before doing the actual garment (I made the lining, in this case, and practiced hemming that.  I didn’t need to practice the lining, since it’s basically just making the dress twice, albeit out of bemberg rayon, the most difficult fabric in the world.)

Don’t let fear hold you back – what’s the worst that can happen?  Do you have a good philosophy on mistakes?

26 thoughts on “What’s your philosophy on mistakes?

  1. I think you are very right in your approach. Nothing teaches us more than trying, making mistakes and learning from it.

    What I love about mistakes (at the moments I am not saying bad words and throwing things through the room. I have to admit I can get really cranky when I mess up something, especially when it happens because I was rushing or not being careful enough) is that many times they force me to be more creative. A plain garment can become something extraordinary when you get forced to look at it from a different perspective and I think some of the most-loved items I made are the ones that didn’t go as planned.

  2. Oh I swear, and throw, and curse, and stamp and blame my boyfriend who sits innocently watching telly… My sewing tantrums are legendary and I don’t think I’ve ever made anything that’s 100 per cent perfect. But the best way of learning is by making mistakes. And often when I’ve worn an item a few times, I stop noticing those imperfections that once drove me mad.

  3. I love how the dress turned out…you can’t even tell it was meant to be a circle skirt! When I make a mistake I am most likely to get flustered and toss the item aside for the night. I always come back and with a little time am ok to correct the mistake and learn from it!

  4. When I was first learning to knit, I had a very laid-back “Meh, it will fit someone” attitude. I was more anxious to learn the craft than make cherished heirlooms. Now that I’m more accomplished and have started making highly anticipated projects for very important people with very rigid deadlines, I have more error-related meltdowns. It’s at those times that I have to remind myself that I knit first and foremost for pleasure.

    In the teaching world, we use the term “approximations” a lot. You don’t stop a first grader from writing a story simply because he will misspell half the words. Invented spelling and early narrative structure attempts are step one in the “becoming a writer” journey.

  5. Excellent post! No one ever died because they made a mistake sewing (well, at least I hope not), so why do some folks worry so much? Mistakes are just a learning opportunity in disguise. Besides, you’re not a real seamstress until you can easily rattle off four-letter words while expertly unpicking a seam!!

  6. The dress looks salvageable if you are willing to spend the time. This was what I struggled with when I first learned to knit and sew. I was so fixated with producing an output that I forgo the joy of process and learning/learning from mistakes. After a few FOs that were done but did not fit well or neat-looking, my philosophy now is to not be afraid of making mistakes and take my time in correcting my mistakes. I have no deadline to meet, so why rush?

  7. Mistakes are frustrating! I try to relax, breathe, and be in the moment. It’s the process of creating that intrigues us, I think.

  8. What a happy mistake! I saw the title of the post and when I looked at the picture, I couldn’t work out how the title fit because I coudn’t see anything wrong with it! It definately suits your style as it is, too!

  9. Many times my poor husband tried to comfort me as I cried in frustration from learning a new craft. Sleepless nights for me and sworn statements to never try that skill again. Yet looking back it’s the challenges that make it so interesting and keep me wanting more! I know ya’ll can relate!

  10. I’m delighted to see your mistake! I wouldn’t have thought to do it, but I may now so I can use a shorter cut of fabric. I can’t wait to see your completed dress, it looks fantastic so far.

  11. I think mistakes are how fabulous new stitches or amazing new recipes are often created. As a knitter, I hate-hate-hate ripping out mistakes but I can’t leave them either.

    Your dress is gorgeous … that’s my favorite shade of blue!

  12. I spent the weekend repurposing a few dresses into skirts and ended up with no skirts, but a lot of learning. I was not happy for a while, but when I got done learning (figured out what I had done wrong and what do try next), I was happy!

  13. For me, whether I bother fixing a mistake depends on the kind of mistake, and how much I love the project. Sometimes I’m forced to change direction (turning a dress into a skirt, for example) and I’m even more pleased with the result. Or, I have to walk away from it for a little while until I’m less angry, and can focus on fixing the problem with patience. And then there’s the times where it’s just not going to work out. As long as I learned something, I know not every project will turn out perfectly and I’m OK with that.
    Your dress looks nice without the extra fullness, and you’ll save a ton of time hemming! My sister just made the same dress recently and the hemming takes FOREVER…
    I actually had a mini sewing disaster yesterday myself! Iron + TV = melted projects. Luckily, I managed to salvage the project by using sneaky methods! (on my blog if you’re interested:
    Good luck and look forward to seeing the finished dress!

  14. I do have a philosophy on mistakes: You haven’t failed until you’ve quit trying. (When my kids are frustrated, I always point out to them that Thomas Edison found “5000 ways that don’t work” and considered that a success!

  15. I’ve found with mistakes, that sometimes the work-a-round is harder, and less satisfactory, than fixing it in the first place!
    Now I almost always unpick and correct errors in both sewing and knitting, and the sooner the better!

    Your dress looks fine though!
    Gorgeous colour too!

  16. I do get frustrated about mistakes when learning a new craft (in my case also sewing) way easier than when knitting or crocheting. Because when I knit/crochet, I know how to fix them. In sewing, not so much (yet). I am breaking it down into tiny baby steps and fixed myself a goal of making a project per week this year to get some practise under my belt. To me you’re taking giant steps, really, I am all about very easy kids clothing or accessories. Haven’t had the courage to take on a complicated pattern like you do. It’s very inspiring to see your progress! Keep it up.

  17. Honey, I always make mistakes! Continuously! And why is it that mistakes always seem to take on the characteristics of big, flashing, neon signs? They probably don’t in reality but I am always compelled to point out any mistakes that I make in the (probably unfounded) fear that the person I am showing my work to is secretly thinking “my goodness – look at THAT”!

  18. I love the panel-less (panel-free?) version of the dress. I totally agree on mistakes – you have to be willing to make them in order to learn. I have found that when I make a mistake I learn better than I ever would have otherwise – for example, the invisible zipper. I had trouble before figuring out which side of the zipper went against which side of the fabric – after sewing one (practice) zipper in perfectly lined up but backwards, I will never forget which way they go in.

    Bemberg rayon – have you tried switching needles to the microtex “sharps”? Per Sandra Betzina’s book More Fabric Savvy, I used these this time with my bemberg rayon lining for my gala dress and had a much easier (actually easy) time sewing it now.

  19. The dresses in your previous post are so pretty; I’d like one of each!

    About mistakes, I agonize over the ones that can’t be ripped and re-knit, if the yarn was special/expensive and if it took a long time for me to complete a project. I hate the thought of wasting the yarn if it can’t be used for something else. I made a felted sweater/jacket last year, and it was slightly overfelted. With intense stretching during blocking and stuffing of arms with plastic bags, I can wear it, but it’s not what I wanted based on the pattern photo. Since it’s felted, I can’t rip it, so that project was a super source of frustration for me. If I can rip things and re-knit them, I never mind, if it means they are going to look even better when they’re done.

  20. I have a couple of approaches…

    One is to follow difficult projects with easy projects…you need to get the balance between fun-challenging and difficult-challenging and and a quick project can make it easier to get back up on that horse, so to speak.

    The other is to remind myself that most people won’t notice the mistakes. I don’t judge the quality of RTW anywhere near as harshly as my own work…it is okay to accept less than perfect, particularly if it won’t be seen…eg waistbands…I used to fret that sometimes the lining was peeking out at the end of a waistband, but given that I never tuck shirts in, I’ve come to accept that it doesn’t really matter. Some projects, I strive for perfection, some, I just go for the overall feel of an outfit.

  21. First, I just want to say that I love your blog. My friend turned me on to it a couple of weeks ago, and I keep checking back for updates. I love your style and am so impressed with the sewing. (I have spent a decent amount of time over the past couple of weeks bemoaning my lack of sewing skills.)

    I’m a knitter, and my take on mistakes is pretty simple: fix it! Fix it or I will go crazy! Which means, particularly on finishing, which is where I make the most mistakes, I do over. A lot. However, I like the idea of just looking at it for what it is and making it something you love. I was crocheting a baby sweater in a granny stitch about a year ago, and I was supposed to crochet three stitches in each “space”. I kind of assumed that meant each chain stitch. It meant each space between squares. So I crocheted 3 times as many stitches as the pattern called for! The result, though, was a really pretty, albeit unintentionally ruffle-y sweater.

    Can’t wait to keep reading.

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