Pain Behind the Process of DIY: A Lesson in Failure

Finished Pillow

Have you ever noticed how do-it-yourself blogs and home improvement shows make everything look so easy? It’s not just the home improvement category that does this. This is common in cooking shows and blogs. Have you ever noticed how they have everything measured out and chopped before they tell you to just “throw everything together?” The whole recipe was supposed to take half an hour, but you spend half an hour just chopping vegetables!

The beautiful images and effortless approach can motivate you to want to do it yourself, but if you don’t have the same skill level as the other person, you may find your experience differs. The gap between expectation and reality widens. Feelings of hope and inspiration turn to feelings of disappointment, frustration, and inadequacy.

Have you ever found yourself there?

The World Does Not Need Another DIY Pillow Tutorial

For this tutorial, I’m doing something different: I’m sharing my oops pillow along with the pillow I ended up using in our steampunk office. The world does not need another DIY pillow tutorial—there are plenty out there to choose from. If you need a tutorial, here’s the one I used.

Perhaps the world could use more transparency so our expectations become more realistic.

My DIY Pillow Cover Journey

I had stars in my eyes and a flutter in my heart when I started. This pillow was going to pull everything together and add that perfect pop of color to our steampunk home office!

DIY Pillow Cover Excitement

Here’s how it actually went down:

I decided on a pop of turquoise with a touch of vintage. I chose a turquoise polyester satin fabric and would add a vintage style octopus-looking thing to the front. The vintage design would be ironed on to ivory fabric before attaching to the turquoise cover.

I measured the size of my pillow and followed the directions in the tutorial.

Pillow Cover Panels
Pillow Cover Panels

I chose a design for an iron-on and used a photo editing program to flip it so that when I iron it on, the print reads correctly.

I printed the design on iron-on paper.

Printed Iron-On
Printed Iron-On

I cut around the iron-on.

Iron On Print
Cut Around Iron On

I ironed it on the overlay fabric.

Iron Face Down onto Fabric
Iron Face Down on Fabric

I cut a rectangle around the ironed-on design.

I sewed it to the turquoise envelope pillow I sewed earlier.

The two pieces in the back didn’t quite cover the pillow, but I figured no one would see the back.

When I finished, I stood back waiting to be amazed. Instead, I just stood.

First Pillow in Room
First Pillow in Room

I expected for it to look better than it did. The turquoise didn’t seem to go. The bright color looked too random for that spot in the room.

I tried to make it work. I thought about adding more fabric to it. Nothing seemed to make it look right.

Failure is a Learning Process

After hours of trying to make the existing pillow work, I realized I could have already made another pillow. I wanted some color, but I realized the amount of color in the pillow distracted from everything else on that side of the room. After I saw what didn’t work, I realized what I was looking for. I decided to go with something more subdued and vintage.

With that in mind, I chose my fabric samples differently.

This time, I chose the entomology fabric. It had the right amount of subdued color, vintage style, with a dose of science—perfect for a steampunk office!

Back to the tutorial. This time, I didn’t do an iron-on so it took less time!

I remembered to leave more room for the back flaps, so they actually cover the pillow in the back this time. 😉

Here’s how the second pillow turned out:

Second and Final Pillow Completed
Second and Final Pillow Completed
Finished Pillow in Steampunk Home Office
Finished Pillow in Steampunk Home Office
Finished Pillow in Seating Area

Much better. 🙂

Do you dislike failure as much as I do? Does it feel like a waste of time? As much as I hate to admit it, failing is part of learning. If you’re not failing, how are you growing and challenging yourself? We all have more to learn. I’m glad I kept trying until I figured out the look I was going for.

What projects have you failed at but persevered until you got it right? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Wondering how long a DIY envelope pillow might take?

If you’re an amateur pillow maker and sewer like me—(I’m not even sure what all the dials on the sewing machine are for) and you’re wondering how long it will take, I’d say from start to finish (not counting coming up with the design and choosing fabric), it took about 2- 3 hours. If you’d like to schedule in some “learning time,” double it. 😊