A Pirate’s Quilt for Me – Part 2

Welcome back to my adventures in quilting. As you may recall in a previous installment I decided I was bored by all the other crafts I have in flight (please read – I hate finishing projects) and decided that I was going to learn to quilt. My cousin, CraftingChrissy, and I had taken a trip to the craft store, I found a book that looked promising and I jumped into the deep end without any floaties to keep me above water. Ok, it wasn’t quite as disasterous as all that. Since I have a wonderful mother who taught me very valuable sewing skills about 20 years ago (wow, I feel old now…) I did have a solid foundation to work off of. This fondation was helpful but also proved to create some bad assumptions I will need to unlearn. Keep reading for details on that.

I did encounter a few issues with my first two squares. The book was good at providing guidance on cutting the pieces and at providing technical instructions for how to put together the squares. It did not, however, give many tips for first time quilters like me. My biggest problem was that my squares were coming out much smaller than the expected 12×12 and my border pieces were left with extra material hanging over the edge.

In this installment of my adventure I decided to try again, tackling the challenge of how to keep my square from shrinking. I scoured the internet for tips and last night I tried again. This time I picked a square with fewer pieces. Less seams means fewer opportunities to make my seams too large. Here are the two tips I utilized for this square that did indeed yield better, though not perfect, results.

1) Measure the presser foot. What do I mean? In quilting, seams are sewn at 1/4″ as opposed to the standard 5/8″ used for most sewing projects. During my first round I worked under the assumption that my presser foot was 1/4″ and by following the edge of the foot I would create my 1/4″ seam. I picked up 1/4″ masking tape which you can find at your local craft store with the quilting supplies and I placed it on my sewing machine so one side was flush to the needle. Surprise, surprise…my presser foot is larger than 1/4″ which was certainly contributing to my final product coming out so small. I marked the location of 1/4″ on my machine and followed that line for this square. I will be looking through my other feet this weekend to see if I have one that sits at the right width to make it easier to follow for round 3.

2) Press seams to the side, not flat. Seasoned quilters out there may role their eyes and say “Of course!” but this was a big one for me. Traditionally in sewing you iron the seams open but since 1/4″ is very small quilters should iron th seams flat to one side. When joining two seams together, as you would when attaching two rows, you can iron the seams in opposite directions to reduce the bulk at the seam. This handy tip helped me to line the seams up and create clean corners at each of the joins.

Here is my final product from round #2. You can see that I had a cutting issue in the top left corner that I didn’t discover until the very end. The next round may also need to include some research into how to cut more accurately. My square came out almost exactly at 12 1/2″ on one edge and 12 1/4″ at the edge with the cutting issue. This will leave me a 1/4″ seam on all sides for joining into the larger blanket. Much better than last time!


While I am more convinced I could muddle through this on my own than I was the first time around I have decided to reach out to the experts. I am enrolled in a “Quilting 101” class in two weeks where I hope to pick up even more tips that will help me iron out some of the wrinkles with my techniques. Stay tuned for the third installment of my adventures in quilting to see what other tricks I uncover as I learn to quilt.


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