“Design Modifications”

The quilt is lovely, the admirer fondles the fabric and says “Is this a pattern?“. “There were some ‘design modifications'”, the quilter replies, blinking rapidly. She lowers her gaze demurely.

Wow”, thinks the admirer, “my friend is SO talented. So VERY talented. She even modifies patterns to express her creative impulses and improve on the original design. I am so proud of and amazed at what she creates.”

Can you hear them? The quilters reading the above paragraphs? Titters, giggles, stifled snorts, a few guffaws? Chuckles, cackles, a raucous Ha, Ha! Why? What is so funny?

What every quilter knows is that “design modification” is code for I goofed up and had to figure out how to hide it. We have lots of code names for this phenomenon. Creative design, customized design, revised, reworked…Yup, we made an error. We screwed up. And then it was time to get busy, dig deep and avoid ripping out hours of stitches or having to toss it into the bin by attempting a “design modification” or two.

We measured wrong. Or we measured right, and then proceeded merrily to CUT it wrong. Doh! (I might resemble this particular error.) And didn’t realize it until we went to sew it all together. Yikes! So much work and time and fabric to redo it! Or maybe there is NO MORE of that fabric to be found in the realm. Not even on Etsy!

Maybe we snipped a little thread. There. Perfect. And then got smacked by the realization that our sharp little scissors clipped the fabric. Dang! Now there is a tiny hole where none should exist. Holes in quilts grow. Like grass after you cut it before rain, like weeds, like a run in a nylon stocking. Exponentially.

Did we rip a seam and restitch? Or rip out some applique stitching? Tiny stitches and a very sharp ripper create a ripe environment for an errant hole to appear.

Perhaps we sewed a seam a mite too thin and the fabric starts to shred. Just a tiny bit, but like a hole, this issue magnifies rapidly unless brought severely to task.

We redo things all the time. Change your mind about your colors? Did you belatedly discover the perfect gorgeous fabric in your stash? Drop into a quilt shop and realize that THE fabric that will make your quilt sing arias is right in front of you? Sure, then it’s okay to scrap your progress and start over.

But sometimes we just don’t wanna. We have a time crunch, a gift is due! We have other quilts to get busy with and a garden to tend. Sometimes that quilt has hundred of hours of work in it and we say HECK NO.

Time for the “design modification” process. We consult with our sewing sisters. We study the pattern. We muse and weigh options. We whine to our partners and they nod sympathetically and mumble. If we are lucky we have an epiphany!

Cover it with an applique (How about a bee or a butterfly? Maybe an extra flower?) Use Fray Check (nope, never…that is a non starter for me)! Resize the rest of the quilt (done that!). Resize our blocks and do the math for the rest of the quilt? (Get out the calculator!) Sneak in an extra thin border (that can actually improve the design). What about a flange (hardly ever a bad idea!). Cut the quilt size down? (You know who you are…and then win a ribbon for it!)

Tips for attempting a repair:

1. Look over your quilt top carefully before sandwiching. Repairs and “design modifications” work best before you start quilting.

2. Stitch witchery works wonders for fraying or narrow seams

3. Try using tiny hand stitches in a whip stitch in a thread matching the fabric for stitching gaps.

4. Applique the same fabric on top, matching the pattern if possible

If a repair can not hide the issue, a “design modification” may be in order.

What makes a successful “design modification”?

  1. The pattern designer compliments your “creativity” with her design. (I have experienced this! Wow!)
  2. It “blends”…the rework melts in with the rest of the overall design and pattern.
  3. Your seams still (mostly) match!
  4. You found enough critical fabric to effect the repair. Yay!
  5. No one can see the mod unless they have a magnifying glass handy.
  6. You win a ribbon at the quilt show. (That one is NOT me! But you know who you are.)
My very first “real” applique project, Queen’s Garden. I cut one of the main blocks 1/2” too small. Doh! I cut all the others to match and somehow got everything to fit together in the end.

Above all, KISS! Keep it Simple, Sister! Try not to over correct your misadventure. Excessive stitching or an elaborate fix is sure to attract the eye right where you don’t want it.

My most recent design mod occurred this week in my Secret Garden center. I modified the pattern to use melons, rather than the design in the pattern. In addition, I am working the pattern at 75%, increasing the opportunity for measuring errors. I got caught out with strips of melons that were the wrong size. What to do? Remake the strips including 80 melons? My melons were so gorgeous and the thought of all that work was soul crushing.

The melons. They looked lovely, but when everything was cut to sewing size, they did not fit. Nope, not at all.

Hmm. They were too long. Remake the whole thing? Arrgh! What if I made them shorter, cutting off the extra length at the end of the previous melons plus a 1/4″ seam allowance? I thought of adding my second background color and going with something showy. Nope. I decided to add matching background (1/2″ on each side, centering the melon strip) and a blank corner. What to put there? Why not use the actual pattern design? Oh the irony!

Here is my fix. Only a quilter that has made this pattern would notice the goof. And who knows? Maybe I did it on purpose? Once this is quilted, it will be even less identifiable as a “design modification”.

Thank goodness for grunge! It’s textured appearance is really forgiving!
Ready to add borders! Phew! 9 months of work here!

Happy quilting in the New Year! And I hope all your design mods turn out fabulous!


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