5 Biggest Quilting Mistakes and How to Fix 'Em

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We've all been there. You're quilting very happily ... until you suddenly discover you're out of border fabric. Or your seams are so wavy they become unintentional improv piecing. Or after you carefully measure again and again, somehow your blocks are all different sizes.

Of course, you know that each quilting project is a learning experience. And when other quilters make mistakes — and figure out how to fix 'em — that can teach you something too. Here are five of the biggest snafus and five easy workarounds.

The Snafu: Getting Stuck in a Corner

This happens a lot when you're free-motion quilting — you realize you didn't give yourself an out during the design stage and you find yourself stuck in a corner with no place else to go. Or you need to get to the next block, and find yourself in the wrong location. So how do you handle the thread when you cannot go any further?

The Save

Here's a tip from free-motion quilter Angela Walters: "If I find myself stuck in a corner, I will travel along a seam or a previously quilted line until I get where I need to go. I don't mind if it's not perfect!! When I start and stop a line of quilting, I take several tiny stitches and then start quilting." You can also try very tiny stitches, stitching in place before cutting, or burying the thread.

The Snafu: Running Out of Fabric

You've miscalculated your quilting fabric and run out in the middle of piecing your quilt top.

The Save

Free tools! You can find a popular quilting calculator at Quilter's Paradise . It tells you the yardage you need for quilt backing, batting, binding and borders. It also has some other tools for calculating how many fixed-size pieces you can cut from fabric yardage.

You can also order your go-to fabrics by the bolt so you never run out. But if you do need more of a specific print you're using, snap a pic and post it with the letters ISO ("in search of") to Flickr or other social media sites.

The Snafu: Messed-Up Seam Allowances

If you ended up with a block that's too small even if you followed the instructions, it could be you miscalculated the seam allowances .

The Save

Most quilting patterns call for a quarter-inch seam allowance. Using the quarter-inch foot (pictured above) on your sewing machine will get you an accurate seam allowance. The machine's foot may also have a metal ridge that marks an exact quarter inch.

If your machine doesn't have either, place a piece of masking tape or a sticky note on its base to mark the correct distance away from the right edge of your foot. Pressing your seams after each step can also help give you accurate pieces. Be sure to press your iron up and down instead of waving it from side to side, which can stretch or distort the fabric and turn straight seams into wonky ones.

The Snafu: Mismatched Rows

Because fabric stretches, you can end up with mismatched rows even if you use sewing pins on every seam. So you end up spending time ripping out a whole lot of stitches.

The Save

The no-pin method! Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

  • Hold the first two seams together with your fingers, and carefully insert under the presser foot.
  • Sew a few stitches back and forth just along the intersection of the two seams you're joining together.
  • After backstitching, cut the thread and move along to the next intersection.

Once you've finished this step, open up the joined rows to see if any of the seams are amiss. (See photos above.) If they are inaccurate, you can rip out just a few stitches and try again. Once all the seams are aligned to your liking, finish stitching the raw edges together to join the rows.

The Snafu: Wavy Borders

If the left side of your quilt strangely measures two inches longer than the right side, you're going to have trouble getting an accurate border.

The Save

Make sure your quilt top is even length- and width-wise. Trim off the excess anywhere you can before adding borders. Then instead of cutting an exact border length after measuring, try sewing a longer piece of fabric to the side of the quilt and trimming off the extra. This way, you will avoid easing in too much fabric, which causes wavy borders.

If you don't have extra border fabric to spare, measure the length and width of your quilt by placing a tape measure at the quilt's center instead of the edges. Cut your borders to these dimensions and pin the exact center of your border to the exact center of your quilt side. Pin outward from the center and then stitch in place.

Isn't it amazing what you can learn from other quilters' mistakes!

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