My latest craft fail and why it's not a fail at all

Craft fails are crushing.  Your idea, so expertly designed and perfectly executed in your head, turns out to be a big hot mess.   All that time and material wasted!  Not to mention the bruise to your ego that your mind could conceive of something that hideous!

I’m going to be brave here for a minute and share my latest craft fail.

First, the context.  This project was for a Goodwill fashion show, where artists/designers would alter a Goodwill jacket that would then be modeled by local celebrities.

My jacket was a hot pink quilted vest.  There should have been soooo many ways to make this awesome, but my creativity was just not up to the task.  I tried adding on sweater sleeves and accents, but the intense pink just made everything dull, dull, dull in comparison.  So I decided I’d embrace the bold color and cover the thing in felt flowers.  Layers and layers of felt flowers.  A happy flower explosion!

This is what I ended up with.



Are your eyes screaming?  It’s horrible!! My own mother looked at it and laughed, saying “OMG that’s AWFUL!”  Thanks, mom.  🙂

So now that you’ve feasted on  the hideousness of this vest, let me tell you about the vest in my head, the vest that should have been:

  1. Vest in my head was shorter, more like a bolero, like you’d wear over a vintage party dress.  The fact that there was no vintage party dress in the equation should have been a stopping point. But it wasn’t.
  2. Vest in my head was a neutral. Actual vest was hot pink.  I knew ahead of time it would be hot pink but I wasn’t prepared for how intense that color would be.
  3. Vest in my head had flowers made from luscious wool felt in interesting colors. Mostly neutrals but with pops of celery green, mustard yellow, plum, periwinkle blue and deep carmine. In reality, the only felt I could afford in the quantity necessary for this project was cheap craft felt from JoAnn, which comes in a much more limited palette.  Bright yellow, hot pink, orange, turquoise.  I did the best I could.
  4. Vest in my head had flowers cut in a range of sizes. In actuality, in order to cover the vest I needed a LOT of the larger sized flowers.  By the time I cut enough of the larger flowers to cover, all hope for contrast in scale was lost.

When additional efforts (freemotion stitching, painting, etc.) still could not save it, I threw in the towel and declared it my craft fail.

But this is not a post about a craft fail.  It’s about what happened AFTER the craft fail.

I had committed to making a jacket so there was no way to just walk away from the project.  I'd still make a jacket, it just couldn’t be THIS one.

So I started over.  I got a new jacket and I took an entirely different approach.  The design that was worming its way through my brain the entire time I was gluing ugly flowers and hating on what was emerging in front of me.

And here’s the awesome thing.  Once all that felt madness was out of my system, I could get on to the jacket I really wanted.



It’s not perfect.  One of the pockets isn’t entirely straight and my ribbon is a little crooked and my seams a little wonky.  But it has a giant puffy llama applique on the back and that makes me giggle, and when a project makes me giggle then I know it’s good.


I used one of the sweaters that was supposed to go on the pink vest, and instead paired it with the tweedy jacket.  I created a faux layered collar and pockets, and a giant contrast panel on the back.  I added rows and rows of ribbon and fabric scraps, even a row of pom pom fringe.


Here's a fun little detail.  I added patch pockets over the welt pockets that were already there.  Both pockets are functional!  The welt pockets are hidden so they're kind of like secret pockets.



I love this so hard.  It might even be my favorite refashion ever.

But guess what?  There’s NO WAY I would have made this without having gone through felt flower hell first.  My brain juices weren’t truly flowing until I was cutting flowers and gluing them and trying to make them work.

Which makes me wonder if it was really a craft fail after all.  True, it is not anything I am remotely proud of.  The only appropriate place for that jacket is in the trash bin.  But just because it didn’t end up as my final product doesn’t mean it’s wasted effort.

Art is process.

When we teach writing, we encourage “prewriting”.  That’s the writing you do to get your brain warmed up and you inner critic silenced before you start the actual writing.  Prewriting is intended to be trashed.  It’s just words on paper.  There’s no expectation of perfection, or coherent arguments, or perfect grammar.

Or, if you’re a photographer, think of all those junk shots on your camera., the ones with blurred images or someone’s got their eyes closed or the composition is meh.  You know when you’re taking photos of an event, that most of those photos are going to end up trashed, but it’s okay because there will be 2 or 3 good ones that make it worth it.

Why not the same with craft and sewing?

I think often our craft fails are just the middle portion of the design process.  We’re just confused and think of them as the end product, and we expect end product perfection out of a middle of the process step.

So let’s let ourselves off the hook.  Your craft fail, that bit of hideousness taunting you, is probably just a sign that something fabulous is getting ready to get made if you can quiet the self-judgment and allow yourself to continue to create.

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  • Denise says:

    YES! This happens to me all the time. It is so hard to let go of the wrong project and let myself embrace the right project. Your words are liberating! (And the flower vest should go in the costume box. You never know what it might become someday.)

  • valeriewa says:

    Excellent learning opportunity, and I am impressed you actually finished the vest! Thanks for sharing this and I loooove the jacket!

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