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Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned

There are many things that I like about quilting - exploring new techniques, reading about quilting in magazines and online, seeing what other quilters are making at quilt shows and museums, and everything that is involved in making a quilt. I especially enjoy the fact that there is always something new to learn. Just when I think that I have it all figured out (not really - I just like to think I do!) quilting proves otherwise.

A few months ago I was working on a fun and colorful kit that I had purchased Needles I in Auburn. The quilt featured a pieced border that was constructed by strip piecing three fabrics and then cutting them into 4 1/2” pieces which were then randomly sewn together to form the border. According to the pattern I figured that I needed 88 pieces. However, when I finished cutting all of the fabric that I had I only had 63 pieces. So I’m thinking that I don’t have enough fabric and I need to go to the fabric store to find something that will go with what I already have. I forgot that each of those pieces had 3 parts - so I actually ended up with 189 pieces instead of just the 88 that I needed. Plus I bought extra fabric to fill in what I thought I was missing. I should have laid out what I had with the top and then I could have seen that I had plenty. I should have walked away and checked on it later as I might have been able to see it differently. The good news is that I discovered that the Calico House in Lincoln carries Tula Pink fabric and I now have some in my stash!

Another learning experience recently happened when my quilting club was working on a Quilt of Valor that I had designed using panels purchased at the Country Traditions garage sale this past summer. I was excited to find some awesome fabric for the sashing and borders that blended perfectly with the panels and that we had never used before in a Quilt of Valor. I washed the fabric and cut it out in strips of the widths needed. As we started sewing it all together we began to run a bit short but thought it was because of the chain-piecing that we were doing. We ran even shorter, however, when we began to work on the borders. It was then that we realized that we had only 40” of usable fabric instead of the usual 42” that I had used to figure the fabric yardage needed for my pattern. That was a first! No problem - I’ll just go buy more of that fabric. Right? Wrong! The store didn’t have it any more. I was able to find two other pieces that blended with the other fabrics so we used those for the borders. The next time I design a pattern I will remember to figure 40” of usable fabric when I am figuring yardage needed.

I learned another valuable lesson a few years ago when I purchased my long arm quilting machine - borders need to be added to the center of the quilt in a specific way so that the top is square. Before that I would simply cut a length of fabric and begin to sew the border to the top without measuring or pinning - a much quicker way to attach borders. However, when done this way then the top does not lay flat on the frame and tucks are be unavoidable when quilting. So now before I add the side borders I take three measurements of the length of the top - one on each side and one in the middle. I add those measurements together and divide by three. Then I use that measurement to find the length of the side borders. At that point I fold the border and the top into fourths or eighths (depending on the length) and press the sides. When I open the folds I then have marks with which to pin the border to the top. I follow the same process with the top and bottom borders. And voila!! A flat quilt top!!

What mistakes have you made when quilting? And what lessons have you learned? Let me know so that I (and others) can learn from your mistakes just as you have learned from mine.

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