What follows was actually written a month ago, but I didn't post it straight away, as I actually felt I needed something to go right before I could bear to post about all the things that had gone wrong. I now have three lucky things that have gone right (one of them was the croc-in-a-swamp bed made by my son, but at the time even helping with something that went right felt like an achievement; the other two are yet to be blogged about), so I can now post this from the standpoint of not feeling too broken-hearted.
A few years ago a lady wrote to me asking how I manage to go on sewing when things go wrong, because she was struggling with this. I knew what she meant - that awful feeling when you realise that you've just spent hours working on something that doesn't fit or when your overlocker has unexpectedly sliced through the centre of the sleeve that you'd nearly finished setting in and you just want to throw your sewing machine out of the window. However, generally, no matter what the frustration is, my wish to make things doesn't really leave me for very long - my compunction to sew overwhelms the frustration I feel when things don't go right. So generally, it's a case of taking a deep breath and moving on to the next project. This last project I found harder to do that with though when it meant abandoning weeks of hand-sewing...not once, but twice.
So, with this finished piece ruined, I decided to start all over again...only this time with the intention to redesign the piece slightly (which is why there are pen lines at the centre of the rose - my husband drew those on as I was trying to explain how I wanted the centre to be). As I was making the first wall hanging I'd become increasingly aware that the centre of the piece reminded me of the generic black and yellow danger symbol for radioactivity! Once I'd seen this I couldn't un-see it and so in many ways the wall hanging was already ruined for me. So, I redesigned the centre of the rose, to have a more spiralling effect and set off again, feeling slightly weary, but optimistic that I knew all the pitfalls this time...
But what looked fine to me close-up, once all pieced together and viewed from a distance just looked fairly awful...the pale colours in the centre just disappeared to nothing once I was standing any distance away from it (the piece on the left in the photo below - the piece on the right is the finished, but ruined, wall-hanging) and instead of the soft furls of the inside of a rose, the dark gold pieces look spiky and angular.
So back to the question at the start of the original post. What do I do in this situation? Probably what any normal person would do - I sat on the edge of my bed and cried. I felt like the most talentless sewer ever to be in possession of a needle and thread and wondered whether I'd be better off spending my evenings reading books, going out more and drinking more wine (I develop a rather carefree attitude to getting the stitches in the right place after a glass of wine, so I mostly avoid it), rather than wasting hundreds of hours optimistically stitching mistakes.
Anyway, once this initial stage of snottering miserably into a hanky was over, my husband convinced me that I didn't actually need to tackle the same project for a third time...that I really could just put it in a drawer (or bin) and forget about it. What a novel idea. When I'd spent the last seven weeks imagining this (beast) on my living room wall and had even written up much of the pattern for it as I went, this hadn't even occurred to me. I'd just imagined myself having to sew the damn thing ALL OVER AGAIN...possibly forever, like the Miller's daughter forced to attempt to spin straw into gold night after night, but without Rumpelstiltskin to come and take over.
So I've left it. And here is what I did: I made the croc-in-a-swap-bed with my son, which was possibly the most restorative-to-the-spirits thing I could have done; I cleared out all my drawers and cupboards (thank you for your help with that, fabric-buyers); I went to a Josh Ritter gig with my husband (and more recently The Lumineers); I went to a friend's house for dinner; I went for a very muddy walk in the countryside with my family and Nell and a dozen of her golden retriever brothers and sisters (I realised half way around that I had my wellingtons on the wrong feet, but they were too muddy to attempt to right this imbalance). I basically did a lot of other things that weren't sewing… for about a week. And then I started sewing again, because I can't actually stay away from it.
Happily, I'm looking at the photos in this post and not feeling sad. I've nearly finished a new fabricy piece for one of our walls using much more modern fabrics and a simpler design that I like much more and, as always, I'm reminded that sewing for me is essentially about the process and not the outcome, so even though this gold and duck-egg beast will never hang on our walls, I can still remember all the lovely things that I did while sewing it and how optimistically enthusiastic I felt about it at the outset!
How do you handle setbacks?
Ps. In case you're wondering - with pieces this small and with such delicate fabric you'd need to baste the papers in by hand with needle and thread if you were intending to use it as a quilt and wanted to remove the papers - I used fabric glue because, when I was sane at the beginning of the project, I anticipated that I'd be leaving the card in. Using fabric glue doesn't seem to be an issue with quilting cottons as they're robust enough not to fray when the glued papers are removed.