“you suck, get better”, or Why Projects Fail

Why projects fail: a detailed explanation of a beloved gaming quote “you suck, get better”
Not doing the ‘homework’ of researching the technique/ materials first.
It’s easy to watch one video and say “oh, that looks easy!” and dive in before watching and reading several more tutorials. Maybe that first person knows carving so well because they used to work in a dentist office and that material is way more finicky than a beginner can handle. The more homework you do, the better your chances of finding a tute better suited to your skill set, climate, and tools.
Cutting corners in technique.
When the can says ‘touchable in 2 hours, dry in 24’ it means just that, doing anything else on top of the surface dry application can ruin both layers. You really do need to let the product set up as long as the can says. Skipping the ironing to sew faster results in shoddy looking sewing. Yes, you really do need to launder the fabric before use. Yes, when the product says ‘prime by wiping with alcohol, wait to dry before applying’, it means it. ‘Only use in a properly ventilated area’, seriously, why try to craft while high? Follow the instructions for the materials, they are there for a reason even if you don’t understand what that reason is.
Using the wrong tool.
If the tutorial giver elaborates on why they used a spoon instead of a fork, it’s worth listening too. Sure, you can cut balsa wood with a really good kitchen knife, but it’ll be really hard work. It’s much easier to find an actual saw and cut it with that. Learn to borrow, rent, or save money for the tools you need.
Using the wrong material.
There’s an old adage “You can’t make a silk purse from a sows ear”. Pigs ears are covered with fine hair, it looks soft, but it isn’t. they make paint brushes and scrub brushes from pig hair, it’s coarse and stiff. Silk, of course, is completely different, an insect product. The alchemists of old tried to create gold out of all kinds of other things. It didn’t work.
Don’t try swapping cooking spray for silicone spray (they are different on the molecular level!!) Don’t mix different quantities until you’ve done the math* to know exactly how much will result in your desired amount. Don’t try to convince yourself that draping will somehow magically reduce the amount of fabric the pattern says is needed. Don’t use regular paint on boots thinking “it’s only one wearing, it’ll hold up, right?” because it won’t.
Last I’ll say this: garbage in, garbage out. If you buy the cheapest poor quality materials you can find, no amount of talented construction is going to make sheer polyester broadcloth look like anything other than sheer polyester broadcloth.

Trying to rush the project.
This goes back to following the instructions, and points forward to failure to plan well. If you are in a hurry, trying to finish up the night before, you failed in some other aspect of planning, or worse, never made a plan in the first place.
Not practicing techniques before starting large scale items.
I’ll be honest, no one likes doing homework. The good news is the only person grading your homework is you. You can do small scale or partial sections, as many or as few times as you want. You are your own judge! So if you’ve never used this specific product before, but have used something similar, you can do one test on scrap and it will suffice. But if the whole thing is completely new, get extra materials, pick a section to do, and try it.
Not doing the math.
This mostly applies in two areas: sewing and mixing multi-part resins and glues.
For the liquids, the math is usually really simple multiplication, if 1 oz. plus 3 oz. fills ¼ of the mold, you simply multiply both numbers by 4, or five if you think you might need to allow for spills. But actually do the math, either by hand or with a calculator, but write it all out so you pour the right amount of A and B. Simply having it written down in front of you can eliminate many errors when in the heat of “pour and mix quickly for proper adhesion”.
Fabrics on the other hand can get tricky fast. If you are shorter than average, the yardage a pattern calls for will be more than you need, I buy that called for amount anyway, a little extra for practice is never a bad thing. Conversely the tall suffer having to guess how much more they will need, and it depends on the pattern and where their height falls, evenly? Or mostly in their legs? And bigger people suffer a multitude of injustices aimed at them by pattern companies. Learn how to measure your body, use the numbers to translate to the pattern. When draping, it takes many years of practice to be able to look at a concept drawing and a fabric choice and say ‘this will take five yards’. Your best bet when you haven’t draped enough to have acquired this skill, is to find a commercial pattern that covers the same amount of the body in roughly the same volume (say, using a wedding dress pattern with a full skirt for a ball-gowned character) and use that as a guide.
As a general rule of thumb, I’ve found the following estimates, when added to the above pattern use guideline, work pretty well. If you are taller than 5’9” and female, add a yard. Taller than 6’3” and male, add a yard and a half (increase by half a yard for every 2” height). If you fall into the ‘plus size’ range or are an exceptionally busty female and are average height, add two yards. ‘Plus size’ and over 5’9” female add three yards. ‘Plus size’ and over 6’3” male, add four yards.
Failure to plan.
Really, it doesn’t get much more simple. Getting in the car with no destination usually results in being lost, out of gas, and hungry. I’m a big fan of list making. It’s just a list, not an essay, nobody else has to read it but you. Write it down, on paper with pen, in a computer program, on a chalk board in your work space, whatever works for you. Getting all the different ‘buy’ ‘make’ borrow’ ‘learn’ written in one place helps immensely in getting your system organized, budget made, and time managed. My blog is called “three lists” because it’s the average number of personal lists I have going on any given day. Every project is composed of ‘buy’ ‘make’ and a third category determined by the type of project. Lists = planning, and that’s a good thing.
Now, go out there and succeed!


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