“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison

Expecting to get things right first time in a complex activity like sewing is rather unrealistic.

For those of us who worry about mistakes – perhaps it’s best to “re-frame” our thinking about them. They’re opportunities to learn from, not bad things to beat ourselves up about. They just show we haven’t yet got our skills to the point where we can make something we’re happy with, we need to practice a bit more.

Dealing with mistakes uses important skills. Mistakes show us we could change our technique. We need :
– the sewing skills of correcting mistakes,
– the learning skills of finding how to improve our sewing technique,
– the self-care skills of recovering from getting upset !

Un-do the sewing

from LDT2011 at Pattern Review

(I would add “Keep Calm and Completely Re-Thread the Machine”.)

Make friends with your seam ripper.
It’s much quicker, easier, safer to use for unpicking than scissors.

You need a finer one (left) to unpick most machine stitching. A thicker one (right) works well for larger stitches – for basting, and much hand stitching.


Get a seam ripper with a cover, and keep it well away from children and pets as it’s sharp.

Two methods for using one.
Here’s a video from Deborah Moebes at Whipstitch.
Look carefully so you don’t poke holes in the fabric !
Only use the second method if your fabric doesn’t pull out of shape.

Then pull off all the little pieces of cut thread. Some seam rippers have a tool to help with this.
And try again 😀

What went wrong ? Were you just tired, frazzled, trying to hurry ?
Or do you need to find out how to do the sewing better ?

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Find how to do it better

Well, that’s the whole point of this blog 😀

Do we need :
– to find a different method,
– or to repeat the present method, making small improvements each time.

It may take a while for us to find the ‘right’ teacher for us. We all have different learning styles, and teachers have different teaching styles. They teach different methods, and make different assumptions about how quickly someone is comfortable with learning new techniques. So an ideal teacher for someone who wants to jump in and have a go may not be the best teacher for someone who likes to take new things slowly and carefully.
We may need to try several teachers before we find someone who is a match to our learner needs.

What’s the best method of learning for you ? (Here’s a Sewingplums post on what helps you learn.)

Here’s Deborah Moebes of Whipstitch on repeating as the way we learn.

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Self-Care after a mistake

How do you react to mistakes ?
Some of us laugh.
Some cry.
Some scream.
Some get dispirited.
Some battle on.
Some get very self-critical.

When you make a mistake, do you need to cry or scream?
Do you need a pause to rest and cheer up or calm down?

If you need to scream, sadly Shirley Adams sewer’s frustration tool is no longer available. Basically : make a monster-shaped rag doll from the worst bit of your “wadder” (failed project), and bash it around. She did have a good poem to shout while doing so 😀

Very critical ? Try some re-framing.
It’s all practice.
“Even though I made a wonky patch pocket I deeply and completely accept myself. Making mistakes is what learners do. I am still a good person. And the world has not come to an end.”

“I will do my best and forget the rest.”

What would be “good enough” for you to accept ?
There’s a balance to find. Caring about quality is good, but perfection is impossible.
And we need to include the costs in time and materials for making practice pieces as a natural part of our sewing planning and budget.

Here’s Deborah Moebes of Whipstitch on sewing and self-compassion.

Can you simplify the project or your learning sequence so you’re less likely to get upset ?
It’s impossible to learn without making mistakes.
But some of us get more upset about them.
Unless you laugh about mistakes, it’s best to try a project which only needs one new skill, or has very very good instructions.
I’m definitely a ‘slow and careful’ learner. I make many practice samples until I feel confident enough to do a new technique ‘for real’.

Here’s a post from The Craft Sessions about fear of making mistakes, and fear of correcting them.

Those of us who focus on mistakes tend to home in on everything wrong with our finished projects.
Instead, try to celebrate and enjoy what you managed to do.

“No mistakes – only designer touches.” Clotilde

Sarah Veblen actually has a whole class at Pattern Review on coping when things go wrong  (not free).

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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Originally written January 2015, links checked March 2021

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