What to do When it All goes Wrong

by Marquette Mower, @

7th April 2014

Let us set up a situation here, one I’m sure many of you are already familiar with. You’ve found the perfect project online, perhaps even from Pinterest. You get your supplies, crank up your “in the zone” music, and get working. Then things start to go wrong. Horribly wrong. The homemade fondant you made for your daughter’s birthday cake looks like saggy skin. The new homemade facial scrub you found online has inexplicably dyed your skin blue. The dresser you are trying to repurpose into a hang glider just isn’t working out. Things just keep getting worse by the second and there’s nothing you can do to stop the inevitable. Throwing ourselves into hysterics, grabbing a bag of chocolates, and hiding in our closets are always tempting at times such as these, but sadly all that does is produce headaches and cavities.

Our names are Emilee, Rachel, and Marquette and we make up the team over at Pinstrosity. We’ve put our heads together and have come up with 8 tips for what to do when it all goes wrong, be it a craft project or a hard life event, so you don’t end up in a sugar coma at the bottom your closet.

Reach out to your friends:

8. Reach Out to Friends

We live in this amazing world where we can be connected to people at all times. If you are having problems send a call out to family and friends! You will probably be surprised how many of them can help you with what you are doing. Look up a thread online about the topic you are venturing into: cake decorating, wood working, cross stitch, paper mache, wrecked motorcycle, you name it, there’s a thread for that! Seek out the help of those who have paved the way before you, and eventually you can pass on your vast knowledge as well!

Don’t start late at night

7. Don't Start a Late Night Project

The creative urge can hit at ANY time, and sometimes that is at 10:30 P.M. on a Wednesday. We know we shouldn’t start that late. We have work, or appointments, or kids to take care of the next day starting at 6 A.M., but the craft urge knows no clock!

Our suggestion is NOT starting projects late at night. At that time of night you are tired, you have just done the million things that we do on a daily basis, and projects don’t always like to cooperate. When we are tired everything is multiplied by a hundred, and that includes frustrations. We’ve all been there.

Emilee says, “I am guilty of starting projects late too many times to count and more often than not I end up frustrated, something inevitably breaks, something goes missing, and things just aren’t fitting together like they should. If I try again in the morning magically I have found my scissors, the glue gun is working again, and I have fresh eyes and hands to try again.” Give yourself time!

Sleep on it

ViviCam 3765

We know…patience is rough. Most of us like to have things done RIGHT NOW! That isn’t always a great idea though. We’ll rush to finish a project and then the next day, or two days later, realize that it could have been done an easier way. Or we’ll realize the project could have been done a different way that may have been better in the end anyway. Sleep cures a lot of things, such as crafting block for one, or a potential Pinstrosity for another! Also, your body may go to sleep, but your brain is still churning. Keep a notebook by the side of your bed and write down any ideas you wake up with in the middle of the night, it may be a solution to your conundrum. You may think you’ll remember them in the morning, but often they are gone from memory.

Re-read the instructions

5. Re-read the Instructions

Rachel spent the whole of the last year of her life as the person who wrote instructions on how to build military grade surveillance systems (not kidding); she loved it. But, she does admit that “when I left work, I became the person who NEVER read the instructions…ever! I’ve gone so far as discarding the instructions before starting my project, as I was convinced that a measly bit of paper couldn’t stack up against my sheer creative genius. Do you know how often I had to shamefully root those instructions out of the trash? Almost every time.”

What does this anecdotal evidence mean for you, fellow creative genius? Sometimes, we have to re-read the instructions. Or, if we’re keeping it real, sometimes we have to read the instructions in the first place. Not all instructions are without flaw, but realizing that you’ve glanced over a sentence that says “do not” instead of “do” can mean the difference between hanging your project over the fireplace and burning the project in the fire pit out back.

No. We’re not joking. Re-read the instructions. We promise, Pinstrositeers’ honor, one of these times you’ll really thank us.

Assess materials

4. Assess Materials

At Pinstrosity, we have a section of Common Problems. There you’ll find what we like to call “Revise Your Supplies”. Revise Your Supplies is the second most common problem. Sometimes failure isn’t 100% operator error. If you have a supply list, grab it and give it a once/twice/thrice over. If you don’t, it’s time to take a serious inventory of your project. You’ll be asking yourself questions like these:

  • Do I actually have everything I need? (Then force yourself to double check. Don’t just say “yes” because you’re 98% sure that you do.)
  • Did I make any substitutions for this project? (If so, what were they? If not, did you really get exactly what the instructions called for?)
  • Does it matter that I got this from dollar store or should I have buckled and gone to Home Depot?
  • What the heck is a jelly roll pan anyway? I’ll use this square-ish one that’s already in my kitchen instead.
  • Does “tsp” mean teaspoon or tablespoon, again?
  • Should I be feeling foolish right now? (Just kidding, though you may find yourself thinking that).

Reassessing your supplies really is one of the keys to helping you save a project… or… just mutilating it less. WE ALL HAVE TO DO THIS! Seriously. We’re not typing it to make you feel better. You can count on one of us to be the one who says “Well, this calls for x. But I don’t have x, I have y!”. If “y” is an option that 1. Doesn’t require us leaving the creative vortex to shop, and 2. Doesn’t require us to spend more money—we are all over it. If the project is not going as planned, this phase is the one that makes me scratch my head (if I’m baking, this is usually when I find that I’ve forgotten to add baking soda).

I repeat: inventory of materials has the potential to save your project.

Read and research

3. Read and Research

There are times when you do have everything you’re supposed to have and the project still flops. What then? When in doubt, research it out. This is when the search engine of your choice becomes your best friend. Find as many like projects as you can and pour over the details (that includes blog comments. Really. They can be so helpful).

Still no luck? If you see that articles/blogs/comments have made mention of alternative supplies, include their suggestions in your search: “scotch tape vs. striping tape”, “jelly vs. jam”, “locknut vs. washer”. In general, just try to sponge up as much information as you can. There are several billion people on the planet. Chances are someone has not only had the same problem, but has posted about it online. Harness the power of the interwebs for your project.

I think it may go without saying, but I’ll state the obvious anyway: Pinstrosity really is a celebration of error and a mechanism to share experiences. We promise, when you confess to us that you can’t use modge podge instead of Elmer’s glue, you’re saving another reader from finding out the hard way!

Find the humor and resist the urge to freak out

2. Laugh Rather than Freak Out

I don’t think it’s fair to say that any one item on this list is more valid than another. I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that finding humor in failure dictates how you will spend the days immediately following the fail. We all have our stories that deal with this very point.

The first Christmas Marquette and Cameron were married there was a disputation about how to string the lights on the tree (haha, what troubles). There was freaking out with both parties involved. Now, every year when it comes time to string the lights that first ridiculous Christmas comes up. They can laugh at it now, but it’s with some embarrassment for even freaking out in the first place. It’s just more pleasant if you don’t create memories of melt downs, especially when those memories get tied to specific objects or traditions. But, then you do get to laugh every year!

About a year ago, Rachel had what her and her boyfriend refer to as “The Curry Meltdown”: “My curry fail was so spectacular that I found myself sobbing on the living room floor, and I’m twenty-five years old! It wasn’t until the following day that the meltdown started to be anything less than mortifying.

After a while, I was able to smile to myself, though only for a moment. Then, I garnered the courage to discuss said meltdown with the boyfriend (who witnessed the entire spectacle). Hearing his side of the story actually made me break into a chuckle. By this point, I couldn’t avoid telling my family and closest friends. Once I saw how hysterically each and every one of them laughed at my fail, I was far enough away from it that I allowed myself to join in. Now look at me, I’m happily writing about it!”

Bottom line: if there is anything we can recommend that you do when it all goes wrong, it’s get yourself to the point of laughter. Let go of the anger and the shame. Laughter re-awakens your mind and gives your brain the time to release some endorphins (because, science). Plus, if you cry and/or throw stuff, you’ll only have more fail to clean up later. They really do mean it when they say you can laugh about it or you can cry about it. So, go ahead and laugh about it.

Take a picture and send it to us

1. Send it To Us

Right along with finding the humor in the situation and learning to laugh at yourself, the next tip we have for you (which is a little self-serving I suppose) is to take a picture, type up the story, and send it to Pinstrosity so we can laugh with you.

Pinstrosity has become a sort of Pinners Anonymous group where we can come together to troubleshoot problems, brings smiles to faces across the globe, and to share our awesome stories.

It’s a place where we can discover cyber friends who have had the same project plops we have. For some reason there really is camaraderie in failure. At Pinstrosity, we truly aren’t laughing at you. We’ve been there. We’ve had projects go up in flames (literally). We’re laughing with you.

Author: Marquette Mower

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