A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
That quote has been attributed to an incredible number of people including Teddy Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. Who really said it first? Who knows.
Mistakes happen. A lot. Most of the time, they’re not very interesting, but sometimes you get something incredible from a mistake.
I once had a book of famous errors that turned out well. I gave the book to one of my students when I left teaching, but I do remember some notable examples.
A scientist at 3M was trying to make a super-strong adhesive. What he got was a glue that could stick to stuff then get pulled off without leaving a mark. Spread that stuff on a slip of paper, and you have sticky notes!
Sir Alexander Fleming was hunting for a disease cure. He tossed a moldy Petri dish in the trash and then noticed that any bacteria growing near the mold croaked. He cultivated that mold independently and developed penicillin from it.
During World War II, rubber became scarce, so a General Electric scientist was working on a replacement using a more common substance: silicon. He added boric acid to one of his concoctions and got a bouncy, malleable material. This was not good for truck tires or boot soles, but it was a fun toy!
I haven’t had any fortuitous mistakes along those lines, but I have had errors turn out for the best.
Being a scrawny chick means that finding modest clothing can be tricky. I have been known to make my own clothes. I make quilts, which means I have a pile of cloth. I’m only half kidding when I say that I’m only a couple yards short of an episode of Hoarders. Okay, maybe it’s not THAT bad anymore. Maybe.
One year, just before the start of a new school year, I decided I needed to update my wardrobe, but that’s hard to do when you’re cash-limited, so I rummaged through my pile of material and my available patterns.
I split my material choices into piles based on how much yardage I had. Then I sorted the patterns to the materials that had enough, made my matches, and started slicing and dicing patterns from cloth.
I must have measured one chunk of cloth incorrectly, and when I started cutting out the pattern, I reached a point where I discovered I was short about a yard. I already had the bulk of the pattern cut out, and I only lacked the few pieces that couldn’t be cut on folds: the yoke for the back of the shirt and the sleeves. This was an old piece of material, something I’d gotten from the boxes of cloth my grandmother had given me. The chances of matching that cloth to something new at the store would be somewhere between unlikely and not happening.
My solution? I went back into my material boxes and found a lovely material that contrasted nicely with the rest. There wasn’t enough of it to cut out the remaining three pieces, but there was enough for the yoke and half the sleeves. I cut out the yoke and attached the scraps from both colors to make a piece big enough for the sleeves.
That was one of my favorite shirts until it faded and wore out, and using that same design, I made a few others like that on purpose.