Friday, May 16, 2008

The case of the inaccurate quilter

I love my hobby. I'm just not very good at it. Oh, I produce nice things. They look good in photos, the recipients really like them and I generally enjoy creating. It's just that this hobby is all about math and accuracy. These are two very difficult concepts for a fly by the seat of your pants kinda girl. Math.....all I can say is thank G-d for calculators and those of you that figure things out for us numberly challenged.

Accuracy, this, THIS is my downfall. I used to think that equipment had alot to do with it. After all, using the correct tool for the job goes a long way to a better product. It's just that there are soooo mannnyyy tools out there to do the same thing.
I used to have a Kenmore machine. I loved it. It didn't hold the tension nicely for machine quilting and "it pulled to the left" when sewing a seam. I didn't get an accurate 1/4". Hmm....perhaps a new machine will help that. Enter the Janome 6600.

Half square triangles. I've tried making squares, sewing down either side of center, then trimming to get perfect 1/2 sq. triangles. Effective but time consuming to draw the line and then re- trim. Enter the Angler....Works well but a PITA as every bobbin change requires you to move it. Draw a line on the bed of the machine to achieve the same effect.....AHhh, so, so. Cut half square triangles...both to size and larger to trim down. Hmmm...time consuming to touch the same piece over and over and over. Buy corner trimmers so that those silly dog ears don't disappear in the machine.... All of this leads to frustration and quilts with squares & rectangles.....gets boring.

Now I want to work on Judy's quilt for an hour project. Yikes! 54-40 or fight, Peaky & Spike, whatever you want to call them, these little blocks are buggers to get accurate and they MUST be accurate. She suggest, to use the tri-recs tool...Hey, I have that. It's unopened but I have it. Let's pop that baby open and create perfect blocks. Everyone else raves about it. Surely I can do this too. After all, I have the tools, the machine, the fancy thread......I try one block. It's supposed to finish at 3 1/2". NOT! It's 3 1/4" This is not accuracy. Sigh, re-realize the first line of this story, "I'm not very good at this," and try again. Enter the Marti Michell templates.
Yeah, we had a demo at our guild meeting just at the right time and I bought them. Then I went to the LQS and bought more. Finally, I, yes I will have an accurate method of making half squares, Peaky & Spike, ect. All the corners are trimmed at the same time you cut the blocks. The possibilities are endless. Sounds good to me. My mind reels with the possibilities. Agonize over fabric choices. Buy more fabric. Agonize some more, and buy more fabric. It defeats the purpose of stashbusting but I am so excited because I am going to make perfect blocks. I have the perfect tool now and I deserve new fabric. (Hey, just so it's clear here, I'm not knocking or endorsing tools or the methods others use. I just want them to work as well for me!)

insert a very long, defeated sighing sound.................................................... My blocks are not perfect. I made one full sized block with the MM templates and one with the tri-recs. The MM is MOST accurate. The entire block is only off by a scant 1/4". and the center diagonal is very close to perfect. The tri-recs (second attempt I might add) is off by a full 1/4" and I didn't even bother to assemble the full block as my P & S blocks are off by that 1/4".

This is so absolutely frustrating. OBVIOUSLY, It's not about the perfect tools. OBVIOUSLY, I am the problem. I just want to find the method that works for me. Why is it so riffin' raffin' hard. I cannot figure out what it is that I do wrong...consistently I might add, that creates that lousy 1/4" discrepancy. I really think it's a bit from column A and a bit from column B....a bit my cutting, template/ruler placement, where I sit in relationship to the machine, a thread off here and a thread off there but.......It is so discouraging. I am tired of spending money and storing things that ....well, quite honestly don't seem to help me.

Where does this little rant lead me? Nowhere. I'm still going to go back in and slog my way through this quilt. (I'm going to use the templates and try moving my needle one notch or two) I'll try another project next week and the week after that. But when a new tool shows up promising to make me a better quilter.....well, who knows. Maybe I'll just sigh and keep my checkbook in my pocket.


Vicki W said...

I feel you pain! I finally took a lot of time over a year ago to check every step of my quilting process - measuring, cutting and sewing. Everything was off! I'm still not perfect but much better but mostly I realized that the people receiving my quilts just don't look that close!

hunnybunny said...

I just added you to my bloglines after reading the rest of your posts. I wish I had sage advice for you but I do not. I am not perfect at anything I do, no matter how hard I try. My favorite things to ATTEMPT are knitting and quilting so I get you on the need for accuracy and math. I'll just keep trudging along, saying over and over "practice makes perfect" in between very inappropriate curse words. Good luck, the rest of your stuff looks fabulous!

Elaine Adair said...

I've seen gals slap dash and cut and end up with perfect blocks, others are soooo careless, it's a wonder anything works at all. Maybe a problem is in your 'scant' seam allowance.

The best way to make triangles for me, is slightly oversize, press well, then cut each one to perfection. They DO go together better and I'm not trying to make allowances each time -- I KNOW they are right! And do we cut ON the line or next to the line etc.? That incremental movement of the needle is a wonderful help, once you figure it out. And I DO LOVE the Tri-REcs ruler.

Good luck, and just keep checking yourself, from the first step to the last. Measure after each cut - it IS surprising how often it's 1/8 off.

Some gals will sew their oversize strips together, press and THEN cut them accurately. And let's face it, some pick patterns that don't require much accuracy! LOL Hang in there!

paula, the quilter said...

I have decided that it is a combination of my eyesight and the rulers. Like Elaine says, "on the line or beside it?" I think I do both on the same project. And don't get me started about my eyesight. Suffice to say, have you ever seen anyone wear bifocals and then put magnifying glasses in front of them? I do it. I don't swap blocks because of this. I only swap complete doll sized quilts. *sigh*

MakesMeSmile said...

Half square triangles were my downfall. I HATED cutting fabric at something plus 7/8 ths! Started paper piecing (foudnation piecing) my HST and have been haoppy with them ever since. Sure, I have to take the paper off.... but so what? They are perfect every time!

Grove City OH

thegoldenneedle said...

I agree with what everyone said, all the stars have to be in complete allignment for everything to be perfect. But, consistency enters into it also. If you cut everything the same, sew everything with the same seam allowance etc......and they still are abit smaller...if all the blocks are the same size, I don't see this as a problem, just go with it and so your quilt is a bit smaller. You'll have to do some adjusting of the sashings and cornerstones but everything should work out!!! Don't get discouraged because your blocks are not the size they are supposed to be, enjoy the process, and live with the imperfections.

Karen L

Sue R said...

I have a suggestion--paper piece them. Can't beat it for accuracy.

StitchinByTheLake said...

This could be me writing this blog! I have a "house" block hanging on my wall near my machine to remind me to measure and remeasure. I'ts a full 1/4 inch off what it's supposed to be. I finally decided, so what, if I make them all the same and they're all 1/4 inch off won't they still work? Of course, while I'm doing this I make sure my sewing room door is locked so the quilt police can't see me!

Renee said...


It is so not you. I have the same problem. I'm doing a friendship block swap and the block needs to be 12 1/2" unfinished. My blocks come out 12 1/4" unfinished. All of them. Whenever a block has to be 1/2" it always comes out 1/4" instead. And it doesn't matter the tool or technique. One of the groups I'm with one of the girls decided to make the block bigger and then trim it down to size. I still haven't tried that, think its a big waste of fabric. You are not alone. Renée

Margo said...

This was so funny to read....I thought I was alone and I have worked so hard to measure and sew perfect and sometimes I hit it on the mark and other times have to fudge it...I have a Janome 6500 and have to set the 1/4 foot two points higher and that is working so much is finding what works for you...Maine

Norma said...

Ah, I have found someone out there with my same problems! Sounds like you have the same tools that I have bought with such high hopes! I often say that quilting is a journey, for some of us, the trip is quick and perfect. For me, it is a long struggle but regardless, always worth it in the end. I give my quilts to my family and they think they are wonderful even if things don't always line up just perfect. I am happy with that. Someday it is going to all fall into place, just wish I knew WHEN!

Cheryl said...

Hang in there girl. You are not alone in this struggle. You just need to find what works for you. It sounds like you have tried different things. My suggest would be try paper piecing. It always comes out perfect. For all the tools that don't work there is always ebay that you can sell them to someone else that may be the perfect tool for them. At least you can get some of your money back, instead of just storing them or looking pretty. Have a good day. Cheryl

The Calico Quilter said...

The 1/4" seam allowance isn't sacred - you can make it whatever it needs to be. If you can sew a consistent and accurate seam using the edge of the presser foot as a guide or a scribed line on the machine throat plate - whatever works for you - just figure out for your sewing machine what that seam allowance is and adjust when you're cutting out the patches. I tried it once - it does work, but the maths may become a burden. My old sewing machine was a perfect 3/8" to the edge of the presser foot, so that's what I used. If it comes out something difficult like 5/16", I'm not sure how you measure that with rotary rulers since they're marked in eighths. I tried this back in the misty past when we were marking patches on the fabric with pencil using cardboard templates! I went back 1/4" seam allowances after rotary cutters came into my life.


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