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Or, if not failure, at least screwing up.

The big cold box….

In my more exhausted moments, I make interesting mistakes and choices. Once, I engaged in an argument at work in which I repeatedly used “orange” when I meant “blue.” Another time, I lost the word “refrigerator” and had to coin the phrase “big cold box where we keep the food.” My brain is an interesting place.

When I sat down to start on a commission for some officers’ white linen sheets to be 60” x 85” I was tired. I chose not to do the math on paper as I measured, but in my head. And using a 60” tape measure, I measured and marked 60” and then added 16” to make up 85” plus seam allowance. Yes, I measured 60 + 16 = 85 finished inches.

Obviously not.

Round two of thread pulling to cut the second sheet correctly.

But it was not obvious to me until I held the fabric up, ready to iron, and realized it was just a little bit longer than I am tall. Since I am not 7’ tall, something was clearly wrong. I dropped the fabric to the ironing board, messaged Drunk Tailor, and took to bed in mortification and hope of a nap.

I tell you this story not just to make you laugh, bring you a modicum of schadenfreude, or to make plain that we all screw up sometimes, but to remind you that mockups are good, and so is math on paper.

Really, I’m not sure how this happened. But there it is: upside down.

Starting a project without laying down some ideas on paper or making a muslin is a quick trip to madness, or at least dismay. Creative problem solving will undoubtedly result, but that’s energy you could put into planning your next project instead of salvaging your current one (as I have salvaged my sheet).

Here are some measures I’ve learned to take to prevent repeating hilarious mistakes:

  • After hemming skirt fronts that put pocket slits upside down, I now pin notes to the panels so I know which make up the left, and which the right sides of the gown skirts.
  • I have been known to mark linings extensively in pencil or chalk; I sometimes pin notes to sleeves to denote left and right, front and back, especially if I cut pieces long before I will get around to sewing them.
  • I make lists of which pattern pieces I need and must cut, and then tick them off as I go, to make sure I have all the pieces I need.
  • To make sure I’ll have enough fabric and can minimize piecing, I will do a rough layout of all the pieces before I do actually cut anything.

It is by no means an extensive list, but once you know the types of mistakes you are most likely to make, you can take measures to prevent them. You know, like measuring twice and cutting once, or doing math on paper to double check your work.