Thursday, February 10, 2011

Back to "square" sucks to be a grown up...

It is minus 8 degrees here this morning!   Brrrrrr!  I did a no-no yesterday and boy has it ever been a learning experience!!  I want to share it with you because I think that blogging is all about shared experience...the good, the bad, and the UGLY.

As many of you know, the method of applique that I like to use involves using glue.  Actually two kinds of glue...Elmer's glue sticks for prepping my pieces and Roxanne's glue baste, instead of pins, for applique placement.  I LOVE this method...but I am still learning so much about yesterday.

I am of the opinion that no matter how good we think we are with a quilting technique, no matter how comfortable we are, we never truly master anything because there is always something else to learn about it.  I love my applique allows me the design freedom I seek and I am usually happy with the speed and results.

If there is a down side to using the glues, it would be the glue removal.  I am comfortable enough with my technique that I am now using the bare minimum of glue, both for pressing the tiny turn under allowances to the backside of the fabric pieces and placement (dot-dot-not-a lot...). 

The glues are archival quality, meaning they don't contain acids that would otherwise damage the fabric over time.  Despite this, I usually soak my applique blocks and borders in water with gently squeezing to remove the glue.  Then I press carefully with a dry iron on the back side to dry them and then I trim them to size.

This "All Around the Town" project was a little different than my usual fare because on every one of the 12 blocks, there were little bits of "lawn" that weren't sewn down at the block bottoms because they overlapped adjacent blocks upon assembly.

So I waited, anxiously, about glue removal, somehow thinking "fiddle-dee-dee...I'll worry about that tomorrow."  It was my Gone With the Wind moment.  I distracted myself by adding one more little appliqued touch...a quilt block on the end of the barn, as suggested by Stephanie of The Pumpkin Barn (thanks!),

Yesterday, as I was contemplating my quilt top, ready to layer and baste it, dreaming of using my new thimble, I thought about the glue...and Scarlett finally woke up.  I had already added the two borders and worked really hard to make it completely square and flat.  Perfect.

I decided that the glue must be removed, so I filled the wash tub with water, stay-stitched around the outside edge of the top, and plunged the beast into the water.  I thought that if I was careful enough, I could blot it in a towel, block it and press carefully to get it back to a square, perfectly flat object of my desire.

Oh my God...

After 2 hours of painstaking, excruciating pressing work, my top was flat...almost, and square...sort of.  I knew that all my fabrics had been prewashed against fading and shrinkage, I had been mindful of the fabric grain when cutting out my pieces, I had appliqued with lovely silk thread and I had ripped my two borders on the lengthwise grain...what could go wrong??

Ugh...100% cotton piecing thread...

Bowed, "smiling" borders...
Totally tortured corner blocks...I actually thought this "hill and valley" area would quilt out...
Everything I had stitched with my sewing machine...assembling blocks and putting on borders...pulled in and shrank...BADLY.  All in all I did a great job of stretching, pressing and salvaging my mistake.  But, when you have spent this long doing intricate hand applique on a top you love and hope to pass down through the ages, you don't cut corners.

I hung it on my design wall and was horrified by what I saw ( picture...I was too busy throwing up ).  The middle actually sagged and it didn't lie flat against my design wall/ugly pink college blankie that usually grabs everything.

But, in denial, I quickly stretched out my backing on the tables, smoothed on my batting, and attempted to make that sucker 2-dimensional again, using my long rotary rulers to try and gently ease the weirdness into a square and flat quilt sandwich.  I was dreaming about using my new's supposed to "quilt out," right?

I even pinned it and put a few basting stitches in before going to do my music job at the church last night.  Denial, denial, denial...

On the way home it hit me...this is not acceptable.  This slip-shod, half-ass effort is not worthy of all the hours I put into this top.  Who cares what a judge or my friends would say or think, I would know that I had not done my best.

I knew that the car tire applique stitches would need to be removed and the tires pinned back out of the way, the borders would have to come off, and I would need to relax the top and tortured quilt corners and re-square the quilt center.  Then I would have to rip NEW border strips and finish it a second time, re-appliqueing all the car tires.  Ugh...

 My poor, "flat" car tires...
So I did all the ugly, unsewing last night, looking forward to today when I would start afresh to fix my quilt.  And I will fix it and work really hard to make it perfectly square and true yet again.  Then I will TOTALLY enjoy the hand quilting experience then and bind and sleeve it knowing that it will hang straight on my all four positions (since I can't tell what side is really "up" on this sucker).

Next time I applique blocks with pieces that over lap, I will baste those few inches of turned under allowances and soak away, press true and trim.  Or I will needle turn that little bit.  Once I finally decided to face the music and fix this, I was surprising calm.  It sucks to be a grown up sometimes.

There are those who don't worry about such things.  And for some projects, it is perfectly acceptable to believe in the "galloping horse" view of quilting..."if you can't tell when riding by on a galloping horse, don't worry about it..."

This is not that kind of project and I am not that kind of quilter.

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


  1. Oh, Teresa, my heart aches for you. Although I haven't had this specific tragedy happen, I have screwed up an all applique project, and totally know how you try to convince yourself that all will be fine..............until you just stop kidding yourself and accept the inevitable. I feel your pain! I'm so glad you got the worst over with. Isn't it weird how calm you become once you have made up your mind what "must" be done. Best wishes for a happy outcome. Michele

  2. Oh how distressing. But I would have done the same as you. It will all be OK now! what would you do differently on future pieces? Would you piece with polyester instead of cotton?

  3. Oh my stomach was beginning to ache as I was reading that, and I didn't even do the work! Oh my goodness! I hope you are able to get everything worked out.. as that is just one spectacular quilt! Hoping to see it all better soon..

  4. if you aren't pleased with something and know it will really bother you then I agree you take it apart and re do it - I have done this too - really you have to be happy with it.

  5. Well, crap!! Sometimes you just need someone to cuss with, and this looks like one of those times! I'm so sorry, T! Such a work of are right to do what needs to be done, and you'll make short work of it, I'm sure. I admire what you've accompmlished! and your methods. I was ALWAYS too sorry to wash out the glue LOL (why I never appliqued, 'til I finally learned needleturn!), so you are light-years ahead of me. Excellent discipline, excellent standards! You ROCK!
    Mary Lou

  6. Kudos to you for taking the time to re-do. For me, that is often the hardest decision to make (I HATE double work!).

    But you are right, if it's going to bug you, the best thing is to make it right. It's a pain right now but you'll be much happier with it in the end.

  7. What a heart breaking moment. I'm glad you decided to take off the borders and rework it. Then you can always love it instead of regret it. This is such an awesome special quilt, I just know it will all work out. Your applique is amazing.

  8. What a heart breaker.. I'm with you, if it doesn't feel right you may as well re-do..right when the feeling comes over you..if it doesn't feel right now, it will never feel right. I needle turn and don't have experience with glue techniques..

  9. Good a year you'll look back and remember this and be so grateful for your decision. (or maybe less than a year....)

  10. What a sad story! You will be so glad you redid it though. (I try to remind myself this when I have something to take out) Your gorgeous hand quilted top will be fabulous and you will enjoy quilting it so much more.

  11. Oh my goodness, I have having heart thumps reading this. You'll be so glad that you redid things though. It's really a wonderful quilt.

  12. This quilt is beautiful and I know you will be pleased with your effort. We all have to learn the hard way every once in awhile. So sorry it was on this project so close to the fun part. cw

  13. Great you are making it right and acceptable to youself. You really have a lovely and fun quilt. It will be cherished by all.

  14. I have taken apart a quilt top and reassembled it also. It's so frustrating and overwhelming when you are faced with doing all that, but once you jump in and get started, you just know it was the right thing to do! Hope you are happy with the outcome the 2nd time around.

  15. You gotta do what you gotta do. It's funny how we try to fix things and thinks it will be okay and we can avoid all that extra work, but once we decide to go ahead and do the extra work to make it right we finally relax and feel better.

    It's a great quilt.

  16. I wonder if you had quilted it before washing, would it still have shrunk up? Just wondering?

    Your quilt is beautiful and I admire your exquisitie applique. All the extra work you had to put into it to make it perfect will only add to its value and its story.

  17. Oh Teresa!! I'm actually am crying for you, just went to get a tissue to wipe my tears. You are right in taking things apart and fixing them. It's what a true artist would do and you my dear are an artist IMHO.

    Gentle Hugs,


    PS - put a sleeve on all sides so you can change the perspective every once in a while.

    PSS - You may get two comments, blogger is being a jerk this morning.

  18. Oh me, oh my .... what a time you had! Me, I would have been so frustrated that it would be bundled up and tossed onto the shelf and maybe in a year or two I would have the patience to fix my errors.

  19. OK, I think I would have done the same thing. I ask myself, can I live with this? And I usually can't. My world is a happier place when I have pointy points.
    Life flows a little easier if my borders are not waving "hello" and I sleep at night knowing that all my bindings are perfectly full, and the miters are all stitched down. Yes, I have some OCD tendencies, but I have found a very happy place for them. Of course, it does not spill over into my housecleaning...

    Your quilt is stunning, a supreme amount of effort, and will truly be a cherished treasure.


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