A Little Cleverness is a Dangerous Thing, Part Two
We have had 25 inches of rain here in the last two months. Maybe my brain is mildewing, and that is why I have had so many issues with my recent craft projects.
One that is keeping me humble is this quilt-in-progress.
I saw one like it on the internet about 3 or 4 years ago. (If you want to see what I am aspiring to, you can look here at this very lovely and recently finished quilt.)
I thought I was very clever in figuring out the basic block, and I cut all my pieces like so:
Those of you who know quilting, will know that the pattern is actually a Disappearing Nine Patch, and it should be made like so:
Somewhere along the line I learned the easier construction method, and I actually made a whole quilt that way. When I came back to this quilt, I thought it was no big deal; blocks can be constructed different ways. I had about 25 blocks made with my first method. I would cleverly switch to the easier method, and finish the quilt that much faster!!!
Well here is the problem.
If I had made all the blocks starting from a Nine-Patch, I would have started with nine 5-inch squares. With seam allowances the squares in the central column and row would have been 4.5 inches on a side. Then slicing down the middle of that gives you black setting strips and small squares that are 2.25 inches wide. When you re-sew four of those small blocks together, you lose another half inch to seam allowances, and your finished block is 13.5 inches.
With my made-up method, I used a combination of 5-inch squares with setting strips and small squares that were 3 inches wide. Seam the pieces together, and the smaller pieces are reduced to 2.75 inches wide, a full half inch larger. Rearrange and re-sew, and your finished block is in the neighborhood of 14.5 inches.
(Here is a diagram that may or may not be helpful to understanding how I made this mistake.)
If I had realized this measurement problem ahead of time, it would have been easy to adjust the proportions of the Nine-Patch to match my previous blocks, but it just didn’t occur to me.
I didn’t figure it out until I had made about 12 or so new blocks. Well, I’m not going to make two tops, one with each method! So then I told myself I could just trim the old blocks and blend them all together. I have a square ruler, 12 inches with a half inch seam allowance figured in. I thought it would be easiest to trim the blocks the size of that ruler.
So those of you who know quilting can see my mistake here. If you just trim two sides, your block ends up really lopsided.
You have to measure from the center of the block, and trim a little bit off all four sides. How did I figure that one out, how, how, how.
Even with trimming a little from each side, due to combining blocks from the two different methods, inconsistencies are evident. Here is an example of how the little central squares ended up with lovely unique measurements all their own.
Fortunately this quilt is just for me. At least it is now.
The one good thing about cutting all kinds of separate pieces to construct the blocks is that the quilt will have a scrappier appearance than if I had cut Nine-Patches, because then the central patch would appear as four small squares throughout the quilt. The way I did it, a lot of fabrics will appear only once.
The main reason I had stopped working on this quilt was that I ran out of black fabric, and the black fabric I had was from the ’90s, so that means it was good fabric. I didn’t think I’d be able to find anything of equal quality. Melanie at Catbird Quilt Studio gave me the idea of mixing in gray, and I did find some great Moda fabric that mixes in very subtly.
Sally at Me ‘n’ Henry Lee happened to do a post on this same subject, picking up a project after time away. It resonated with me — when a few years have passed, you can’t always remember what you were thinking when you worked on it before. You see the mistakes you have made, but probably your skills have improved to the point where you can deal with them, and you have the joy of seeing old fabric favorites.
So, do as I say, not as I do. If you ever decide to switch methods in mid-quilt, try to think through all the changes you may need to make!