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Creative Trouble-shooting

Your block just doesn't look right--what to do?

Color/value problems?
  • Lay the block aside and find a place/use for it later.
  • When you start putting a larger wall hanging or quilt together you will want to offset the blocks. Cut the problem block into two pieces and use the two sections separately as spacer blocks to fill in where needed.
  • Cut off part of the block at an angle. Pin it to a new piece of paper or another pattern and finish the block. Do the same thing with the other half.
  • Add another piece of fabric over or partially covering the offending section. You can applique a piece in place if necessary. Trim away the piece underneath.
  • If a block just doesn't fit into the rest of the quilt, make a "transition block" (any pattern) in which the colors will "bridge" beween the two (as we did in my "Creative Color" class.)
  • If all else fails--rip out the offending section and replace it.

Block is wrong size?

(This can happen with with multi-section paper piecing, if your seam widths are not accurate.)

  • The block is too narrow: Sew on one or more sections to expand it to the correct size. (But don't just add one long straight strip--that will just call attention to itself.  (Hmmm--maybe you could do this to several blocks and turn that area into a section of picket fence.)
  • The block is too wide: Cut off the extra, or expand it to make a double wide block. Add fabric to one or both sides. Add the pieces so they will overlap onto the first section.
  • The block is wider at one end than at the other: Add a triangular strip of generous width. Then trim the block to correct size (4.5" x 9.5" which, of course, includes the seam allowances.)
  • The block is too short: The width of the block needs to be correct if you are making a quilt that is more than one block high since you will be putting it together in long vertical strips. However the height of the block is not critical since you will not be matching intersections anyway. You can always trim a block longer or shorter to fit the space and the developing pattern.
  • If you are making a horizontal strip wall hanging (one block high), the blocks can be any width, but the height needs to be the same.
  • Blocks vary in size: Quilt and bind each block separately as a mini-quilt. Then arrange them as desired and stitch them together. If you want to be really creative, leave empty (air) spaces between them as part of the design.

Block doesn't lie flat.

  • This can happen if you sew a 2-part section to a single part section and the seam between the first two sections was not quite even along its length. If you have any question at all, check for straightness along edges that span two sections before sewing them to a third. It only takes a minute and is quicker than taking things out--and for these blocks it probably won't matter a bit if you trim as directed below.

Place a ruler on the paper side of the section, matching the edge to the far corners of the seam line.
If the fabric bows out beyond the ruler, mark it along the edge of the ruler and use this, instead of the fabric edge, as you guide for a quarter inch seam.
If the fabric bows in under the ruler (left), move the ruler until the center of the bow comes just to the edge of the ruler. Adjust the ends to an even distance. Mark a new seam guide.

(Note: This diagram is very much exaggerated. If your seam looks this bad, you'd better redo a seam or start over!)

The patch I just sewed on doesn't quite cover the area it should. Must I take it out?
  • Prevention is the best cure. Check by pinning and flipping the patch before you sew. Be sure you are giving it a generous seam allowance.
  • Sew on another patch and flip it into place to cover the original space.
  • Start the next patch at that spot. This will make it go on at a different angle as well as become larger.
  • If you feel it won't cover, and you need to use that scrap of fabric, piece another bit onto it before you sew it in place.
  • Take it out. Try this: trim very close to the seam. Then gently pull on the seam allowance and it will probably come loose. If there is an extra line of thread left in the seam, it won't hurt a thing.

My paper is tearing along the seam lines.
  • If it is in the interior of the block, ignore it or give it a quick dab with a glue stick.
  • Mend the rip with transparent tape. (Be cautious about ironing directly on it.)
  • Pin or glue on a paper patch.
  • If it is a persistent problem,take slightly longer stitches or use a slightly smaller needle .
If you come up with other solutions for these or other problems, please share in the Discussion Forum. I will add a few more tips there as we go along, also.

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