Planning Your Pieces

Planning Your Pieces

One of the most important things you can do when beginning a quilt is to plan out your pattern. By this idea, I don’t just mean picking what pattern you want to buy in a store, but also planning out how the pieces of your project will fit together. That kind of pre-thought can make a difference in the appearance of a final product!

Let’s say, for instance, you decided to make a blue-based quilt, and you have a number of types of fabric to use for the product. If you don’t plan out how the pieces will go, you could end up running out of one particular style before the end, so the final portion is suddenly void of that one fabric. If you, like me, want a quilt that looks more balanced than that, then planning ahead can give you that quality.

Let’s think about where this is going…

Beyond that point, making these decisions beforehand can also ensure that you don’t pile a series of similar fabric all in one area. Otherwise, your product could look like this not-so-beautiful piece of artwork I created with my not-so-wonderful skills at Paint.

Otherwise, your product could look like this not-so-beautiful piece of artwork I created with my not-so-wonderful skills at Paint.

Otherwise, your product could look like this not-so-beautiful piece of artwork I created with my not-so-wonderful skills at Paint.

See how the same shades of blue are really close together? Now, imagine, what it would look like had I just mixed the fabrics in a more thorough way. The overall result could’ve been much more balanced, which to me, is a better strategy! And that’s the beauty of planning: No matter what your preference is, you can make sure you end up with a quilt that reflects it!

Lay out your quilt pieces on the floor & continue to adjust them until you come to a pattern you decide is right.

Lay out your quilt pieces on the floor & continue to adjust them until you come to a pattern you decide is right.


So the question arises about how to plan out those details. There are a couple of options available that you can use right in your own home! The easiest and least-costly method between the two I’ll cover is to lay out your quilt pieces on the floor and continue to adjust them until you come to a pattern you decide is right. You don’t need any extra materials for this stage at all, and so long as you have the free floor space, you have this opportunity right at your fingertips!

A quilt design area on your wall.

A quilt design area on your wall.

The other option is a quilt design area on your wall. This one might cost you a bit of money since you have to buy the supplies for it (though those supplies can be as simple as clips!), and you might find that you have to rearrange your wall décor to make room for it. Still, it’s a better candidate than the floor method if you want to eliminate the possibility of having your quilt-in-progress trampled by feet or if you just don’t have the right amount of space available for a clear plan-out area. Once you construct the design wall, you can start pinning and planning, shifting around your fabric blocks until everything fits in a way you’re comfortable with!

Start pinning & planning, shifting around your fabric blocks until everything fits in a way you’re comfortable with!

Start pinning & planning, shifting around your fabric blocks until everything fits in a way you’re comfortable with!

From that point, there are a number of ways to remember the quilt structure that you’ve planned out. Sure, if you’re using a quilt design wall, you could take it a bit at a time over to your sewing machine and just leave the extra pieces in place on the wall until the time comes to use them. But if you want a method that doesn’t involve leaving your pieces there — or if you’re using the floor method — you might want to think about alternative tactics!

One idea is to take a picture of what you come up with. If you do that, you can use it as a point of reference as you go through piecing your quilt together. By following the design you created, your quilt can turn out just as beautiful as you meant for it to!

Collate your blocks

Another option would be to keep your pieces in the order that you’re going to use them. As you take them up from the floor or off the wall, make sure you’re doing so in the exact order they’ll appear. You could start from the top or the bottom corner and progressively layer your quilt pieces on top of one another as you go. With this strategy, your blocks are in the order you wanted them, so you can just go through your stack one piece at a time to recreate your pattern!

But whatever your planning and preserving methods are, the important thing is to be thorough with them. Take your time, both in pinning or sorting those pieces, and in keeping them in sequence, so that errors are less likely to happen. When you have a well-balanced and well-considered quilt as the reward for your efforts, you’ll be glad you did!

Project Rescue

Project Rescue

Oh no! What a disaster!

Oh no! What a disaster!

Oh no! What a disaster! This whole project is ruined! Sound familiar? We’ve all had at least one project we think we’ve truly mangled. Thankfully, there are ways to save it. The best method to rescue your project depends on where the mistake occurred.

Cutting – Take Two

Did you misfold the fabric and now your cut pieces are all wrong? It may not be the giant disaster you think it is. If the fabric store has more of the fabric you’re using, it’s easy enough to get more and begin again. If not, you may be able to find it online or at another store. If that fails, treat this as an opportunity to find a new perfect fabric for your project (Don’t forget to exercise restraint, as we’ve looked at before).

Seams – Take Two

Did you missew a seam or several seams? If you can use your seam ripper to remove them and sew them again, this isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re not able to do that or did more damage to the fabric trying to pull out the seams, there are other options. If the item is too big, simply sew additional seams to make it smaller. On the other hand, if it’s too small you made need a more drastic solution.

Project – Take One and a Half

If your project is basically complete and you realize it’s too small, don’t worry! You may not have to redo the entire thing. Even if you’re not a tailor, it’s possible to alter your project to the larger size you intended. Best of all – you may not even need to buy more fabric to do it!


Figure out how much fabric your need to add to make the project fit and in which areas. For me, it’s usually the sides and/or bust area need an extra ½ inch or so (I blame patterns meant for smaller breasted women!).

No one, besides you, will ever know that it’s not exactly how it was planned to be.

Snip, Snip

Since you’re going to add more fabric, there’s no need to carefully rip out the seams. Instead, take your fabric scissors and carefully cut along the seams you need to alter, say the sides for example.

Add it up

Grab your left over fabric – the stuff that was destined to your stash pile. Making sure that it follows that pattern in your existing project, cut enough to add what you need to make your project fit, plus seam allowance on both sides.

Pinning and Sewing – Take Two

Pin the newly cut fabric additions to your project, right sides together and following the existing curves. If possible, try it on while it’s inside out to be sure it will fit better this time. Head over to your trusty sewing machine one more time and sew in the additional pieces. Viola! You’ve saved a project from the trash. No one, besides you, will ever know that it’s not exactly how it was planned to be. And what they don’t know, you don’t have to tell them, so wear it with pride.

I Didn’t Think It Would Look Like This

I Didn’t Think It Would Look Like This

Oops!We’ve all been there. You spend hours, days even, working on a sewing project. In your mind, you’ve got this image in your head of the gorgeous completed project, but when it’s finally done it doesn’t look anything like you thought it would. You thought it would be a simple one, so you didn’t bother with a muslin mock up, but it’s not at all what you expected or wanted. So now what?


If you’re like me, you spend a fair amount of time grumbling and cursing about the “messed up” project or worrying about what you’re going to wear to the event instead. This is helpful short-term. It lets off the stress and and can be cathartic, but it doesn’t really solve anything.


Once you’ve finished grumbling and worrying, try the piece on again. Take a careful look at the seams. Can you alter them to change the fit so it’ll more closely match your vision? Maybe adding some darts or a tuck at the waist would help?


Often the picture on the front of the pattern package shows people wearing shoes or jewelry. Can you add your own accessories or shoes to make the item more closely match your imagined outcome? Maybe a shawl or scarf would help?

Change it Up

Sometimes, when choosing a fabric, you might choose one that turns out not to flow the expected when it’s all sewn up. In these cases, rather than remaking the entire project, add sections of another fabric in areas that will help the flow. It’s nerve wracking to cut apart a completed project, but since you’re not going to wear it the way it is anyway you don’t have much to lose.

Embellish It

Try adding a little pizazz to change the look of your sewing project. Patches, lace work, embroidery, beading, or other fancy details can completely alter the look of your project and provide it with a touch of class or color that may help it more closely match the vision in your head.

Combine It

Depending on how different your vision is from the completed project, combining two or more of these techniques may be necessary. In most cases, though, it’s possible to save the project and make it work for you – sometimes in ways you didn’t expect.

What other techniques have you tried to make your project work?

Let's Make Some Goals!

Let’s Make Some Goals!

Once upon a time, I attempted the 101 goals in 1001 days challenge. Ever heard of it? Basically, you come up with 101 goals (at least, that’s the goal—you can decide whether or not that pun was intended!) and you give yourself 1001 days to finish up said goals. It’s a fairly simple idea, and I was intrigued enough to come up with that many things and start on working toward success for the list.

I think I finished writing the list. But I did not finish accomplishing the goals on that list.

I later tried again. Some of the goals might’ve been new. Some might’ve been on the earlier list. Still, I made a list (I think it was full!) and started over.

Again, I didn’t finish with that whole accomplishing-thing.

Even though I might loooove making lists (Nerd? Probably!), I don’t think I’ll ever make a 101-in-1001 list and see the process through. Why? A couple of things are worth mentioning for reasons.

One is that I don’t know what I’ll want to do in over two years. I might know big things, maybe even *some* small things, but to commit myself to 101 things that’ll fit my plans approximately 2.74 years from now? Doubts are reasonable!

Congratulations graduate!

Congratulations graduate!

Also, while going through the process earlier, I found that my goals changed, and my beginning list didn’t really fit at a certain point. Possible example: I think I was working on my MA in Ancient & Classical History for the beginning of one list, maybe both. I never got that degree, but I did end up getting a fancy MA in English and Creative Writing. The school I graduated from even sent me this little guy for social media potential. Lucky me!

The point? I accomplished something, but not what I named if I specified what I wanted an advanced degree in. Things change, and my lists might not have kept up with those things.

And even if the changing goals wasn’t an issue, who actually has 101 things they want to do at any given moment? I might have to make a few things up or stretch my imagination to come up with that many goals—which could heighten the chance that I won’t want to continue with said goals. A scrambled-after goal isn’t necessarily the strongest one. I mean, if I didn’t *seriously* want to do something in the first place and had to think waaaaay outside of the box to come up with it, why make an extended effort to accomplish it? Am I right?

I bring this up because, while I don’t feel like I’m overly good at committing tiny goals to myself for the so-distant future, I do still have goals. Beyond that detail, I also like the idea of giving myself a cut-off for those goals. And, as I said, I like making lists like this!

So… I’m going to do another one! This time though, instead of having such an extended time period of a 101-list of potentially made-up goals, I’m going to focus on something more foreseeable and sizable. The smaller the time span, the less time there is for goals to change. The smaller the number or goals, the higher priority they have to be before they make the list (and the smaller the chance that I made them up as fillers!). Combined, the scenario could make my list more doable and successful. Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully? 🙂

An early step of this process is clearly to come up with that list. And no, I don’t have a finished list to hand to you. Instead, I’m announcing that this will be a concept that will likely pop up on blog posts in the future. This list and these goals won’t be the focus of all future posts, but they might show up as casual “Hey! New Goal!” mentions. If you see one of those at some point, reading this post will have given you a warning about what’s going on!

In early 2017, I plan to have a specific, finished list of quilting/sewing goals to tend to during the year. One year at a time, maybe a dozen goals at a time, seems more like a potential recipe for success than scrambling for something to list and pretending what I want will stay what I want for a long time. I can focus on what I do want to do, and take it in small enough batches that could lessen the likelihood that my interests will do a one-eighty!

But I do have a goal or six to start off with, so my list has already begun! Want to read the goals so far? Here you go!

  • Make a rag quilt – Why do I adore these things soooo much? I’ve never even owned one that I specifically remember, but I’m so interested in making my own. I’m thinking of a conversation-heart design for sentimental reasons, but I guess I can work out the ends and outs of specifics at a later time!

    Behold! The Christmas purse I bought. Isn't it fun?

    Behold! The Christmas purse I bought. Isn’t it fun?

  • Make a Halloween purse – It can be a pretty big holiday person (I already have a Christmas purse I bought!), and I’d love something that I made myself to carry around during the month of October. I don’t know that I’ve ever made any kind of purse, so the whole experience could be new—maybe challenging. Even if I make one this year, I could make a more challenging one next year.
  • Make quilts or blankets for all who know me as an aunt – This goal in itself could be handful, but I think it might be worth the effort. They’re pretty awesome kids, after all!
  • Make a patchwork piece of clothing – Like with the rag quilt, it might be hard to tell why this idea intrigues me like it does. I do like patchwork things though, so why not make a patchwork design I can wear to the store for people to see? Easier to show off that way! 🙂
  • Go through all of the free Craftsy classes for quilts and sewing – I’ve already improved my technique because of the video I watched, so browsing the rest of them might be a good idea. Who knows how much I could learn from them, or how much better my sewing/quilting could become because of them? Let’s find out!A pre-assembled sewing kit and a Muppet tote with fabric in it.
  • Improve my sewing tools collection and organization – Not saying this is all I have in the way of tools and organization, but this is a pretty decent percentage: A pre-assembled sewing kit and a Muppet tote with fabric in it. Even when added to the other things I have, I could use an upgrade! Why not tend to that next year, too!

Six goals to start off, and months left to build! Hopefully, the months leading up to 2017 can help me gain ideas through projects and posts.

Any ideas from you guys? If so, post a comment!