Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cabin Fever Fix

Last week, I ended my newsletter and blog post with a question: If you spent years (working off and on) putting together a beautiful quilt top and discovered an error just as you were about to add borders, what would you do? Fix it, or leave it go?

Betsy said:
I think at this stage I'd have to rip. I have a friend who did the same thing. She used the quilt every day, and it took her 18 years to notice the mistake!

Cynthia said:
I would get my favorite tool, the seam ripper out, and make it correct!

True to form, Terry offered a different opinion (love ya, Terry!):
I would leave it and be happy it is done and love it for what it is. I love all my quilts with their bits and pieces of me in them. Must have been a busy week when you were putting that part together. So, it is what it is.

I so agree with you Terry, our quilts really can be a visual diary of what's happening in our lives. But, the following comment really hit home (Yes, I am a tidy butt when it comes to my quilts):

From Maureen:
Take it out, Take It Out, TAKE IT OUT!!! Otherwise EVERY time you walk by it, it will annoy the bejesus out of you. You've referred to yourself as a "tidy butt" so many times, this would never sit well with you.

So, here's where we ended last week. The main problem is those four blocks outlined in the upper portion of the quilt, just left of center (outlined in red in the next photo). The dark/light value for each of the four-block cluster is reversed, creating a break in the 'barn raising' log cabin arrangement.

The less-obvious problem is the symmetry that was created when I laid out the blocks. Following Marti Michell's pattern each combination of four fat quarters yields 4 matching blocks, or 'quadruplets.' When I arranged my blocks into rows, I made sure that the matching quadruplets were placed symmetrically. For example, if one block was three blocks from the corner, its quadruplet siblings were also three blocks away from the corner. The problem blocks also throw that arrangement out of whack (see the green-outlined blocks?)

So the first step was to remove the four errant blocks. I decided to remove them in a clump of four, then I ripped the seams connecting the blocks and the rows.

To rip out a straight seam, with your finger behind the fabric to keep the fabric flat (I'm a rightie, so I hold the fabric with my left hand) insert the point of the seam riper between the fabric and the seam thread until the thread breaks. Be careful not to catch the fabric, then you'll have a more complicated repair. Break the thread every third or fourth stitch. If you tend to piece with a very short stitch length, times like these create a convincing argument for a stitch length set to 2.4-2.6--it's much easier to remove should the opportunity present itself. 

With just the slightest tug at the end of the seam, the blocks easily break away from each other.

Make sure you've ripped the row seams about 1-2" past the block being replaced. In this case the row seams run vertically (little red arrows). This will make it easier to connect the blocks back into their row position. Lay the quilt that now has a gaping hole in it on a bed, design wall, or floor, and arrange the errant blocks in their correct position.

Stand back, and double check. If possible have someone else check it, too. No sense ripping this stuff out more than once! If no one is around, take a digital photograph. You'd be surprised that the photo will show you what your eye by itself might miss.

Re-sew the blocks into their places in their rows. Then finish the row seams starting off where the ripping began. Of course, press the seams after each block is replaced.

Then stand back and admire one more time. With any luck, the blocks will now be where they belong.

In my case, I then added some narrow print borders, then a pieced border made from courthouse steps log cabin blocks on each end.

Ah, all is right with the world--or at least with the quilt--again. 

It can be so discouraging to discover an error after weeks, months, or even years of careful stitching. Especially with the end in sight, it's backwards progress and you want to move FORWARD. And schlepping the entire quilt top that has to be ripped, then re-sewn and re-pressed seems an impossible task. Blech.

But, how you feel with the result is the key. What's a few more hours working on something you've already spend a hefty amount of time on? It's all about what makes you happy. And this 'tidy-butt' is very pleased.

The next challenge is quilting this 80x100" quilt! Hmmm . . . Any suggestions?

Happy Stitching!



  1. Well done. Taking out a block is my first job this morning too. I've learned to do this job first thing rather than do it midday or late in the day. When I'm fresh it is way easier to unstitch and fit something back into a finished area.
    Gorgeous quilt, you'll love it every time you use it.

    1. Good plan! And yes, I'm pleased that I found and fixed the error in time. The online colors really don't do it justice - lots of purple, blue and green - my favorite colors!