Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fabric... Welcome to the Patriotic Quilter where I like to share all things quilty as well as red, white, and blue! Please feel free to look around and enjoy yourself! I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Failures--Lessons Learned

Hi Everyone,

I know that we all have times that we screw up a step in a project or cut something the wrong size, etc.  I know I spend time with my ripper to correct issues once in a while.  It seems, though, that lately I have had my share of issues.

The first big one of the year happened a few months ago.  I was going through some things and found my stashes of exchange blocks from my bee in Virginia.  We had done flower blocks and spool blocks.  I pulled out the flower blocks and decided to see if I could come up with a great alternate block for them--something that might look like leaves (triangles) and lattice, etc.  I leafed through my quilt books and found a likely-looking block.  I drew it out, coloring the pieces the way I thought they would look good, and they seemed to look great with the flower blocks.  On the graph paper, at least. I was so sure that they would be perfect that I set about doing all of the cutting--for 20+ blocks.  Luckily it was all from my stash, and nothing that I bought special.  I cut and cut and then I starting sewing and made 4 blocks so that I could lay it out with 5 flower blocks and have a 3 x 3 grid, to get the idea of what a large quilt would look like.  It was terrible!!!  The pattern didn't work but worse of all, the colors were horrendous.  I think the color issue struck the worst blow to me.  I get that I can choose a bad design, but to so mess up the color, too!  Anyway, it was a day and a half totally wasted.  I through the blocks I had made and all the cut bits in the trash and put the flower blocks back in my closet.

In my last post, I said how I had begun a doll quilt for the exchange.  I decided to do small shoo fly  blocks and then alternate them with plain squares.

 I chose medium blues and made some of the scrappy.  They are fun blocks and are 3" finished.

The quilt top came out great, too.

And then I got the idea that I would all-over stipple it by machine.  When it was a quarter done, I was having second thoughts, but I kept at it, hoping it would get better!  (Mistake!)  Anyway, I was over half done and just wasn't happy.  In my opinion, an antique doll quilt would have minimal hand quilting.  Even though the all over stipple, when washed, gives the "look" of a crinkled old quilt with lots of quilting; that wasn't the "look" that I wanted.  In frustration, I left it under the needle and found the other quilt that I ended up sending to my partner.  Is it me?  Am I too particular?

Then yesterday I had another issue.  The night before I finished the big, 30" appliqued block for Austin Bluebird.  I got up excited to get it pressed and trimmed.  I ironed it.  Here's a tip:  I always iron my appliqued blocks face down on a couple layers of towels.  That way the back of the block gets smooth, but the applique shapes "pop" off the backing fabric, since they are padded by the toweling.  I had the block looking great and then got my book out to double check the size I needed to trim it to (30.5")  As I checked the book, I glimpsed the picture of the block and it didn't look anything like my block!
Original block

My block

I was flumoxed.  How had this happened?  I realized that because it is so large, the pattern contains a quarter of the block only.  Instead of "pinwheeling" the quadrant around my block, I had flipped it.  I knew right off that I didn't want to make another block.  Would this one look okay?  To me, the original has a sort of circular feel, where mine doesn't.  It was my emotions that were getting me.  I had been so excited about it and then all of a sudden I realized I made a mistake and felt so bad.  I shared this picture and Instagram and I'm afraid I whined a bit about it.  Then I had a shower and gave myself a real "talking to."  So I got all of my pieces of the quilt out and laid them out to see how my block looked.  It looked okay!

Meanwhile, the best people in the world were leaving comments of encouragement on my Instagram picture!  I was feeling better.  And then Laurie Minick, who is on Instagram, left a comment of encouragement.  Better yet, she re-grammed the picture just above, which I'd also shared, and said that she is going to make her large block just like mine in her newest, blue version of the quilt.  I was so touched.  I have no problem "making patterns my own" and doing something original.  I was worried that the design of the block wouldn't look good.  I'm so glad it does.  Someone left a comment sharing a sentiment that I always have, "Is it a mistake you can live with, or will you always think of it when you look at the finished quilt?"  I'm more than aware of that, having made that mistake before!  In this case, I'm looking at it as a "lesson learned" block.  To remember that I shouldn't get too wrapped up in what I think is a mistake--and enjoy the serendipity!

It's a good thing I was thinking about all of that in the afternoon when I made up my Temecula Quilt Co. Summer Sampler blocks.  I just love their free sew-alongs!  They are always so much fun!

Anyway, I made the bottom right block wrong--the center should be dark instead of light.  But I'm leaving it that way!

How about you?  Have you had any "major fails?"  I think its just as important to share the problems/fails at it is the successes.

Have a great day!


  1. I think we have all had 'lessons learned' - I don't like to call them major fails. Just don't beat yourself up over them. Set them aside, pass them on, rework them or work with them.

  2. I've had plenty of fails. Now, I try to remember the times I've loved someone else's blocks and learned that they were their mistakes! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you make a "mistake", there is always going to be somebody who loves it just the way it is. :0 If you still hate it, give it to them! By the way, your "mistake" block is gorgeous with beautiful workmanship.

  3. Oh gosh, yes! Don't be too hard on yourself. How great that your block provided inspiration for Laurie Minick!

  4. It always depends on the mistake, how noticeable it is and when did I spot it. For exemple, I once noticed a mistake (I've sewn a piece with the left side up) first when the quilting was already done (and since it was a light blue fabric the mistake wasn't that bad) and so I could live with it. In my current (scrappy) project I turned one piece around and now instead of blue fabric there's a white one. Nobody will ever know and I don't care so much so I leave it:-)
    I love the 'mistakes' you've made both blocks are adorable:-)
    And if I don't like a block (perhaps it was a mistake or didn't fit in good enough for my liking) I put the block(s) on the back. It's still good fabric and then I need fewer farbic for my backing:-)

  5. I made a quilt at a retreat that was an abstract type of string quilt. When I got it home and put it together I knew something was wrong. I finally figured it out and blogged about it for advise as to what to do. We all agreed to leave it be as it had so many bias edges it might just get wonky. I hurried up and quilted it before I changed my mind. I defy most people to notice the error. If they did I just might give it to them!

  6. Thank you for being real and sharing your human imperfections with us. So many times the blogs only tell us what went right and they show us lovely photos of the finished projects. Most bloggers don't show us what they cut incorrectly or sewed backwards or a not so perfect color choice. You have encoraged me to just do it. If I don't like it I can give it to philanthropy and they'll make it into a quilt of love for someone. Or I can put it in my quilt and have a good story to add to the quilt's history. So, thank you!

  7. I'm also doing the Summer Sampler from Temecula Quilt Co. Got my blocks finished last night. :) Love their stuff!

  8. I spend quite a lot of time with my seam ripper. Sometimes I wonder why I love the quilting process so much.

    I think your big block looks great the way it is. I'm glad you are going to leave it.

  9. There are days that I wonder if I am getting senile or if I am just stupid--so many mistakes! I know your block will be fine and with Laurie's blessing, you know it's okay! My ribbon star looks exactly like yours, so I guess mine is wrong too--I totally cheated on it and did flippy corners.


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  11. I remember when I was learning to ride as a child, my instructor said that you would never become a good rider unless you were willing to get back on after a fall. I'm fairly certain that if you have held a needle in your hand, you have made a few mistakes with it. Go with the flow seems to be my motto! And, sometimes things come out better (as long as you don't stitch it to your pants! - yes I have done that). I think I like your version of the applique block better than the original. I love your Temecula blocks too.

  12. I love your work. Your mind's eye had it right all the while... it's just the way it should be! I love the little block too. Now yours won't be just like some else's!

  13. Well, you've gone and 'disappeared' again. Hope you're doing something fun..miss you when you don't post.

  14. Gee, those blocks look familiar...very big grin. I spent last evening drafting the patterns so I can get my Temecula Quilt Co blocks started. I don't need to start a new project, but I couldn't resist this sweet little quilt! I think the little serendipity block you made looks great!