My Worst Quilt Ever! Quilting Mistakes & Learning when to stop!

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I wanted to make a quick and easy orphan block quilt. What I ended up making was my worst quilt ever!

I made lots of quilting mistakes but thankfully I can take some lessons from my experience that hopefully (!!) will stop me from doing the same again!

quilting mistakes - my worst quilt
the story of my worst quilt ever – full of quilting mistakes to learn

My Worst Quilt Ever YouTube Video

Quilting Mistakes – what went wrong?

It all started as an idea for a ‘quick and easy’ orphan block quilt using some different-sized quilt blocks and a stack of my husband’s old jeans.

orphan quilt blocks
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
old jeans for a quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I was going to whip it up into a fast make quilt top and quilt it quickly with the hopes of having one less quilting UFO on my plate.

Fine in theory, but it all went downhill from there!

Mistake #1: Overthinking!

So my first mistake was that I overthought the design of this quilt.

I set out to do it improv style without a pattern – similar to the modern scrap quilt I made out of Ruby Star Society scraps – but if you are going to make a quilt that way you kind of just need to be in a creative mindset, not an analyzing and overthinking one!

quilting mistakes - overthinking
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I had sections pieced together and when I laid them out together I didn’t like how it looked – so I got out my seam ripper and I actually started unpicking seams! On a quick and easy orphan block quilt!! What was I thinking?

quilting mistakes - stretching fabric
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

That was the beginning of my problems – I overstretched the denim, I stretched some of the quilting cotton blocks and the end result was not actually that much better so it wasn’t worth the time.

In hindsight I should have either:

a) put it away and come back to it later

b) added and rearranged blocks; or

c) just sewed it together as it was regardless and saved all the unpicking time!

Mistake #2: Lazy Quilt Basting

Everyone knows the most important rule of machine quilting is to make sure your quilt is well basted.

Well, my second quilting mistake for this quilt was that I didn’t spend enough time basting my quilt sandwich.

I used my microstitch tag gun to baste this – which has worked for me before – but I rushed it a bit, maybe put the tags a bit too far apart, and just was in too much of a hurry to get quilting.

duvet cover quilt backing
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I used a second-hand duvet cover for the quilt backing so I’m glad I didn’t waste expensive fabric on that anyways!

Mistake #3: Overcomplicating the Quilting Design

My worst mistake came at the quilting stage.

Because the quilt was this mix of denim and brightly colored quilt blocks I thought it looked a bit like a tattoo parlor window or a graffitied wall or something so I thought I would try to add to that idea with some random off the wall quilting.

I started with two quilting lines using a zig zag stitch and yellow 12wt cotton thread. It looked okay.

But instead of continuing to use straight zig zag lines I wanted to try different kinds of stitches so I tried an embroidery stitch on my machine.

I didn’t do a test block and I didn’t like the stitching. So I unpicked it! Definitely not the best way to spend my time!

I didn’t have a quilting plan and I ended up quilting densely in some areas and not in others.

I tried free-motion quilting using the zig-zag stitch to speed things up but the effect got worse and worse as I went rather than better and better!

zig zag quilting
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I basically thought that if I did enough of this random quilting pattern over the entire quilt it might start to look intentional…it didn’t.

What I should have done was:

a) chosen a simpler quilting design and stuck with it for the whole quilt (I think it would have looked better with simple straight lines!)

b) done some test samples

c) stepped away from my sewing machine, put the quilt sandwich away and come back to it when I had more patience to quilt it more slowly

Because of the poor basting above, I had puckers to deal with. Initially, I had found a pretty good fix for these (see the video above), but as time went on and I got more and more frustrated with the quilt I didn’t take the time to fix them properly and just zig-zag stitched them to death! Not a good look!

zig zag quilting on puckers
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I usually enjoy the quilting process, and especially free motion quilting, but for this one, I did not.

I set myself deadlines to finish and I pushed through late into the evening giving this quilt lots of my hard work without much enjoyment.

Quilting Lessons Learned

Quilting Lesson 1: Keep it Fun!

My Dad used to have this ‘rule’ he would bring out whenever he could – the 80/20 Rule.

The point of this rule is that you should put your effort into the 20% of the work that gets you 80% of the results not plow your effort into the 80% of the work that only gets you 20% of the results.

It’s a good rule to live by in general but I came up with my own quilting 80/20 rule after this project: Quilting Projects should be 80% fun and 20% challenge.

By challenge – I mean stuff that helps you learn but maybe isn’t totally fun, like unpicking, re-cutting, etc, etc.

So in future, if I ever have a quilt like this one that is 80% challenge and 20% fun I am going to have a serious think about whether or not to continue with it – because time is finite and my quilting hobby is meant to be fun and fulfilling not stressful!

Quilting Lesson 2: Quilting WIPs & UFOs exist for a reason!

I’ve mentioned in other blog posts and videos that when I was a brand new quilter I was pretty sure I would never have a huge pile of quilting WIPs and UFOs (unfinished quilt projects).

I couldn’t understand why quilters would start something and not finish it. I understand now!

I have learned from this project that trying to plow through UFOs (which is where this quilt all started), can mean you end up working on a project that you aren’t passionate or creatively interested in.

And of course, if you are working on a project that doesn’t get your quilting juices flowing not only are you wasting your time you also won’t have the same creative resources to draw on to solve issues and make something you are proud of.

So I have now completely changed my mind about those quilters with cupboards full of WIPs and UFOs. They are not disorganized and lacking in follow-through, they are being smart about where to spend their time and energy!

I will now be giving myself permission to hit pause on a project (especially ones with no deadline like this one!) and give myself some breathing space to think about what I really want to do with it, instead of just pushing through and ending up with a finished quilt I don’t really like!

Finishing my Worst Quilt Ever

quilting mistakes - my worst quilt ever
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Above is the finished quilt.

When I finished quilting this particular quilt I was so ready to be done with it that I didn’t even want to take the time to bind it – I zigzagged the quilt sandwich closed around the edges and called myself finished! I just wasn’t willing to give it any more of my time – another sure sign I should have walked away from it early and come back with more energy and patience.

My Worst Quilt Ever has a home

Thankfully my 3-year-old son took pity on my poor unloved quilt and has claimed it for his own. It is a large quilt (large throw size) and It is now on his bed and he seems to really like it!

Have you made common quilting mistakes?

My silly mistakes in this quilt were mostly patience and mindset-related – I should have slowed down!

So I haven’t been focusing on 1/4 inch seam allowance issues or not buying enough fabric – common problems that many quilters deal with. I tend to feel like issues like these are easier to solve than when fabric stretches or you end up with puckers and too much bulk.

What was your worst quilt ever?

What common quilting mistakes have you made and what lessons have you learned?

What quilting mistake has given you the worst headache?

Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear!

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