Blog Banner

    Working With “What Is”

    How Flaws and Mistakes Can Spark Creativity
    written contribution by Christi Johnson of Mixed Color.

    Mistakes. Errors. Flaws. Imperfections. Defects. All of these words can send us cringing in horror at the way they can ruin a project or garment. What if we instead chose to embrace these qualities? Just like in our personal lives and relationships, sometimes it's by embracing our flaws that we discover who we truly are.


    In this third part of the Cultivating Creativity series for DMC, we’re going to talk about turning our flaws into gold, and perform a little bit of alchemy for your mindset AND your closet!


    There is No WRONG in the Creative Process

    “Am I doing this right?” - a question I’m asked frequently in workshops, which usually leads me on a tangent of what the definition of RIGHT is.

     Are the stitches staying in place?

     Is the work visually appealing to you?

     Are you maybe possibly even inventing a whole new kind of stitch?

     Then yes. You’re doing it right.


    This might be a wildly obnoxious answer to a perfectionist, but I really mean it. We don’t learn new creative skills so we can stay within the neat confines of a box built by someone else. We learn them to explore new ideas, new ways of making, and if you discover a new stitch along the way, then bravo! 


    Shop with Christi Jay

    Shop With Christi Jay


    Lessons Disguised as Mistakes


    The reason I encourage this approach is in part because of the effects of creative discovery on the brain (more on that in part 4 of this series) but also because this sort of exploring helps us understand the materials and the techniques on a deeper level. By making mistakes, by doing it ‘wrong’, we gain a deeper knowledge of the mechanics of the stitches.


    We can also apply this perspective of working WITH instead of AGAINST mistakes and flaws when choosing materials for stitching on.


    My favorite invitation for stitches is repairing a torn or damaged piece of fabric, or covering a flaw with vibrant decoration. The creative process becomes a collaboration with these imperfections, guided by the placement of an unwanted blemish. 



    Christi Jay Creative Exploration
    Shop With Christi Jay


    Let Your Closet Speak to You 



    Right now, at this very moment, there are probably a dozen garments in your closet just begging to be re-invented. Let them out!!


    Those jeans with an ink stain on the front pocket, that jacket whose sleeve got torn on a doorknob last winter, the tote whose strap is slowly unraveling… all of these items are ready to collaborate with you. Listen to their flaws and dream up new lives for these pieces based on their defects.


    While most patches are meant to be disguised in the original fibers, wouldn’t it be way more fun to make the patch pop off, breathing a whole new life into the piece? The trick to this is to add a few elements that match the mending in other areas of the article of clothing, so it seems more intentional than just repairing a single area, and allows the technique to become more of an allover pattern.


    I’ll walk you through the repairs I’m making on this ancient denim shirt. It’s in that stage between perfectly broken in and falling apart, so I’m going to repair this using a mix of darning, applique, and embroidery. Join me! 

    Project for the Week: Techniques for Mending (To Fix or For Fun!)



    Traditionally, applique is done using a thin thread that blends in with the fabrics being stitched but… can you tell my style pushes the boundaries of tradition a little bit? By adding some fun embroidery stitches, we can turn these repairs into design elements. 

    Applique Mending

    Shop With Christi Jay


    Have you seen the cute little woven patches popping up on sweaters in the fiber community? This is a technique known as darning, which is basically re-creating the fibers to repair a hole by weaving on top of the fabric. Darning used to be used in just about every household, but as clothing became more affordable and mass manufactured, the technique of darning went out of style.


    As we become more aware of the effects of fast-fashion and overproduction on the environment, we turn once again to these techniques to extend the life of our clothes (and, let's be real, darning is SUPER fun and beautiful!!). It’s generally used for sweaters and knits, but in this example I’m using a chambray shirt I’ve had for ages, this shirt is probably older than I am. 

    Darning for Mending Small Holes
    Shop With Christi Jay


    Blanket Stitch Eyelet Flowers:

    Sometimes, you want to cover the hole entirely but… what about emphasizing the hole?? By using the blanket stitch, you can create an eyelet around a hole that keeps the fabric from coming further unraveled while adding a little floral design. I like to create a few more around the mending area to make a floral cluster. 


    Blanket Stitch Blanket Stitch
    Shop With Christi Jay



    And now for one of my absolute favorites… turning a frayed edge into a satin stitched border, the satin stitch strengthens the edge, and the striped colors provide a little visual excitement. 


    Satin Stitches for Mending Edges

    Shop With Christi Jay



    We’d love to see your finished projects!! Be sure to share on Instagram and tag @dmc_embroidery and @christijay so we can join in on the creative fun.

    Want to dig deeper into designing your own artwork for embroidery? The doors for my online course, “Embroidery For Everyone” are now open! Head over to my Embroidery Portal to learn more!