• No Products in the Cart

Weekend: A Tug of War


There’s an interesting tug of war that happens when we fail, and it’s even more interesting how we accommodate the duality. Of course, we want to forget failure, but at the same time, we have to remember the lessons learned. I have found that I do my best work after my biggest mistakes and that’s mostly because the memory is so painful that I do everything in my power to never let it happen again.

Also, it’s easier to move on from failure than it is with a win. After a grand slam, out of the park success, I think, “I could lose this.” The American mentality is you’re only as good as your last performance. But when we strike out, it’s easy to get back to work and do different/better next time because hey, you sucked that last time.

Failure is also humbling. It’s therapeutic. It cleanses. It forces you to stop, access the situation and remind you of where you are.

I’m thinking about all of this as I plan my fall and winter sewing because like death and taxes, failure is inevitable. It will happen. So, if I set out to make 5 pieces in the next 6 months, should I expect, maybe even plan, for at least 1 to be a failure? A lot of sewers get into a sewing rut after a horrible make, but if he or she plans for it, it might make the blow a little less painful. This might be a grim, pessimistic way to look at the situation, but life is not all unicorns and happy, pretty flowers. There should be no shame in failure either. Just like the warriors in The Odyssey, we shouldn’t hide our wounds, but acknowledge them as a badge of honor.


  1. Reply


    I think failure is a sine qua non condition to growth … planning for failure should be part of everyone’s process..

  2. Reply

    Debbie Iles

    Oh such a timely post! I think I learn the most from the failings in my sewing. For example I will never ever ever ever disregard nap in fabric again…learned this week 😉

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I’ve disregarded the nap as well before; hope it wasn’t velvet!

  3. Reply


    Very timely! After a 17-year hiatus from sewing, I started back up again. My first project took about a month and gave me incentive to continue; my second project was, yes, a failure – but I’m learning! Thank you and happy to have found your site!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I’m happy you find my site too and that you’re back into sewing. Welcome!

  4. Reply

    Little Miss Sewshine

    I could’t agree more with this post,but now time for the tricky question. What to do with the garment you are not so pleased with how it turned out? Wear it, since it is still a creation of yours your are emotionally attached to, or protecting your point of view about style by choosing to wear only the best of the best of your makes? I’m happy to have just wrote a post about the subject and I would be honored to hear your opinion. 🙂

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Good question, and a tricky one indeed. WWMD? I would accept the garments as a “failure.” Yes, it’s a handmade creation and throwing it out would go against sewing’s ethics, but I don’t believe in wearing clothing/accessories that don’t make you feel your best. Some might disagree, but I want to feel good every day.

      • Reply

        Little Miss Sewshine

        I am with you in that!

  5. Reply


    Great post! Too often I allow failure and stress to hold me back from pursuing with passion.

  6. Reply


    Failures teach us the most – about ourselves, our skills, our equipment. It gives us an opportunity to assess what went wrong and to improve. Whether it be a technique (I really should have read that tutorial), a personal quirk (no more late night pattern cutting!) or an issue with equipment (those shears need to be replaced) our failures show us to what we need to pay attention.

    Failures lead up to the creation of a fantastic garment. Without them how would we learn and improve to the point where we can sew with confidence and style?

    My failures spend some time hanging around the studio while I think about what I would do differently if I were to sew that pattern again. I make notes on the project sheet, adjust the pattern, and then donate the garment to friends/thrift store or consign it to the “bra and lingerie” fabric box or the quilting scrap box.

    There are many skills and small details that go into a fabulous garment. While I can’t say I enjoy my failures I do appreciate everything I learn.

    • Reply

      Little Miss Sewshine

      I think donating is the best thing to do. In one of the first coats I ever made many years ago I had sewn the collar UPSIDE DOWN and didn’t realize it with my unexperienced eyes until after three months of wearing! It couldn’t be fixed as I had done some embroidery on the collar edges, so I remade it (I was lucky to have more fabric) and got left with two identical coats. Once a friend requested for the first one (with the wrong collar), wears it very often ever since and I have to admit it doesn’t look bad at all. However I can’t wear a garment if I know that the construction of it is not perfect.

      • Reply

        Maddie Flanigan

        While donating is a great idea, I sometimes keep the “failed” garment for reference when I make it again.

        Great comment!

  7. Reply


    I think planning for failure and acknowledging that it WILL occur is the best way to embrace it as a natural part of life and use it as a driving force that propels us instead of fearing it and letting it paralyze us. As they say, you learn more from your failures that your successes, and it couldn’t be more true.

    I think you are onto something here by incorporating failure into your plan. And, if you plan for it and it doesn’t happen, all the better!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Plan for the worst, hope for the best, right?

  8. Reply

    juju calado gago

    so nicely put!!
    I have been working on my courage to accept failing, and not letting fear stop me from trying.
    I like how you said all this.

Leave a Reply