How my crochet fail crushed me

Crochet Fail - HiJennyBrown.comThis post is all about me failing…and failing big time.  Like fall-flat-on-my-face-crawl-straight-into-bed-with-a-burrito-and-refuse-to-ever-get-out-again crochet fail. So just a quick warning before we get started – this is not going to end with me saying “Even though things didn’t go as planned, I’m so glad I tried!” or “I learned so much from that experience!” or “If I could turn back time, I would do it all again!” – because I’m not, I didn’t, and I would love nothing more than to jump in the TARDIS with Tennant and erase the whole thing from my memory. Let me tell you why.

How I got into this mess

It probably won’t surprise you that this fail started with a few drinks.  A friend sent me a message that a local “culture crawl” was accepting applications, and I immediately applied as a visual artist who would create an interactive installation with the help of the community.  I can’t quote my application directly because I didn’t save a copy (doh!) I honestly would have put more thought into it, but the deadline was just hours away. I had another beer and forgot all about it.

Crochet Fail - HiJennyBrown.comImagine my surprise when I found out I’d been chosen! It got even better when I learned I’d be installing on a big, beautiful stone bridge in less than 2 weeks.  Immediately I knew that bridge needed tons and tons of granny squares.  I also wanted to add a long line of fringe, varying from dark to light across the span, that visitors could run their fingers along while they thought of tall grass, or wheat fields, or ocean waves.  I talked to Erin and Craft Husband about how to implement it all, and they had great ideas.  With no time to spare, I crocheted around the clock.

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After a week and a half of hard-core crocheting, my shoulder was in a constant state of ache.  Sleeping and eating moved down the priority list.  People talk about self-care, but I was in self-abuse mode, culminating in a particularly shaky morning where I started to doubt the worth of this little project.  But no, I had to soldier on because I knew how cool it would be in the end.  I was excited to try out being a Capital-A “Artist” instead of a lowercase-c “crafter,” or, as many have said before, a subscript-y “yarn-waster.” [Seriously, can people quit telling me and others how we’re wasting yarn? It’s my yarn, I bought it, and I’ll use it however I damn well please!]

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I had almost 500 granny squares when I remembered I still needed to cut strings for the fringe.  Craft Husband and I picked out over 5,000 yards of blue yarn.  While I started seaming, Erin, Craft Husband, and Photo Husband (that’s Erin’s husband – what do you think of this nickname?) cut it all into equal 72 inch lengths.  Can I tell you how excited I was to have these helpful friends? My anticipation was building, and I couldn’t wait to show them the next day that all their work was worth it.

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Now, I knew there was a chance it would rain…but as usual, I assumed the laws of nature do not apply to me.  CH, Erin, the Babes, and I headed to the site.  I was already freaking out because I still had plenty of seaming to do.  But I had been working hard for the past 24+ hours and felt I could just keep going full steam ahead until it was done.  Erin and CH started working on the fringe, and although I was crabby (why didn’t that hastily consumed Frosty calm my nerves?), I could kinda see my dream was about to become real.  I was already envisioning standing across the street and taking the whole thing in….ah!

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A steady stream of kids and parents shuffeled by on their way home from school and work, and many of them asked about the project while helping hang strings.  Yay! Community involvement! Just like I wrote about in my application, right?  I really do love getting non-crafters involved in my projects to show them how easy and fun it is.  There were even two different groups of boys who walked by and said “Good job!” Is that a tear rolling down my face? Nope, just a little sweat…not tired at all.

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I couldn’t have been happier – it was all coming together, and folks were already showing their approval!

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And then came the deluge.

Realizing it was over

This was the beginning of the end.  I could feel my brain shutting down from lack of sleep and nutrition as we took refuge in Erin’s car.  I couldn’t make any sentences that didn’t start with “I’m a failure…” And I knew that I had seen the sun for the last time that day.

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CH and I got some nachos and went back to the scene of the crime, determined to finish the installation.  The once proud fringe line was sopping wet and droopy.  We couldn’t pull the line back up because of the weight, and so we had to cut it down.  Without the fringe, the granny squares looked lonely and limp, so we took those down, too, and headed home.  The fringe went straight in the trash, but the granny squares took a spin in the washer and drier in hopes they would be saved. Exhausted and defeated, I crawled into bed.

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Twelve hours later, I woke up but just couldn’t get out of bed.  I wasn’t necessarily tired, but I didn’t want to be awake. All I could think about was the waste of time, energy, friendship, excitement, money, and happiness the whole project was.  And so, back to sleep for me. And then I woke up and played with my phone. In the background I was thinking “I’m never yarnbombing again.  I’m never crocheting again.  I’m never anything-ing again.” Time for Aleve and more sleep.  And so went my day until CH demanded I get out of bed and eat pizza (and yes, I slept the whole way to the pizza place.)

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Moving Forward

Throughout the day and those that followed, things continued to get better, but I can’t say I’m actually “good.” I don’t know how to impart the crushing failure I still feel. I can’t get over that I will never see this project “finished” – ever. It’s embarrassing to show you these pictures because you don’t know how it all would have come together, and it just looks like an ill-conceived mess.  I’m also embarrassed that I’m showing you how much this upset me.  I know there are more important things going on in the world – but when your self-worth erodes, it’s hard to think of anything else.  I wish I could turn off the nagging voice in my head that sees this whole event as proof that I’m going down the wrong road.

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For now, those voices are being hushed by the overwhelming desire to MAKE!  My hands are lonely for yarn, and I’m anxious to start something new. I guess nothing can really dull my love of crochet, but my excitement for big, weird project is definitely dampened.  For now I’m making a blanket from the crochet fail granny squares.  Some squares were damaged in the wash because I never did get around to weaving in all the ends.  I had a quick cry as I pulled out the fresh seams to remove those mangled motifs.  The unused pre-cut strips of blue will be crocheted into scarves — Not just because I love to share my crafts with those who need them, but also because I never want to see that stupid yarn again.

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I’ve read and heard so many coaches and crafters say you should try the thing that makes you scared, jump without worrying if you’ll be caught, embrace the fear…but they don’t come with descriptions of failing and feeling like you never want to try again. So if you’ve ever felt this way, feel free to wallow with me.  I know we’ll both feel better and ready to do great things soon.

Jenny Brown

Photos by Erin Markan.  Thanks for all your help, Erin!

  9 comments for “How my crochet fail crushed me

  1. Annie
    October 20, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Artist. Mentor. Creator. Friend. Evolving. Inspiring. I follow way too may of those inspirational quote pages on Instagram, but I’m sure there is one by someone reasonably famous and wise who said something like, “if you never try, you will never fail.” Mother Nature is a bitch. So please know that you are so loved in all your wabi-sabiness!

    • hijennybrown
      October 20, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Aw, thanks, Annie! You know just how to cheer a person up (although usually you do it with a Sierra Nevada, but I understand the limits of wordpress technology). Thanks, friendo!

  2. Lori
    October 20, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Oh Jenny! My heart aches for you. You are such a cool person and talented fiber artist. Your yarnbombings and other projects bring joy. So heal and take heart. Hope to see you at Yarnplay soon!

    • hijennybrown
      October 20, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      Oh, thanks so much, Lori! I do have one project I haven’t put up yet that’s starring some of the yarn you gave away at yarnplay, and I can’t wait for you to see it :)

  3. YV aka Yarn Vandalette
    October 20, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Still inspiring, you know! … And lovely written! HUGS big time!

  4. October 19, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    awww i know it feels terrible right now, but i don’t think this was a craft fail at all. Unless you can somehow can control the weather, and if that is the case, please send some rain to me over here. You did everything right. Your installation would have been gorgeous!

    You have every right to wallow in burritos for as long as you need, but i think you will be over this and back dreaming up a new yarnbomb installation very soon. Because you are an Artist!

    • hijennybrown
      October 19, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks, Richelle! If I do garner that ability, I’ll send some rain your way.

  5. Erin
    October 19, 2015 at 3:57 pm


    • hijennybrown
      October 19, 2015 at 5:38 pm


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