Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Perfection? HA!!!

If the machine breaks, that is a tragedy. If I am not careful and injure myself with a rotary cutter, that is an accident. But if my points don't match - well, that is just the process. Try again, maybe.

Thanks to Bernie, today I am happy to shamelessly share my mistakes with you. 
For ease of understanding, I will be discussing three kinds of mistakes. 

1. Ignoring the Golden rule - Never do this.
2. Experimentation - Do this often
3. Stitching Errors - Whether you like it or not, this will happen

The biggest mistake that I have made is ignoring the 10-foot rule.
Not stepping away from the design wall to look at your work from a distance is a huge No-No.

Murky & Meh
In American Hustle, the blocks had no contrast and the design was impossible to discern. I tried to add sashing and borders but in the end I decided to give it away. It was not going to get better.

Not much better
In Strawberry Salad with Pepto-bismol Dressing, I was working with a bag of scraps. I chose a square block with partial seams.  The first block looked fine.

Audition Block

But the whole quilt was too much. 
Since the fabrics were so busy, I should have kept the design simple.
Or added contrast fabrics to balance the muddy pinkness or the pink muddiness.
Hindsight is 20/20.

Strawberry Salad +Pepto Bismol Dressing

This really is the worst mistake, in my opinion. It is pure disaster. And mostly the project cannot be salvaged. I love you all who comfort me with kind words (the depth of your kindness far exceeds the height of your brutal honesty). Moving along.

Now I agonize over contrast. The 10-foot rule helps me evaluate this contrast. 
Some quilters use red glasses or see the layout in grayscale.

I chose blue and green solids for Neel. The 10-foot rule revealed that one particular blue would be too dark and not have enough contrast against the midnight background. Swapped it. Killed it. No mercy.

Blue (top right) was too dark

I chose only light and medium values and alternated blue and green stars in the layout.


When I was making Esmeralda, it was a fabric line sent by Moda.  I picked and chose and discarded those squares that were too light.  

Esmeralda's discards

They were used in another quilt - Charlie's Birds - with contrasting fabrics.

Paired with aqua and navy

Charlie's Birds - Pop of orange

Similarly when I was making Meet Cute, I discarded those fabrics that would have a poor contrast against the white background. 

No way

Meet Cute

Most other times, I choose my own fabric. Even when I am using precuts I add/subtract fabrics based on contrast.

Let's compare two quilts - Esmeralda and Queen's Necklace. Same design but different fabrics.
You can see the interlocking circles in Esmeralda but in Queen's Necklace, they jump out at you. 

Esmeralda - Subtle
Queen's Necklace - Bold

Contrast creates the dramatic difference between the two quilts.  There is not a right or a wrong approach here. Once you know how to work with different values - lightest to darkest - you can create the desired effect. Gentle contrasts for a subtle quilt or sharp contrasts for a bold impressive one.

Whatever you do, remember the 10-foot rule!!!

An idea in my head always seems terrific.  When it is applied to fabric, it sometimes gets lost in translation. When I was making Trees of Life, I thought that bright floral trees on a dark background will pop and sparkle.  They did not quite impress in reality.

Looks good
They looked hideous. I took no pictures of those ugly blocks by themselves.
I switched to low volume backgrounds and liked the results much better.

Looks better

I did not wish to discard those dark background blocks and considered throwing them in the mix randomly or using them as a part of pieced backing.  Using them as a border was probably the best decision.

Light blocks framed by a border of dark blocks
See contrast!!! Makes all the difference.

If I was making quilts from kits and not deviating one bit, this would not be a problem. But I want to play and I want to experiment and I wonder - what if? 
And this "mistake" is really one which I suggest you try to make. Playing with fabric, trying a new block, or just making alterations to an existing block and discovering something is the joyful part of the process.
Paul: What if your "experiment" does not pan out?
Me: Like what?
Paul: Like when you used cinnamon instead of vanilla in the chocolate cookies
Me: Well then I know what does not work. Besides, my co-workers liked those cookies.
Paul: Why not just stick to the recipe or the pattern in this case?
Me: Firstly, I was out of vanilla. More importantly, experimenting is great because then I discovered a new method for making QSTsJust like the combination of mint chutney with mayonnaise elevates a mundane turkey sandwich to gourmet food.

QST Tutorial

Four QSTs

Paul: When I am painting my models I stick to the suggested color scheme.
Me: I know. You are a cook but I am a chef.
Paul: Sometimes. Sometimes you are a chef.
Me: Yes. Because I experiment and willing to make mistakes.


Tube Technique

What eventually became the Serendipity tutorial began as an experiment. 
But it worked.  And it is a really popular tutorial.

Loving it


We all make these. Sewing the wrong sides together happens all the time.
Paul: Do you fix a mistake when you see it?
Me: Not usually. Mostly, I let it be. Like the artist's signature. Someday someone will go over my quilts and look for these stitching errors - like clues in a mystery case.
Paul: You are so full of yourself
Me: There are three such mistakes in your quilt.
Paul (aghast): In Paulitiks?
Me: Yep. You did not even know and you sleep under it every night.
Paul: I must check.
Me: Let me know when you find them. It takes skill.
Paul: I don't think it takes skill to make mistakes.
Me: It takes skill to hide things in plain sight. Talk to me after you find them.
Paul: What if this is a wild goose chase? What if there is no mistake?
Me: If you cannot find it, you can admit defeat and I will show you.

Clockwise Block 

The blocks in Paulitiks had black strips going anti clockwise. All but three. And when the rogue block was next to the regular block the black strips connected. See the block above.  This was unintended.

Can you find all three?
I saw no reason to correct these mistakes and so I left them there.

I left it in Mayflower.  You cannot even see it unless you are looking for it.
Do click on the link above for my discussion with a knitter about her mistakes.

Bottom Right Corner

And if the lady is not ready to dance her palms are closed. Did I make a mistake in piecing? 
May be. But if she does not want to dance, it is up to her. That is my story and I am sticking to it.

Closed Palms = No, Thank you

You can ask her to dance :-) because her palms are open.
Open Palms =  Ready to dance

But when it happened in "A Walk in thePark", the mistake was structural and needed to be fixed.

Front - Looked fine

Backing falls short

Added border strips on the back

Since the quilt sandwich was already basted, I was reluctant to take it apart. To make up for the shortfall in the backing, I added 2.5" strips all around the back in the Quilt-As-You-Go fashion.

Sew line in the front
 This added a stitch line in the front which could pass off as quilting.

Finished Front

Salvaged Back

Since the whole point of this exercise is to laugh at our mistakes and have fun, here is an excerpt from one of the episodes of Big Bang Theory.

Raj Koothrappali Has Bernadette found a cure for something? 
Howard Wolowitz In a way. She was working on a dandruff shampoo that has the unfortunate side effect of horrible anal leakage. 
Raj Koothrappali That's too bad. But then, is there any good anal leakage? 
Howard Wolowitz On the upside, they decided to market it as a constipation remedy.

In conclusion, it is a mistake only if you learn nothing from it. 
Learning, growth, joy and inspiration lie along the journey.  Perfection is the destination.
And even when we strive for perfection once (if) we get there it will be the end of the journey.  And who wants that? I want to continue on this ride - missteps, bumps and turbulence notwithstanding.

Hope your seat-belts are fastened :-D


  1. I like how you own up to your mistakes or should I call them growth. And you are right we learn by our mistakes.

  2. Love your post. And your conversations with wise Paul are priceless!

  3. Palm open, palm closed. Love it! I agree that your conversations with Paul are so fun. All of your beautiful quilts are so fun to see!

  4. And tables and chairs in an upright possition... Am I the only one wondering whether or not Paul found the "mistakes" ?! xo

  5. Preeti, it is always so fun reading your posts. You're a great story teller and teacher and philosopher!

  6. Contrast and value are probably the most challenging things to make decisions about as a quilter. I like your 10 foot rule! I really enjoyed reading your post, Preeti!

  7. Hi Preeti! I love the shall you dance, open or close palms quilt block. I am wondering along with Melanie - did Paul find the mistakes or creative choices? Loved your post. ~smile~ Roseanne

  8. I love your "mistakes". I'm glad you made them so you could write this wonderful post. I have something worse than your pepto-bismol quilt. It's hiding in my closet because it makes me want to puke. I made a bunch of quilts before realizing my old machine didn't have a 1/4" foot - which meant there were more mismatched seams than matched ones. Use this software jargon: It's a feature, not a bug! ....Palms open, palms closed - priceless :-)

  9. Your demonstration of the difference of color value and its effect is wonderful. Thank you for that. Love the ladies and the open or closed palm. Subtle and effective - we don't all have to be in the mood to dance. And, yes, did Paul find the errant black lines??? Fantastic post Preeti (as always!)

  10. And here I thought mistakes were design variations. I'll take learning experiences as well - it never hurts to have those! You have a thing going with houses - your neighborhood, animals, and now a homage to women. Very well done, Preeti, very well done.

  11. I love your strawberry salad quilt. Low contrast is not necessarily a bad thing. I think it makes the whole quilt pulse and look like a shifting maze.

  12. I'm looking and looking but I can't see any mistakes! I do see some design choices that I might not have made, but nothing that should end up in the bin. I will gladly take any of these "mistakes" off your hands! And speaking of hands. . .at least one of your ladies needs her hands in the air like she just does not care. She can dance all on her own!

  13. Oh my goodness- I feel so much better about my "mistakes' I don't have many as I am a pretty basic quilter-nothing fancy- But, yesterday found some not so straight little pieces of a little block while ironing the quilt top for mailing. The top was square so it was functional. I felt bad but now I feel better. Your quilts are exquisite but you are so human about it all. Thank you.

  14. Fun post! And yes, the moral of the story, hidden in plain sight, the eye (as Angela Walters teaches) sees symmetry and 'fixes' mistakes, and well, what Paul said on the full of yourself lol!

  15. Ah a great selection of 'mistakes'.. I'm sure I've certinly made variations of them all! It makes our quilts unique. Love your little ladies with palms open/closed!

  16. Fun. Funny. Insightful. Whimsical. Thoughtful. Mysterious (those hidden mistakes in plain sight). Ingenious. Great story, Preeti!