Patchwork Sewing Mistakes

This is the story of two blocks.

The first I call Mr. Slap-it-Together, the second is called Mrs. Concentrate-and-Behave!

The more interesting question is why, as a patchwork kind-of-expert, could I make such a mess of it? As you will see from the pictures in the post below, it was a lot of silly errors all added together.

And it wasn’t done on purpose.

Over the tears of sadness at the end of Mr Slap-it-Together, I realised there are SOOOO many lessons to learn from this. I will first explain how I did it wrong – and then how I did it right.

Mr Slap-it-Together

1. Calm Down and Think
001 sewn oops
I was so excited to try out my new pattern to check it worked, and to sew with all the lovely curtain fabric sample books that I had bought from my charity shop that I got really, really excited.

I cut my fabrics fairly well and almost straight, stacking the pieces to do multi-cuts at one time, and then rushed on in to sew.

Full steam ahead…

2. Fabric – Check

Different fabrics are, strangely enough, different! I usually sew with cotton fabric, which is light-weight in thickness, because that’s what we usually buy in shops and online etc.

Today’s fabric was polyester (which is more stretchy) and heavyweight curtain fabric (which is thicker and less fold-ey).

Due to the finish on the fabric for fire-proofing and suchlike, it is also a bit more slippy slimy (especially when stacked to cut) than usual.

What does this mean…

The polyester fabric can distort out of its cut shape a little easier.

With the extra fabric weight – when pressed any seam won’t be as flat and neat as usual – which will use up a tiny bitsy bit more fabric on the seam than you would normally. Which will completely mess up your seam allowance in your pattern.

And being slippy, any stacked cutting will be, well, a minor disaster in the making.

3. Check, Measure and Think THEN Sew

And so, without thinking I grabbed my fabric pieces and started to chain sew at speed. Except in a temporary moment of madness, I completely forgot which mark on my machine was the ¼ inch seam allowance mark and charged on, accidentally sewing at 3/8th.

Ok, so not a huge difference but we all know that in patchwork getting that seam allowance right is critical to a good looking block.

AND… with this block the snowball and flying geese don’t care what seam allowance you use as they are decided by the size of the fabric corner squares that you cut. My design cut sizes were for a ¼ inch seam not 3/8th.

So now I have a block in partially sewn parts with different seam allowances… apples and pears as it were.

Really started to shape up into a good looking block!!!!

4. Pressing

I usually press my seams to one side. This is great with thin fabric, but is a total YUCK with thicker fabric because it just doesn’t bend or lie straight. I ended up with bulges along the fabric seams on one side and normal thickness on the other.

And when it came to sewing bits together all these lumps and bumps made lining up any seams a disaster.

5. Keep on Sewing on

pointsAnd so I joined my blocks.

The fabric was stretching slightly here and there, the blocks were different sizes from my cutting and sewing malfunctions.

And I don’t pin seams before I sew them. I mean, really, does anyone still do that???

Then it dawned on me. I suddenly realised that I had been sewing the wrong seam allowance. Mid-way through a sewing project I randomly changed seam allowance.

So now my seams are like apples, pears and bananas!

6. Complete and Cry

My design was for a 12 inch square block and really crisp points and corners. I had spent ages designing it and checking the Maths.

My final block as sewn was 9 ½ inch square (nearly square, almost) and the seams joints don’t meet and the points are mostly missing.

In all my haste and craziness I have successfully sewn a rather pretty colored new cleaning cloth!

If at first you don’t succeed try again…

Mrs Concentrate-and-Behave

001 sewn1. Calm Down and Think

Having thought about the first block, I decided to try again – and this time to think about it.

Changes I made were…

Looking at the seams I had sewn from the back I decided that the fabric seemed better with the wider seam allowance. So I re-calculated my cut sizes for a 3/8th seam allowance.

I sewed it just within the 3/8th line on my machine to allow for the fabric fold when pressing.

I cut each piece of fabric carefully and individually – no mass stacking, slipping and cutting.

I pressed the seams open and flat, and so the lump and bump of the seam was spread out and not so obvious and chunky.

points 2.jpgI took the extra minute to pin each and every seam before sewing it. Pinning at the ends and in the middle of each piece and on both sides of each seam.

I breathed a lot and slowed down.

My final block was finished to exactly 12 inch square plus seam allowance, just as I designed. Just as planned.

In Summary

Patchwork is fun – but it’s far more fun when the result is something you are pleased with.

So, think, plan, slow down and most of all – enjoy it!

ps. If you want the pattern to sew this block, then click HERE for access to the salespage.


Sewing a Patchwork Block Twice? You’re Kidding, Right??

I’m the kind of person who likes to do something once and then move on.  That’s why housework is such a problem because it’s a dejavu experience. Dull. Repetitive. Tedious. Well one of the reasons anyway.

I wrote a book once, and for me the idea of editing and a re-write was to make sure everything was spelled (spelt) correctly and that my grammar was ok. The thought of altering the text around a bit or re-writing a whole chapter differently… you’re joking, right!? (Link to book here – includes a murder!) ((For some reason the book cover picture has vanished – I’ll try and find it sometime!))

That’s why in patchwork I tend to sew more challenging block patterns so that I don’t drown under blocks of repeat, repeat, repeat. Zzzzzz.

Reminds me of an old 1980s advert for video recording tape here in the U.K… “rerecord not fade away, rerecord not fade away, rerecord…” You get the idea!

I like to have to think while sewing every block whether I have the colours in the right order or the symmetry right.

The very idea of carefully cutting and sewing together a block to then cut it up again and sew it AGAIN is

totally bonkers. Yet…

d9p-03If you sew a Disappearing Nine-patch Block then this is exactly what you do. You can get so many stunning effects and they look, at first appearance, really hard to do and yet it’s fairly easy. This is one of those blocks where you could get lost for many quilts as you experiment with different colours and layouts.

Here’s a link to a video tutorial on sewing the disappearing nine patch.

I’m now off to remind elder son to do his homework, again. Talk about dejavu!

Bye for now


Unexpected Surprises

20161126_105003It’s Saturday today and as always we went into town for our stroll and coffee. Being creatures of habit we always go to the same place. 

But, just to freak out the toddler, we often vary our walk into town. However, we always come back the same way so that we can do our shopping at the nearest supermarket on the way home.

This tour takes us past a small corner coffee shop. It has been open for only four months and has an unusual Olde Worlde look to it. The barista wears a proper tweed peaked cap, and is a true barista not just some person who serves coffee. The shop also claims to be an antique shop, and yet when you peer through the windows it is a very, VERY tiny space.

So small, in fact, that it’s called “The Shed”

Every time we get near it husband says…

“I’ll get a take-out coffee next time. But not today.”

Every time!

That’s over a dozen Saturdays so far of ‘next time’.

Today the young ones seemed particularly mellow so when the comment came, as expected, a hundred yards before we got there, I said…

“I’ll have one too and the boys can have a cake. Let’s go in and sit properly.”

So we did.

temIt was a lovely quirky little place and the boys instantly loved it. Toddler was straight onto the leather sofa and rearranging the suitcase table so he could reach it. Husband and elder son read and reread the chalk board drinks menu. The cake was fantastic, toddler could see the buses and trains go past, elder son enjoyed reading some local information magazines and husband enjoyed talking coffee with someone who really knew their art.

And as for me…

Feeling a little like Alice in Wonderland, I went for a wander through a little gap next to the fridge of cold drinks, following a rustic sign that declared ‘more this way’.

Hmmm. Curious-er and curious-er.

I like surprises. And this was a very unexpected surprise. A whole ‘nother tiny room full of surprise.

unnamed-1The photos show what I found.  Curiosities.  Antiques.  Wonder and joy.  A mumble jumble of history and art. And a clock face made from old keys.

unnamed-2I had discovered, feeling a bit like Lucy in a wardrobe, something I had not even thought existed. The hidden secret room that you can’t see from outside. Blissful.

I’m now off to see if there are any ‘secrets’ left hidden in the biscuit tin…

Bye for now


West Virginia Star Block

Yesterday I spoke about keeping things simple in patchwork. You know, fewer colors, simple shapes and well-honed skills. So, in honor of this, today’s blog connects to a patchwork block video that at first glance looks really really complicated.

wvs-03And that’s because it is! 

Well not really.

You could sew this block completely out of Half Square Triangles, and there are many people who would choose this method… or you could use this pattern to improve and/or learn lots of basic skills.

For example this block requires…

And if that isn’t enough, there are plenty of points and corners to line up, as well as making sure each piece is in the right place and at the right angle.

Is this Video suitable for an absolute novice? – no.

But it is suitable for a beginner all the way to advanced.  For every skill level this block involves a different challenge from just sewing it to sewing it perfectly.

I hope you enjoy this one.  Here’s the link to the West Virginia Star Block video tutorial.

I’m now off to see just how much more complicated I can make this hobby… Only kidding!

Bye for now



Keeping Things Simple in Patchwork

Due to the arrival of storm ‘Doris’, it’s yet another rainy British half-term day. We have reached the mid-way point of this holiday now, not that I’m counting or anything! 


Another poorly quilt day.

Toddler has yet another bug and is rather sad and glum. The idea of hand-making a pie for dinner tonight when constant hugs are in demand was a no starter, and so the meal had to under- go a rethink. 

I surveyed the troops and the vote was an overwhelming victory for cheese on toast. Now there’s adventurous for you! 


As a species I think we humans like to make things complicated. We think it demonstrates how terribly clever we are. The truth, though, is that simple and strait forward is usually all that’s required (as well as using up far less energy). Now I’m not saying some fine and interesting meal isn’t a nice thing occasionally, but there’s also not a lot wrong with a simple casserole or stew.

20160729_090403Patchwork can be the same. Some of the most visually stunning quilts are made of a very basic pattern and with a minimum amount of colors or fabric choices. 

It’s the way you plan it and sew it that makes all the difference. 

When we are doing a hobby the temptation is to get more and more complicated and ‘clever’ when perhaps refining and improving our basic skills would be a much more useful and beneficial investment.

I’m (slowly) working on a series of ‘How to’ articles about the search for the perfect point. Click the orange text to view part 1 – preparing your fabric. This is a largely over-looked part of patchwork, especially for people like me who prefer to take short-cuts!

Keeping it simple is a wonderful guide to most things in life. After all you can’t run until you can walk.

I’m now off to see if I can come up with a difficult and exciting pudding to follow the cheese on toast… That’ll be a chopped up apple then!

Bye for now