My own mistakes had different endings. I once slaved over a three-coloured Mondrian-inspired crepe concoction for three days. Then, after too much attention to perfect top-stitching and not enough to fitting, the hip turned out a fraction less than I needed for sitting down. So after midnight, when my nosy Italian landlady was asleep, I snuck outside and threw the rolled-up expensive ball of unfinished dress into the waste bin. Mum would have cut it up for cushions or those odd sleeves.
But another time, I spent two weeks’ leave pinning and repinning the pieces of a six-gored coat with tab-fronted pockets onto a beautiful woollen fabric in a complex plaid that was not only a one-way design horizontally, but also vertically. I cut three collars before getting a match, and my leave was over before I started sewing. Later, when I moved to a warmer climate, I bequeathed the finished garment to my mother. I doubt she valued my several degrees more than that dream coat, even if few but her appreciated those perfectly matched seams and bound buttonholes.
Nowadays I don’t bother with one-way plaids. But I will always remember fitting my daughter’s first formal made of knobby silk in two colours. And my mother and me, armed with giant wooden spoons, swirling round coffee-tinted water in a bathtub to dye the laces and tulle she needed to make the veil after finishing my ivory wedding gown.