When the Plan Doesn’t Pan Out

Planning it out

Planning it out

I recently embarked on my most challenging quilt yet, a quilt that once the pattern was opened and digested, completely overwhelmed and perplexed me.  If I would have had access to these instructions, I would never have purchased — and (spoiler alert) succeeded — in making the aforementioned quilt.  Once I opened the pattern and recognized the sheer scale of the effort ahead me, I knew that I had to be proactive with my planning in order to avoid utter chaos.

Color pencils are good stuff!

Color pencils are good stuff!

Organization began immediately.  After copious hours of cutting 1-inch pieces into even smaller 1-inch pieces, I used envelopes from our recycling to stash each pile of strips.  Because so many pieces were so similar in size, it was important that I label each so as to avoid confusion when putting the strips together.  Another tool that I utilized throughout the whole process was my larger cutting mat. Instead of moving it aside after cutting, I left it on the table, a seemingly simple strategy that made a big difference in ensuring that all of my pieces were exactly the size I needed.  Also, this quilt required a great deal of space for something comprised entirely out of 1-ince pieces that will become a wall hanging.  Part of my organizational strategy was to utilize a space that didn’t feel cramped.  Our kitchen table has been a work station since the last major national 3-day holiday weekend with envelopes, pattern pieces and strips taking up nearly every last spot.

After all of the cutting, came the organization of the pattern.  Looking at it, I knew that colored pencils would be my best friend is deciphering the pattern.  Like the pieces that make up this quilt, the pattern was tiny. Even with all of my color coded instructions, mistakes were still made as I it was difficult to determine what on the pattern (which was coded in different patterns for different colors) was what.

Keeping the strips straight

Keeping the strips straight

Once the pieces were assembled into pairs of strips, I simply labeled them with masking tape to keep track of each.  My masking tape trick was great as I could see the pattern unfold in front of me.  I could also see many of my piecing mistakes and fix them prior to sewing the top together.

The reason this post is titled “When the Plan Doesn’t Pan Out” is because despite all of the aforementioned planning, I still spent an inordinate amount of time ripping out and fixing erroneous fabric pieces.  Some days it felt like I was doing more correcting of mistakes than actual sewing.  There were still challenges despite having been so proactive.  And that’s okay.  This whole quilt was a bundle of many lessons, both in quilting and in life.  No matter how organized you are, crap still happens.  The most simple things around the house (think chalk, rubber bands and tape) can be extremely helpful tools.  Perseverance is key to getting things done even when you feel overwhelmed.

The quilt top is done and I will begin the next process of hand quilting.  I’m sure that even then, I will face a few more bumps on the road to completion.  What I continue to learn through quilting, which resonates in life too, is that things always happen no matter how much you prepare otherwise and rarely are we unable to correct our mistakes.