Beautiful Disasters

comments (16) April 13th, 2009     

Pin It

Jen_W Jennifer Worick, contributor
Love it! 10 users recommend
When Heather Mann made a batch of soap, it didnt exactly come out the way she planned. In fact, it looked like Spam.
So instead of fighting it, Heather created a label to embrace the Spamiliciousness of the soap.
When Heather Mann made a batch of soap, it didnt exactly come out the way she planned. In fact, it looked like Spam.

When Heather Mann made a batch of soap, it didn't exactly come out the way she planned. In fact, it looked like Spam.

Photo: Heather Mann

As you may know, I really hate to fail. I don’t like to waste time, money, or materials in my crafty pursuits, so I often wind up making the same thing over and over (once I master it, of course).

When I do venture into new craft waters, I get over my head now and again. Although I’ve been knitting for a decade, I still have to rip out stitches when I screw up a pattern or gauge. I threw out a huge resin experiment that, let’s just say, ended badly. I’ve wasted loads of pine cones and feathers while cooking up projects for my upcoming book, Backcountry Betty: Crafting with Style. When making jewelry, I’ve burned through a lot of wire—literally melting it with a torch or wasting lengths of sterling when wire wrapping.

In a word, d’oh!

My biggest disappointments tend to be of the knitted variety, mostly because I invest a lot of time in knitting up a garment, only to bungle it along the way. I knit a hat for a friend with a big head, only to find that I apparently knitted it for a giant watermelon. It was way too large for her melon head. I took a wonder shibori felting class with Leigh Radford and in my enthusiasm ruined a yummy alpaca scarf by loading up the entire length with giant shibori bobbles. Newsflash: A bobbly scarf doesn’t exactly fit around the neck real well. After pouring loads of time and three spendy skeins into the scarf, I have to say that one really hurt. And now that I've started sewing, I've discovered a whole new world of failure and frustration.

While some crafters are more willing to work without a net than I, we all have had our share of disappointments and disasters. To that end, Heather Mann, the genius behind Dollar Store Crafts and CROQ Zine, has created CraftFail, a communal blog where we can share the good God, the bad, and truly fugly. While I love seeing the bloopers, I actually am getting a lot of creative inspiration by seeing how other crafters approach projects and think their way around a creative challenge. I particularly love Heather’s Spam and cheddar cheese soaps. What came out as off-color batches of soap was turned into a fun concept body product. When you have lemons, make lemonade, and when you wind up with Spam-colored soap, make labels to match.

What are your most memorable craft disasters? Have you ever been able to take a failure and salvage it in any way?

In the future, you can find me at my website or blogs, Things I Want to Punch in the Face and Prairie Tales. My new book, Backcountry Betty: Crafting with Style, is in stores now.

posted in: blogs, mistakes, failure

Comments (16)

Jen1964 writes: I finished a crosstitch kit, and then decided that instead of framing it, I'd set it into the top part of an apron. However, to be machine washable, the bit had to be at least wetted & dried. So, out came the woolite.... and I soaked it in a sink with cold water. Everything right. Right?
Nope. The red threads bled all over the white background.
Don't these manufacturers KNOW that this stuff will be washed at some point in our century?
So I was annoyed.

Another project was an alpaca yarn, in a dove grey vest. Only problem was as it got longer, the yarn had no shape to it. Not right at all for the pattern I'd chosen. I never suspected it'd be completely floppy.
Since then, I try to discover what the yarn wants to be... as I'm knitting up the swatches. It isn't always what I'd bought it for, but these day's I've managed to get fewer unpleasant surprises. Some yarn is stiffer as it knits. Some just wants to be held.
Posted: 10:53 am on May 5th
Persus writes: Since I have a store full of handmade items, I usually find some way to create something (sometimes VERY unusual) out of disasters. It's surprising what you can turn into purses, totes, even hats! When they are offbeat, they seem to sell even quicker than everyday items.
Never give up on a project -- just turn it into something else!!
Posted: 6:45 pm on April 29th
dvotchka57 writes: show me a crafter who has not had some project turn out looking like the results of a small car accident! i recently re-read the book "Penny Candy" by Jean Kerr, wherein is described her attempts to create a Christmas dining table centerpiece consisting of painted popsicle sticks and gumdrops...this tale made me laugh as i recalled watching my mother attempt similar feats of decor with plaster of paris and gold spray paint. my mother, i hasten to add, was eventually very successful and the results are still extant, now residing in my sister's garage.

my most recent craftastropy (props to erika kern) involved attempting to knit a sweater (my first) with very expensive hand-dyed organic cotton yarn. i labored over this project for months. the result was a lovely sweater in shades ranging from cranberry to pink rose that would have been suitable for arm reached to my knees...the back section was at least 6 inches longer than the front...the shoulders and upper back could have easily accommodated quasimodo's hump...after i stopped laughing and crying, i pulled the entire thing apart and have gone back to knitting baby blankets and scarves. live and learn.
Posted: 11:32 am on April 29th
chaya writes: What a wonderful article! I've never replied to an article before but couldn't resist here. Theoretically, we all know that everyone makes mistakes, but sharing them brings such comfort!

The ability to take a project that didn't come out the way it was planned and turn it into something else is probably what defines many of us (crafter, sewers, knitters, crocheters etc). We are, theoretically, creative people, and this is where real creativity kicks in (after the shock and dispair of seeing the "disaster" wears off).

I've deposited my fair share of projects in the trash, but have also found that if something comes out too small or too big or just doesn't suit me the best thing to do is give it to charity - that its no good for me doesn't mean that someone else can't benefit from it.

Posted: 2:38 am on April 29th
Julibee writes: I have a blouse that I call my "blouse of many errors". I've come to think of it as a tribute to persistance.

It's a lovely princess seamed blouse in a warm orange cotton voile. I wanted to finish the princess seams with a mock flat felled seams. While trimming the seam allowance on the front I discovered I was accidentally trimming the blouse itself. I caught it after only a couple of inches, so I shortened the whole blouse - it's now an overblouse instead of tucked in.

I had to adjust the shoulder seams and collar - a stand up collar based on the collar stand from the original. But I didn't allow quite as much in the collar as in the neck. So I carefully eased it all the way around, then used a lovely embroidery stich on my machine on both sides of the front placket and collar. Repeated the stich on the cuffs and when I put the blouse on discovered that it pulled all around the neck and looked ghastly.

No way to pull out all of those embroidery stitches, so I carefully cut the collar off and did a very narrow binding. It looked very nice and suited me much better than the collar did.

Unfortunately I had alredy made the first button hole and it was about an inch and a half too far down for that neckline. So I put another buttonhole in the right place and put the buttons in pairs down the front.

Then I noticed that the front sagged a little and was actually a little too big for me. So I took the binding off the neck at the front and put a few pin tucks in from the neck to just above the bustline, then trimmed and redid the binding.

Once I hemmed it and tried wearing it I discovered that it tended to float and because it was short and very lightweight I ended up exposing more than I wanted to. So I bought some fine chain and sewed it into the hem a la Coco Chanel jacket.

I always get compliments on it!
Posted: 5:14 pm on April 28th
condoblues writes: I tried to make new candles by melting down old candle bits and cheese wax. I poured everything into an glass candle holder put in the wick and let it set. The next morning there was a big crater in the center of my candle.

I fixed it by burning the candle - a lot. :)
Posted: 1:13 pm on April 28th
Itssewnice writes: Loving this concept!

It reminds me of another website, "" a take-off on "Etsy" where they spotlight the worst items. My sister has a little rat problem in her back yard, so I was elated to find a "Taxidermied Rat" all pinned out on a board on Regretsy for sale. What a sales opportunity my sister has...turning her rats into showpieces.
Posted: 12:55 pm on April 28th
ustabahippie writes: One thing I wish I would learn, as a person who sews a lot...go try on styles in the store to see if they're going to look good on me. If I could only remember to do this instead of cutting out, fitting, and putting together a garment and taking it off every time I try to wear it because it's just not "me". Those are my consistent "craftastrophies."
Posted: 12:14 pm on April 28th
clgbutterfly writes: I love recrafting. Taking old designs or screwups and reworking them into something cool. I often find cool new ideas from mistakes. I created a bustle Kimono after discovering my back was peaking out of my corset too much so I took one of my short Kimonos, gathered bustles in the back and placed an ornate brooch on top. The result was a beautiful over coat for the steampunk attire. I later used this design for a stunning and unique Over Kimono.
Posted: 12:11 pm on April 28th
dogloverlaura writes: I love this! I just got back into knitting and decided to make a ruhana-long,long poncho. After putting the entire thing together I tried it on and it looked like a robe. Got a lot of practice perfecting my garter stitch so I decided after 9 skeins of yarn to tear it all out. Now I have a beautiful, almost finished sweater that fits! See, you can make lemons out of lemonade, or sweaters out of ruhanas!
Posted: 5:42 pm on September 5th
whyme1 writes: crafting is more about enjoying than making perfect every time. I love my mistakes as well as success cause I had a great time. It is about creativity.
Posted: 4:39 pm on April 21st
Jen1964 writes: I had an alpaca mess one time too. For some reason, it didn't shape up! It's too drapey for some knit patterns. Besides, I was terribly allergic to it, and couldn't wait to be done with it. I know what you mean about it felting up later on, with the projects that came out. I'd have been crushed if that happened with a sweater, unintentionally. Actually, I've found folks to fit, when they didn't come out as planned... or lol donated them, and let folks find them! Let someone else rip it out, if I can't bear to.
Posted: 8:42 am on April 20th
Maureclaire writes: I didn't think it looked like Spam til I read that... looked like strawberry, rose...
Posted: 1:33 pm on April 13th
croqzine writes: I, like Joannie, tend to have more disasters than I like to admit. I usually try to make it work, though! Since starting Craft Fail, I've come to terms with the fact that I have many more fails than I admit. However, I don't think the point of crafting is to make perfect Martha-esque specimens every time, so I'm not as stringent on myself as others might be!
Posted: 1:32 pm on April 13th
erika_kern writes: Hee. I like to call these craftastrophies.
Posted: 1:17 pm on April 13th
Joannie_N writes: This cracked me up! I have had more disasters than I care to count. Nearly everything I make seems to turn out ugly or useless, at least to me. But that doesn't stop me from trying. I guess it's a good thing I'm more process than product about crafting.
Posted: 12:49 pm on April 13th
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.