Monday, April 10, 2017

Probing Problems

My daughter asked me, "Mom, do you ever make a quilt that doesn't have problems?"  When I answered, "No," she just had a good laugh.  I guess it comes from designing my own quilts and encountering the unexpected along the way.  I am always trying new things and some don't work out as well as others.  So, how do you go about solving problems?

1.  First you have to get past denial and admit that you have a problem.  I finished the binding completely before I discarded the denial, but it still looked horrible.  Discouraging.

2.  Identify the problem.  That was easy.  The binding looked like it had heavy, lumpy cording inside.  In all the quilts I have done I have never had anything like this happen.

3.  Decide what to do.  Do I leave it and forget showing it?  Do I throw it away and forget it?  Do I take off the binding and do it over again?  I have put a lot of time and work into this quilt so I chose to redo the binding.  As I ripped I moved on to #4.

4. Analyze the problem.  Have you ever thought about what happens when you take layers of fabric and batting and then stitch through them?  Bear with me.  Every line you stitch compresses the fabric and batting, and ultimately shrinks the quilt as shown below (exaggerated).  The line representing the quilted fabric began the same length as that representing the unquilted fabric.

When you have a lot of quilting it causes the outer edges of the quilt's fabric and batting to ruffle.  The more quilting there is, the greater the amount of ruffling.
That edge ruffle includes fabric and batting.
I have a narrow border on which I quilted feathers.  I stitched the binding on before I did the feathers so I would be sure not to catch the feathers under the binding.  I had never done that before and was quite pleased at the the time because it had no puckers and seemed perfect.  Then I stitched the feathers.  Now I realize that I sewed the binding onto all that ruffley stuff and probably had inadvertently incorporated too much binding length.  I also have two layers of batting (wool and low loft cotton) plus the fabric for top and bottom.  All in all that was a lot to squash into the binding, resulting in a heavy, lumpy binding.

Ruffled edge of my quilt.
5.  Devise a solution and do it!.  First of all I removed the binding.  I needed to flatten the outer edges of the quilt to remove the ruffling so I quilted lines very close together around the edge of the quilt.  The thread is the same color as the fabric.  These little lines are not perfect, but most of the stitching will be inside the binding.  It was tedious, but the edges squashed down flat.

With all that manipulating I decided to re-soak and re-block the quilt to be sure it is perfectly square.  I washed the binding fabric and was able to re-use it.  I have applied it now and am in the process of hand-stitching it to the back of the quilt.  That was a lot of work, but I channelled my inner bulldog and will be done in a couple of days.  It is looking excellent so I have been vindicated.  It may be the best binding I have ever done!

I must say that I have never encountered a problem like this, nor have I heard or read about it.  I hope my experience will help some other quilters.

TIP:  If your edges are ruffled, quilt them flat before binding.

"If  you fear the unknown and don't pursue adventure, you're missing out on such amazing opportunities and experiences." [Discover Magazine, "Athlete, Interrupted", May 2017, p 22].  This can be applied roughly to quilting.

TIP:  Get out there and have a new quilting adventure.  How many times have I said that?  Oh well, so true!  Sometimes you get a fabulous result.  Other times you have a learning experience.  Both are valuable.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you productive adventures this week.


  1. What a great solution to wavy edges! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I hope I have learned from your experience. It makes perfect sense. I appreciate your sharing. Removing stitches is so time consuming, and boring. But, the end result of the redo gives one a better night's sleep.

  3. Years years ago on my second quilt I ended up with badly ruffled borders. It was a memory quilt because we were moving and all the blocks were signed. I started to quilt memories in the first side of the border before I discovered the problem. So it sat with batting hanging out for many years. It was either fix it or ditch it. So I cut off all the borders and bound it around the blocks. Now I use it as a warm throw, full of memories of friends.

    1. I'm glad you found a workable solution for such a special quilt. It would have been a crime to throw it out.

  4. It does seem that the two solutions you used (stitching and blocking) did the trick.I would not have thought to quilt lines at the very edge to squish down the ripples - good idea. Thank you for sharing these tips at Midweek Makers

  5. I am glad you were able to fix the problem. It is frustrating when you try something new and it introduces new challenges, but with some hard work and imagination those challenges can be great learning tools. Thanks for sharing your experience and tips!

  6. Great tips! I'd read recently that binding before finishing the quilting was a fantastic idea, but I see from your experience how it could lead to issues. Very good to know!

  7. I'm glad you took the time to work out a solution. Thanks for sharing it!

  8. Interesting technique. Another solution is to baste around the perimeter of the quilt and gently gather the puckers away. This method works without the need of additional quilting.

    1. That's a great idea. I never thought of that. Thanks.

  9. Years ago I did that straight stitch quilting all down a border and enjoyed seeing the nice flat edge, but had forgotten about this neat technique. Thanks for the reminder. I admire your sticking to a problem to its solution!