What’s your Greatest Failure Sewing Cushions?

Imagine being at a cocktail party. You’re standing there, looking fabulous, sipping a beverage and you’re asked,

“What’s your greatest failure? Can you share? How did that change you?”

Finished Cushions

Stand Back!

If the thought of this kind of conversation makes you cringe or change the subject, you’re not alone. In our society, we speak openly and willingly about our successes, but we almost never talk about our failures. Failures are a huge and necessary component of learning, skill development, creating, innovation, and discovery. Almost no one does whatever “it” is perfectly on the first few tries. This goes for upholstery, too. There will be struggles. Everyone experiences setbacks, failures, and difficulties. If someone tells you they have never failed, stand back. They’re due, and it’s going to be a doozy.

Scott Mautz, the author of Finding the Fire, a book about finding inspiration in our work, reviewed 11 famous failures in an article for Inc. magazine,. It turns out many of the people we think of as hugely successful also failed pretty spectacularly in the process. 

Did you know?

  • Edison failed 1000 times before inventing the lightbulb we all recognize today.
  • Michael Jordan failed to make his high school basketball team.
  • J.K. Rowling, writer of the Harry Potter books was rejected by 12 major publishers before Scholastic, Inc. finally took a chance on her.

In a Harvard University Commencement speech, linked here, Rowling talks about her own fears, the benefits of failure, and how failing helped her live fearlessly, finding the freedom to innovate and move forward.

Ms. Rowling says about failure, “Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might not have lived at all, in which case, you failed by default.”

Fixed Mindset or Growth Mindset?

Maybe sewing cushions is your phobia. Do you avoid sewing cushions entirely? Does your website state in fine print **I don’t do cushions!**?  Or perhaps you struggle with matching prints. Does your fear of prints hold back your creativity? (This is feeling pretty autobiographical!) 

Imagine a support group for struggling upholsterers. “Hello,” the name tag reads. “My name is _________________ and I can’t sew cushions.  I tried it. I suck, and I’ll never be good at it.” What does your name tag read?

Dr. Carol Dweck, a psychologist and author of Mindset, Changing the Way You Think to Fulfill the Power of Your Potential  refers to thoughts like “I tried it. I suck, and I’ll never be good at it” as a “FIXED MINDSET.” With a FIXED MINDSET, my current abilities as an upholsterer are all I’ll ever achieve. I’ll never be better at upholstery than I am today. My sad cushion-making is a reflection of my competence as an upholsterer. I’ll never get better at it.

Can you hear the FIXED MINDSET in the example above? “I tried it. I suck, and I’ll never be good at it.”  There is no room for getting better.

As an alternative to this FIXED MINDSET, Dweck offers the Power of Yet. She says successful people frame attempts with YET.

  • I’m not there with cushions YET.
  • I haven’t mastered matching prints YET.
  • I’m not ready to take on tufting YET.

Dweck refers to YET thinking as a GROWTH MINDSET.  My struggles do not define me as an upholsterer. Every project makes me better. GROWTH MINDSET honors progress over perfection. It allows for the freedom to experiment, to learn, and to develop new skills without being stopped by failures.  

Getting Over Failures – Yes Sewing Cushions IS HARD but you can do it

One recent springtime I was hired to make 27 cushions. I didn’t want to make cushions.  I wasn’t good at making cushions, and I avoided them. Everyone in the world seemed to want outdoor cushions that springtime and I was trying to grow my small business. My cushion failures had become a liability for me, so I reluctantly accepted those jobs and set out to master cushion making. Kim’s Upholstery membership cushion videos, as well as the Membership Community, were hugely helpful in this struggle. Sharing my struggle in the community and watching several videos on sewing cushions gave me a number of great tips to try. There was also empathy and real support from the Community. (Misery does love company, you know.) I committed to trying each suggestion until I found a technique that worked for me. Giving myself the gift of time to learn. 

Sharing my struggle in the community and watching several videos on sewing cushions gave me a number of great tips to try.

That Cushion Springtime was completely terrifying.

  • What if I fail???
  • What if I mess up all 27 cushions?
  • What if they tell everyone what an awful upholsterer I am?
  • What if… what if… what if…

I sweated the details. I created practice cushion covers from fabric remnants. Maybe I even cried a little. Sometimes I just walked away until I could muster up the courage to try again. (Wine and chocolate MAY have been involved.) Even sewed extra SLOW and still ripped out the first two cushions more times than I’d like to admit. (having the right sewing machine helps as well)

I even learned to ENJOY sewing cushions!

Somewhere in that experience, I found a rhythm. Sewing cushions got a little easier. I got a little better. Before I knew it I had churned out 27 nicely done cushions. I’d even learned to enjoy making cushions! No one was more surprised than me. Except that I had to embrace the struggle. I gave myself permission to start over, and permission to try again as many times as it took. There is no shame in trying again. Those 27 cushions helped me over the cushion failure hump, and wow, did I feel good about it! Proudly, I no longer shrink from cushions. (Sewing Cushions Tips from Kim)

The POWER of  YET!

The next time you experience an upholstery disaster, think about the power of YET.

  • What progress do you see in yourself?
  • What went a little better this time?
  • What do you think might make it easier next time?

There is no shame in trying again. Check-in with the Community. Come to a virtual Live Chat on Wednesday. Review Kim’s videos one more time. What detail might you have missed? Above all, embrace a Growth Mindset and the Power of YET. You aren’t there YET, but you will be if you keep working on it. Kim and the Community are here to help.

By sharing her experience and how Denise overcame this sewing cushion fear I hope you will keep trying!

Thank you for reading our blog.  I hope you found this helpful so you can continue on your upholstery journey.

See you on the inside, Kim