Going to Pieces

Well, as dire as that title is, I want to say here and now, that the day has a happy ending.  Here's what happened.

I started piecing together the Quiltmaker's Garden quilt that I cut out yesterday.

The pattern was published in five parts by Quiltmaker magazine last year, and I have to say that I am appalled at the quality of the instructions so far.  For one thing, they didn't tell me I would need a bunch of yellows and purples to make this quilt.  Fortunately, I have plenty of those.  They also neglected to tell me I would need to cut eight 1 7/8 x 1 7/8 inch yellow squares to do the piecing I started with today.  I'm just getting started on this, so I worry about what the rest of the instructions for the remaining four parts will be like.

Today I started with the Petunia blocks, which are paper-pieced in four sections.  So far, so good.  Also, I needed the yellow squares mentioned above.  Okay, I figured that out.  So here in their entirety are the instructions I have to make these blocks:

The paper-piecing part is clear enough, and with just three pieces (multiplied by four for each block), they went together pretty quickly.  I ran into problems when I tried to sew the last section to the rest of the block.  For one thing, the "partial seam" part of the instructions could be a little more exact, but I winged it.  It was adding the fourth section on that nearly drove me to distraction.  

You sew the first section onto the yellow square with a "partial seam".  Then you go around clock-wise from there.  The problem is when you add the fourth section.  They don't tell you that you need to sew the long seam first, then the short seam.  And it isn't easy making that partial seam fit.  It's sort of like trying to sew a "Y" seam, I guess, but not exactly.  Fortunately, I managed to get my block sewn together.  It lays flat, and I'm happy with it.

Here's the real beef I have with the instructions.  In order to make that fourth piece fit, you need to sew it with a quarter-inch overlap on the final seam.  I hope you can see what I'm talking about in this picture.

That is the only way that last piece will fit.  Wouldn't you think they might mention that in the instructions???  Further, how this works out mathematically is anybody's guess.  The finished block is symmetrical, and so how does that work when one of the sections is, essentially, oversized?  This was beyond my comprehension.  I even showed it to my engineer husband, who is very good at math (it's a professional requirement), and he couldn't see how or why it worked either.  If any of you can explain this to me theoretically, I would love to hear it.  My tiny brain is begging for understanding.  

Updated to say that my tiny brain figured this out.  A couple of hours after writing this post, I was still thinking about the impossibility of the mathematics of this block, and then it hit me!  Can you guess what I did wrong?  So, I went to the trash and pulled out all the cut and torn foundation pieces left from the paper piecing.  Like a CSI, I found it.  Take a look at this:

See on the left side of the image?  Duh!  I didn't trim the seam allowance on that side.  And that's why this section of the block ended up exactly 1/4-inch too large.  Now, I don't think I could have done it that way on purpose if I had tried all day.  First, the section was exactly 1/4-inch larger than it needed to be, even though it was only the first part of the paper-pieced section.  That's the piece that isn't really even measured in the way I do paper-piecing.  Then, I managed to have that one too-large section be the last seam I sewed as I put the whole thing together.  It's positively genius in its stupidity.  I'm taking a bow as I write this.  Monuments have been built to lesser screw-ups.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa, Quiltmaker.  But I still think your instructions suck.

No matter.  It took me most of my sewing day to make this block, but now that I've done it once, the rest should go much easier, especially if I can manage to cut them correctly.  Thank you, Quiltmaker, for helping me strain my brain today.  Despite my whining, it is a pretty block, don't you think?

Also today I tried out the little Singer 301 that my quilting buddy Pat loaned to me.  I slid Big Bertha out of the way, which didn't make her very happy.  She was grrrrrrring the way Gracie does when Smitty tries to share my lap.  Anyway, the Singer sure is a cutie when its all set up.  Also like Smitty.  Query:  Are sewing machines a lot like cats?  I like sewing machines as much as I like cats.  Also, I would say that some sewing machines purr, depending on how well they are maintained.  (Note to self:  writing this down for future reference.  Consider giving a Ted Talk comparing cats and sewing machines.)

Ahem. As I was saying, it's been a long time since I threaded this kind of a machine.  Although I referred to the instructions, I managed to get it wrong twice.  You go across and down and around and through and up, then down, and then you thread the needle.  Got it?

Well, clearly, that ain't right.  I gave it another two tries before realizing that I'd threaded the needle in the wrong direction.  It goes from right to left.  No, Dummy.  Your *other* right.

When it comes to knowing right from left, I am hopelessly lost.  But the third try was a charm, and it sews like a champ.  It has a great straight stitch.  I wasn't even holding on to the fabric, and it fed through nice and straight.

Here's the back.  I needed to adjust the tension a little bit.

It's a great little machine.  Definitely, it would make a great machine for traveling in our RV.  I'm considering whether having no zig-zag stitch would be a deal breaker for me.  My goal would be to have a machine just for piecing.  But would I miss the zig-zag?  I often use a zig-zag for certain kinds of mending...holes in jeans, for example.  But how important would that be while traveling?  Something to ponder.  What do you think?  Would you miss the zig-zag stitch?

Finally, as a happy ending to a day that held a fair amount of frustration, I received my sweet little doll quilt from my partner, Lynn R., who lives just across town from me.  Lynn really knocked herself out on this quilt.  It's the Three Cats Ranch!  

Is that adorable or what?  Recall that the theme for the May swap was to make a quilt in a shape other than square or rectangular, and Lynn really knocked herself out with that binding.  She did a wonderful job on it.  It's purrfect for me, and I love it.  Look at this cute label she made for it:

And these great little gifts she included.  Chocolate covered espresso beans.  Yum.  And those fabrics are so  bright and pretty!

Thank you, Lynn.  It's absolutely precious.

Speaking of precious...and of cats...don't you just want to give that little paw a squeeze?  Smitty is like a toddler winding down after a hard day of play.  He comes in for his dinner, at which time the cat door is closed for the night.  After his dinner, he wanders around making his little distress meow.  He's upset that the door is closed.  That lasts about five minutes, then he's down for the count.

Tomorrow I have to make the dreaded trek to the grocery store, but then I'll be working some more on those blocks for the Quiltmaker's Garden.  Hopefully, they will go easily now that I have the formula figured out.

16 comments from clever and witty friends:

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I probably would have given up and shipped the pattern off to someone more experienced! Love you gift too, nice and very unusual that it is not a square/rectangle/circle. I like that.

Sherry said...

Hmmm, it bothers me when patterns are not clear. It would be very discouraging to a novice wouldn't it? Thanks for sharing your experiences with it, but it does look great. I know the quilt is going to look fantastic when you finish it. You will just need lots of chocolate to help you cope with those instructions.
I knew you would love the 301, they make a 401 and a 403 just like the 301 that has zig-zag and other stitches. Don't like them as well as the 301 but it gives you the extra options. They naturally come equipped with a zig-zag plate but produce a better straight stitch with a straight stitch plate which would need to be purchased if it has been separated from the machine.

Dana Gaffney said...

The first pattern I ever tried was from a magazine, it was difficult to understand I gave up on patterns altogether.
I think I would want the zig zag.
The Three Cats Ranch is wonderful!

Quilting Babcia said...

Ah, I'll just have to call you super-sleuth from now on! That finished block is wonderful. And your Three Cats Ranch quilt is absolutely priceless!

WoolenSails said...

I hate playing with machines, I just want them to work right, lol. Mine is in the shop at least once a year, so I let her clean and fix it up so it runs fine, till I get another problem, lol.


Teresa in Music City said...

Well, that was certainly an exercise in frustration! I'm glad you finally figured it out. When I did some block testing for one of the 100 Blocks issues, my main complaint was that the instructions were way too skimpy. But they usually worked once I figured out the mind of the block creator - which is never easy of course!

Glad you liked the little 301! Up until my Featherweight died this past winter, I took it with me everywhere and loved it. I only took projects that required straight stitching - no applique, etc. - and it was the perfect traveling companion! Small and compact, lightweight (duh!), and so easy to maintain. Only one foot and very few tools too! I never missed the zig zag foot. I just kept those projects for when I was home. These older machines are stitching work horses!

treadlemusic said...

In spite of all, that block is awesome! Partially sewing the first seam is used in so many block patterns that I have encountered of late. I really like the finish, though. It gives an air of "mystery" when trying to figure out the block structure upon viewing the finish! I must have missed those issues of Quiltmaker!-( That last little quilt is darling and, you're right, she did an awesome job at binding it!!!! That machine rocks!!!! I love my TL2010Q Juki!!!! Straight stitch only but what a stitch....perfect!! 9" harp space and marvelous at FMQ!!!! Could live w/o zig-zag! Hugs, Doreen

Junebug613 said...

I really hate it when you buy a pattern, or one is published and the instructions lack details. I mean, obviously some of us are more advanced than others, but when we have to have the significant others involved, it's never pretty (at least at my house). I LOVE the quilt you got from Lynn. So adorable and different and YOU! :) I have rarely used the zigzag (GASP!), so I can't weigh in on that debate. I do think you are on to something with the cat / sewing machine theory.

LethargicLass said...

I'm loving the fabrics you chose for your block! And don't even get me started on quilt math... I have never been good at math and just adding seam allowances I can screw up 20 times LOL!

Lyndsey said...

I hate it when the instructions are clear for a pattern. If I want the bother of working it all out I make up my own pattern. Still you made a great job of that block, it is totally worth all the effort it took. I love the mini Lynn made for you. It is so cute and I love the three cats.

c said...

I loved every word you wrote, poor Smitty> rest assured one of my outdoor cats got a male cardinal and I was none too happy-and I am glad you didnt get the squirrel.
I woudl adore to win that needle holder, but it cant get any better
seeing a corner of your world.

Sarah said...

I hate it when patterns aren't clear. Mostly because i always read through them first like they suggest, but the problems don't show up till I start piecing.

Kate said...

At least you figured out your "problem" with that first block. Paper piecing makes pretty blocks, but you have to think harder when putting those all together!

Brown Family said...

Sometimes we are our own best enemy! I have to redo two blocks that I trimmed wrong today! Ugg.


quiltzyx said...

I'm glad you conquered the pansy block! It does look cute. Boo on poor directions tho'.

Actually, the 301 does mend jeans quite well - just drop the feed dogs & sort of FMQ away!! I do have the button hole attachment for mine, but I've never used it. I wonder if it could be adapted some way to zigzag?

Yes, I do want to squeeze that paw too! lol

Sarah_L_N said...

I'm glad you figured out what was wrong, it was already making my brain hurt and I hardly had to think about it any amount of time! I love your little kitty quilt, so, so cute :)