Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stuff Happens: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Seam Ripper

Every day like clockwork, I can count on myself to commit a sewing error so lame brained, so mind numbingly stupid, I’m tempted to hang up my rotary cutter for good. But I’ve learned to ignore the hectoring voice of doubt. Instead I cooly assess the damage and determine the fastest, least detectable way to correct the problem. Fortunately, many mistakes can be prevented, and almost every project I’ve ever “wrecked” was salvageable in one form or another.

You’d think I’d be making fewer sewing errors as I become more experienced, but that hasn’t happened. While I rarely make the basic mistakes of the beginner, a finer, more advanced class of blunders has stepped in to pick up the slack. So the overall error count has held steady, and I’ve resigned myself to a lifetime of sewing screw-ups.

A mistake can occur at any stage of a sewing project, but the most common and most deadly ones occur during cutting. And as you might guess, I’ve made more than my share of fatal cutting errors. In fact this blog is named for one of my favorite ways of botching up a project – cutting fabric “slightly off grain.” I’ll never forget the day two years ago when I cut three pairs of pants that were so wildly off grain, the leg seams spiraled around me like a barber shop pole. Unfortunately, there was no Undo Button. I simply took the pants apart with a seam ripper and recycled the fabric into tee shirts. But I also learned how to prevent the problem before I cut by obsessively measuring and re-measuring my pattern’s alignment with the fabric grainline.

Just last night, I decided to cut some fabric for a pair of pillow covers. I was tired and shouldn’t have been cutting in the first place. But I knew I had twice as much fabric as I needed, more than enough to compensate for any error. To make a long story short, I made almost every mistake in the book. But in the end, I squeaked by with just enough good fabric for the pillows and some scraps for a bonus handbag.

Moral of the story: If your sewing life resembles a comedy of errors, don’t throw in the towel. Simply take a deep breath and remind yourself -- to err is human, but to fix it is divine.


Shannon said...

I often wish life had an "undo" button like the one in word processing programs. Hit the button, and voila all the stupidity is erased! I figure mistakes are just the universe's way of making sure I earn the right to wear the garments I make. :)

nancy2001 said...

You're absolutely right, Shannon. An undo button should be standard equipment in our DNA. But I'd be happy if I just had one attached to my rotary cutter. Nancy

Keely said...

I try to follow the measuring twice/cut once rule but I've still managed to do things like cutting two left sleeves. Or what about sewing something wrong, unpicking it then resewing it...the wrong way again.
BTW I've tagged you

nancy2001 said...

Oh Keely, I'm sure I've made every sewing mistake at least two times in a row...LOL.

Rachelle said...

Oh, I've been there! I'm pretty new to sewing, but I really surprised myself a while back by being stupid enough to make FOUR pillow covers, all sewn completely shut on all four sides. So I didn't make the lamebrained mistake ONCE, but four times in a row, before I went to stuff them and realized what I'd done.

Salinda said...

As often as I beg and bribe, my serger and scissors still snip in the wrong place at the most inconvenient times. That's the reason this year's white-linen-high-waisted-beautifully-tailored-Easter pants are actually white-linen-kinda-cute-with-huge-patch-pockets-casual pants. :)

Cennetta said...

Just found your blog through patternreview. I have been sewing for most of my life and still make some unbelieveable mistakes and/or errors. Never will throw in the towel. I love sewing and creating too much!

Sewing adventures and misadventures