Sunday, December 21, 2014

Re-sewing and Ripping vs. Ripping and Re-sewing

I think I must have jinxed myself by writing a post about making mistakes last week. Monday morning, I got several messages from people suggesting that my blocks for Clue #3 of the Grand Illusion Mystery might be wrong. And they were right, the blocks WERE wrong! I really appreciated those who let me know of my mistake, especially so early in the week. At first I thought I might just leave the blocks as they were until seeing how critical their orientation might be in the finished quilt. But, perfectionist that I am, I really just needed to fix that mistake! Here's the first block I took apart to help me see what I had done wrong and how I would fix it.

Here's the same block, lined up correctly. You'll notice that what was wrong was that the 2 strips of squares were lined up opposite of what they should have been.

Now we all know how discouraging it is to have to stop and rip something apart and and then re-sew it. We've all been there and none of us like to do it. Even Laura hates it when she has to "un-sew!" But 120 blocks?? That's downright depressing!

First of all, ripping out all those seams, laying out all the blocks a second time and much more carefully, sewing the blocks back together (while constantly checking to be sure they're still correct) and then pressing them all--that's a very time-consuming process. I thought there had to be at least a slightly easier way, and there was!

You'll notice that if you put TWO wrong blocks together, you end up with ONE correct block in the middle. When I noticed that, it occurred to me that maybe I could sew my blocks together correctly FIRST, and THEN rip out the wrong seams.

When I had originally sewn my blocks, I made 12 sets of 10 matching blocks. So what I did first was sew each set of 10 incorrect blocks into a "row" of blocks, just as if I was putting them in a quilt.

After all the "rows" were sewn together, I un-sewed the last half-block on each strip...

...and moved it to the front. You'll notice that I now have a row of correctly sewn blocks!

Another advantage of this process is that it was very quick and easy to press each strip so that all the seams were pressed correctly. At this point, I literally had all my blocks sewn together and the next challenge was the ripping!

Somehow, a regular seam ripper seemed to be too slow to quickly tackle 120 seams. I wanted something sharper that would slice those threads a ROTARY CUTTER! I had read once where someone mentioned using a rotary cutter to rip seams and this seemed like the perfect situation for it.

I wish I had a picture to show how I did the ripping, but I had too many other things in my hands to be able to hold a camera! But what I did, was take each strip of blocks and secure the far end between my knees. Then I held the opposite end, pulling just a slight amount of tension so that the threads would pull apart as they were cut. I also used a smaller rotary cutter (maybe 28 mm?) and used it very, VERY carefully to just barely touch the threads holding the blocks together. I was amazed at how well and how fast it worked! In fact, there were times that the stitches came apart almost like unzipping a zipper. And the wonderful thing was there was NO mishap!

There were all those pesky little thread pieces and I tried using a lint roller to remove them, but it just wasn't effective. So for the time being, I left them. Three hours after starting, I had all 120 blocks, sewn CORRECTLY, pressed and ready for their place in the Mystery!

So what was Laura doing while I was frantically distracted, trying to fix my blocks? She wanted to sew (I was sewing after all), but I didn't have a project ready for her.

Laura has a few totes of fabric pieces--one of fat quarters, one of strips and other various cut pieces and one of orphan blocks. One of her favorite quilty tasks is sewing strips together, so I suggested she pull out pairs of strips and sew them together while I worked on my problem. The next morning I realized she'd sewn together at least a Jelly Roll's worth of strips!

What in the world was I going to have her do with all those pairs of strips?? We've done various quilt patterns using strips, but I didn't want to repeat one of those. I wanted something different. So I looked on Bonnie Hunter's blog and found a pattern called Dancing Nines. It uses a scrappy 9-patch with borders on 2 sides of each block. That seemed like a good one for us, so I had Laura add a 3rd strip to each of her pairs.

The next morning while she was still asleep, I cut all those sets of strips into 2.5-inch sets of 3 blocks. And knowing my daughter well, I hid a third of them because she would have sewn them ALL together into pairs. And that doesn't work very well if you're making 9-patches! She was so excited to find all those patches sitting and waiting for her to sew them together!

In fact, she insisted on having a t.v. tray table set up next to her sewing machine because I have one next to my machine. I use it to hold my leaders/enders project and I guess to her this was the same!

Laura finished her 9-patches Saturday morning while I was working on Clue #4 of Bonnie's Grand Illusion Mystery. She wanted them trimmed (I usually trim her blocks before she goes on to the next step) but I was too  busy working on my own project.

So instead, she just pulled the string of blocks away from my machine as I was sewing. She thought it was great fun...for a little while.

Then she began pulling out parts and pieces of her various projects and trying to persuade me to help her with them. She's not allowed to use a rotary cutter, but she had laid it and a ruler here with some strips to try to get me to cut them for her!

Instead, I found a bag of Dresden plate spokes or blades (Laura LOVES Dresdens!) and just let her randomly sew them together. She was thrilled!

She even hand-stitched them onto a background. Her stitches look terrible, but she doesn't care, so neither do I!

While all this was going on, I still managed to work on my blocks for Clue #4. (Linky party at Bonnie's blog is here but won't be active until Monday morning.) There are 80 blocks, but done in 2 different settings. Believe me, I checked, double-checked, triple-checked and more to make sure these were correct!

There's been a lot more going on around here, mostly Christmas-related, so I won't reveal anything, just in case any of my kids see this blog. But once Christmas is over, I'll show all the little projects Laura and I have been working on and will be working on, since we always have to...Get More Done!

Oh and since this will be my last post before Christmas, I want to wish everyone who reads this a very wonderful and joyous Christmas and holiday season!


  1. What a great solution to your ripping problem and keeping your colour choices intact. Very impressed with your resolve on this one and getting part 4 done as well. Your blocks are looking great. Love Laura's work too.

    1. Thanks, Jeanette! I was so relieved to just have it fixed! And it was especially nice that by the time I was done ripping, the blocks were all finished!

  2. So sorry to hear that you had to re-sew all of the step 3 blocks! How frustrating! I can totally relate to how much of a relief it is to have them fixed, though! Looks like Laura was having great fun sewing along with you and her Dresden plate turned out beautiful.

    1. Ha ha! Laura's Dresden plate looks great in a photo, but it's quite interesting to see her hand-stitching up close!

  3. I love the fact that your words still sound cheerful even if you had to unsew your units...
    ...and to see the bright eyes and the wonderful smile of your daughter when she showed her progress... just lovely!

    Can't wait to see what your finished quilt will look like.

    Greetings all the way from Germany!


  4. WOW - What a challenge! I am still working clue 2; but did take time last Friday to look at Clue 3 & 4; and pull some more neutrals out of my "bricks" and "Strips" boxes. Looking for more variety than I had, and I think I found it. Meanwhile; clue two is pinned into double diamonds and ready to sew today; once I get some housecleaning finished (started......). When I progress, I will be VERY VERY CAREFUL about placement, because I think I would have just trashed the whole pile or sewn it into a baby quilt and started over!!!!

    1. You know, when I first realized that I had sewn all 120 blocks wrongly, I debated tossing them aside and starting over. And of course, as I mentioned, I thought about just leaving them as is and seeing what Bonnie does with them and how much it would matter if they were wrong. But when I came up with this solution, I was just energized and went to work until they were fixed. And I'm so glad I did!

  5. Clever Girl! I got cozy with Mr. Ripper too....menopausal brain..but I finished. your units are Beautiful..

    1. They say that the only things that are sure are death and taxes, but I think ripping occasionally would be right up there too!

  6. Great sewing companion and stitching!

  7. you smarty pants! great solution!!!!! I had to laugh though, I have a lot of the same greens you have! I haven't done a mystery of bonnie's before. I am really enjoying this process. I have all of #1 done, parts of 2 and 3 done and a little of 4 done. I have been so busy I get up early and sew for about an hour until I need to be doing Christmas stuff. Merry Christmas! love your blog

  8. Great way to work through the mistake! I am still working on step one! Love Laura's strips and 9 patches, and her Dresden is fabulous!

  9. Visiting here from the Yahoo Quiltville group. Terrific post. I had a thought when I saw all the blocks sewn together: what if that is how they will appear in the mystery? All that ripping and then you'd have to sew them all together again. Love Laura's scrappy 9's. That is going to be one cute quilt.

  10. So glad you found a good way to re-sew and rip those blocks. And Laura looks like she had a great time, too! She has chosen some very pretty fabrics for her 9-patch blocks. Happy Christmas to you both, and to your whole family!