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.  :)


  1. I joke about not being good at math all the time! With pattern writing you want to make sure there is extra trimming room, but that does seem excessive! The flamingo fabric is going to make the most fun napkins...festive! I use cloth napkins all the time, but have never made a set to use. I make placemats for myself and really should have matching would think!

  2. We use paper napkins, I know I know, but at least they disintegrate in the landfill. That's a shame on the pattern directions and having so much waste. Since I am not a fan of cutting fabric I would have been convinced the mistake was with me. Have you noticed the amount of cashiers who cannot count change back? A few weeks ago DH ran to our favorite fish stand to pick up dinner. The total was $16 and some change, he handed the cashier a $50 bill. She stood looking at it for a moment and had to go get a calculator. If incorrect cutting and sewing directions aren't cause for alarm your checkbook should. I think the real problem lies within our schools. Growing up we weren't allowed to use a calculator for math and had to show our work. Today a scientific calc is a requirement. Rant over. Thank you for linking up with Put your foot down. Good luck on the secret project.

  3. Ah yes Consumer Math.... What happened to that class? As for cloth napkins, I have made some really cute ones for wedding shower gifts. I made a few for the kids to take in their lunch boxes but haven't yet made any for our own table. It is on my list though!