Have Your Say

29th May 2020

Stitching Failures | Responses Part 2

Thank you all so much for the responses you have sent in regarding our recent articles on Stitching Failures. We just had to bring you a few more this week, as there is some wonderful advice as well as an academic research paper from one of our readers on this very issue.

Stephanie Murphy

‘Thank you for pointing out that making an error is not a ‘showstopper’. When I teach embroidery classes, I encourage students not to worry about whether their stitches are perfect or not, or that their flower doesn’t look perfect.  

My schtick goes as follows: go and look at flowers and trees. They are rarely symmetrical. Different parts of the trees and flowers grow at different rates. Insects chew on them. Bees land on them creating small distortions. If your petal doesn’t look like a petal and you really hate it, take it out.

But if your petal could just use some enhancement, go ahead and stitch on top of it. Add more stitches. Add an insect hole.

It’s OK, no one will see the original and if you don’t point out your mistakes, no one will know that you altered the piece to suit your skills. It will be beautiful because you made it.

I see so many people wasting their time tearing out stitching that is off by one or two threads. Be creative and adjust the pattern. It will rarely make a difference to the overall design.’

Your advice is absolutely perfect Stephanie, well said. The truth about nature itself being replete with individual variations including insect holes and petal distortions, when taken to heart, could save many of us a lot of time and frustration. 

Jacquie Harvey

‘I was so pleased to read about other stitchers owning up to the fact that we all make mistakes with our work. The below photo will show you one of my pieces, which took some time to make as you can imagine

‘The oval insets were reverse appliquéd and over the weeks and months of quilting, one of them (unseen to me) frayed so badly around the edges, a little hole had appeared by the time I started work on it.

I just couldn’t abandon the whole piece after all the hours I had already spent.

So, after a sleepless night, I got out my PVA glue and with a very fine long needle stroked the glue along the frayed threads. This had the effect of covering up the hole and all was well again.

The christening gown went on to win the National Quilt Championships here in the UK, so I was very lucky the judges didn’t notice it! However, it did teach me never to use silk again unless all the pieces are oversewn! Well, they do say we learn by our mistakes and I certainly did with this one.’

Although as embroiderers we often think of glue as a four-letter word, it can come in very handy sometimes! Thank you for that wonderful story Jacquie.

Marybeth Stalp

‘I very much enjoyed your coverage of mistakes and stitching failures as part of the creative process. My colleague and I have also done research on the role of failure in the creative process of crafters which may of interest to your readers.’

Marybeth’s academic article is a fascinating and in-depth study. Using a quantitative analysis, Marybeth and her colleague, Therèsa Winge, explore the value of failure in relation to the creative process and indeed, how poor that process would be without mistakes. They spoke to ‘leisure’ artists and needleworkers to record their experiences and came to the conclusion that: 

‘…embracing failure is arguably necessary to create innovative and successful handcrafts… as well as building problem-solving skills for future projects.’

The reference for Marybeth’s article is:

Stalp, M.C. and Winge, T.M. (2017) ‘If at first you don’t succeed, rip it out and try again: The benefits of failure among DIY handcrafters’, Clothing Cultures, 4:2, pp. 87-104.

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