We've all been there. You're quilting very happily, until you discover you're out of border fabric. Or your seams are so wavy they look like improv piecing. And even though you carefully measured, somehow your blocks are all different sizes.
Of course, 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 quilting snafus you could run into, along with their easy workarounds.
Problem #1: 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?
Solution: 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," says the Midnight Quilt Show host. "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.
Problem #2: Running Out of Fabric
You've miscalculated your quilting fabric and run out in the middle of piecing your quilt top.
Solution: Reach out to your fellow quilters! Snap a picof the specific print you're using, with as much detail about it as possible. Post it on Flickr or other social media sites with the hashtag #ISO ("in search of") to see what you might be able to nab last-minute.
Before starting your next project, use the popular quilting calculator at Quilter's Paradise — it tells you the yardage required for quilt backing, batting, binding and borders. You can also order go-to fabrics by the bolt so you never run out.
Problem #3: Messed-Up Seam Allowances
You ended up with a block that's too small, even though you followed the instructions.
Solution: It could be you miscalculated the seam allowances . Most quilting patterns call for a ¼" seam allowance, so using the ¼" foot on your sewing machine will make sure you get that. The machine's foot may also have a metal ridge that marks an exact quarter inch, so you can triple-check you're on point.
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.
Problem #4: Mismatched Rows
Because fabric stretches, you can end up with mismatched rows even if you use sewing pins on every seam. And then you spend a lot of time time ripping out stitches.
Solution: The no-pin method! Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do this:
1. Hold the first two seams together with your fingers, and carefully insert under the presser foot.
2. Sew a few stitches back and forth just along the intersection of the two seams you're joining together.
3. 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. 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.
Problem #5: 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.
Solution: Make sure your quilt top is even both length- and width-wise. Trim off the excess anywhere you can before adding borders. Then, instead of cutting an exact border length after measuring, sew a longer piece of fabric to the side of the quilt and trim 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.