Dealing With A Sewing Failure

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This post is part of a series about sewing NotQuilts. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, The NotQuilt series begins here.

Now that I have given up on any hope of a coherent, continuous pattern while making Dragon Princess, things are moving more smoothly. You get frustrated and angry when you think it can be made better. When you know this isn’t true, some of the anger and self-loathing goes away, but not all of it. I cannot match up the Dragon Princess grid in any way and I will never come close to achieving the vision in my head.

However, I can forge ahead and finish the damn thing. In the end, Dragon Princess is a utility quilt, it will be used (and washed) on a regular basis, it will keep its user warm, and I can say that I learned more about the design process.

I only fail if I give up.

Dragon Princess’s design is a failure in various subtle ways that most people won’t notice. This is especially true if I make every effort to keep my color choices for the Roman stripes eye-popping and distracting. Nevertheless, it won’t be a fail in terms of its functionality and that is what matters most. Will it work? Based on past experience with NotQuilts, I can say that yes, it will function in the real world just fine.

I pinned and sewed on the four interior vertical strips. The spacer bars worked perfectly to keep them lined up. They were far easier to use than moving around measuring tapes and more accurate.

sewing failure

Each of the four interior strips was too short as expected, by about a foot. I went back to my remaining stash of Dragon Princess and tore a seven-inch wide strip (vertically) to fill in the gaps. Those strips were pinned and sewed, with their bottommost edges at or just past my arbitrary 4 ½-inch outer border.

Once that evolution was over, it was time to start laying out the horizontal grid. I now understand that Dragon Princess is determined to frustrate me. In some ways, this is reassuring. I know things won’t work out the way they should, they won’t come close to resembling the vision in my mind, but that, in the end, I’ll get done and put this irritating chapter of my life behind me. Because I know these things, I can stop expecting ease of operations and perfect results. I am not going to get them.

My Worst Fears Confirmed

And so it proved to be true with the horizontal strips of Dragon Princess.

Dear Daughter and I again cleared out the living room rug of plants and pets and spread out Dragon Princess. I took my six horizontal strips (plus two extras), sorted them in order so the pattern motif lined up and numbered the strips with chalk, one through six.

notquilt sewing failure

Muffy wanted to help.

I started with strip number one at the top of Dragon Princess, up against my 4 ½ inch chalk line demarking where the location of the outer border. I laid in the first part, folding and pinning down the strip. I eyeballed where the cut should be, tore the strip, folded the raw edge under and pinned the horizontal bridge in place.

sewing failure

Pinning the horizontal strips

So far, so good. This should work! And it did, sort of. It worked up to the fourth horizontal strip.

You may recall that the Dragon Princess fabric is about 42 inches wide. I knew that a single horizontal strip of Dragon Princess wouldn’t stretch all the way across, covering each of the five interstitials. My interstitials are about 9 inches wide and with five of them, that is 45 inches, plus hem fold-unders on each side. What I expected was that a 42-inch-wide piece of cloth would equal out to four horizontal blocks, each slightly wider than 10 inches and thus one strip of Dragon Princess would allow me to cover the gaps between four interstitials. That just over ten-inch width would give me my fold-under hems at each side. I would then use my extra, unnumbered strips to do the last interstitial (number 5) and the little bit extending into the border on each side for the top strip and the bottom strip.

That did not happen. One horizontal strip of Dragon Princess made it across three interstitials just fine. I was about an inch short for interstitial number 4. I carried my short piece down to the sewing machine and sewed on the extra, unnumbered strip, trotted back upstairs, pinned, and tore the strip off, leaving enough cloth for the fold-under.

I was still short! By about half an inch and only at the top edge of the horizontal block. Despite looking like they are straight, the vertical lines of Dragon Princess are ever so slightly askew. Moreover, they are not exactly nine inches apart. When you add in the fold-under hems to cover the vertical seams, they turn out to be about 10 ½ inches apart. This added distance, plus the fabric needed for hems means that I will need at least one more horizontal strip of Dragon Princess to fill in the gaps, probably two.

I have about 16 inches left of Dragon Princess, enough to tear off two more seven-inch horizontal strips. After that, all I have left are odd-shaped scraps.

I got to rip the seam I had just sewed, losing two inches of cloth, trot back downstairs to the sewing machine, resew the seam and go back upstairs for round two. This time, I was careful to tear off more fabric than I thought I needed and this time, Dragon Princess cooperated.

Seams are Inevitable

The takeaway, since the vertical strips are not perfectly straight and aligned, is that each and every one of the interstitials will take more than 10 inches of cloth to bridge the gap. I can now expect to have a seam in interstitial section number four for every single block in this column.

I pinned the rest of the topmost horizontal row, including the little chunk in the border, outside the grid proper. Then I moved down to the bottommost horizontal row and, as expected, I ran out of cloth in interstitial number four. It has a seam and I can see that every horizontal block in this interstitial is going to have a seam. It can’t be helped.

It is a damn good thing that I have 16 inches of Dragon Princess leftover. I’m going to need it to tear two more 7-inch wide horizontal strips. I’m sure to need at least one, possibly two more strips of fabric to fill in the ends of strips two, three, four, and five.

At this point, I have the entire topmost and the entire bottommost horizontal rows pinned and ready to sew. Those will get sewed down next.

After that, I will have to spread Dragon Princess on the floor and figure out the exact spacing between the four interior horizontal rows. They won’t be nine inches apart. Dear Daughter and I will measure, I’ll make my calculations and then we will know.