Common quilting mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Keera Jobs Flying Geese quilt

Last month, Keera Job ‘fessed up on Instagram to a mammoth unpicking session during the making of her Flying Geese Quilt: cover star of our Indie Designer Handbook in issue 43. Keera’s honestly really made us smile. Let’s face it, we’ve been there ourselves with the post-midnight unpicking sessions. It also gave us an idea for this blog post. We all have moments when our patchwork goes astray. Don’t we? No matter how many years we’ve been quilting.

So we came up with the idea for this blog post: let’s share our stories! We’re revealing the times our quilts have gone bad here on the Love Patchwork & Quilting team, and asked a few of our favourite contributors to spill the beans on theirs too. Have any of these happened to you? What are your quilt stories? Tell us about them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram #lovequiltingmag

1. Piecing peril

When she’s not busy designing lovely quilts for us, Keera Job is the brains behind quilt design company LIVE. LOVE. SEW). Here she reveals how her Flying Geese quilt took a wrong turn…

“Fun Fact: when I was piecing this quilt I sewed half the Flying Geese units on the wrong way – completely mindless sewing, which required FJ and I to sit up in front of a movie to unpick them all. Yup – All .Of. Them! A husband who helps unpick at midnight is a keeper amright?!”

You’re so right… take note husbands & all patchwork partners out there!

triangle_wall_retouch

How to avoid it?

We’re not sure there really is a solution for ‘mindless sewing’ mistakes – when you get so into the sewing zone that you start to go into some sort of daze and accidentally start piecing your units upside down and back-to-front. Try to take regular breaks and stop sewing when you start to go wrong if you’re tired. 9 times out of 10 you’ll be fresher if you come back to it after a break.

2. Stitching a little too up close

Editor Alice isn’t the only one on the LPQ team to have fallen victim to this all-too-easy quilting mistake…

“I’ve had several glorious cock-ups on my quilt-making journey. I think most memorable was when I was sewing in our tiny spare room (the radiator didn’t work in there, but it was the only space big enough to fit a table for me to sew at) all wrapped up in a big drapey scarf. You can see where this is going… I was racing through some quilting and whilst really leaning in to push my quilt sandwich through the machine, inadvertently pushed my scarf under the presser foot. I didn’t notice until I’d sewn several inches (and started to be strangled). I got myself into such a pickle that I had to call [fiancé] Lucas for help and he had to unpick me from the quilt. Not my finest moment.”

How to avoid it?

Ha ha this one’s easy – don’t wear scarves when quilting!

3. When the colour runs

Laura Pritchard, Technical Editor for our sister magazine Todays’ Quilter, shares one of the moments her quilts haven’t exactly gone to plan.

“My second ever quilt was the first large one I’d spent weeks making and I was oh-so proud of it. It had some kind of purple-brushed-cotton in the borders. I hadn’t pre-washed it so when it was laundered, the colour bled a little into the neighbouring white. After reading some blogs and forums about how to fix it, I bought a colour bleed remover product and soaked the whole quilt in the bathtub with it. When I went to check on it after a few minutes I found all the purple/pink shades in the quilt had been bleached out to ugly orange/yellow colours! I shed quite a few tears shed over that one.”

How to avoid it?

Laura’s advice? “I learnt the hard way to test fabrics and laundry products first (though I’m still not a fabric pre-washer…).”

If you’re ever in doubt, and you can spare the time, you can’t really beat pre-washing all your fabrics before you reach for your scissors and start cutting.

4. When quilting goes bad

Laura’s colour woes aren’t her only story to share…

“I’ve got lots of tales of having to unpick huge amounts of work – I’ve certainly used the phrase ‘I’d rather stick this unpicker in my eye than unpick another stitch’ more than once! Generally they involve quilting a quarter of a quilt and hating it, so having to ‘reverse quilt’ and start again. It does mean I often default to safer (more boring) quilting patterns as I’m scared to ruin it with something I don’t like. On occasion I’ve done a shoddy job of basting and the backing has bunched up and I’ve not realised until I’ve quilted a huge chunk of it.

Oh, and I’m sure we’ve all at some point discovered that our borders are wavy when we’ve tried to baste a quilt and it won’t lie flat! Which reminds me I’ve pin-basted a large quilt to a rug once before….”

How to avoid it?

There are so many tales of woe here, we’re really not sure where to start.

5. Right blocks, wrong way up

Nicole Calver shares the mistake she made when rotating her blocks in an upcoming quilt for Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine.

Once I pitched a double sided quilt idea to Editor Alice thinking, it’ll be easy, making both sides the same. No prob! It wasn’t until after I had already assembled the top, quilted, bound taken photos and mailed it to you guys that I noticed in the pictures two of the blocks were rotated the wrong way and the pattern no longer matched on both sides. Whomp whomp. Note to self, triple check all work at every step!”

How to avoid it?

When you’re assembling your quilt top it can be really easy to be so up close with your finished blocks that you don’t step back and realise that you’ve got them rotated them the wrong way. As Nicole suggests, the cure for this is easy – check your work as you go. Step back from it at regular points and look with fresh eyes – review how it’s going.

Nicole Calver double sided quilt

Here’s a sneak preview of Nicole’s beautiful double-sided quilt – you can see it in the next issue (45) of Love Patchwork & Quilting.

6. Fifty shades of… white?

Quilt designer and Love Patchwork & Quilting regular Susan Standen warns how easy it is to mismatch similar fabric tones…

“The quilting mistake that comes off the top of my head is check your whites if you are not cutting all your pattern pieces from the same piece of white. So many of us have whites from different manufacturers or in slightly different shades – Kona Snow comes to mind big time. Often it isn’t apparent until the quilt top is pieced that the whites used vary slightly.”

How to avoid it

The best way to catch the subtlest of fabric shade differences is by checking in natural light. If you’re still not sure if it’s a true white then place it against a standard piece of copy paper from your printer: any difference should suddenly appear clear.

7. Rogue bobbins

We’ve all been there when we’ve been happily sewing away, only to discover our bobbin ran out ages ago. But our Digital Editor Zoe Williams discovered the hard way that this isn’t the only way your underthread can work against you…

“The first time I ever made a full quilt, the quilt top appeared to come together quite easily, though it took a few weeks. It was when I started quilting that things all went rather wonky. I began quilting in the ditch (I wasn’t brave enough try anything fancier just yet), and it went so well that I just kept going and going until I’d quilted the whole thing in one session.

It was only once I’d finished that I turned my quilt over only to then realize that I should have changed the underthread in my bobbin to match my backing fabric. It seems obvious as I type this but this was my first time and I was quite new to sewing and it just never occurred to me. I’d quilted the whole thing with white underthread, which looked dreadful against my dark green backing fabric. Honestly it looked really really bad. After much umming and ahh-ing I decided to unpick the whole thing and requilt using a matching thread, as I just couldn’t stand the thought that my first family heirloom would look messy.”

How to avoid it?

Think about what the back of your quilt will look like, not just the front. If, like Zoe, you want both to look pretty good, then take the time to match your underthread to your backing fabric. Or you could try opting for a contrasting shade if you’re quilting a pretty pattern, turning your quilt back into a lovely feature in itself.

8. When binding goes bad

The quilting wasn’t the only part of Zoe’s quilting journey that taught her a few lessons…

“Once I’d requilted everything, I intrepidly got to grips with binding. Armed with several books and YouTube tutorials for guidance, I began finishing my quilt edges with double fold binding, and painstakingly made sure I folded my fabric correctly for mitred corners at each corner point. I was feeling pretty good about myself for seemingly mastering it so easily.

It was only when I folded my binding back on itself, ready to hand stitch it finished on the reverse, that I realized I’d sewn it the wrong side up. Unfortunately, I’d picked a  lovely subtle polka dot print and the reverse looked really obviously upside down. More unpicking ensued as I undid the lot and started from scratch.”

How to avoid it?

An easy one! Check your fabric is facing the right way up before you start binding. Another good starter tip is to make sure you leave enough width of binding fabric so that when you fold it over to the reverse, you have an even binding on the front and back. It’s easy to be generous with the front width of binding and then regret it later when you turn your quilt over and realise your binding width is too thin on the reverse.

9 Not-so-heavenly hexies

Angie Wilson, aka Gnome Angel, remembers the time hexagons got the better of her:

“Our local Quilt Guild has a yearly exhibition and as part of the exhibition they set a challenge prompt for members to make a quilt for. Every year I put down that I’ll enter the competition, but I’m yet to actually enter a quilt. Last year, I made a quilt using the Modern Hexies technique by Nicole from Modern Handcrafted. Oh my goodness… talk about a dog’s breakfast! I didn’t spend the time or consideration in accurately spacing my hexagons, so when it came time to quilt them they were all akimbo. I could have cried. I’d left it to the day before they were due and so I didn’t have time to unpick and redo them. Needless to say it now sits in my “naughty corner” and I’m yet to enter a quilt in this category. But, there’s always this year!”

How to avoid it?

Aside from avoiding quilt making with strict deadlines, there’s not much you can do to avoid those rare times when a quilt just doesn’t work out how you expect it to. But spending as much time as possible in spacing, cutting and measuring is always a good way to reduce the risks of things ending up just a little bit wonky.

Modern Hexies technique

Modern Hexies in the making – image © Modern Handcraft. This technique looks AMAZING, but Angie’s story is a warning to be super-careful when measuring and spacing out your hexies!