How to piece like a rockstar – part 5 – Making the most of mistakes

I want to start this off my saying that you are making a quilt. The little things really don’t matter. Like if your points line up, or if your edges are wobbly, or if you have a pinch or two in your quilting. These little imperfections are okay. You are making something with your hands.

The whole idea is to enjoy making the quilt, or snuggling up under the quilt or even giving the quilt to someone you love.

It’s not to beat yourself up about.

So relax, shake off the pressure, it doesn’t REALLY matter.

No quilt policing goes on here. And for heaven sakes, if you see a quilt where the points are cut off or the seams don’t match, do not announce it to the quilt maker. It’s just plain mean.

That quilter just finished making a huge labor of love. That is a job well done. Lopsided blocks and all.

Quilting is my therapy, I don’t want to follow rules, so don’t.  Make your quilt and be happy doing it.

When I first started quilting, I was a piecing nightmare.  Who cares?  I just finished a quilt!

But then, after you have made many quilts, when quilting is something you do on a daily basis, when those half square triangles aren’t quite triangle or the very worse when you have made twenty blocks and half of them are off by a half inch and you desperately and creatively sew them together anyway, wash your quilt, and then find out that all your seams have split open. THAT is the moment when you realize that if you had just taken the time to press your seams open, if you had just spent a little more time making sure your 1/4″ seam was accurate, your quilt could have come together with less headaches on the way and not riddled with split seams after a few washings.

We are not going to call them rules. Rules are not for art, and quilting is an art. We are going to call them guidelines.

Guidelines that will not only give you pleasure at seeing all your hard work look as close to perfection as the human body can make (nothing is perfect) it. But MOST importantly, that everything comes together easily and almost effortlessly. Following just a few simple guidelines will make you not hate quilting or sewing.

You will never say, I’m done, nothing I ever do comes out right. You will never say, I can’t do this. You will never finish twenty blocks and some be distorted so you throw them in your closet never to see the light of day again and all your time and effort wasted.

Never again.

In this series we will cover:

Better cutting methods

How to make half square triangles

Nesting seams and pressing tips

How to make flying geese

Making the most with your mistakes

This is our final leg on this series.

Hopefully, the tips I’ve gone over will help your piecing improve.  Many, many times for me, just being mindful of what I’m doing helps me get accurate piecing.  Enjoy the process of making a quilt instead of just rushing through to get to the end.

During every posts in this series I’ve started with the same intro.  About how quilting is not about perfection, but by taking some time you can save yourself some headaches during the quilt making process.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve rushed through the cutting phase and come to find my units a bit off.  This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but say you have 10 blocks off, then all hell breaks loose as you start piecing each block together.  You find this row of blocks is longer than this one.  And once this affects sewing blocks together, then it affects squaring up after quilting.  It’s a hassle and can cause you to curse yourself (I know I have).

I’ve gotten so methodical these days that I have almost eliminated this happening to me, but every now and then, there I am again.  A string of foul words laced with self deprecation, with a, “you know better,” to go with it.

If you have cut, pressed, or sewn a little off kilter, there go your points.  When I’m quilt making for others, I am especially picky about these issues.

There are times when I will not re-do.  It might be a bit of laziness, but maybe some stubbornness too.  In being lazy/stubborn, I have managed to come away with some work-arounds.  Obviously, this is not ideal.  I know some of you may even cringe at the thought of the things I’m going to describe here, but listen.  What if I’ve just made 30 blocks out of out of print/hard to find fabrics that I have no more of?  What if I’m making a quilt to gift and I’m all out of time and can’t make new blocks?  What if I have had it with this dumb quilt and I’m ready to move on to the next, but my OCD ways refuse to let me begin a new project before this one is finished?  What if I’m just stubborn/lazy?

These are times for work-arounds.

The only time I would even suggest these would be for most other times except for giving to another quilt.  Another quilter knows.  The rest of the folks have no idea.  So let it be.  Use the work-around.  Nobody can tell.

Here we go…

I’ve purposely done some off kilter cutting and piece work to show you how to work-around these issues.

Work-around #1 – This one is about nesting seams.  So I’m nesting my seams and one seam doesn’t quite get to where it needs to be.  I force it.  Like really, I force it.  I don’t care if it causes a pucker.  Puckers can be hidden in quilting and almost disappear to the untrained eye after a quilt is washed.  So I force it.  Sometimes you can just force a little and the fabric will submit to your will.  Sometimes you have to force a lot and the pucker is born.  Regardless of the outcome, I’d rather have a pucker than a point not lining up.  Still, in the block above points didn’t line up perfectly, but they are better than they would have been.

Work-around #2 – This one is also about nesting seams.  So I’ve got all my blocks completed and ready to sew them together only to realize that I’ve pressed some seams to the wrong side.  You could correct the pressing issues, but there may be times that you cannot because of other units in your block being sewn.  In this case, I will simply move my seam to the opposite side, so I can get my nesting seams,  then I just press the heck out of it.  Yes, you have a lump, but I promise you, I promise, promise, promise, this disappears too.  Only you know it.  It’s gets pressed, quilted and then washed.  And the majority of the time, unless you have something with a bazillion seams, you won’t be able to find the little lump after washing your quilt.

Work-around #3 – You are off a quarter inch on your unit within your block.  So this is a biggie.  Get ready to cringe.  If you don’t take care of this properly, you will end up with the seam busted after you wash/use/love this quilt.  I line up the unit with the other units the way it should look.  Then, I go ahead and sew it together.  Maybe you are looking at a 1/8″ seam.  It’s a problem.  So I sew it again and again and again.  Then I sew the seam itself too.  I sew it until all I can see of my seam is my stitched lines.  This will make it stronger and hopefully not bust open one day.  Maybe.  Hopefully.  I’ve given it my best shot, and that’s all anyone can ask for.

I want to stress how I know these work-arounds are NOT ideal, but sometimes you just need to make something work for whatever reason that may be.

There you have it.  The more quilts you make, the less mistakes you will make.  You will get better.  It will become second nature.  But there will always be mistakes here and there.  We are human after all.  I’ve been making quilts since 2008 and I still have to use work-arounds from time to time.   Just keep trying.  Make the effort.  Making the quilt is the fun part.  Don’t cheat yourself by rushing through it.  Enjoy it!



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