Measure twice is the advice, but in my experience, it seems that even measuring thrice still results in some crooked lines. I think it may have something to do with spacing out while I cut, but let’s not rule out a bad pair of scissors just yet.
In sewing and in crafts, cutting a material is the ultimate end. It is decisive. Once you commit to do it, there is no turning back. The fabric won’t come back together; the cord won’t braid itself back together; the thread won’t fish itself out of the sewing machine.
It’s here, trembling on the threshold of do or retry, that I found the beauty of folds.
No matter how carefully you mark the dimensions, how precisely you pin the pattern, or how heavily you hold that fabric in place, it will shift on you. The results may not impact much, but it is a fact of nature that this will happen.
I’ve recently taught myself how to make kanzashi, which is the art of making flowers out of fabric. It’s similar to origami and requires an equal level of care to result in something beautiful rather than something confusing. The very first part of making kanzashi requires cutting ribbon. You get it over with, but you’re not finished with your decisions yet.
The folds can be tedious and difficult after a 1 ½ inch ribbon is folded twice and then wrapped inside another 1 ½ inch ribbon folded the same way. After pinching, refolding, finger creasing, fusing, and wrangling the edges together, you trim the corners and there—you have made a single petal. You’ll need at least four more to make a flower.
Often, I find that my 1 ½ inch square of ribbon isn’t square at all. It won’t fold into itself perfectly: the edges stick out in places. But that is where the other folds come into play. The ribbon doubles back on itself and hides the rough edges. These folds bend into graceful lines, folding away the parts that were difficult or ugly. Even hidden away, those parts grant thickness to an ordinary ribbon, a weight it didn’t have before.
It’s a lesson that has been repeating itself to me these past days. As I hunch over my craft table with spools of ribbon stacked around me and buttons and beads scattered among frayed cuttings, I remember that the cuts are important, but the folds are what make these beautiful. There are things we cannot change once a decision is made. We can start over, but you can start over so many times you never begin.
If you continue, if you don’t give up, it’s possible to fold away the rough edges, to make a scraggly piece of ribbon into something wonderful. And when you have enough of these individual pieces folded, you have made something worth keeping.
And ordinary things are often the most fantastic.