Mini Quilt Madness & Bad Math

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Generally, I'm not into making mini quilts or anything less than snuggle-able. Seth, my husband, radiates heat like a human furnace and keeps the thermostat on arctic blast year-round. Consequently, burrito quits are a critical survival tool in my life. On a side note, I feel that "burrito" should be added to the list of standard quilt sizes. It sounds far more enticing than a throw. But I digress. 

Mini quilts, while not part of my usual project list, have been serving as sources of near-instant gratification when I need a mood boost.

In May, I joined my first quilt swap in the form of Schnitzel & Boo's mini quilt swap. My partner listed coral as her favorite color and also cited red and aqua combos as something she enjoys. Aqua and turquoise dominate my stash, but I had to acquire some more reds/corals for the project. The final product is this wonky star mini, with some echo quilting. This was the first project I quilted on Brienne, my new machine, which is my way of saying "Please forgive the mistakes!" 

Thanks to #thegreatfabricdestash on Instagram, a huge pile of Heather Ross prints have joined my stash. Some of them were used to make The Treasure Box quilt, but I still had a lot in need of a worthy project. After reminding myself of Quilt Dad's words of wisdom (use your favorite fabric instead of hoarding) I started on an impromptu wall hanging. 

Heather Ross's illustrations have the uncanny ability to make me smile no matter how many times I've seen them. That may sound a bit trite, but bear in mind that I'm one of those people who runs about 25% grouchier than the general population. My name, Felice, means "happy," and my family has always joked that I should have been named Grumpy instead. Characters like Grumpy (from Snow White), Tinkerbell, Grumpy Bear, and Oscar the Grouch were featured heavily on childhood gifts. My unofficial resolution this year is to be more positive and upbeat, so having this mini hanging on my wall may make that a easier. The finished size is 23 x 26".

My older brother, Stephen, texted me recently with the request that I make him something quilty for his birthday in September. I agreed, mostly because it had been my plan anyway. I picked the rolling stone block because it reminds me of electron clouds and covalent bonds. Umm...what? The backstory here is that Stephen and I attended the same university (with him being two years ahead of me), where he got his degree in biochemistry/molecular biology and I got mine in studio art (I disappoint my parents). I did have to take a chemistry class at one point, and electron configuration was about the only thing I really got a firm grasp on. So this is my attempt at something sciencey for him. It's a 24" square wall hanging with some serious scatterbrain quilting. Seriously, don't try to figure out what I was aiming for. I don't have a clue either.

I have to put my "be positive" resolution aside for a moment and share the negative side of making this mini. Quilt-opedia...I'm talking about you. 

I adore Laura Jane Taylor, but she really needs to have a chat with her editors and/or pattern testers. I started off using the directions in her block directory on page 208. Minor Gripe: This block is listed as a "Wedding Ring." From what the Google tells me, this is a Rolling Stone, not a Wedding Ring. I'm not an expert on traditional quilt block names though, so color me confused. (They also captioned a seam ripper as a "marker" on page 39, so I'm inclined to think it's an error.) 
Major Gripe: The math on the cutting instructions (and the count) are flat out WRONG. This block is essentially a nine-patch made from 4.5" unfinished squares. The instructions (pictured above) say to cut eight 2.125" background fabric squares (subcut into triangles) and four 3.125" color squares to make the diamond-in-a-square corner blocks. Someone seriously forgot how to math. If you follow these instructions, your blocks will be about 3.75" unfinished, not even close. And I realized this after I followed the instructions and had a bunch of cut up fabric that was too small to use. T^T

Additionally, she says to attach the corner triangles as corner square triangles (CSTs), covered on page 54. However, CSTs require you attach them as squares then trim the excess as you would an HST. By instructing you to cut your 2.125" squares in half diagonally right off the bat, she's already breaking her own rules. Patterns like the one on Lillian's Stitches or this one from Hey Quilty will show you really need sixteen 2.5" background fabric squares and four 4.5" color squares if you wish to make them using CSTs.

Long story short: the instructions in Quilt-opedia are totally useless. But here's the crazy part: Issue 6 (March 2014, the same month Quilt-opedia was released) of Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine featured the exact same quilt block, sans errors, by none other than Laura Jane Taylor. What?! Starting on page on page 63, Taylor gives the instructions that do work (pictured right). One difference is that she has you do the diamond-in-a-triangle using the subcut triangles properly instead of CSTs. 

So Laura, what gives, girl? I think I found some clues. In the same issue of LP&Q, LJT contributed another article for the "My Space" feature. In it, she describes how Quilt-opeida came to be. The publisher only gave her four measly months to write whole book! That's insane. I don't know what their hurry was, but four months is not enough time to write a book that includes 27 projects. It makes me wonder if there was even time to test the patterns more than once... I'm guessing the editors at LP&Q noticed the mistakes while St. Martin's Griffin, the publishers of Quilt-opedia, missed them. 

Based on the inconsistencies I've noticed between the book and articles LJT contributes to LP&Q, my impression is that the St. Martin's Griffin rushed LJT and followed it with some shoddy proofing. Bummer.

So learn from my discovery and approach Quilt-opedia projects with caution. Better to spend a few minutes checking the math than ending up with a bunch of cut up fabric that you can't use.

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