The Blah’s and a bad, bad teacher

As you can clearly tell, Peggi has been busy – very busy! Me, I’m going through a “Blah” period. I’ve got several irons in the fire as far as quilting goes, but nothing sounds fun to make. However, I do have a very interesting story…..

My daughter, Sunday, wanted to make a quilt while she was here on vacation last week. Sunday is a beginning quilter, but has made two quilts – one for her (her first, which I helped her construct) and one for a friend that she did on her own. She decided to make a Postage Stamp quilt while she was here. I thought it was a great idea. She wouldn’t need me to stand over her, watching, making sure she’s doing it correctly. She’s made two quilts, she knows how to sew a straight line. And a Postage Stamp quilt is nothing but straight lines, right??

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Have you ever really thought about how much you know about quilting? Really know? The little things that seem so insignificant, but are so important? The techniques that are now second nature?

Sunday cut her strips exactly as instructed. I told her to sew them in pairs with a 1/4” seam on my machine. Unfortunately, I failed to tell her that I had my machine set differently. I have a 1/4” seam foot (which she’s never seen), and the needle is set to sew a scant 1/4” seam. Sunday sewed hers from the 1/4” line on the bobbin lid, not from the foot. Which meant all of her seems were a bit smaller than 1/4”, but larger than 1/8”. Well, we could still work with it. I didn’t want her frustrated with having to tear out the stitching of over 160 pairs of strips.

So, I told her to go ahead and press all the strips open with the seams to one side, and keep sewing and pressing strips until she had sets of 8 sewn strips. I instructed her to cut these sets into 1-1/2” strips when she was finished. Then I showed her how they would “butt” together so the seams would all match when she sewed the strips. Straight lines, no curves, no problem. I went upstairs to spend some time with my granddaughter.

Big. Mistake. BIG mistake.

Sunday worked diligently for two days on these strips. Cut them as instructed, and began sewing them together. Then brought them up and showed a couple to me. They weren’t going together correctly. I took one look at them and knew immediately what the problem was.

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The seams had been pressed incorrectly. There were sections where 1/8-1/4” were not pressed out. Instead of laying the strips face-up, she opened them face-down and pressed. And when they were sewn together:

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Disaster. And it’s my fault. Sunday had spent two days making something that wasn’t going to work at all. I can’t – and won’t – blame her. She didn’t know she was doing anything wrong when she was sewing or pressing them. She was smart, and came to me as soon as she noticed they weren’t going together right. Once I started looking at the strips, there really was no saving them. The seams were inconsistent, re-pressing wasn’t going to work.

I failed to take into consideration that Sunday doesn’t quilt on a consistent basis as I do. She’s only made two quilts in the past two years. But I thought that since she HAD made two quilts, she had the knowledge necessary to continue without supervision. I now see this as a learning experience for both of us. I know she won’t make these mistakes again. Screw something up this badly and you don’t forget it. I spent a while going over sewing and pressing techniques with her – something I should have done in the beginning. Had I done this, she would have gone home with a completed quilt. And the satisfaction of learning a new pattern. Instead, I sent her home with nothing but, most likely, a bad taste in her mouth for quilting. And when she said “so that’s why my last quilt went together so badly”, I knew I had really failed as her teacher.

Luckily, Sunday isn’t the type to give up easily. She IS going to try the Postage Stamp quilt at home and has already designed a new quilt to make. Of course, she’s picked one that uses triangles – and has already cut the fabric. A whole NEW set of techniques and problems. Problems that I will deal with – long distance (she lives in Ohio) – step-by-step, stitch-by-stitch.

Sunday, you’ve taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.

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