The Inspiration Offered by Mistakes

This post is inspired by the paragraph about Ripping Out Your Stitching (@ The Slow Stitch Movement) being part of the process.

About thirty years ago I attended a textile workshop together with about a dozen other women. One of them complained about having to undo a mistake for the second time. Our teacher, a very kind but also very outspoken and resolute person, thought for a moment, and then said: “You wouldn’t believe how often I need to undo something… You want to know how I do it?”

Sure, we all said.

“I curse as loudly as I have to, but not for longer than ten seconds. Then I say ‘mea culpa’ (= my fault) three times. Then I take a deep breath and undo it. Then I go for a brisk walk. When I come back, I have a look if there’s perhaps something else wrong that I didn’t notice before – most mistakes have a purpose.”

Nobody complained again about having to undo something, but quite some bursts of muted muttering and heartfelt sighs became a new soundtrack for the rest of the workshop πŸ˜‰ And occasionally a participant left the room…

Power of Nature by nespresso @
You can call it a thunderstorm – or a beautiful light in the dark, with stunning sound effects πŸ˜‰

Before “ripping it out” (= undoing a mistake), have another look at what you’ve just created unintentionally. Perhaps your Muse is throwing you a golden apple or egg?

If you didn’t rip it out, what new direction would/could this Mis-Take open up? What’s it for? What’s the lesson?

I’m thinking of someone who, many years ago, wanted to find a super glue, got the formula wrong, and ended up with a glue that kept coming off. Today we know it as “re-positionable” and take sticky notes for granted. What if the value of this mistake hadn’t been recognised and that “wrong” glue had landed in the trash?

Other happy accidents I can think of right away are vulcanised rubber and penicillin. The invention of the wheel has not been documented as a happy accident (although there are cartoons about that…) but if it wasn’t, then it still was the result of paying attention – creatively and without preconceptions.

It doesn’t take a lot of genius to recognise a good idea – often letting go of judgement (mistake = failure), taking the time to have another look and paying attention to what you are looking at is enough to come up with something entirely unique and authentic.

When you’ve done that, you can still rip it out, of course πŸ™‚ Maybe the “lesson” was just about accepting yourself as you are and being patient with yourself…

What do you think? How do you react when you’ve made a mistake?



3 thoughts on “The Inspiration Offered by Mistakes

  1. Just had time to read this. Earlier this year I was quilting a motif. It was all over the place. I hated it. I decided to practice the motif over and over and over … over top of what I had just done before I did a second one. I ended up LOVING it and that was the gift I gave to my friend.

    1. I think we all have experiences where persistence leads us to create something awesome and amazing!

      At the time this experience may not feel so great (or even frightening), but I’ve learned to “bookmark” such occasions for further reference, as needed πŸ™‚

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