Pattern Problems

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Albert Einstein

I am the first to admit that I do not do well with following patterns.
Most of the quilts I have made have been my own design.
There has only been one quilt that I made from a kit.
I also made a Darth Vadar quilt from a pattern I bought online.
Both this kit and the online pattern had great, user-friendly directions.

My biggest fault, is that I do not read the pattern thoroughly.
I don’t read directions from top to bottom.
I skim.
For years, I taught my students the strategies for reading for understanding.
I also preached that they need to READ ALL OF THE DIRECTIONS.
But who practices what they preach?

That said, there is a discrepancy on how patterns are written.
Not all patterns are created equal!
In particular, the patterns that you purchase online vary from,
“Easy Peasy!”…to …”What?”! 
My daughter-in-law shared her experience of purchasing an online pattern that was just not making sense.
She is precise and an expert, and never has a problem with using patterns.
She found missing and incorrect steps and non-matching photos in this particular pattern.
I once purchased a pattern from a store. It was for a quilted tote bag.
It was a brand name pattern I found on the dollar table.
This should have been a clue.
After struggling with the pattern, I took it to my friend who sells sewing machines at JoAnn’s.
She read and re-read the pattern.
Then she pointed out some missing and incorrect steps.
I don’t mind mistakes on patterns that are free, but anything that costs money should be error free.
Or, at least, the author of the pattern should add a disclaimer and a request to report any problems or mistakes found.

This is the second day I have spent working on figuring out a quilt pattern.
The pattern itself, gave correct and precise information and sequence.
The mistakes made are totally on me.
As usual, I didn’t read it for understanding and ended up purchasing two more quarter yards of fabrics than needed.
A total of 14 fabrics was needed.
The backing was included as one of the 14, and I missed that step.
Five fat quarters for accent fabric were needed, instead of only the 4 that were purchased.
After reading the pattern more fully, I figured out a way to include each of the purchased fabrics.
I also think there will be enough of the accent fabric, since the pattern directions state that some of the accent cuts yield more strips than needed. I did read this part!
It will be fun to play with the chosen palette of fabric that was purchased.

The pattern gives definite instructions for the strip configuration, but I made a more user-friendly chart.
This chart dismisses the need to keep referring back to the two sections in the pattern that explain the size configuration.
A person with more experience may not need this chart, but I am very visual and I need to see it all in one spot.
Then, I also spent time trying to work within the configuration of the strip sizes and add the color codes of the fabric.

Now, the test.
Can I explain this to a six year old.
I called my friend and started explaining.
I understand what I am doing.
(No, my friend is not a 6 year old, but she understood every word I said.)



In the past, when I have made quilts made of rows of strips or squares, I numbered each row with a round sticker that I had labeled with a marker.
The stickers fell off.
Then, I found it much easier to cut and piece a section of rows as I went along.
This worked for me, as I worked on the quilt myself.
I do not think this would work with a group of four.
My friends and I will be working together to make the river quilt, and we need a plan for organizing the quilt rows.
The order of the strips is important to the design of the quilt.

We have 14 different fabrics.
Four of these fabrics are different blue batiks.
Ten are different greens and browns.
There are 2.5 inch strips and 3.5 inch strips.
They come in small, medium, and long sizes.
I used the pattern directions to make an easier-to -follow chart of the small, medium, and long strips.
I will color code these with the number of the fabric color.
The organizational problem is in numbering the rows.
We will be cutting and arranging the rows in one quilting day session.
Then we will store the strips until the next session.
How do we keep these organized?

I found numbered pins, but do not want to pay $30 if there is a cheaper and easier way.

I guess I could number some of the flat pins that I have already, but I was wondering if anyone had a better method
for organizing the rows.
Does anyone have any suggestions?
Thank you!

Pepe’s Plaids

This has been a great week.
Every time I picked up my dad’s shirts to work on this quilt, I felt like I was getting
a big hug.
It felt so good.
Thanks to those of you who gave suggestions.
I am still thinking of how to quilt this.
I might try tying, as suggested.
My next step is to see if I have enough shirt remnants to make a center panel for the backing.
I have enough pockets to make some mats or more totes.
I was thinking of using the pockets, sleeves, and yokes to make a market bag for my brother who lives in Seattle.

Poem in Your Pocket Day

When I was teaching, Poem in Your Pocket Day was one of our favorite Days!
We would spend the month of April reading and writing poems.
Parents would be invited to a Poem Party, and asked to recite or read their favorite poem.
The children would make a poetry book of all the poems they had written.
So, the teacher and poet in me (everyone is a poet) has to honor today with a Poem in My Pocket.


I will carry my poem in my new pocket!

Travel Tote

My friend, Nancy, responded to my request for ideas for the quilt I am making out of my dad’s shirts.
She suggested making something other than a quilt, such as table runners or mats.
The pockets could hold the utensils.
Nancy is a great resource for ideas.
This got me thinking…
I have extra pockets from the shirts that I cut.
I decided to make a travel tote.
This tote is small enough and just right for essentials.
The end measurements are 8″ X 8″.
I used two of the pockets from one of my dad’s shirts.
There is one pocket on each side of the tote.
Inside, I made a small pocket out of the sleeves.
I used the remaining fabric from the shirt pocket panels to make the lining.
In my stash, I found some black linen from a messenger bag that I had made for my sister.
This traveling tote is perfect for my walks, and for a plane trip I am planning in May.

This is the tag from the cleaners where my dad had his shirts pressed!
This is the inside pocket I made from the sleeve.

Front and Back…Shirt Pockets will be functional

The shirt pockets had the original buttons.
I used the other buttons to decorate the top.

When I shared the photos of the quilt top and this purse with my sister,
she said that all that was missing was dad’s can of beer.
I think I will have a brew in his honor.


Memory Quilt

The memory quilt I started making out of my dad’s shirts has been quite a challenge.
The mixed polyester and cotton fabric is very stretchy, which makes it difficult to cut accurately.
Since I have a limited number of shirts, there is not much room for error in cutting.
Also, the fabric is very old and thin.
I keep questioning if it is worth continuing.
My answer is still yes, however, I think I may just piece it and not quilt it.
If I quilt it, the simplest way would be stitch in the ditch.
Maybe I should have reinforced the fabric somehow, but I did not think of this beforehand.
If I had, I would have had to research different methods of reinforcing the fabric.

This is what I have so far:

I do have enough fabric to make a keyboard border.
My original plan was to also use the larger pieces for backing.
But, if I do quilt this, I think it would need a sturdier fabric for the backing.
Making this quilt has been a good experience, no matter what I decide to do with it.
I would certainly appreciate any input or ideas.

Pen in His Pocket

My dad, Pepe, was the youngest of 13 children.
He was a bookkeeper for a large, international construction company in San Antonio.
Dad had perfect penmanship.
He would only write with a Flair pen.
This pen was always in his pocket.
He would let you borrow other pens and pencils, but not his Flair pen!

Dad was very artistic. He was great at graphic design and carpentry.
This is one of the boxes he carved for my mother.

This shield, with the initials of my mom and dad, is carved on the underside of the box lid.

The memory of that pen in my dad’s pocket came to mind as I cut the pockets from dad’s shirts.
I made a block that included the pocket.
I also made two blocks with the shirt label.
There were only two shirts that had the label section large enough for a 3.5″ x 6/5″ rectangle.
There was one shirt that had two pockets with a button.

Here’s my dad…with the pen in his pocket!
These shirt pockets in the middle square had no buttons.

This is what I have so far.
I have had to make some changes to the original design layout.

Memories of math homework came to mind.
As a child, I did not like math.
Dad would patiently sit with me, pull his pen out of his pocket, and try to teach me math.
He must be smiling now, as he sees all the math I do when quilting.
He probably has his pen pulled out of his pocket so he can check the measurements and calculations!



A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another.

It is my good fortune to have the best siblings ever.
This morning, I met my sister, Emma, for breakfast.
We met at mom’s favorite restaurant, Jim’s.

Emma is a talented, creative author and illustrator.
Her fourth book in the Pig in a Wig series will be out soon.
She was invited to attend the TLA Conference in San Antonio,
and it was so nice spending time with her.

Emma is the youngest of the siblings, and I do believe the wisest.
It was a morning of great conversation and much inspiration.
After such a great morning, I returned home and started making the quilt in memory of my dad.
His full name was Jose Leon Virjan, but everyone called him Pepe.

Last night, I designed a lap quilt.
When I opened the bag where I had stored my dad’s shirts, I couldn’t help but smile.
The bag had a faint smell of my parent’s home, and it was so comforting.
The shirts are a bit more frail than I thought, and I was thinking of not making the quilt.
Then I thought that the quality of the fabric isn’t what matters.
The quilt is for me.
The memories, the process of making this quilt, is what matters.
I spent the afternoon cutting the shirts and thinking of my dad.
Today was definitely a family day, where minds contacted with one another.

Dad and his plaids! I can just see him…
wearing these shirts and his bermuda shorts !

This is the center block for the quilt.