Mistakes are a natural part of life. They happen to everyone! Especially when you’re doing a complex art project like quilting. However, the worst mistake you can make is to give up on a beautiful quilt just because of one tiny slip-up. There are tons of creative ways to fix and hide quilting mistakes. In fact, these fixes may make your quilt even better!
In this article, we’ll go through some of the most common problems new quilters run into and creative ways to fix them.
The Mistake: Different Sized Quilt Blocks
This is a major one. You think you’ve measured out all your fabric correctly, but when you go to stitch them all together, you realize they’re different sizes. This happens to almost every new quilter. Accuracy is super important in quilting, but human error and mistakes are unavoidable. However, quilts fit together like a puzzle. If the blocks aren’t all the same size, your whole quilt will be wonky. Luckily, there are a variety of solutions to this problem. And no, you don’t have to start the entire quilt over.
If the difference in your block sizes is minimal, say, less than ¼ inch, you can fix this with your sewing machine. Grab two blocks, and lay them down right sides together, with the smaller block on top. Place the blocks on your sewing machine, and do not engage the even feed foot. The feed dogs of your sewing machine are crucial here. The feed dogs on your sewing machine help to feed the fabric through the needle. By placing the larger block on the bottom, the feed dogs will help ease in the excess fabric as you sew the blocks together. However, this only works if your blocks are just a little bit off.
Blocks Too Large
If your blocks are too large by a very minimal amount, say, less than ⅛ of an inch, you can try trimming your blocks. However, this method doesn’t work well for quilts with design elements like prairie points, as this would involve cutting off the tips of the point. However, blocks that don’t have points along the edges, or complex design elements, are perfect candidates for trimming.
Blocks Too Small
If your blocks are consistently too small, you can try adding borders to your blocks. These are sometimes referred to as a coping strip. Coping strips are used when the actual panel size is smaller than the size indicated on the pattern or when a quilt top ends up being too small for the next pieced border. You can add these borders to all sides of your quilt block or just one or two sides. You can either select a color of fabric similar to the background, so the coping strip blends into the block, or you can choose a contrasting fabric, to help unify all the blocks.
How to Calculate Coping Strip Size
Use the following method to calculate how big your coping strips should be:
- Start with the size that the panel or quilt is supposed to be. If you’re using a quilt pattern, these measurements will be listed. Remember to include seam allowances in your calculations. As an example, imagine your blocks are supposed to be 24 ½ ” by 42 ½ ”.
- Measure the actual size of the panel or quilt. Again, be sure to include the seam allowances. Imagine your quilt block is supposed to be 24 ½ ” by 42 ½ “, but is actually 23” by 42”.
- Subtract the numbers in Step 2 from the numbers in Step 1. Be sure to do the top/bottom separately from the numbers for the sides. Using our example numbers from before, 24 ½ ” minus 23” is 1 ½ ”, and 42 ½ ” minus 42” is ½ ”.
- Divide those two numbers by 2 (as there are two borders, either top/bottom or side/side). So 1 ½ ” divided by 2 is ¾ ”, and ½ ” divided by 2 is ¼ ”.
- Now, add a seam allowance of ½ “, and you know the width of your strip to cut! For example, ¾ “ plus ½ “ is 1 ½ inch, and ¼ “ plus ½ ” is ¾ ”. This is how wide your strips need to be.
The Mistake: Quilting Uneven Lines
While you’re quilting, you may think your lines are perfectly even. But, because you’re often working with so many layers of fabric, it’s easy to mess this up. This happens often, especially when fabrics are overly stiff or overly stretchy. There are a few easy ways to avoid this mistake and a few ways to fix it as well.
To avoid quilting in uneven lines, invest in a walking foot. Walking feet help you sew in straight lines and can move effortlessly over multiple layers of fabric.
If you don’t want to invest in a walking foot, you can use painter’s tape to help guide your stitching. Simply use a ruler to help lay the tape down in a perfectly straight line. Then, sew along the edge of the tape.
If you’ve already started sewing, and you notice your lines aren’t straight, one solution is to incorporate it into your quilt’s design with free motion quilting. There are tons of amazing free motion quilt designs out there that can help cover up uneven stitching. Free motion quilting is expressive and much less strict than quilting in a straight line.
If your quilting is only uneven in a small area, consider an applique to cover it up. Applique is a hand stitching technique that allows you to add a variety of decorative elements to a quilt, from lettering to design motifs to flowers to animals. Using applique on your quilt is a ton of fun and a great way to cover up small mistakes.
The Mistake: Thread Issues
Running out of thread while quilting or having your thread snap on you can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you’re really in the grove. Even if you’ve double-checked your bobbin and spool, sometimes we misjudge the amount of thread we have. Or, sometimes, the thread snaps through no fault of our own. However, this doesn’t mean you have to start your whole row of quilting over.
If you run out of thread, or it snaps on you, in the middle of a row of quilting, all you have to do is undo a few stitches until you can knot your thread. Then, using a needle, tuck the knot into your batting so it isn’t noticeable. Then, continue quilting right from where you left off.
If you live in a particularly dry climate, you may be more prone to snapped threads. Dry thread is much more brittle than moist thread. To add moisture back into your thread gently, place it in a plastic back with a damp paper towel, and leave the bag in the freezer for a few hours.
The Mistake: Wavy Borders
It’s extremely frustrating to finish binding your quilt and then hold it up only to discover that the edges of your quilt are wavy instead of hanging nice and straight. This happens for a variety of reasons. Your quilt top may be longer or wider around the edges than it is in the middle. Or, the quilting process may have altered the measurements of your quilt. You also may have stretched the quilt itself or the binding fabric.
There are a few different ways you can fix wavy edges. Sometimes, it’s possible to square up the edges of your quilt with a straight edge and a rotary cutter. You should only attempt this if your quilt isn’t pieced together in a block configuration.
Sometimes, quilting itself can help you mold your quilt top into a squarer shape. This can be done in a variety of ways. Choosing a quilt batting with a higher loft provides a cushier, more flexible quilting surface. Also, try to resist the temptation to smooth out the edges of the quilt if they begin to pucker. This will only increase the difference between the interior of the quilt and the edges. Also, quilting in only one direction can distort your quilt’s shape. We recommend following a quilting pattern that moves back and forth rather than in just one direction.
Binding your quilt carefully is another great way to hide wavy edges. If your quilt’s edges have puckered during the quilting process, binding is a perfect place to hide small imperfections. Select a binding that is ½ inch or larger, and use it to enclose all your uneven edges.
Quilting mistakes are nearly unavoidable, especially for beginners. Quilting is a very involved process, with lots of room for error. Luckily, there are a variety of tips and tricks that will help you both avoid mistakes and fix them when they do happen.
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