Posts Tagged ‘fail friday’

fail friday :: a visit from *gypsy forest*

it’s that time.  time for the final fail friday.  I have thoroughly enjoyed running this series and feel so reassured that not only do we all make mistakes but we also know how to laugh at ourselves while we do it.

never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat ~~f. scott fitzgerald

this week, we are visited by stephinie from gypsy forest, who definitely knows how to laugh at herself.  stephinie is one of those lovely, thoughtful voices that is a true joy to read.  she brings a great calm to the chaos and whimsical, humorous tone to boot.  she is also a very talented maker of quilts and play silks and lots of other things that manage to elevate themselves from ordinary to infused with meaning under the great care of her hands.   here is stephinie:


“So,” my husband asked me. “What’s on tap for my Gypsy Mama this month?”
As a side note, my husband is a brewer and sailor. I might need to give you a translation book if you came for a visit.

“Welllll…..” I began. ”I’m going to share a post in another blogger’s space about failing and craftiness and why it’s all good.”

Immediately he had a smirk on his face.

“What?” I asked. “What is so funny about that.”
The smirk turned into a giggle. Then laughter.

I figured he must have thought of some great creative failure of mine that I must share with you.

“Is it the sweater I’ve ripped out three times?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“The satin dragon costumes?” I asked.

He laughed more and finally said “Pumpkins! Bahahahaha.”

fail friday guest post on happy stitch
So. In all honesty, and due to my husband’s most ridiculous behavior, I will tell you the truth. I gave up pumpkin carving about ten years ago. I did carve one that said “LUKE” one year, and put a plump baby boy inside for a photo-op. But that’s it. Why? I hate messing up. It’s not pretty, but it’s honest. I have a tendency to pick the most intricate design I can find. I line up my tools like a surgeon and begin carefully carving each piece. I hold my breath in the hardest of parts. I can only imagine my family thinks I look like a mad scientist as I carve. Inevitably, I get half way through it before one tiny little seemingly innocent slice ruins the whole thing. I screech, the husband laughs, and I want to throw the pumpkin in the street. I figured for the sake of my children I should give up this hobby. And you know? There is one less pumpkin harmed every October. But the joke? The joke is here to stay. Every autumn that sweet man of mine asks “Five pumpkins or six?” I don’t even answer. He teases to the kids “Mama doesn’t really do the pumpkin thing.” Only two of my four kids are old enough to remember when I last carved one, thank goodness. Joe loves this. I think it’s his favorite joke. “Well, it might be hard. But is it harder than carving a pumpkin.” I will never live this down.

So there you have it. My very not-so-pretty-or-grown-up-moment. We all have those. We all make mistakes. Again. And again. And if you’re lucky enough to have a supportive guy like mine behind you, you can learn to laugh at yourself. Which is really the best thing you can ever do. While I haven’t exactly picked pumpkin carving back up, I have learned to sew and knit. I’ve become a pretty darn good cook, I can use a camera, and some days I even call myself a writer.


fail friday guest post on happy stitch
So while some might look at the pumpkin thing as kind of a failure, I look at it as a jumping off point. I’m slowly learning to let go of my inner perfectionist. The first dozen or so pairs of pants I sewed had upside-down fabric on the pockets and uneven legs. But I promise, no one will notice when you put your adorable kiddo in the pants.


fail friday guest post on happy stitch
I have a smal business selling handmades, and I regularly sew the right and wrong side of the fabric together. This still causes me to screech sometimes, but I don’t give up. And neither should you. Keep encouraging yourself the same way you do your friend or your children. To live this creative life, you have to be okay when things go awry. Because they will. Once in awhile if you’re lucky, you’ll learn something awesome or amazing by it. More often than not, you’ll just have to laugh, pick up your seam ripper and tell yourself “this is easier than carving a pumpkin.


I think I have a new pumpkin motto.  thanks Stephinie!

and, there you have it.  the fail friday series….the official cheering section for this corner of blogland, is complete.  hope to have the occasional addition here and there but for now it’s time to focus on our upcoming holiday and the new year!  thanks everyone for joining in the fun.

fail friday :: a visit from steffani lincecum

welcome to another fail friday!  fail friday is chance for bloggers to showcase and celebrate sewing and crafting failures.  why? because life is messy and so are things behind the sewing machine! we might as well laugh at them, right? right.

failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor  ~truman capote

this week I am really excited to welcome Steffani Lincecum.  Steffani is a sewing instructor, pattern maker and author who lives in Wisconsin.  she’s the author of the brilliant book patternmaking for a perfect fit (my review of the book is here) and is currently busting out some sure-to-be-awesome Craftsy classes that will be launching in January 2013, so we will have to look out for that!  this is literal, she is actually in filming this week!  in fact, she just shot one that included buttonholes a few ago.  buttonholes, as you will discover, are a bit of sore point for Steff.

Steff’s background is pretty exciting…she worked in costume making for television shows and movies like “Will and Grace” and 3rd Rock from the Sun”, she has even made custom pieces for Madonna!  who can claim something like that?!  on top of all that talent, she is also very funny and not afraid to ham it up for our benefit.  and that is lucky for us because she decided to share a pretty hilarious story including a ‘crime scene reenactment’ photo.  she is a real treat, I’m telling you.  and, offers a great reminder that sometimes a fail is, well, just a fail and the best response is to look back with humor.

her blog stitchcoach is a great resource for pattern makers in particular.  and, according to Steff it is “usually about a month behind on being updated, but has occasional flashes of brilliance that really should not be missed.”  welcome Steff:


I have the ordinary sewing at 3 am and putting in the sleeves of that Amy Butler Shirtdress in bass-ackwards sort of sewing fails lately, but when I was asked to guest blog this and the word FAIL settled in, there is only one story that stands out to me as the single most mortifying sewing experience of my life.

I was just out of grad school at Tulane, where I got an MFA in Costume Design, so you’d think I would have been a little more savvy, but well, NO. I was not. Or maybe I was just really frazzled. Yeah, lets say I was really really frazzled. Anyway. I was doing an internship at my first professional theatre costume shop. These ladies were grizzled veterans, and I was the newbie. My job there was to assist the designer. I did a lot of shopping and taping up receipts and dressing shows in the evenings. We were about to open a really big show. A musical version of Jekyl & Hyde. The costume shop had been making these beautiful custom made clothes for months. The shop was pushed to the limits and I  volunteered to help with some finishing sewing. I was presented a newly made silk victorian blouse for the lead actress in the show. It was finished all except the buttonholes. The shop manager handed it to me tentatively. Did I know how to do buttonholes? Pshhhhhh. Of course I could make buttonholes, I had an MFA for goodness sake, I’d just been making Empire tailcoats the year before in our costume shop and had just done my thesis show, Spring Awakening, a huge period piece. Buttonholes? Hand me that blouse…

So I marked them and stitched them out. No problem. They looked pretty nice! Then I opened them ever-so-carefully with a seam ripper and handed the blouse back to the shop manager, beaming.

All the color drained from her face.

The buttonholes were all horizontal, like on a tailored jacket, or maybe an Empire tailcoat instead of vertical as they should be on a ladies blouse.

Photo: This is a professional stunt blouse in a closed environment. Please do
not attempt.

There was an audible gasp throughout the entire shop.

I wanted to crawl back under the machine.

They used the blouse.

A nightly reminder 8 shows a week of my place in the pecking order.

I’ve never made that mistake again.



ah, so good to start a friday with a funny story.  Thanks Steff for sharing.  it’s so good to know that even a seasoned veteran can make a mistake.  my sewing room errors should not slow me down, Steff was obviously unstoppable!

 stay tuned for next week, when we have the final (sniff) fail friday, a visit from Stephinie at gypsy forest!

fail friday :: a visit from *no big dill*

welcome to the december version of ‘fail friday’.  I am so excited to be able to keep going with this series!  fail friday, if you don’t know, is a chance to showcase and celebrate sewing and crafting failures.  life is messy and so are things behind the sewing machine sometimes.  too often, the dazzling world of blogs can get a little, well, perfect.  fail friday is a chance to own up to mistakes and discuss how, many times, they are actually really valuable to the creative process.  and, maybe those mistakes are even the gateway to something even better!

 if we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment. ~henry david thoreau

that is certainly the case for this week’s guest blogger, katy dill from no big dill.  katy is not only a talented, talented sewer she also balances prolific sewing with parenting 6 kids and cooking like a pro.  check out her recipes here and her incredible sewing tutorials here.  she also runs a fantastic sewing series called once upon a thread, which features children’s clothing inspired by children’s books.  quite a magical combination, right?  I’m so excited she agreed to join fail friday! welcome katy:


Friday Fail is such a great series idea because we all have failures, even Martha Stewart.  In fact, sometimes I find myself liking and appreciating the results from “failures” because it pushes me to come up with creative solutions and many times the details I include to cover up mistakes are my favorite part of the whole project.  Recently I was making a jacket for my preschooler for the alphabet series on my blog.  Each week they learn a new letter and I’ve been making an outfit that correlates, so there’s not a whole lot of time to make mistakes or I would get behind.

The jacket pattern didn’t include a lining, so I was using the actual jacket to make my own lining and accidentally cut into the fabric about an inch, so the seam wasn’t going to cover it.  I think it was late at night and I just started laughing, and decided to go to bed and think it over. 
The next morning when my wits were more about me, I decided to use some fusible interfacing on the wrong side to keep it from fraying and as soon as the lining was in, I added a decorative ribbon on the outside to cover what was still visible.  Then I added another piece of ribbon, I liked it so much!

The fabric I used for the lining was of mystery content and shrunk a significant amount when I pressed it! so it turned out to be too small once it was all pinned. 

I didn’t have any of the fabric left except for little scraps, so I snipped it right down the center and inserted a box pleat.

 You wouldn’t even know that I hadn’t intended that to be there.

The hole-y ribbons really make the jacket.  And in the end, I find that it’s through mistakes and mishaps when my creativity is really given a chance to work.
Thanks, Melissa, for hosting this great series, and for inviting me to share my “fails” ;).


amazing, right? I wish all my mistakes looked that awesome.  but, I love the way that katy ‘covered her tracks’ and then loved the results! that is why I love fail friday because that kind of thing happens all the time to me! I really do love the path that failure takes me on sometimes.  thanks so much katy!  got a failure to share?! post it to the flickr group and tell your story…I would love to have a collection to share in January!  there is a lot of love in that paragraph.  whew, I am really feeling it today.

fail friday :: visit from *the long thread*

another friday, and this one marks the final in the november fail friday series (sniff), it would make me a little sad except I decided to extend it into december right up to the Christmas holiday (yay!).  consider it the accompaniment to all your holiday making!  in case you are new here, fail friday is a series of guest posts showcasing and celebrating sewing and crafting failures.  why? because the more honest we can be the more we can embrace the imperfection and enjoy all the stitching, sewing, knitting and making without that big looming perfect hanging over us.

you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.  ~mary pickford

with that, I am so excited to welcome ellen luckett baker as the final november guest blogger.  I have admired ellen’s work for such a long time…before she had written books and designed an amazing fabric collection, when she was just an amazing blogger and sewer.  and now! well, she has taken her great talents and her friendly, encouraging voice and brought it to the amazing (and pretty, oh so pretty) book 1,2,3 Sew published by Chronicle Book and the follow-up 1,2,3 Quilt, which will be available from Chronicle Books in Fall 2013.  ellen is also the designer behind the first fabric collection that made me want to take out a big loan, live like a shut-in and sew constantly.  her collection, Stamped, is so elegant and playful and also is a cotton/linen blend for the Japanese company Kokka(I do love me some japanese linen)…so many amazing things rolled into one!

you can read all about her craft and sewing projects on her blog The Long Thread.  ellen lives in Atlanta with her husband and two daughters.

welcome ellen!


Thanks to Melissa for asking me to be part of this Fail Friday series! It’s refreshing to see a realistic look at the process of making things.

I believe that mistakes are simply part of the creative process, so I don’t see them as failures, by rather as experiments that teach us along the way.  And as it happens, I had a couple interesting failures just yesterday as I was trying my hand at wet felting again after a few years.

Obviously, these didn’t turn into felt balls as I’d intended, but I’m sure my nine-year-old can turn these wool fuzzes into something great for her dolls.  And every time I make a stuffed animal, my dog is sure to get a new toy from one of my cast-off experiments.

As I was thinking about this post, I kept coming back to this Michael Jordan quote that my dad sent me a while back after I’d been rejected by a fabric company.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

My father is an optimist who after every meal says “That’s the best meal I’ve ever had!” I did not inherit his cheerful outlook on life, nor his affinity for inspirational quotes.  And I’m not know for perseverance.  After college, I had a job in a chain music store and when it became clear that I would have to wear a blue button-down shirt every day, I left for my lunch break and never came back! But the quote my father sent actually made me think.  The more chances we take, the more opportunity we have for failure; but when we take chances, we also open ourselves up to the possibility of success.

I have found that I fail repeatedly when making things.  I taught myself to sew by trial and error and I hate reading directions.  I even hang pictures on the wall without a measuring tape, making holes in the wall repeatedly until I get it right.  I find that when I make a mistake while sewing, I just have to take a break to relieve the frustration.  Then I can come back an hour late, the next day, or even after a month and try again with renewed determination and more knowledge than I had before, because now at least I know one thing that doesn’t work!  I don’t know if it comes from getting older or becoming a mother, but I just don’t want to give up any more.


what a wonderful way to end the november fail fridays! I feel positively filled with inspiration (and a little weepy!).  thanks ellen.  do check out her post here about what became of her felting project!

keep watch for next month when we welcome no big dill, gypsy forest, and the stitch coach!  want to share your ‘fail’? add it to the flickr group and tell your story!  I’d love to get that growing and share a few here come January!

fail friday :: visit from *this is marzipan*

it’s friday and that means it is time for another fail!  fail friday is a series of posts showcasing and celebrating sewing and crafting failures.  why? because life is messy and so is crafting and the more honest we can be about that, the happier we can stitch…and learn and laugh and embrace our imperfections. feel like joining in? post in the newly created flickr pool and share your fail story!

failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something ~ morihli veshiba

this week, I am thrilled to have mary frances from this is marzipan stopping in.  mary frances happens to be one of my oldest blog-world friends and we had the wonderful opportunity to actually meet in real-life recently.  and, she is just as thoughtful, honest, funny, and all-around wonderful in 3-d as she is on the world wide web.  (she is also one of those people that is beautiful and glow-y while pregnant…her family is waiting for their third right now.)  she brings all of those traits to her sewing, which makes her a blow-you-out-of-the-water kind of maker and brilliantly skilled photographer and writer. so, I feel especially lucky to have her ‘fail’ here today along with some brilliant tips and tricks on sewing with vinyl.  welcome mary frances!


hello happystitch-ers!  I was so pleased when Melissa decided to launch this Fail Friday series, because a) I fail at sewing projects all the time, and b) I am always relieved to read that it happens to others, too.
Most of my Fails end up stuffed in a bin in my closet.   You know the one–it’s thickly lined with guilt and trimmed with broken promises to return and salvage whatever unhemmed skirt or three-sleeved jacket has been banished there.  Still, sewing is a learning process and even when I don’t come back to a project-gone-wrong, I am certain that I take away lessons that make me a better sewer going forward.  Really, I am mostly OK with The Bin.
But I want to write a little today about what happens when you CAN’T settle for leaving a project behind.  Like, when a sewing Fail is not just for fun, but supposed to fulfill your volunteer requirement at your kids’ school.  Ahem.
Sewing With Vinyl; or, Pressing On When Your Presser Foot Is Wrong
Montessori schools have a lot of special materials, each with their own special container to keep things easy for the kids to use and put away.  One of those materials is the nomenclature or three-part cards.  These little sets present vocabulary labels along with diagrams and definitions for sets of terms ranging from art terminology to parts of a mushroom.  My boys’ school would like to move from the  ziploc bag storage system they are using now to a more-sophisticated vinyl folder system that will keep each type of card/label separate within the set.
And they needed someone to make these folders–200 plus of them, sewn from vinyl.  I am lucky to share the “seamstress” co-op job with a professional textile artist(!), but neither of us had any experience sewing with vinyl.  And it turns out that sewing with vinyl is kind of tricky.
Without going into all the gory details, let’s just say that my first attempts at making these guys were . . . frustrating.  Vinyl has a weird combination of stickiness and slipperiness that makes it difficult to cut and nigh-impossible to feed through a sewing machine under “normal” conditions.  On another project, I would have let myself give up somewhere between the second crooked cut and the umpteenth thread jam.  But, thanks to the forces of necessity and the generosity of the internet crafting community, I came up with some potential solutions, tried a few, and found some that worked.  And the packets didn’t come out half bad.  (There’s a metaphor for life in there, folks.)
I share more sources for vinyl-sewing tips and tricks below, but here are the ones I’ve discovered and found most helpful as I work through this project:
–Cutting:  If you are working with a large roll of vinyl, it really helps to have a second pair of hands to help steady the vinyl as you make your cuts.  Otherwise, the vinyl will shift during cutting and send your scissors/rotary astray.  I found a rotary cutter to work best, and I also found a large metal ruler from my husband’s woodworking supplies to compensate for the extra length of the large roll.
–Needle selection: You’ll want a heavy-duty topstitching needle, or even one designated for leather.  Change it often, as the vinyl will dull it more quickly than fabric.
–Thread: Similarly, a heavy-duty thread performed best.
–Stitch type: I used a zig-zag for all stitches, to avoid a single line of holes in the vinyl that might result in tearing.
–Presser foot: ***Here is where I ran in to real trouble.  When the double thicknesses of vinyl were refusing to feed through my machine, many of the sources I consulted said that you need a specialty foot–teflon, walking, or roller feet are mentioned in various places–but I was hoping to avoid a special purchase.  A little more Internet poking resulted in the best tip of all: you can usescotch tape to cover your presser foot and plate to provide a texture that will feed the vinyl through your machine smoothly.
–Other warnings: Layers of vinyl will stick together, so you’ll want to treat any edges of pockets with stitching or some kind of fabric tape to make them accessible in the finished product.  And look out for your machine’s thread trimmer when you are removing the piece from under the presser foot!  Since vinyl is stiffer than fabric, it’s more likely to get dragged through that tiny blade accidentally, ruining the piece you just finished sewing.  Not that that happened to me or anything.  Definitely not twice.
And that’s it!  It’s a good experience to HAVE to persevere on a project, because then you experience the joy of finding solutions when it seems all is lost.  I’ll close with some additional resources and projects that employ vinyl:
Here are a few sites that share multiple approaches to sewing with vinyl and similarly-coated fabrics (like PVC and oilcloth):
Slick Tricks at
How to Get Leather or Vinyl to Glide Smoothly Across Your Machine at
Oilcloth Tips at SewMamaSew.
For the very ambitious, MJ Trends (a source for buying vinyls and PVCs) has a detailed guide on apparel sewing with these fabrics.
Inspired?  Here are some great tutorials from around the internet for sewn vinyl projects:
Quick Sew Clear Vinyl Organizers at lil blue boo.
Too Cute Card Holders at Rosey Corner Creations.
Clear Vinyl Tote Bag at Craftinomicon.
Sewn-In Vinyl Pocket Notebook at futuregirl.
Clear Zipper Pouches at Make It and Love It.
Paper-Vinyl Wallet Craft at Martha Stewart.
As for myself, I think it would be fun to make a wall-hanging jewelry or notions organizer that combines fabric and vinyl.  Ashley’s (pictured above and with a tutorial available at her site, Make It and Love It) is super cute.  Or how about a larger version for your kids’ rooms for racecars, Legos, or dolls?  I didn’t get around to trying it for this post (blogging Fail!), so maybe one of you will do it first!  You’re armed with vinyl know-how, now let me know how it goes!
fantastic! it is hard not be be inspired to sew with vinyl when faced with such an impressive list of ideas! am definitely inspired…lots of gift possibilities in that, I would say.  thanks for sharing miss mary frances! I’m awfully happy you failed, for my benefit at the very least.

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