Posted on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 | By Quilt Magazine | 1 Comment

The Rip-It-Out Quilt

I have FINALLY finished piecing a quilt top that I’m going to lovingly call the ”rip-it-out” quilt. I think everyone has one of those…a quilt where you feel that you used a seam ripper as much as you used a sewing machine.

I started this quilt five years ago, imagining it would go together fast. After all, it had only sixteen 12” square blocks, and each block had only three pieces in it. Piece of cake, right? You’d think. But sometimes with an easy quilt design, your brain goes on autopilot. And mistakes happen. Again and again.

I won’t bore you with the minute details of exactly what I screwed up (individual block orientation, after I sewed the sashing frames around each set of four blocks). Nor will I waste your time with the pain of all that ripping (the majority accomplished during a three-hour phone call). Besides, chances are you have experienced that pain yourself!

Here’s a rough timeline of this quilt’s history:


October 2005: Purchased fabric at Houston Quilt Festival—an impulse buy that I justified as a wedding present to myself since I’d gotten married the month before. My husband wasn’t thrilled about the additional fabric to store in our small condo but liked the ”wedding present to self” idea and bought a new tv.

Spring 2006: Cut fabric, pieced all 16 blocks, and added sashing around groups of four blocks—loving this quilt! Pretty sure I’ll have it done in a week or two, no problem.

Summer 2008: After two years off, a move halfway across the country, and a new job, I pull out the blocks again, excited to finish. I pin the four sashed units on my brand-new design wall and…oops. Something’s not right. Time to start ripping seams. And ripping some more. Argh. Gotta love queen-size quilts. I re-sewed the blocks together in the correct orientation (you know the phrase, ”measure twice, cut once”? I laid out blocks four times and sewed once. Or technically twice). Then I banished it from sight. I hate this quilt.

Summer 2011, Day 1, 3 pm: Even though the worst part—the ripping—was done, I was so disheartened by my dumb mistakes that I left this project in a bag for about 3 years. I just couldn’t look at it. A week after having a baby seemed like the perfect time to pull it back out! (Who am I kidding? Again, it’s because my mom was here, so I had a sous-chef, so to speak, to cut and press as needed, and even (oh horror!) rip seams if it came down to it!) Re-sewed the sashing strips to the block units. This quilt has promise.

Summer 2011, Day 1, 5 pm: Dinner and baby feeding break

Summer 2011, Day 1, 8 pm: Apparently 3 (or 5?) years ago, I’d sewed some of the pieced sashing together. Great—a head start! Except that I’d two of the four wrong (hey, they had matched the blocks that had been stitched together incorrectly). Yep. More seam ripping. Maybe the quilt goes back in its bag for three more years?

Summer 2011, Day 1, 10 pm: Everything’s laid out on the design wall. Time to go to bed before stitching anything. I’m determined not to rip out another seam on this (*$#)#$ quilt.

Summer 2011, Day 2, 2 pm: Fresh day, fresh start. Baby and toddler napping, so it’s back to the design wall. Everything looks good—time to start sewing!

Summer 2011, Day 2, 4 pm: And my non-ripping goal is shot. Again.

Summer 2011, Day 2, 8 pm: Dinner’s over, kids are in bed. Another fresh start. Six seams left…I can do this!

Summer 2011, Day 2, 10 pm: Success! Five years in the making, this quilt is done. Now I just need to get it quilted…and bound…

Lisa Swenson Ruble

About the Author: Quilt Magazine

One Comment

  • Jenny says:

    Posted September 11, 2011 at 10:18 am

    The quilting and binding is no sweat after the top is done… at least you can pretty much guess how those will work out! Congratulations–it’s a beautiful design.

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