The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation


Okie-dokey – now that I have your attention and your heart is filled with dread, guilt and shame – let’s really talk about this for a minute.


I know you’ve heard all the adages like:

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Albert Einstein (he should know!!!)

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.
Albert Einstein

A well adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous.
Alexander Hamilton

The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.
Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking about making some more!

The biggest mistake you can make is being too afraid to make one.

And well you get the idea!

But here‘s a great article on this (based on this blog – both are short and worth a glance), and it’s worth a serious look.  And although this is in reference to art, it works for us too:

Is failure in your art practice something to be embraced, managed, or forgotten?

or for us:

Is failure in your sewing something to be embraced, managed, or forgotten?

Think about this for a minute….embraced?…managed?….or forgotten?


That seems awfully scary, and yet might sound functional or something that we should force ourselves to do like cod liver oil (which was synonymous with something you HAD to do in order to heal or get better or do the right thing or whatever).

A embraced failure would probably happen only after it had long since passed, been well-thought out and survived or overcome.  So the idea of embracing a failure is great, but I’m left wondering if this would more be as a result of some time and thought –  after the failure.

That doesn’t mean denying the failure, it just means that it (the failure) needs to sit for a while, even be put away, and then worked out later.


This really looks like a better description or at least right after the failure is realized, that would be more productive.  And here’s an interesting way of looking at this.  Failure an be two things:  1.) as a path toward being more productive or 2. ) as a path toward frustration or discouragement.  Believe it or not, you do have a choice about this.  Granted this may be very difficult at first.  Here you are in the middle of the 5th wadder and Claire wants me to be positive – I don’t think so!!!!

Well, I’m not asking you to be Pollyanna.  I am asking you to be realistic.  And that means not to immediately blame yourself, your circumstances, your machine, your pattern, your body, yada, yada, yada…..  But it also doesn’t mean that nothing happened and that life is wonderful and la ti da.   By seriously thinking about it and looking closely, you can put yourself in a mental and creative position in which you’re more likely to end up with a positive outcome.


This would be the worst possible alternative.  Never making use of the learning that can be had from a mistake, is basically dooming yourself to repeat it.  The sad thing here is that pretty soon you believe that no matter what happens, you can never get past this mistake.  This attitude can do more damage that the original mistake, and this more than anything is what I teach against and get on my soapbox faster than any vigilante activist even thought about.

I’ve said this before, and now I’ll say it again – every shape can be fit.  I know.  I’ve done it. I’ve made stylish and beautiful clothes for almost any size, shape and style.

But what I may not have said, is that along the way I too have wadders.  And I approach them from a point of view like – “Well, that didn’t work, let’s see what messed up with that.”  More at a puzzle or a mystery to be solved.

Part of this comes from my art background which trains the students and artists to approach their art in a problem solving mode rather than it-can’t-ever-be-done-so-don’t-even-think-of-trying-again mode!!!!  Even artist who make the same error over and over, keep approaching it from a puzzle point of view, not a unsolvable problem point of view.


As an art project (and a sewing project) there is no one “right” answer.  There are a lot of right answers and in addition any one of them may work for you.    And all you have to do is find one of those right answers that work for you.

The most important thing is not to let failure become a distraction, rejection, and especially not a termination of sewing.


It’s OK to walk away from it for a while, even a week or two – that’s why it’s good to schedule a good generous block of time to allow yourself to finish a project.  There is nothing to feel guilty about – even if it is your 50th mistake.  And if you think I never made any, please get that out of your head now.  And if you think that ever contract I completed, I never had any mistakes or big ones, get that out of your head.  It can not help but happen to anyone who sews for any length of time, and although you may think that’s all you do, you can look at it this way:  if you feel you have messed up a lot, then the odds are with you to succeed a lot!!!

And it’s good to remember this is a creative outlet and not a test – there is no one right answer.  And if you don’t get it the first time, practice, a break from the problem-solving, and an approach to the problem as if it is a puzzle not a problem are elements that work for almost every expert in every creative field.  They all work to solve problems every day, and you are no different.

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  1. Words of wisdom! At this stage of my sewing life I have come to realize that what I really really enjoy about is the problem solving. I want to do “C” so what are “A” and “B” and how do I put them together to get there? To me it’s the really creative part of the sewing process. It really engages the brains and I just love that. Great post. Claire.

  2. wow—-inspiration at its best! Thank you is not
    enough to say for this gift of insight and affirmation.

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