Sometimes You’re Sewing, Sometimes You’re Picking Out Stitches

“Experience: that most brutal of all teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.” — C.S. Lewis

Uh oh. I just sewed 12 pairs of blue & purple 8″ squares together with the Magic 8 method — four seams per square — and then I cut them apart as directed — and then I went to trim them to 3.5″ unfinished size, also as directed.

They’re too small.

Just to clarify, that’s 12 x 8, or 96, too-small half square triangles (HSTs) that I have here.

A pile of wrong-size HST units
A small sample of the total

This is surprising because the blue & green ones I did yesterday are all the right size! Just a little larger than 3.5″, perfect for trimming down to 3.5″ with hardly any waste. Perfect.

What the heck happened?

I could say that it’s because I was talking to my husband on Skype video while sewing these seams. We talk on Skype most evenings, though, often while I’m sewing. (He works in Seattle and I haven’t relocated yet.)

I could say that it’s because it was almost bedtime and I was tired. But I often sew right up to bedtime.

I could say that it’s because I was sewing through these HSTs really fast so that I could get them done before the end of the weekend, which is true, but it’s not really the reason either.

The real reason is: I didn’t measure twice.

I changed my presser foot in between the previous batch and this batch because I did some curved piecing, and then I didn’t remeasure where a scant 1/4″ seam falls with the curved-piecing foot. Since the seams go through the middle of the 8″ squares, I couldn’t use the guide engraved on my foot plate because it was covered by the fabric. No problem, I thought, I know where 1/4″ is on this foot, I just did a bunch of drunkard’s path units that came out great, after all.


Then to make it worse, I thought, I want to give myself a little extra wiggle room, so I’ll move the fabric slightly THIS way to make a scant 1/4″, just to make sure. Only… you guessed it… I moved it THAT way instead, giving myself a generous 1/4″ — just enough to make all my HSTs a hint too small. Then, all unknowing, I sewed them all, cut them all, and went to trim the first one down to 3.5″, only to discover my mistake.

So I did what any good quilter would do. I swore and threw things and went to bed mad. (Isn’t that what you do? No? Just me then.)

Fabric positioned in the machine
Resewing the seam. I really need to get a 1/4″ foot with guide for this machine.

Then the next day I did what any good quilter would really do. I re-sewed the seams closer to the edge and got ready to pick out the old seam on 96 triangles.

First, I put my standard foot back on the machine, along with my magnetic seam guide. I measured to make sure it was where I wanted it for a scant 1/4″ seam.

Then I chain-stitched all the triangles, making a new seam a scant 1/4″ from the edge. (For reals this time.)

Restitched HSTs
All chained together

THEN I got out my tiniest, pointiest seam ripper, because apparently while talking to my husband late at night while sewing madly at the end of the weekend, I was using a crazy small stitch length on all those wrong seams. Yay.

Using a seam ripper
Carefully picking the old, wrong seam with the tiny pointy seam ripper

Then I re-pressed the units and ta-da! Old seam’s all gone. Just a tiny row of holes to show where it was. That’ll quilt out, right? Right?


The completed new unit, with little holes from the old seam
That’ll quilt out… right?

One down, 95 to go. Time to put on a favorite movie! You know, one that I don’t have to look at the screen to follow.

Stack of units ready for picking out the old seam
One down, 95 to go (this is only a few)

Sometimes you get to sew. Sometimes you get to pick out stitching. Either way, you learn something!

The previous post in this series was (optimistically) Bright Sisters: Half-Square Triangle Units. Next time, I’ll assemble the first block!

What do you think?

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