10 Mistakes Every Crafter Should Make

As somewhat of a perfectionist, I sometimes feel like taking a project that didn't go quite the way I imagined and throwing it away in the trash. In fact I'll even admit that it's actually happened once or twice. Sometimes the visions we have in our heads for our creative crafts, don't turn out exactly how we pictured it in our minds once we begin the execution stage.

Recently I attended a Garden Soiree Party in which Brooke Walker from KSL's "Studio Five" show spoke on being creative. One of her key points was "practice failing." It got me thinking. I certainly don't like failing. I don't really know many people who enjoy failing either. But her point was that once you become comfortable with failure, you can move forward in your creativity. And I agree completely with that. If you don't learn to take and embrace risks, you may never discover something truly special.

So today I wanted to talk about 10 mistakes you should make as a crafter in order to discover or make something creatively unique.

Mistake #1: Break the fundamental rules of design. When you first start as a crafter, you spend a lot of time learning how to make your projects look well-designed. This may include learning all the rules of design including proportion, scale, and balance. Once you've become familiar with these rules, you can start to break them. If everyone followed these rules, we wouldn't have works of art like Picasso. Step out of the box and try something creative. Break a design rule or two when creating and find your own creative style. People will begin to recognize and appreciate your work as you learn what rules to break and when.

Mistake #2: Scraplift or Craftlift a designer. There has been much discussion about whether this is considered "stealing" ideas or not, but I would argue that sometimes in directly copying another designer's work you learn more about the creative process. This does NOT mean you should ever submit this work for publication, or that you should share the final result publicly as this clearly was never your original idea. And you should certainly NEVER claim the work as your own. But artists who attend art school are educated by copying great works of art to understand composition, colors, and technique. It is the same in the craft world. To learn how the craft masters create their amazing projects, copy them over and over again until you feel comfortable enough to translate a new technique into your own personal style. Make sure to give the original designer credit for inspiring you as you reveal your final, completely unique project. They will appreciate knowing they sparked your creativity.

Mistake #3: Make a mess. My husband and I argue all the time about how much more productive I would be if I cleaned up after myself each time I created a new project. In some ways, he's probably right. But there are times that in the mess, I discover a product or concept I would not have otherwise thought about trying. If you're the type who needs to have everything around you while you create, embrace it. If you're the type that needs to pile on lots of paper, stickers, and embellishments on your project before you feel it's complete, go for it! We each have a different comfort zone for creating and while some designers prefer a clean slate before they create, others need a bit of junk both on their desk and in their brain to start creating. Both methods work so let go and try it!

Mistake #4: Break a beloved tool. While I am in no way advocating going out and breaking your favorite paper cutter or nail gun, when something does break on its own, it's a prime opportunity for seeing how the tool has improved in the years that you've owned it. I remember when my original Fiskars trimmer broke after years of hard use. I traveled to store after store searching for the exact same tool only to find that they had updated my beloved cutter. Finally I settled on the cutter with the guide wire. At first I loathed that little wire, but in time I came to appreciate knowing where my cutter would be making the final cuts; and now I've come to love it and count on it. Embrace your initial wave of sadness as you say good-bye to something you love. Then enjoy the journey to find its replacement. You will likely find it's an exciting experience learning how the company has improved your favorite tools or you might find a completely new way to do something you've always done in just one way.

Mistake #5: Ignore a magazine's submissions list. When submitting a project for publication, ignore the magazine's specific call and submit something you love instead. Most of the time magazines are looking for something very specific and they will only consider the items they are currently looking for. But if you've created something truly special, it will stand out from the crowd and even if it doesn't get picked up initially, it will likely spark their imagination in some way and could ultimately lead to your project being published. Obviously you need to have a good feel as to when to do this, as constantly ignoring the magazine submission list will make you seem unprofessional. But taking the occasional risk can really pay off.

Mistake #6: Admit defeat. Sometimes I feel as if I can't ever make a mistake. That somehow as a self-labeled crafting superwoman, I should never give up. I feel that I should be able to conquer everything from installing wood trim to spraying mist on a layout. Let's be honest. I'm never going to be proficient in every crafting technique on the planet. I frankly don't even have the time to learn everything from knitting, to oil painting, to wreath making, etc. and neither do you. I love trying new things, but sometimes I have to accept that I either don't like the craft I'm trying or that it isn't a good fit for me or my time. While I've taught my kids to never give up, I also don't believe in wasting time on a project that's never going to work. Either call in a professional, ask for some additional help, or let it go. And any of those options is really ok. Just remember that in letting something go, you're getting better at knowing where to best spend your time. And that understanding is key to becoming more creative.

Mistake #7: Purchase something you'll never use. I wrote a long article about avoiding the hoarding tendencies we crafters tend to embrace HERE, but I also want to encourage you from time-to-time to purchase something you may never end up using. Whether it's the latest trend in embellishments, or a tool you've no idea how to use, grab something on occasion that is outside of your comfort zone. Then challenge yourself to give it a try. I have the "three strikes you're out" rule, which means I give a product three really in-depth tries before I rule it out. Most of the time I've learned that I actually like the new trending technique and embrace it. On the rare occasion that I do not, I simply let it go and then get rid of my initial purchase either by selling it or giving it away depending on the price of the object. While I certainly don't recommend wasting any money, a little bit of a risk goes a long way and can introduce you to new creative paths you've yet to try.

Mistake #8: Disregard instructions. When recreating a project or a craft whether in classroom setting or in your personal craft space, ignore the provided instructions. Learn when it's ok to skip or eliminate a step or to try you own approach to the creation process. What you will end up with will be truly your own project and will speak to you more than something you've merely copied. It might be scary to do this, but you'll find a new confidence level when you learn what you can do on your own and when you need to follow a project's exact instructions. Do be careful about altering something that's irreplaceable as you should never take a risk big enough to ruin something that is beloved and one-of-a-kind. Save those risks for something that won't matter if it ends up being ruined. You certainly don't want to hurt a family member's feelings when you destroy Grandma's favorite blanket making it into something else. Learn when it's appropriate to take these risks and when not to.

Mistake #9: Embrace imperfection. Recently I redid my front room. For 20 years my husband and I have carefully combined new items with family hand-me-downs for an eclectic mishmash of decorating styles. We had to make it work in order to maintain our family budget and that meant getting creative a lot of the time. This time, however, we were able to put the entire room together exactly how we liked. But when it was complete it seemed so "ho-hum" to me. I sat for hours in the room trying to figure out what was wrong and why it wasn't speaking to me any more. And then it hit me. For the past 20 years all that eclectic styling always contained a few "funky" pieces and now my living room was perfection. It was boring me. So off to the local antique mall I went in search of a "funky" piece to add to the space. Once I discovered that special piece, I felt much better about the room. Sometimes when we create something that is so completely perfect, it becomes less creative and more functional. Learn when to add or embrace the imperfection in your project. It will make the project stand out and seem more interesting. Remember that sometimes perfection is boring. Let go and accept that things don't always have to be perfect.

Mistake #10: Share your failures with others. Be open about your mistakes and mess-ups. You're human. We all understand because we've made similar mistakes ourselves. In fact, sometimes by sharing what didn't work for you, there might be someone out there that can help you fix your mistake or keep you from making it again. Learn to laugh at yourself. Learn to ask questions. Take a photo or two of your most epic failures. Share them via social media. At the very least, you'll get a good laugh at them. At the very most, you'll have a bunch of people that can identify better with you as a designer. Both are good things.

Embracing failure almost always leads to better creativity. Accept that you are going to mess up. Learn to move quickly from the frustration of failure to the joy of success at making things work. The more comfortable you become with risk, the more your creative spirit will continue to grow.


  1. Can I just say I LOVE you!!!! When I have taught classes I tell everyone, make it your own you do not have to follow me!!! Hugs, Katrina

  2. This is a wonderful post! I liked the part about purchasing something you will never use. I actually got a sewing machine from my mom and made a couple of attempts at stitching on paper. I did ok, but I keep forgetting how to thread it because I use it so sporadically. I think I might have to admit defeat and give up on it! :)

  3. Awesome post! I loved every one of them!

  4. Thanks for sharing, Jen. This could be my crafting bible :)
    specifically #10. The first time a "professional crafter" shared their mistake on a video I was watching I was blown away. These ladies make mistakes too??? And it totally opened my eyes to accpet all of my creativity and what it can lead me to make, even if it didn't turn out like I planned. I so look forward to your posts & videos. Thanks again for sharing.

  5. Such a great article! We're a lot alike in the perfectionist department--I do several of these already, but should bookmark it to remind me often. Thanks for sharing. :)

  6. I enjoyed your article and "scrap lift" your work with some changes to photo sizes, etc. I love your style. I like how you use embellishments but they do not make your layouts busy!

  7. Excellent advice! Thanks for sharing!


  8. Great advice! Thanks for sharing!

  9. JLBOhio7:26 PM

    Thanks for sharing this list! Definitely some new ideas on here that I haven't seen before that make me think.... :)

  10. Fantastic post. Thanks so much!


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