Friday, March 15, 2013

My Struggle with the Double Irish Chain Baby Quilt

First, I was so happy to find that Joann's had a 40% off sale on their fabric when I dropped in this week!  I ended up getting all the fabric for this quilt project that I needed, plus extra for my stash building for just $17!

Here is my fabric. I wasn't picky. I was just happy to get something that was inexpensive and fit the project.  But, as I have been working with them, I'm really happy with how they are working together.

Second step was to press and align the fabric as usual.  I had to be patient and careful, as I found some needed much realigning even on the second fold.  I'm feeling so much more comfortable with the process of prepping the fabric.  It takes a while, but I know it is on grain and crisp when I finish it.

I cut my fabric strips for Row 1 & 5 and proceeded to sew them together.

I must say that I'm glad I only cut enough for this one row in the block because after I sewed the blue to the pink for outer edges and measured, I was fine at 1 1/4" between my seam and the edge. So, I sewed the white strip to the pink and again measured from edge to seam. OK. I sewed the 2 pieces together and I think I stood there for 1/2 hour just looking at the ruler.  I was sure my ruler went senile!
I moved my ruler sideways and measured. It was the same vertical as it was horizontal.

How can my measurements be fine from seam to outer edge each time, but if I measure seam to seam after having 4 of them, I lose 1/4" overall? My block was supposed to be 5 1/2"  I was at 5 1/4" and no seam touched the lines on my ruler.
I was stumped. Foul language was running through my head. I seriously could not figure out what could have been wrong. I pressed with more starch and tried to make them work. But, my pressing has gotten good enough that I couldn't get any more space.

So, I used my seam ripper and took out all the seams, pressed and starched them flat again, and started over. I ended up moving my seam guide over just to be sure I could find that extra space. But, I was seriously wanting to take off my throat plate and move my needle over instead.  The further I go towards the needle, the harder it is to keep the fabric running over the feed dogs properly. 
After re-sewing, I found myself battling to press new creases and get the full measurements. I was still off a scant when finished resewing. Almost 1/8". I believe I will just cut new strips next time because that was more work than it was worth. And, it still isn't perfect. Those ridges from old needle holes and pressing won't lay as flat as I would like them.

I got myself out of the sewing room and slept on it. What was I doing that would create a measurement that seemed fine, but when multiplying it by 5 was no longer good?


I had previously realized that I needed to cut using the outside of the lines, rather than the inside of the lines.  But now I realize that if I give myself a thread or two extra on the outside of the line, I end up giving myself room for seam allowances pressed over. I was cheating myself by cutting the strips too narrow. Yes, after one seam they were ok. They were touching the line when measuring. But, one quickly loses 1/8" when you have 3 seams added up, and then it multiplies as the strip gets wider.  And, I now can move my seam guide back over where it should be so I don't run crooked when the feed dogs want to grab my fabric over all rather than half the dogs.

After doing all three strips, I have Block A ready to assemble.  And, I am pleased to tell you that the measurements were absolutely beautiful when I laid my big ruler over each of the new strips.  ALL the lines were exactly matching all the seams at 1" intervals, and the entire length was exactly 5 1/2".

SO, the lesson here is check your cutting. You may be cutting fine for one seam. But be truthful with yourself. Are you cutting to the outside of the line when you cut, then find that you are fine with the measurement on the inside of the line after you have pieced and pressed?  It won't work if you start sewing strips like these above. Give yourself some pressing space! It is easier to cut more and then trim if needed than mess with scant measurements or moving seam guides over so far things don't run smoothly.

And, don't be surprised when you find an error in the instructions for Block A.  Instructions for both Row 2 and 3 are incorrect, but you won't end up doing anything more than cutting too much fabric. It will just make you question yourself in how to assemble that strip or how many strips you should be making. I was happy there was no seam ripping involved :)  I have acquired a real distaste for seam ripping.

Now, I must decide whether I will settle for almost there rows 1 & 5, or just do them over for the 3rd time with newly cut fabric.

I must say, even after this drag out fight with my ruler, THIS is why I'm doing this book and "class" in quilting.  I really want my piecing to fit together like it should.  I want to progress to doing triangles and more complicated blocks, but I know it would just be frustrating if it didn't measure up right. After all, I have 2 of those blocks on my design board, reminding me why I'm doing this.   They don't fit together. So, I'm dedicated to working out these problems and will not be deterred.

I must include a picture of my new Presencia Thread!
I ordered them direct from the Presencia web site and they arrived in 3 days!  Do you remember me saying I only paid $4.95 in shipping?  I was thrilled.  I think I have enough thread now for a nice long time.


  1. I knew you would figure it out, but it drives a person nuts though does't it? It's amazing how much difference just using one side or the other of the line can make!

    Nice fabric too, great deal on it!
    The presencia thread looks nice.... do you find it makes a great deal of difference to the fold on top of the fabric? less of a bump?

    I may have to order some soon!

    1. Yes, I thought I was going nuts. I just chose to blame it on my ruler instead! And when that didn't work, I had to do some thinking.

      I got such a wonderful deal on the fabric I've been debating with myself if I should go back and get the fabric for the next project while it is on sale.

      The Presencia thread is better than my Signature thread as far as space it takes up in pressing the fold. However, the biggest difference I noticed is how little mess I have to clean up. I just don't get all that lint I was getting. My other thread was cheap. If you are using a good thread that doesn't shed, I'm not sure you'll notice that much difference.

  2. Good to know, I am using Masterpiece by Superior threads. It seems fine, i will have to check after i have sewn abit more as i just cleaned out my machine the other day.
    I didn't get anything done last night and probably won't tonight either.
    Very good friends of ours lost their 20 year old daughter in a car accident this morning. other friends are bringing them back here. It is hard to concentrate on anything at the moment so i think i will give sewing a skip this evening.

    take care

  3. oops i should have said the friends are down in mexico at the moment.

    this is why i shouldnt sew tonight :)

    1. So sorry to hear that. That is a devastating event for family and friends and an appropriate time to mourn and prepare for guests rather than sew.