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Can You Fail and Still Succeed?


At the beginner of the summer, I was contacted by the folks at The Declaration of You. Their motive for emailing me? They wanted me to be a part of their BlogLovin’ Tour, which is a hop, skip and a jump from blog to blog for eight weeks celebrating the launch of Jessica Swift and Michelle Ward’s book, The Declaration of You. I’m not a big fan of participating in events like these. It’s good to connect with other bloggers, I agree, but on some level, I feel as if these posts are a cop out of a good, pattern making or sewing post. An easy post. But the topic they suggested I  write about, success, was a topic I had been meaning to bring up with you for awhile. That post – the mushy, gushy one that every blogger at some point published – had been sitting in my queu. I just couldn’t write it.

So here goes… can you fail at something and still succeed?

The mood I’ve been in for the past couple of weeks hit me when I had the sudden urge to clean my apartment. And the way I’ve been feeling has lingered like a bad cold. I don’t know if it will be like a summer fling, come and gone within three months, or a long term, maybe lifetime, relationship. You never know when it comes to romance.

Like I do every January, I wrote a list of goals for Madalynne that I would set out to achieve over the course of this year. Some of the goals were simple, like becoming more active on Kollabora (shout out to Lindsey and Cina!), but some of them were lofty, like releasing my own patterns. “I’ve been patternmaking for five years and I was in the industry for two and a half years, I am more than ready.” Yet when I was going through my closet, I not only realized how bad my allergies were (talk about an asthma attack. Dust everywhere!) but I realized that when I dreamt big and reached for the stars, I had missed.

The sketchbooks, garments, muslins, and everything else that I had made over the course of six years was all in front of me as I purged. I remembered tackling each sewing project within a month’s time, maybe two, and filling a couple of notebooks a year. The employees at the fabric store’s new my name, people! Yet six months after I set one of my most prized goals, releasing my own patterns, I hadn’t achieved it. And a couple of days after my cleaning binge, I was looking at the graded jumper pattern from afar on a computer screen (rather than up close on paper) and I realized I made a big mistake and would have to go back to step one. Okay, maybe step two. Big bummer.


I try to set  the example that you can have a full time gig and still pursue an extracurricular hobby with all your heart. This year has been one of the most exciting years of my life but also weird because, as Bri wrote in one of her posts, I’ve had an audience watching me. Both hometown friends and strangers know all about my life even if I know nothing about theirs. I’ve had successes but I’ve also had failures and I had to experience both with you cheering and booing in front of me. But as I sit here six months into a year that I planned to go differently, more successfully, I feel like I have failed. Failed because I haven’t achieved my goal of releasing more patterns, failed because I’ve only sewn two garments this year, and failed because I don’t have the time to sketch, draw, or any of the other things I used to have time to do and love as equally as sewing. Okay, I have to give myself some credit, I created a couple of tutorials for Ehow.com and some other sites, which took up a lot of time. But this feeling of failure is turning into a feeling of success – it’s forcing me to shift my focus from a route that I thought and planned would work to an entirely different one. Maybe this route will be my very own yellow brick road. Who knows, right?

Not an ounce in me doubts that I will complete the jumper pattern and more patterns after that. I’m in this gig, the sewing gig, for the long haul. For better and for worse – that’s how tightly sewing and I go together. But I don’t think now is the right time. I need to do a little more behind-the-scenes work – testing, working through mistakes, and learning about grading and pattern making for the home sewer. I learned so much from your comments on Amerson and I promised myself and you that when I came out with another pattern again, it would be right. I also need to not kill myself trying to get there. Along the way, I need to devote time to making, creating, and sewing like I used to. Two garments in one year? That’s never been done before in the history of me sewing! All of you fell in love with me because of the ridiculous dresses and photo shoots I made and shot with Valerie and Brandy. I need to drink that juice again.

So I’m taking a different route, I’m changing course. That jumper pattern is coming, but maybe not for awhile. In the meantime, some lacy and ruffly dresses and undies are on their way. And so is some other artsy craftsy stuff (have you seen my sketchbook lately. Da bomb!). And who knows, maybe my future isn’t creating patterns. Maybe it’s creating tutorials, like Reese, on how to create your own Madalynne patterns. Let’s see if this road takes me to The Great Wizard of Oz.

So was this year a failure? Yes. But was it also a success? Absolutely.

Speaking of Reese, have you downloaded the tutorial yet? If you live on my side of the equator, next week is going to be brutally hot. Be as breezy and cool as Lindsey and Cina and make your own!

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  1. Reply


    From an outsiders perspective, it seems like you’ve had a great year. I’m glad you’ve learned to see it as a success!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Thank you. I’m glad that this year turned out the way it did. It put me on the right path. I’m feeling so much better now creating, sewing, learning, etc.

  2. Reply


    For what it’s worth, I have always been so amazed by how much you have done (and continue to do) in your short amount of life so far. You’re what, like 25 I think I remember you saying? And you are freaking the most talented writer/sewer/photographer/creative mind all wrapped up into one little person. It’s truly amazing.

  3. Reply


    It’s only July, I don’t think you can call this year a failure for at least another 6 months. Also, jumpers are challenging; I wouldn’t say you’re getting off track so much as just taking time for yourself.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I think my use of the word failure came off too strong. Yes, I don’t think this year has gone the way I would like it, in terms of my sewing goals, but I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m actually very thankful that it worked out the way it did! I learned so much in the past seven months. Not only did I learn about grading, creating a PDF pattern, which will be super helpful in the future, but I learned about who I am as a creative person and how I need to feed my creativity. And you know what, since making the change to sewing/creating more, I’ve felt so much better! I spent all last weekend, literally, sketchbooking, dyeing, cutting fabric, etc and I had a blast!

  4. Reply


    Might be interesting to make a time capsule of this day for yourself to revisit when you’re 60. : )

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      That would be fun! If only Emmett Brown, AKA the “Doc” were real! That would be one great Back To The Future movie!

  5. Reply

    Amanda Adams

    It’s always good to take a step back, breathe and reevaluate. Goal posts shift, priorities change but as long as you are enjoying the journey that is the main thing (in my world) There’s still 5 months to go- 2013 can only get more rad yet 🙂

  6. Reply

    Kelli Ward

    Oh how I get what you are saying. Life often has a different idea of what success is for us. The growing process is hard, but I would say you are doing awesome. Keep up the good work and honest posts.

  7. Reply


    I can relate to this post 🙂 I’ve been here myself. I think it’s the curse of the perfectionist! From where I’m sitting, you’re doing a great job. Keep up the good work!

  8. Reply


    Thanks for posting this, I can imagine it’s not easy to be so honest on the internet. I totally feel you; a couple weeks ago I failed my first assignment in uni and it really threw me for a loop. It’s always nice to know that other people are struggling to get through similar stuff.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      It’s okay to fail, in fact, I think it’s a good thing! It’s hard to be honest and express my true opinion because I might receive negative feedback. But I’d rather be true than hide for the sake of acceptance.

  9. Reply

    Jackie Saffert

    I love this post so much. It’s important for me to remember that just because I don’t accomplish every single goal I make for myself in the time I allotted, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve failed. Goals evolve, priorities shift, and that’s life. Thank you for putting this in perspective this morning!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Evolve. I like your word choice. Another way to look at this year is not as a failure or a success but as an evolution.

  10. Reply


    “All of you fell in love with me because of the ridiculous dresses and photo shoots I made and shot with Valerie and Brandy.”
    Maddie, I think you are realy cool, but you are definitely NOT the “queen of cool” and I haven’t fallen in love with you. It’s okay for everyone to dream, but stop seeing yourself as this big bold amazing blogger that everybody adores, loves and looks up to. Seriously.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Julie, I appreciate the honesty. I didn’t mean to come off as cocky and I apologize if I sounded that way.

    • Reply

      Christina Thomas

      The comment above, not refreshing at all, Seriously!

  11. Reply


    Success is such a loaded idea, maybe it should be abolished. I know its good to set goals and try to meet them, but sometimes life doesn’t go the way we plan and success is really adapting to reality. Yes, I spend a lot of time looking at unfinished projects and feeling like a failure, but a lot of other things have been accomplished that I didn’t plan on doing too. I have always liked your blog because of the no-nonsense information, your honesty, and some inspiring images. Never would I have thought of you as failing.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Thank you! I think failing is a good thing and I know that both your and my unfinished projects are just part of a bigger learning experience.

  12. Reply

    Natasha Estrada

    Failure gives perspective and goals are not guarantees. Everything in the past is gone anyways so no sense feeling terrible about it.

    Designing a commercial pattern that customers of all shapes, sizes and skill levels are going to use is no easy task. It’s probably 100x more difficult that just making a simple pattern so 6 months was probably just wishful thinking 🙂 especially working part time.

    Success is not always directly related to effort. Sometimes it comes when we don’t deserve and it sometimes it eludes us. The saddest is when you get it and it doesn’t feel like anything at all.

    • Reply

      Natasha Estrada

      I have some very funny failure stories though. Its character building so they say.

      • Reply

        Maddie Flanigan

        Even at the age of twenty-five, I have funny failure stories as well. Horrible and embarrassing? Yes. Makes me laugh every time I reminisce? Absolutely.

        • Reply

          Natasha Estrada

          Y’know I’ve found sewing blogs to have become terribly competitive in the last 5 years. Everyone has a book or pattern line or sews a garment a day or is a Mood network contributor etc etc. It could easily make living a normal sewing life seem like failure.

      • Reply

        Maddie Flanigan

        By the way, I really liked your thoughts on success and effort. Piquant and true.

  13. Reply

    Christina Thomas

    Thank you for your transparency! It’s refreshing.

  14. Reply


    Hi Maddie! Its me Yolita the beginner who you helped with the sloper. (which is getting close by the way). Some of us do love you and look up to you! Count me in that group. I do not know where my sewing will take me but you have inspired me to allow it to take me where-ever my hobby and my heart see fit to travel. Blogging? Designing? Hobby? Pattern-maker? who knows. I made my first pattern and item for my daughter last month. I have have sold 11 of those skirts from people who loved it. You just never know! Stay Positive.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Yolita, how are you?! It’s so nice to hear from you. I’m glad I inspired you because you know what, you inspired me to. Thank you for your encouraging words and be sure to keep in touch. Keep working on that sloper!

  15. Reply


    You’re awesome, Maddie! What an encouraging post. I took the big bold step into pattern designing kidswear (for the home sewer) this year. I was so excited and had so many grand ideas and expectations of myself. I’d hoped to have so much more done by this point, but creating good patterns can be a slow meticulous process. Thank you for sharing your perspective.Your honesty is refreshing and has been a big boost for me today.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      You and I need to keep pursuing our goals. We’ll both achieve what we set out to do. I have a feeling 🙂

  16. Reply


    I really like how honest and open this post is. Usually, the most amount of pressure on myself to succeed (or not even succeed, but accomplish goals or “not fail” at something) comes from myself. I can be my worst critic and I completely understand where you are coming from.

    You may not have accomplished your goal in the time frame that you had set, but I don’t think that means absolute failure. I think it’s only a set back in the bigger picture. And even if we do fail, it shouldn’t be as scary as it is for most of us. — Confession time: failure terrifies me. But I’m working on taking some power away from it — Failing is not an absolute, but a stepping stone towards many different possibility. Maybe it’s towards the same goal, just with a different timetable. Or maybe towards something completely different. We can never really know what the endgame is without the advantage of hindsight.

    I think it’s great that you are making time to get back into what you love doing!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Getting back into what I love has been so good for my inspiration. I spent all last weekend crafting and had a blast. It’s Friday and I can’t wait for the weekend to start so that I can get a move on my WIP’s!

  17. Reply


    Great, honest post, Maddie. I think it’s a great reminder that, despite our best intentions, life sometimes has other ideas for us! I still do feel confident that you will meet your goal of releasing more patterns in the near future, but maybe your initial timeline was unrealistic. This isn’t a failure, it’s just a learning experience. Besides, as you said for yourself, even if you weren’t ticking off boxes on your list of goals, that doesn’t mean that you haven’t accomplished ALOT this year! Just speaking in a very broad sense, I often thought that my life would look much different than it does, and I certainly never thought I would be doing many of the things that I’m doing. Try to enjoy your own journey, wherever it may lead you!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Learning experience, that’s exactly what it is. Failure is a good thing and I welcome it. It teaches me lessons and makes the journey that I’m on fun, exciting, and unpredictable.

  18. Reply


    I read this post, and the comments very carefully! You articulated your feelings really well and I appreciate hearing this someone I hold in high regard. I really like that you want to get it right – make sure you are doing the right things. Thanks for the honesty.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Thank you, Robin 🙂

  19. Reply


    I understand what you’re saying and you expressed it very nicely. But to me, your blog don’t look like a failure at all, but more like an example. I am sure your patterns will come out beautifully, sooner or later.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I hope so, and your words are getting me there sooner rather later.

  20. Reply


    Wow. You know, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately, like I’ve failed, but I couldn’t really put it into those words until very recently. I wanted to set up an online shop, but I’ve had to admit to myself that the patterns aren’t ready to be graded yet, and I got so frustrated with them that a bit of a “break” from them is probably good.

    And maybe it’s better to sew for myself again for a while, because doing that will teach me so much that I can use to eventually achieve my goal! Like learning to sew shirring, something I did on a dress for myself recently, and it opens up so many doors when it comes to sewing fitted garments that fit and flatter many different sizes! Plus when you sew for yourself, you’re more relaxed (at least I am).

    Thank you for writing this, I hadn’t though about the fact that my failure was a success in a way.

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