Made with Understanding

I was not in a good mood. It was the kind of “not-good-mood” where you really should just go to bed. In fact, that’s exactly what my husband told me. “Maybe you should just go to bed,” he said.

I didn’t put down the shovel. 

“What? Did I hurt your widdle feewings?” I asked.

Yeah, not really the best way to handle my bad mood, I admit. And it’s not like I’d had a bad day or anything. It’s just that the man had to ask a really dumb question and I reacted with sarcasm. Well, unwelcomed sarcasm that included a little criticism and a bit of mocking, and well, he could see right through it. 

I decided to go to bed.

I went to bed not because I conceded, but because it lifted my mood a little knowing that by going to bed I would leave my husband to clean the kitchen and put all of our four kids to bed… by himself. Okay, actually, looking at the time the kids needed to go to bed too, so I got the kids ready as I got myself ready. Not quite the sweet revenge for his lack of understanding, but at least he had to do the kitchen clean-up alone. 

I’m so petty.

But how did this whole thing start? About an hour earlier I began working on a project to make a few Christmas gifts. I felt so proud of myself, using only items I had on hand. I looked through my stash of zippers, my yards of fabric, and found I had everything I needed to make little zipper pouches. The pattern and instructions I had were so easy. I was able to cut it all out, sew, iron, and finish it in less than 45 minutes. Well, I didn’t actually time it, but the whole process was pretty quick and painless, and the result looked pretty good. Except that the zipper was getting stuck. 

Look, you can’t give someone a zipper pouch if the zipper doesn’t work. I tried fiddling with the bag a few times and couldn’t quite get it to open and close smoothly. I went downstairs to show my husband and kids what I’d made, kinda hoping that the issue of the zipper wouldn’t be a big deal. My ten-year-old’s first comment: “The zipper doesn’t work.” Okay, so maybe I won’t be getting the validation I was hoping for. 

I examined my work and found some other parts of the workmanship that made me less than satisfied. I thought about what I could do to improve it. I wondered what was causing the zipper to stick. Maybe it was the lining fabric, a more durable lining where the thickness might be causing it to snag. It was getting late and I considered whether I should continue making more or if I should try to fix this one first. I noticed among the litter on the floor, a China-made zipper bag just like one I was trying to make. I picked it up and examined the details. It gave me some ideas of what I might do. 

But deep down I was still a bit frustrated.

This was supposed to be easy. Boom, bang, done. It wasn’t supposed to have hiccups and be complicated. It’s a simple zipper bag. Nothing I can’t handle. 

A good night’s sleep turned into another full day of letting the frustrating project sit. I thought a lot about it and deduced that it must be the lining. I looked around for a different fabric to go inside the bag and eventually found myself at my sewing table ready to try again. I cut out new pieces, I picked up a different zipper. The zipper was from the same stash I’d had for years. Before putting it all together I decided to try opening and closing the zipper to see how it worked by itself. It stuck a little, wasn’t exactly the smoothest, but it still technically functioned like a normal zipper. 

Can you already see what the real problem is?

I wasn’t convinced. I started sewing the pieces together and as I clipped the last thread and pulled out all of the corners, I tried the zipper. 

Not only was this zipper not that great, it was worse than the other one. It got even more stuck and my fingers began hurting from the many determined attempts to get it to open and close. I got out some soap and tried rubbing it on the teeth of the zipper. I examined my work and wondered if I had sewn the pieces just a little too close, not giving the zipper enough space. I considered taking it all apart and resewing in the same zipper, but with a little more space. I thought it might help to add some ribbon or a pompom to the zipper to make it easier to pull. These ideas seemed reasonable and could fix the problem of the zipper getting stuck… maybe. 

I had to take another break. I put in a load of laundry and walked around doing mindless tasks. I could feel my frustration mounting again. I had done everything right. I had followed the instructions, followed the right principles, changed the fabric, and still it wasn’t working. I started to mentally complain that other people had it easier, making perfect products from perfect materials. I was stuck with that dumb zipper. 

And in that quiet moment it occurred to me… other people are stuck with “dumb zippers” too. 

Whether we’re talking about homemade projects, relationships, or politics, we are often dealing with a set of imperfect materials. Sometimes we can figure out a workaround and turn dysfunctional things into working solutions. Sometimes we need to identify what’s not working and look for something that’s better. Sometimes it’s just worth buying a one dollar zipper to make the whole thing work. But the experience of struggling and trying things out, as frustrating as it is, gives us a better understanding of what’s going on. That understanding is vital to identifying problems and finding more effective and worthwhile solutions. 

So, if you ever find yourself feeling frustrated and told you need to go to bed, you’re not alone. 

We’re all struggling with our own set of imperfections and obstacles. Sometimes we need to take a break. My hope is that you’ll be willing to gain the needed understanding and find the courage to try again. 


  1. I can totally understand the frustration of working on a project with the initial thought “hey, this is going really well !” only to find it isn’t going so well. But you don’t find that out until you’re so far along into the project that you really don’t want to give up on it altogether !

    For the zipper, try a tiny drop of 3-in-1 oil on the teeth. Be careful to not get the oil on the fabric. That should help with the zipper action. Sometimes you can press the fabric on either side of the zipper then stitch that down. This step would happen before sewing the rest of the pouch together.

    Enough of that…..You-Tube has excellent videos to give you those sewing techniques. Back to your point.

    I understood your point to be that we should realize we will have days where we’re frustrated and grumpy when things don’t pan out like we want them to. And as we accept that ‘bad moments’ will happen, we can maintain our courtesy and respect by understanding what’s happening to us.

    How easy to lash out, isn’t it ? But that didn’t change the outcome of your zippers sticking.

    I admire you for going to bed ! It’s not easy to relent. Something about our human nature is determined to stay with the job at hand, regardless of success. And I like your ending message that we should not give up. Take a break; distance ourselves for a while; but come back and try again, maybe with added insights/help.

    You have courage to let your imperfections and struggles show and, I believe, seeing your struggles makes mine easier to understand with a determination to try again ! Thanks, Emily !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bronwyn! I appreciate the way you summarize the message. You have a nice way of phrasing things.

      About the zipper, and since you know your way around the sewing matching obviously, I can go into more detail. I did top stich the fabric and pressed it. I also wet the soap to make it more slippery and it didn’t help. I considered the oil, but worried about whether I could keep a steady hand. The way the zipper head moves when you try to slide it across as digs down and makes it get stuck. I don’t know. I’ll try some of those ideas when I get brave enough to try using that zipper again. I’m hoping the new ones work better. 🙂

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!


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