Problem Solving

So we’ve all been there. After laboring over a design or project that initially seemed so great, we run into a snag. Maybe we (eek!) accidentally make a hole in a quilt. Or perhaps our stitching is pretty good overall, but one motif has a wobbly bit or mistake. Take heart, there are workarounds for many design “issues” that may at first seem to be just plain errors.

Holes can be covered in various ways. If your quilt is pieced, you can sometimes remove the damaged area and carefully re-piece it. Not fun, but doable. Otherwise, try adding a button or small appliqué . But remember, a single button or appliqué may be quite noticeable. Add several more and it looks like something you designed upfront!

Maybe you’ve stitched a medallion type motif and it looks OK except for the center. Again, a button may be your best friend. Alternatively, try adding a little hand embroidery .

One of my first efforts at ruler work on a domestic machine. The problems in the center are not truly terrible, but I could cover it with a small button to camouflage my less than symmetrical work.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that if you’re quilting with a contrasting thread and make an errant stitch into another area, sometimes a very fine tipped permanent marker is a huge asset. Pigma markers are especially useful for touching up single stitches.

Of course, you can also add heavier stitching over an area to cover up a less than desirable section, or repeat your error deliberately to make it look like it was planned.

As someone who uses digital imagery quite often, I’ve come to expect the unexpected. Sometimes I order a print and the color is not as I envisioned, or details are not quite as crisp as anticipated. Machine quilting can, of course, add texture, line, and detail. But sometimes you just need paint! Here’s the original digital imagery for a quilt I created a few years ago.

Digital Imagery for A Little Bird Told Me ©Diane Rusin Doran

I hadn’t left myself much lead time for a deadline that was looming, so of course when the printed fabric arrived it was not as inspirational as I’d hoped. First, the color was off in that it was far too green. I painted over most of the background with transparent yellow and gold paints. The plan was to add detail on the birds with the quilting. Still, the birds were just sitting there in front of the grasses. After quilting the birds and background I held my breath and screen printed leaves and flowers over large swaths of the quilt, then added more stitching.

This was certainly an improvement and integrated the overall composition somewhat, but from the get go the birds’ eyes were all wrong. Quite honestly, they’re dead looking.

In progress detail of A Little Bird Told Me ©Diane Rusin Doran
In progress detail of A Little Bird Told Me ©Diane Rusin Doran. Here the birds’ eyes are simply penciled in with blue artist pencils.

My wonderful friend Debra Gabel taught me long ago that you need a catch light in an animal’s eyes to bring them to life. So, tiny bits of black and white paints were added and it really helped.

Detail of A Little Bird Told Me ©Diane Rusin Doran
Detail of A Little Bird Told Me ©Diane Rusin Doran

Here’s the final piece, which is different than my original “vision”, but to my eye better.

A Little Bird Told Me ©Diane Rusin Doran
A Little Bird Told Me ©Diane Rusin Doran

There are times when you’ve invested time and energy in a quilt, you make a mistake or reach a sticking point, and it’s OK to just move on. Perhaps it’s been a good learning experience. But remember, you can try a number of different options to correct or improve errors, and maybe you’ll end up with something you like even better.


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