Thoughts on Math and Other Things

I am working on a secret project.  I cut all the fabric as directed, started sewing, got to the trimming part, and thought, "What on earth?  What did I do wrong?"  We make an assumption or trust that the instructions are correct when we use a pattern and sometimes, unfortunately, that trust is misplaced. I didn't do anything wrong other than blindly follow directions. The cutting directions in the pattern were way off on the initial sizes to cut and sew.  

The pattern picture seems to indicate that I'd just be trimming a small margin off to end up at 1-1/2" squares. I cut around 1/2" off each HST.  This is why math matters.  There was so much waste.  I'm all for making HST slightly oversized to trim and get super-accurate.  I am not for making them so large that you could have made several more blocks just from the trimmings.  

It brought to mind an interview with John Urschel, a former pro football player who is pursuing his PhD at MIT, that I read this past spring in TIME magazine.  I will freely admit that I hadn't heard of John Urschel before reading this article.  I don't follow football.  I am, however, a fan of math and reading and smart people, and this piece caught my attention.  I've been thinking about something Urschel said in the article ever since I read it. 

“Some people will sort of joke about, ‘Oh, I was never good at math.’ But people don’t joke about being illiterate. Being mathematically illiterate is quite a dangerous thing.” 

This statement really got me thinking.  And while being a bit off on some quilt math isn't a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, being math illiterate is a big deal in one's life.  As a society we need to do better at educating kids in math, not just the facts, but the thought processes and understanding, and the practical uses of math.  It's not just Algebra and computation.  It's how we relate to the world, how things work, and being able to make good decisions based on facts.

Along this same vein, we also need to do better at information literacy.  So many people blindly believe everything they read/hear from their chosen network.  People need to learn to think critically and evaluate the motivations behind why someone may present the information they do.  Are they trying to sell something?  Why would they say this?  What do they get out of it?  How do we know what information to trust and what makes some information more valuable than others?  It all fits together, math and information literacy and critical thinking.

So, anyway, let's get back to sewing.  I'm most of the way done with the piecing on my son's NASA quilt.  I had to get his approval on the direction of the last set of borders.  This top is a kit from Riley Blake.  We swapped some of the fabrics since we'd previously bought some yardage of other prints in the line.
I am trying something new with piecing the backing using a panel as well.  The fabrics all shrunk when I washed them, so I think my calculations are going to be a bit off.  I think I'll still have enough yardage to make the back work.  You can see that I'll need to trim a good inch off the panel to make my side yardages work.  It'll be close, but fingers crossed it'll be enough.  It'll be fun to see how centered the backing ends up too.  It's hard to predict backing placement with the long arm.
I need to finish off my mystery sewing project since that has a deadline.  
I'm also planning to make some napkins. We had company recently and I didn't have more than four of any napkin except Valentine's Day, which wasn't appropriate for August.  So I'm going to use this dinosaur fabric to make eight napkins so that we have enough for most situations where we'd have guests. 
My friend gave me this Christmas flamingo fabric, so I'm going to make some fun napkins with it too.
Do you use cloth napkins?  What things do you make to reuse in your house?

Linking with For the love of geese and My Quilt Infatuation.

P.S.--I have a hold on John Urschel's book at the library.  I'll let you know how it is.  :)

Funny Things #46

I keep driving by this and it cracks me up every time.  It used to face the road, but now it looks right in the window.

On My Table

I've been pretty busy this past week.  While I haven't made much progress on the technical side of things, I have actually done some quilting and sewing.  And it feels good.

I made a Kristine ID wallet (pattern by Uniquely Michelle) for my daughter.  She chose the fabrics.  
I was happy to have this coordinating zipper laying around.  I didn't even
feel bad when I threw away most of it after cutting it down to the right size.
I didn't do so well with fabric placement here!  LOL
I made one of these for myself a few years ago.  Read all about it here!

I quilted another charity quilt for my guild.  The fabrics in the quilt are by Sweetwater for Moda.  I chose to use the Starry pantograph to quilt it.  And I have happily passed it off to another guild member for binding.
I'm working on a secret project.  Here's a weird, grainy sneak peek.
I'm also hoping to get to my son's NASA quilt this week.
I've mentioned in passing that I'm working on taking photos of my quilts.  I'm still struggling to find the perfect lighting and styling.  I thought it would help if I had a quilt ladder.  I beseeched my husband to make one over the weekend.  I chose mahogany because Menards does not stock walnut.  Here are a few photos of it.  
Determining layout.

I really was hoping to do a finished quilt picture of this quilt for this week. And wouldn't you know it, we've had overcast, rainy weather the last few days.  Not complaining though, because we desperately need the rain.  So, here's another little shot of it.
The coolapeno/jalapeño plant is still going strong in the garden.
We have started our sixth, and I think final, FLL season.  My kids are also taking an eight-week Intro to Fencing course.  Add in SAT prep, trig/pre-calc, just general schoolwork and activity stuff, etc., it's been busy.  I must comment here that although I have a degree in Mathematics and I used to teach math before children, I can't remember how to do most things past Algebra without looking them up.  😞  Oh, I'm also learning EQ8 and made a very basic quilt layout with imported fabrics yesterday.  Feeling accomplished!

I am accepting bookings for quilting right now.  Turn around is under two weeks.  Book services and sign up for my monthly newsletter at

Linking with For the love of geese.

How to Use a Paper Pantograph

I thought I'd try something new--I made a video during the process of quilting the guild donation quilt I worked on last week.  I thought people might wonder how you would use a paper pantograph when quilting, so I made lots of small videos with my cell phone as I went along.  This is my first time talking in a video, my first time using iMovie (had to get my tweenage son to help me), my first time trying to join multiple videos into one, just lots of firsts.

The movie ended up much longer than I expected; it's 13-1/2 minutes!  I removed as much unnecessary content as I could to try to shorten it.  Also, there are times when I forgot to aim the camera where I was looking or it didn't quite focus where I was aiming.   The transitions between the scenes are nonexistent. Hopefully the content is useful despite my inexperience.  And YouTube has chosen an odd frame to use as the preview here!
If you watched, what did you think? Could you understand what to do?  Please be gentle!

As a side note, since adding the computer to my long arm, I hadn't quilted anything from the back until now. Tracing the panto by hand made me so thankful for the computer.  Not that there's anything wrong with doing it by hand, I did that for almost four years.  

I've been busy working on the technical end of launching the quilting business, so I have not sewn at all since I did the guild quilt a week ago.  I've ordered business cards, am working on taking photos, and am still tweaking the website. I've ordered some new batting that I'm excited about.  I'm doing other business-y things too.  ha ha

If you'd like to see the website in progress, click here.  All of the information is there and services can be booked, but I haven't added photos yet.  Since you're reading here, you probably have already seen my photos anyway.  😏  Anyway, there is also a newsletter sign up there with a special code. I'm planning to do a once-a-month newsletter, so it won't clog up your inbox.

My quilt guild is selling raffle tickets to win the library quilt. Much to my surprise, I've actually managed to sell a few tickets long distance via Facebook.  Thanks to my cousin and high school friend who bought some.  😊

Totally switching gears again, the summer garden is basically done.  We still have the cucumber and jalapeño plants.  The cucumber is slowing down but the jalapeño is going strong. We harvested the first batch of potatoes and beets.  Last year we harvested the beets and ate them boiled, because that is how my mom likes them and it was her birthday.  This year we tried roasting them, but I thought they tasted essentially the same as they did boiled--earthy and beet flavors.  At least they look pretty in the bowl. We have a few more to harvest and I think I may try making chips out of them unless someone can point me to an outstanding recipe.  At least the potatoes are good--we didn't get much yield from the first bag, but they taste really good.  And they didn't have scab like last year, so bonus.

And finally, a sneak peek of a project a long time in the making.

Have a great week!

How to Make an H Seam Quilt Backing

I worked on a guild quilt over the weekend.  When I laid out the backing fabric over the top, I realized that it was going to be really close on the length if I only used two widths.  Using a third length would be really excessive though.  I was only short a few inches.  

Sometimes when I am faced with this situation I piece an extra strip for the backing.  For example,  I have used extra blocks, a checkerboard of squares of leftover fabrics from the top, or pieced heart squares for the back.  In the best case scenario, you will have accounted for this and have enough extra backing to make a frame of sorts around the pieced area.  

You may wonder why I'm saying you want a frame.  Well, it's really hard to get a pieced backing perfectly centered on the quilting frame and since it's fabric there is a chance it will stretch slightly or it may shift a bit during the quilting process.  Plus, if the piecing goes to the edge, part of it will get trimmed off because the backing needs to be bigger than the top.

In this case, I did not have any of the top fabrics, but I did have loads of backing fabric.  So I made what I call an H seam.  That way, I get the little extra length I need, but I don't need to use quite so much fabric.  

Here's how you do it.

1.  Cut two pieces of fabric to be six to eight inches wider than the width of your top.  For example, if your top is 60" wide, cut two pieces that are 66" (one yard, 30").
Blue represents quilt top.

2.  Remove selvedges only for the parts that will be in the seams.
3.  Cut one piece of fabric that is half of your measurement plus 3".  This 3" measurement gives a little bit of wiggle room.  Using our sample measurements above, cut a piece that is 36" long (one yard). {66/2 = 33" +3" = 36"}
4.  Cut this short piece in half along the fold.
Cut along center fold, as designated by blue dotted line above.

5.  Sew the short edges together using a 1/2" seam allowance.

6.  Press the seam open.

7.  Trim off the selvedges and square up the piece if necessary.

8.  You should now have three pieces of fabric:  two that are the width of your quilt by 44" and one that is 22" by the width of the quilt. (Note: dimensions may vary since most quilting fabrics no longer measure 44" wide.)

9.  Find the center of the long edge of each of the long panels and mark with a pin.  

10.  Matching centers, sew the long seams using a 1/2" seam allowance.  Press these seams open.

11. Trim the sides to be square as needed.

12.  Your backing should now look like this--pictured with right side down, seams up.

My drawing is not quite to scale, but I think it illustrates the process pretty well.  I feel that the H seam not only saves fabric, but it is a big enough piece that it doesn't alter the integrity of the back.  It would look odd if I inserted a strip that was only a few inches wide.  I don't feel that the seam is very intrusive in the look of the backing in most cases. I added approximately 18" to the backing on this particular quilt.  If you truly only needed a small amount, I'd say you could trim it down to around 9", but I probably wouldn't go smaller.  I really feel that the 18" or so on this looks better.

And here is the quilt after I got done quilting it.  

The backing seams are not very easy to see, right?  
The quilt top pattern is from the book Winter Wonderland by Sherri Falls.  The quilt was made by members of my quilt guild. I used Loophole for the quilting pattern. The backing is Moda Grunge with stars on it.

I hope you find this method helpful.