So if you indulge in any form or art you’ll know all about craft mistakes. No one hits up the sewing machine or knitting needles with immediate perfection. All of us make what are essentially a series of fuck-ups before we become competent at our chosen skill. God knows, I have a selection of dressmaking fuck-ups from my very early days as a sewist. What I have learned, though, is to take pride in all of those items rather than stagger backwards and weep every time I open my wardrobe.
It’s not easy to embrace our mistakes. We get too caught up in what mistakes mean. Instead of seeing dropped stitches simply as the moment when the yarn didn’t go over the needle, we interpret them as the moment we were stupidly not concentrating because we are so easily distracted and so we should never have taken up knitting in the first place because we are SHIT AT EVERYTHING WE TOUCH!
Sound familiar? And the problem with this is that if mistakes are daily occurrences (and why shouldn’t they be?) then so too is the self-flagellation. So what’s the answer? Well, it’s not to stop making mistakes because that also means never learning anything new ever again. The trick is to stop with that bloody flagellation instead. And here’s how to do it with 10 craft mistakes and the reasons why you should love them. So…
Craft mistakes are what make your work interesting. You can pick up ‘perfect’ in all sorts of places and they usually come off production lines where they’re shat out by machines. And OK, I know you want to do the best you can but if you can’t? Don’t use that one wonky stem stitch as a reason to write off the whole embroidery. Instead, embrace craft mistakes because they show that YOU made it and that gives your work an amount of worth that money would never buy.
Visible mistakes could be a blessing. I’m working on my first handsewn patchwork quilt at the mo. I’ve sewn together over 600 hexagons and you can see some of my stitches on the parts where I hadn’t yet got the hang of them. I almost removed them and started again but quickly loved that they are visible. My craft mistakes are a sign that I had held that fabric and worked it with my needle. And as I intend to gift this quilt to Kraken Junior, I hope she’ll one day see the stitches and remember me working on it. The point of this tale? Embrace the clues that lead your work back to you.
If you commit craft mistakes, tell yourself this: you’ve learned something new. And that’s how to keep yourself going when you DO bugger things up. Before you unpick a wonky seam or unravel half a scarf look at your ‘mistake’ and ask yourself how you managed it. Did your concentration drift? Was the needle too blunt? Did the yarn fray? Because when you understand why you made a mistake, you also understand how to not make it again. Enjoy that process (once you’ve finished conjuring up hitherto unknown swearwords).
Don’t assume that veering off your path is a mistake. That’s because the joy of some craft mistakes is that they lead you to places you never knew existed. That embroidery you did may look a bit shonky for a satin stitch but perhaps the unevenness of it creates the texture you’ve been missing. And as for that hole you managed to cut in your fabric, is it an opportunity for a pocket or cool applique that you’ve never before tried? We can be so set on our path that anything that deviates from it is Bad (capital ‘b’ is deliberate). Instead try to see these deviations as crafty adventures that surprise, challenge and push us.
Embrace your craft mistakes because they are a reminder of how far you have come. The waistband on the first skirt I ever made was put on upside down. The result was that it gaped where it should have sat against my middle. So, not having a clue what I was doing, I set a series of darts into it to get it to fit. It gave the waistband an interesting twist and, yes, taught me how to do darts, which I had never tried before. It taught me waaay more than if I’d have done it right the first time.
You do know that comparison is the thief of joy don’t you? Good because if I catch you doing it again I’ll set the dogs on you (oh, and read this while you’re at it).
Be open to new effects. It’s easy to be so focused on getting things ‘right’ that when we do things ‘wrong’ we immediately try to reverse them. Stop, though, and think before you furiously backtrack. So if you accidentally stitch fabric together leaving a visible raw edge, ask yourself if it creates more interest before you undo it. Can you just leave all of the edges raw? Or can you finish the edges with cool handstitching instead?
Have you heard of the Japanese art of Kintsugi? It’s where broken pottery is repaired with lacquer that has gold in it. The point is to embrace the history of the object and to see the golden marks as part of the item’s journey and beauty. Well, you can do the same with your craft mistakes. Instead of hiding dropped stitches or messy embroidery, bring them to life with decoration instead.
See your ‘mistakes’ as training in how you, well, handle mistakes. Do you just brush them off and move on or beat yourself up and tell yourself you’re shit at what you do? What other habits have you noticed about your emotional responses to ‘mistake’ making? Then ask yourself if they serve you and if they don’t, start addressing them. I don’t mean rush to get therapy. It’s expensive and the waiting list is really bloody long. I just mean refuse to be swept along with them.
Practice gratitude. I know, it sounds like an eye-rollingly bad hashtag but what I mean is, be learn to be grateful for past mistakes (even if the ones you made an hour ago are still bugging the shit out of you). Try to remember the first thing you crocheted, painted or stitched. Think about the obvious fuck-ups you made. Then think about how you would not be where you are NOW without those fuck-ups. Even if you can’t embrace them, value them. They may be stuffed at the back of the wardrobe with my upside-down waistband skirt but it might be time to dust them down and remember how far we have come.