Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sew Imperfect

When we put up our Christmas tree this weekend, some sap dripped onto my new tree skirt.  I washed it and machine dried it... only to have the skirt slightly damaged by some bleeding fabric and weak seams. 

Christmas time is hear!

I LOVE reading blogs.  The community, the friendships, inspiration and encouragement - it's truly precious to me.  But, do you ever get the feeling that you're the only one who makes mistakes?  I do.  It's easy to see how it happens.  We all like to photograph our work in the best light, from the most flattering angles, at the spot where the quilting looks the best... Ok, or is it just me?  I mean, I can believe that there are practically perfect sewists out there.  In fact, I can make a mental list.  But then, really, even they make mistakes, right?

Well, I'm not perfect.  Far from it (and obviously I'm just talking sewing here, I'm not going for an epistle).  I can tell you that I need a whole lot more practice at the sewing machine and with my needle.  But this week I've had a few too many confrontations with my shortcomings. 

Fabric Bleed

Fabric bleed.  Apparently I forgot to prewash the backing corduroy for my Spiderweb Christmas Tree Skirt.  This is the worst spot.  I don't really feel that it's noticeable since very few of us get up close and personal with the underside of a Christmas tree.  Course, it is on the front.

Pucker

Pucker.  In the same wash as the tree skirt was my Hide & Seek Spectrum Baby Quilt.  It just needed it's final washing.  Fortunately, it didn't get any red splotches.  It came out of the dryer all crinkly, as quilts will (even though I prewash and machine dry all parts of my quilts).  The process amplified a pucker that was created while quilting. Next time I will definitely use more pins.

Week Seams

Weak Seams.  This is the most disturbing.  I had to wash Aria's Fairytale Patchwork Quilt recently for the 3rd or so time.  One of the children found a hole in the quilt top along the seam soon thereafter.  When I went to repair it, I noticed that several (and one was too many) of the seams were coming open.  Only the Far Far Away gauze and Little Folks voile were effected.  The sturdier quilting cotton seams showed no wear.  It's not as if the stitches actually came undone.  Instead the fabric frayed away.  What did I do wrong?  I wonder if a 1/4" seam allowance was not generous enough or if the fact that I only sparingly hand-quilted it just didn't give it enough strength to withstand normal pulling.  Ugh.  So, my solution was to zigzag quilt around most of the gauze and voile squares to close up opening seams and reinforce the others.  I'll confess, that was not a happy sewing morning.

Alright, so there you go.  I kinda feel like a failure.  They are little failures and it's embarrassing to put them out here, but it's real.  Now, I'll work on putting these things behind me and honing my skills.  I really, really, REALLY want to be a precise sewist.  So, hey, here's to improvement!

45 comments:

  1. Really, those are just minor issues and at least one of those occur in each of my quilts. Okay, not the bleeding part because I prewash everything (after dying all my white shirts pink because I forgot a red sock in there...). You know that linen is quite hard to sew with so naturally it puckers when it gets a chance :)
    Just don't feel bad about little things like those, they only show that your quilts are made by hand and have a small personality on their own :)

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  2. you're doing just great. and thanks for showing your imperfections -- it makes me feel better and we can learn from each other. I made a spider web quilt without cutting away the foundations -- that meant 16 layers at the intersections. not good. and fabric has frayed away from me too. I've been wondering about the voile and gauze and now I wonder even more why it is sold as quilting fabric when it is so lightweight. thanks for sharing!

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  3. I always throw a shout dye catching sheet in the wash the first time I wash a quilt. They work great!
    As for pucker, unless the reciient of the quilt is a master quilted they'll never notice! That crinkly post wash look hides a lot of flaws!

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  4. Thank you, thank you. I really hate that you had such a disappointing experience, but it sure is nice to see that everything is not always sewing perfection. I'm pretty new to quilting and I drop by here and several other blogs each time they are updated and it sets the bar really high when all you see are perfect endings without any issues. I am so glad you shared, it makes me feel much better about my own disasters, being in such good company = )

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  5. I saw your pictures on flickr, and had to stop over. We all have those days, but they are not fun when you are having them! FFA1 is hard to sew with--its the weave, I think. My "practice" quilt (the first time I tried stippling) was an awesome AH 2DZoo print. And it bled. I wanted to cry, and I hadn't even pieced the top! Hopefully it looks up from here :)

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  6. Carbona makes a great dye grabbing cloth that goes in the wash with your fabrics. I use a couple in every load.

    I haven't used any of my voiles in quilts yet because I was worried about the fabric not holding up. I think even if you do a lot of quilting there still might be an issue. I am considering using a fusible stabilizer on my voile. when I am ready to quilt with them like you would use if you're making a t-shirt quilt to avoid stretching. I think adding the backing on the fabric will really help strengthen them.

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  7. Personally, I find it relieving to know I'm not the only one with these problems. I'm getting better at precision, but I'm still a LONG way from being totally precise.

    I never prewash my fabrics. Ever. I've never had a problem but then I don't use a lot of red which seems to be the biggest culprit. I've also heard that those Shout color catcher sheets are awesome. I was also going to suggest an interfacing or stabilizer for the lighter weight fabrics, but as usual I'm late out the gate. :) Oh well.

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  8. Quite frankly, I'm tired of perfection and I'm typically a perfectionist! There are so many blogs out there with everything in them making us want to do everything and wanting to be perfect at it. What an unrealistic expectation. We cook, clean, mother, create and we expect ourselves to be perfect at it all and beat ourselves up about it when we aren't. Trust me, I'm a big offender. I'm trying to be better and not set my own bar too high. I was quilting the other day and when I kept getting puckers on the back, I just let it go. It is the biggest quilt I've done, and it's for us, so I let IT GO! Bravo for posting this. Here's to hoping more bloggers do so as well!

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  9. Thanks for your encouragement! I have to say that I won't buy more voiles unless it's for something like clothing or a quilt back. I don't really enjoy patchwork sewing with them. I don't want to spend the money on chemical color catchers, which is why I'm supposed to be prewashing...

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  10. Rachel, I applaud your authenticity!! I had to stop reading quilt blogs about a month ago b/c all of the "perfect" out there was just draining me...b/c I KNOW no one is perfect and that the creative process isn't perfect and that's okay. Life is messy and things spill and bleed and pucker and fray...just like us :) :)

    Your work is beautiful...don't be discouraged.

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  11. Oh, hon. Like my mom used to say, "If it annoys anyone, then they deserve to be annoyed." I love imperfection - I think *character* is a better word for it! :) Hugs!

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  12. I appreciate that you took the time to post about some of your imperfections. You are right, there seem to be so many out there just seem so perfect, all the time. I'm definitely not one of them either! I'm still trying to teach myself the basics. Thanks for being so honest, and keep your head up! Live & learn, thats one of my mottos! Lol...

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  13. You are doing fine! I've had more than my share of bleeding problems -- I always pre wash my fabrics, but then I embellish with embroidery floss and those gorgeous hand dyed ones always seem to bleed when you are not looking! However, don't fret over your tree skirt because you are right -- no one is going to get that up close to it, and it really doesn't matter what color(s) it is. :-) Puckers happen and you are already on teh right track vowing to use more pins next time. After 15 years of quilting I still occasionally get puckers with difficult fabrics like linen. As for the voile, you've come up with a great fix! I think that there is a little marketing issue in having designers known for their quilting fabrics produce dressmaker fabrics like voile. It's bringing the colors and patterns of the quilt world into the sewing world and giving crafters more choices, but it can cause problems when the translation goes teh other way and quilters want to use these looser weave fabrics meant for blouses in heavier quilted products. It's all a learning process and as you familiarize yourself with the properties of different fabrics you will grow and add many more tools to your creative toolbox. I think the learning potential of these "imperfections" far outweighs their perceived flaws. Keep creating!!

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  14. You are FAR from a failure!! We all make mistakes, we're humans, not perfectly programmed machines. Just think of it as a testament to the reality of handmade. We just need to practice and chalk it up to experience. You learned some lessons...I know I learn lessons OFTEN when I'm sewing! :)

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  15. I love that you shared this:)People don't usually post pictures of their shortcomings so this is refreshing.

    I have always seen you as the woman who has it all together and it makes me a little happy to know that you are human! Ha! Am I totally evil for saying that?

    Another thing that bloggers say that drives me nuts is "I just whipped this up" LIARS! ;) This stuff takes time!

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  16. Thank you for keeping it real! Sometimes I hesitate about posting my mistakes because it seems no one does ... but they've got to be happening to everyone else too! ;] I just try to remember I'd still rather my family be cuddling under a homemade quilt, even if it's not perfect, rather than something bought from a mass retailer. (although we've got plenty of that too!)

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  17. My grandmother was a perfectionist. She did a lot of wonderful hand quilting and beautiful work. Before she died (and before my baby was born) she made a baby blanket for me. She hand quilted the center and then tied the outer borders. When I was looking at it I noticed that she forgot to cut one of the strings of yarn between two knots. I can't cut it, although I'm sure she would be horrified to know that I won't. It just makes me feel good to see that she wasn't perfect, she was human.

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  18. My grandmother has always said that "if you can't tell that it's handmade, then what's the point?!". She says every project should have a least one noticeable goof.... :-)

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  19. Look at it this way - you've learned so much this week! I hate making mistakes too but try to only make them once. Bleeding got me when I put a deep purple fabric of unknown origin on the back of a white and brightly printed quilt - fortunately I took pics before I washed it! Now I use color catchers in the first wash of every quilt. I also ALWAYS take pics of my quilts before washing them just in case they fall apart in the wash!

    Your tree skirt is going to be covered with beautiful packages - just be sure to put the first one on the "bleedy" spot!

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  20. Hey, we all make mistakes! Thanks being honest and posting about yours. Your work is beautiful, even with a few minor imperfections! Blogs that are full of only perfect, beautiful, immaculate projects just don't seem as genuine to me. I can relate more when people post about their struggles, since I go through them all the time myself. : )

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  21. Well shucks, I guess we are all human! Thanks for sharing the imperfections, they really are so minor and definitely character-building for our precious handmade goodies. I admire everything you make and feel better knowing that I am not the only one who makes little mistakes. :)

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  22. I know that I have at least one mistake in every quilt I make.....I see those mistakes as a part of my creative process and try my best to embrace them as evidence of being handmade.
    try some shout stain remover on your bleed.....I know it's not the most natural choice of action, but it always works for me.

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  23. Thanks for sharing these! I love how you fixed the weak seams, that is so smart! Bummer about the bleed though. That one would make me sad for sure.

    I make tons of mistakes, but I've always been told that imperfections let the evil out ;) That's the beauty of handmade too. Perfection isn't always attainable!

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  24. I'm so sorry...these things can be so disheartening at times! Fear not, though...you are certainly not the only one to have some "oops" in what they make. That's why I am a firm believer that loud cussing is a part of every crafting process :)

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  25. the imperfections are what make it so perfectly homemade!! I make mistakes ALL the time.

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  26. sorry, that should be HANDmade, but I'm sure you know what I meant :)

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  27. i think mistakes actually improve our skills. i'm glad you shared this! i actually just had an issue in not taking the time to prewash. blogged here:
    http://littlemissmk.blogspot.com/2010/11/for-baby.html
    lesson learned! now i'll always make time to prewash. ;)

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  28. You're in good company! I just finished a tree skirt too. Mine is far from perfect, but it makes me happy to know that I made something for my family enjoy for years to come! If I wanted perfect, I'd order one from Pottery Barn or something!

    I made an all voile quilt, and I haven't had any trouble with the seams. I've only washed it a few times though.

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  29. Yay for mistakes! While I think these are really just the slightest of problems, I find it refreshing to know that I am not the only imperfect quilter out there. I do agree that sometimes it feels like all the other quilter/bloggers are 100% perfect with seams that align perfectly every time and nary a pucker in their quilting, so it's good to know that we are all continually learning and some of us are in the same boat. And honestly, I don't think any of these "mistakes" detract from the beauty of your finished work!

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  30. The Shout Color Catcher sheets may help prevent those pesky dyes from bleeding onto surrounding fabrics! :-)

    Glad I'm not the only one too!

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  31. Just finished my first quilt ever a couple of weeks ago. Pulled it out of the dryer to find one of the seems had completely pulled apart. :( Had to slap an applique over it.

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  32. Oh Rachel! :-( Such a bummer, and I know exactly how it feels! We've all been there at one time or another. Please know that we ALL admire every little stitch you make and that everything you do, no matter how "imperfect" you think it is, totally inspires us! You have a have a gorgeous blog and your ideas are what I like to read about. Keep up the AWESOME work, you're doing NOTHING WRONG. :-)

    PS. An old boyfriend's grandmother taught me a trick for color bleeds: wet the fabric and rub a bar of soap (Irish Spring, Ivory, Dial, etc.) on the spots and let it sit for about an hour. Run it through the washer again, and the bleed should be gone. It works for me 99% of the time.
    Hope this helps :-)

    OH! Also, cotton and linen shrinks more than once, and unless you prewash the batting as well, you will most always get shrinkage the first (and second) time a quilt is washed. Puckers are good, it adds warmth and personality!

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  33. Oh I'm so sorry about the bleeding corduroy! But I do want to thank you for keeping it real - it's absolutely refreshing.

    And please - don't let a few booboos get you down. Your work is beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  34. I'd never ever ever in a million years notice that pucker if you didn't point it out to me, and the zig-zag stitching looks great - who else is going to know it wasn't designed that way from the start?

    And as far as bleeding, how many of us haven't had a bleeding mistake? It's just too easy to happen when we're all excited to start on a new project. The last thing we're thinking about is waiting another couple of hours to wash each piece separately. :)

    Don't be so hard on yourself. ;)

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  35. Ohhh Rachel, I can *hear* your disappointment. It's hard to have put so much work into something, and then have it deviate from what you had in mind. Sigh. My daughter proudly came home from school a bit ago and said, "Mommy, I'm glad I'm not perfect, because that would be boring!" I've been trying to keep that mantra in my mind.

    I've been lagging behind on my color brick quilt. Sometimes it takes me a while to get my courage up to do the next step. For some reason I was stalling on cutting the backing fabric. Finally I garnered all my courage and just went for it. Measure twice, cut once, right? That's what I did. Only I forgot to add 2 inches to each side before I cut. Arg! Still contemplating what to do...

    May your next sewing day be more satisfying to you. :-)

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  36. Rachel,

    I was literally thinking the EXACT same thing last night as I was learning to machine bind. I thought to myself that there is no way anyone can do this absolutely perfect. I really doubt that there are any perfect sewers out there but I really feel your pain to be super-precise. Thank you for sharing your mini-fail. If you want to see some major failure you can continue to check out my blog, lol.

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  37. I completely understand! I am not a quilter and am just recently really getting back into sewing. I made my daughter a quilted taggie blanket. The first time I washed it and they all feel apart :(

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  38. Of course, you're not the only one. I've been scared to start quilting on my first quilt, because the table runner I've been quilting is, well, less than perfect. I haven't even finished it, because I'm a big fat chicken. I know eventually, I'll sit down and finish it, and I'll still love it, in all it's imperfect glory, but it's disheartening just the same.
    You're a great crafter, so don't let these small imperfections keep you down!

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  39. oh gosh, what a bummer! it's still lovely though.

    i end up with messed up projects on a regular basis. recently i ironed a quilt only to realize my daughter had gotten interfacing glue all over the iron, which was now all over my brand new quilt. aaargh! what can you do but just try to ignore the mess and enjoy the loveliness!

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  40. I like surprises but not when it comes to bleeding fabric. I'm a huge fan of the prewash.

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  41. Well now I don't feel like the only one to have these problems! At lest they are all pretty minor problems though and fixable or at least not prominently noticeable. I still think the tree skirt looked beautiful and I'm sure your daughter still loves her quilt! You do such beautiful work! Hang in there and just go with it :)

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  42. You have a great blog Thnks or all th great pics of inspiration!

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  43. Are you kidding? Those are some imperfections, but you are probably the only one noticing. I finished a pillow cover of HSTs just to notice afterwards that I forgot to quilt it. Now, speaking of being a failure...

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  44. Oh my gosh, I found this post via flickr & I have to thank you for this it. I read a lot of sewing blogs and everything always looks so perfect; I sometimes get discouraged by my comparatively "shoddy" work. It seems like I can't make a single thing without at least one (usually multiple!) things going wrong. Thanks for reminding me that a) it's ok to make mistakes and b) we are usually our own worst critics! I'm sorry you had a frustrating sewing day, but everything you posted looks fab to me. That bleeding isn't noticeable, all I see is a gorgeous tree skirt, and I didn't even NOTICE the pucker until I'd looked at it for a few minutes. I never would have noticed it if you hadn't pointed it out! As for the double gauze, I think I read somewhere that it's a good idea to use a half inch seam because it frays so much. I have no experience myself, just what I remember reading. And the zig-zag looks good to me so I would try not to let it bother you!

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  45. "solution was to zigzag quilt around most of the gauze and voile squares to close up opening seams and reinforce the others."

    On the bright side, your zig zag looks awesome! I am so happy to be reading this, not your mishaps,mind you...but your honestly at showing them to us! Geez..we could be friends! your human.
    Here's to improving our skills, and helping each other realize we are not perfect! Blessings!

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