Sewing fails are coming for you. No matter how long you’ve been sewing, no matter how good the advice you follow, once in a while you’ll have a project completely and utterly fail. Every time it happens to me, it’s like a total surprise. Haven’t I learned anything? I thought I had moved past this?! Here’s what I’ve learned about my own sewing fails and how you can deal with your own when they come your way.
The worst of my sewing fails
Back in 2012 I was pregnant with my youngest son. I had just made it past my usual morning sickness and utter exhaustion I always felt in the first trimester. There was a piece of lightweight polyester willing me to make something pretty. It took a lot out of me, but I altered a Burda blouse for a full bust and my growing bump, but I didn’t get to cut it out for another couple weeks.
I forged ahead…eventually and made this loose top from this pretty floral. It had a half-placket that buttoned down the front and some shoulder pleats. I willed my way through the construction, and I was all too delighted with it.
It started with a little micro pull. A bit of tightness across the bust. I thought I heard a thread snap, but I didn’t worry too much. By the end of the morning that little thread snap turned into a 1/2″ tear. As I turned off the exit to my house, the blouse had shredded completely in my hands along the placket. I was so grateful I had worn a cami that day under the blouse or I would have been naked right there in my car.
How to deal with your sewing fails
I’m not going to lie, I was devastated, humiliated in that moment. Why didn’t I double check the measurements? Why did I think that delicate poly could handle the stress of crazy pregnant boobs?
And while you might not end up half-naked in your car the next time you have a sewing fail, the odds are good that it’s going to get you down. It’s totally okay. Walk away.
Go do something else.
Ball it up and throw it across the room.
But whatever you do, just take a break.
Go for an easy win
While you’re walking away from your sewing fail, why not go for an easy win? Is there a quick favorite project that you can stitch up in an hour or so? Do that.
One of my favorite things to do between projects are quick things for my kids. I think when you’re feeling down one of the most powerful things to do is just make something for someone else. This top came after I cut the wrong size of dress for my daughter.
Transform it, or fix it
You know how you threw your project across the room in disgust a while back? Pick it up again. What went wrong? Can you fix a zipper that wasn’t happening or can you re-cut a top that ended up comically big?
Sometimes refashioning or fixing your sewing fails can be a way to redeem the whole process. Refashion from your own closet? You bet!
This Named Talvikki sweater REALLY got me down. There are patterns that just.don’t.work for you, and this was one of them. I felt pretty terrible about myself for a couple of days, and then I pulled out the scissors.
The clownishly large sweater became a more streamlined hoodie. I even lined it, and you know what? I wear it now a couple times a week.
Those times that you can turn your sewing fails into something that you love, it’s almost worth the initial disappointment.
Chalk it up as a loss
You may not be able to right all your sewing fails. Sometimes fabric is just meant to do certain things, and you ignore your better judgment. There are days you pick bad quality fabric that lasts about 2 washes (the worst). And sometimes what seems like it’ll be a simple sewing project instead becomes a total fitting disaster.
In those moments, just chalk it up as a loss. Take note of what happened, and it’ll help you learn for the next time. Sewing is hard. There’s a lot of things to learn, and a lot of different disciplines under the sewing umbrella that you just have to practice. If it’s true that you have to crack a lot of eggs to make an omelet, there are just some days when your hands are covered in egg slime. Ew.
Embrace the wonkiness
Some sewing fails are BIG. But other times, there’s tiny little imperfections that you know about, but may not be obvious to others. Learn to live with them. I know a lot of sewists donate a lot of their garments that just didn’t work out. Believe me, a lot of my own projects have ended up at my local thrift store too, but I think we do a disservice to ourselves by removing all of our sewing fails from our lives.
Those imperfect sewing fails are a living history of your learning process. It’s wonderful to be able to go back to an old project and see just how much you’ve learned.
This coat was I think the first jacket I made. There are so many sewing mistakes here, from the fitting to the crooked hem to the hilariously backwards-sewn pockets. (I have to flip them towards the front when I wear it!)
But I still wear this coat (who’s giving up these awesome snaps?), and it’s so good to see the jackets I make now. They’re no longer a hot mess, but I love remembering where I started. You should do the same, friend!
Accept that sewing fails are going to happen
Finally, I want you to accept that sewing fails are going to happen to you. It could be you had a bad day, you might have made a critical error at some point. Your sewing fails don’t define who you are. Chances are, after you’re done being upset about it, there’s a good story to be told from your failure.
So that’s how I’ve learned to deal with my own sewing fails. The next time your own sewing project blows up in your face, remember to walk away from it, go for an easy win project, consider transforming or fixing it. You can chalk it up as a loss, embrace the wonkiness. And ultimately, just accept that sewing fails are going to happen. As long as you keep learning and keep moving forward, those sewing fails do not have to get you down!
I’m turning it over to you: Which one of these things do you think will help you the next time you have a sewing fail?
Looking for more helpful tips from a sewing big sister? Check out 7 pieces of sewing advice that transformed my creativity and also sewing encouragement for beginners from the pros.
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.