While perusing some blogs and tutorials on various quilting techniques and projects (I can surf during lunch, but am too completely slammed by the time I get home to fire up the ol’ sewing machine for anything more than an occasional hem) (and that only under duress), it occurred to me that something seemed really wrong.
Things were Too Clean. Too, well, Perfect.
Come on now. This is not a perfect art. You DO NOT have to be a perfectionist to be a quilter. Trust me on this one. Like the photographer who “enhances” the boobs of a twiggy 15 year old model, there are a few tweaks here and there that help.
Let me share one of my quilty truths.
Half-square triangles (HSTs) never come out square.
Not straight out of the machine anyway.
Don’t kid yourself. Those glossy tutorials showing how to easily make 2 perfect half-square triangles by sewing on the diagonal without any trimming are fantasy. Like the pants that supposedly make your 50 year old ass look perky, honey, they’re all a big ol’ lie.
Just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, a quick picture tute (of the HST, not my ass): Cut 2 squares about 1″ larger than the desired HST size and place right sides together. (That is, if you want 2 1/2″ HST’s, cut your squares 3 1/2″) Draw a reference line on the diagonal – corner to corner.Sew 1/4″ to one side of the drawn line.Flip the square around and sew 1/4″ to the other side of the line. In the crappy picture above, the scissors are pointing helpfully to the other stitching line.
Cut along the drawn diagonal line, Press the two sides open and voila’!Yikes. Yes, the left and bottom sides are (sort of) aligned with the cutting mat grid, which means if I use this in my block, that unevenness will multiply until nothing is square ever again. So here’s the trick that very few will tell you about:Oh, yeah.
And no, this is not cheating.
The extra inch of size not only allows for 2 HST’s to be made at once, and sewing the diagonal seam on an uncut square can minimize the diagonal bias distortion. And best yet, you can then trim the dern thing to the size you need.
(I will say, however, it does put into perspective how maniacally anal quilters of long ago had to be since they had neither fancy rotary cutters, rulers with grids and diagonals, and such.)
Other blocks lend themselves to being trimmed into shape – 4 patches (not 9 patches – unless you’re going for the intentionally wonky look), but it can be a slippery slope for others. I have yet to figure out a good way to trim up flying geese blocks (here are some not sewn together – they’ve been trimmed, but are still a little off – see how the bottom one is larger than the top one?) without completely screwing up the proportions.
It’s a fine line.
I remember the first time an experienced quilter told me that she trimmed her blocks before putting them together. I was floored. I have NEVER considered that someone might trim the odds and ends off their blocks to square them up. I thought I was the problem.
Well, I am the problem, but it’s a problem that can be fixed!
Do you have quilty truths? Things you do to make it work, as Tim Gunn might say?
I’d love to hear them -
Until then – all the best!