Measure twice, cut once?

You know, sometimes I don’t make any sense.

You’d figure that with all the gorgeous, modern, inspired, colorful quilting popping up on knitting and crafting blogs (and Etsy), I would have checked out Denyse Schmidt Quilts by now. But it wasn’t until last week that I finally took a good look at the projects. I’m embarrassed to tell you that I bought the book only to bring up my total to $25 on Amazon. Well, there’s also the matter of being 47th in line to borrow a copy at the library…

I started scheming no more than 8.2 seconds after looking through DSQ. Don’t you love the rush of planning a new project? The need to get started regardless of previous commitments, weather, work, hunger, pets, laundry, personal hygiene, etc.?

I was primarily captivated by the Any Way You Slice It quilt.

I love the random regularity of it, if that makes any sense.

But before launching into something so big and elaborate, I decided to make a smaller project: I’ve never done piecework, or used batting, or attempted to combine more than three colors/patterns. The Mix It Up cocktail coasters seemed like a perfect choice – functional, and constructed using the same methods as the Any Way You Slice It quilt.

And let me tell you, I’m so glad I didn’t jump into the deep end of the cold pool head first. Because those little coasters took three full nights to perfect, probably 4-5 hours each night.

What you see there is a whole lot of trial and error. My problem was that the coaster tops kept coming out too small, no matter how carefully I sewed the fabric pieces together. I ended up having to modify the DSQ pattern, enlarging the final layout by 4.6% in the vertical direction and 6.9% horizontally. Many trial coaster tops were stitched, pressed, and ‘squared up’ to come up with those numbers.

All’s well that ends well: I’m absolutely thrilled with my first little quilts!

Allow me to ramble some quick and dirty facts.

  • The fabric is from Winmil, except the burgundy print (leftover from this skirt).
  • To me, chain piecing is like a cold glass of water after being lost in the Sahara. By the time I was putting together my third (ahem) set of coaster tops I figured out how to sew in one continuous line – looping the finished pieces from behind the machine to my lap, cutting them off one by one as more strips were added.
  • I don’t have a point of comparison, but the Mountain Mist Blue Ribbon cotton batting I got from (always check for a coupon!) is very soft and lovely!
  • The quilting was of the “stitch in the ditch” variety, though I tried to quilt each coaster in one continuous line, skipping some seams and making sure to go over the opening left for turning.
  • Did you know that Clover makes quilting supplies? In order for each coaster to be a perfect 4″ square, I traced a cardboard template onto the top using the cutest little Clover chalk wheel.

Okay, enough. It’s Friday, I have coasters, let’s have a drinkie before I start cutting more fabric. Cheers!


60 thoughts on “Measure twice, cut once?

  1. Sarah

    Congrats on your first quilts! I love DSQ as well, can’t wait to get started on something soon. I love the colors you picked for the coasters.

  2. Angelika

    You should watch “Simply Quilts” more often. The show is great. Easy way to do this? Sew togehter strips of anything you find and like (aka Crazy quilt block) then cut to the size you need afterwards. That will take a lot less time and it can be very random and no matter if you do 1/4″ or not, they will all be the right size after you square them off. Good luck and have fun. The coasters look great.

  3. Ashley

    Oh, yay! They look so great, and I’m glad you figured out the pattern to your satisfaction. Now–on to the big one! I love Any Way You Slice It too–a lot.

    And thanks, by the way, for the quilt shout-outs!

  4. Becky

    Beautiful quilt! Isn’t that such an inspiring book? I have a question for you though: how did you enlarge the patterns? I can’t seem to find a photocopier that will enlarge 400%. the highest I’ve found is 200%. Kinkos maybe??

  5. Anne-Caroline

    Wow, they turned out great! Yes, some day, I will break out the sewing machine and actually learn how to use it. Once you get more comfortable, the best part about sewing is that it goes so much faster than knitting!

  6. Cirilia

    “I love the random regularity of it, if that makes any sense.”

    Have you seen “The Science of Sleep”? There is a whole funny bit about Parallel Synchronized Randomness. They look great, btw!

  7. Sarah

    As a quilter who got into knitting later, the whole “clover makes KNITTING NOTIONS” was a breakthrough for me. I forgot about it going around the other way.

    As for size issues – the pattern looks a bit like a paper piecing pattern… so that could be an issue.

    Congrats on expanding your crafty repetoire!

  8. earthchick


    I somehow managed the good luck to become the number one person on the wait list for our public library, which just got its first copy in this past week. So it’s in my hot little hands right now, but with it being due in 3 weeks I’m betting I’ll end up buying a copy. The quilt that has my number right now is the Day at the Beach quilt (which I want to make for our trip to the beach this summer). But like you, I know I better start small. You did such a great job!

  9. Kristy

    Hmm, did you check your seam allowance on the too-small coasters? It could be that yours is slightly more than 1/4″ (standard seam allowance). I had to learn that with my newest sewing machine… the 1/4″ mark was a different place on my presser foot than I expected!

  10. mari

    yay! I knew you would get them to work out. They look beautiful and I hope this inspires you to do more quilting – I think you would come up with some fantastic color combinations. Great job!

  11. Stephanie

    There you go being sensible and logical again. I probably would have started with the quilt and then quit in a fit of frustration. The coasters are lovely and I can’t wait to see what you come up with for a quilt. I always envision finding the time to work on a quilt and then something happens and I never actually get to it. Maybe you’ll inspire me.

  12. Angie

    A quilting/piecing recommendation, you can piece the strips all willy-nilly and then put your template on them and cut around, or you can also, pre-cut some muslin squares, simply piece around them until they are covered and then cut them to size. I usually use poly fleece for my coasters, but I think you’ve inspired me, I need a shower gift for Sunday, they wouldn’t take that long to whip up in the brides “colors”…provided I have teal which I seriously doubt.

  13. Heather

    Becky: to enlarge something 400%, just enlarge it by 200% twice 🙂 Then you don’t have to find a fancy machine.

    I looked through this book back in September, and wasn’t too enthused. The past couple months though, I keep thinking about it again. I may need to go get it. 🙂

  14. lurker

    Oh, no. I’m so sorry. It took me about 5 years to surface from piecing mania. If you disappear into the olfa-mat void, who will de-bug all the sock patterns for me? 🙂

  15. Judy

    Very nice little quilts! Congratulations!

    You might want to check out A Quilt A Day: I don’t always love her quilts, but she offers a lot of “speed it up” techniques (like knitting in a continuous line) that really do make it go faster.

  16. Sally A

    I love these coasters. As I quilter, I would save scraps of batting to use for making coasters someday. Then we downsized. 30 banker boxes of fabric, about 15 bolts of fabric and more were donated and I have one box of fabric left. Sadly, there’s no room to sew where we are right now. FYI, stitch in the ditch is where you pull a the seams a bit apart and stitch right on the seam line. When you release the pull, you can’t even see the stitches. I think, from the photos, it looks like your quilting is topstitching. That’s my 2cents. I hope you make a quilt w/ the yellows & blues. I love that color combination — so fresh, so summery, so alive!!

  17. Erin

    ::Sigh:: I love Denyse Schmidt. She and Amy Butler are helping to bring quilting into fashion, at least in my opinion, with people under the age of 40. As someone who has been quilting since college, I’m glad that they’re bringing more young people into the craft. ::Sigh::

  18. Amber

    Your coasters look great. What a fun project.

    That book is so much fun!! I learned all the “proper” quilting techniques long ago but her book lets loose with the creativity.

    And I seem to love anything Clover these days… They make excellent notions—one day, I even found myself looking at all the Clover supplies that Joann’s carries online. It was fun!! (I just discovered their pom pom makers, too)!

  19. pamela wynne

    So cute! But now I’m a little freaked that I just bought enough fabric to make my first quilt — these took 15 hours? Maybe I should start with coasters…

  20. Daisy

    Those are absolutely inspiring coasters. Thanks for sharing! Makes me want to drag that old sewing machine out….but I probably won’t 🙂

  21. Sally

    Hey the coasters came out great! Have you discovered rotary cutters yet? Olfa makes the best, great for making accurate finished sizes. Another quilt designer is Jan Mullen, who has a lot of freeform designs that don’t require precise patten pieces:

    She has several books and lots of patterns.

  22. Sonya

    Too many quilts, too much quilting, I feel myself succumbing, bending under pressure! I like the idea of something small, like a coaster to start off with, since my machine skills are rudimentary at best.

  23. Lois Budd

    I’m very impressed with the precision of your work. The way you work through every new process with such mathematical precision just flaws me. Everything that you show on the blog is just beautiful. You’re very talented.

    I’ve started on your Jaywalker sock now.

  24. Joey

    No – don’t go over to “the dark side” – I have lost many a-knitter friend to that evil allure of fabric and a sewing MACHINE. No – no I will resist and stick to my love of yarn and sticks (with the occasional use of a hook too); but still by hand!

    Very nice work, your precise nature works out beautifully in your quilting – those coasters are absotutely perfect.

  25. kelly

    I just got a skirt at Anthropologie with the same colors as the quilt! The colors go well on the skirt, a whole quilt would be just lovely… I like the little mini quilts- much better than my first try at quilting!

  26. Sundara

    I tried making those coasters about 6 months ago and I only made two, cause I had the same problem with sizing. They came out tiny! I so blame the pattern.

    I’m so impressed with your fortitude to get them right. They turned out just adorable.

  27. Vicky in Vancouver

    Welcome to the quilting side of the universe!

    My knitting daughter ( and my sewing/quilting self, have managed to cross-train each other in our crafts.

    Two crafters + 1 knitting stash each + 1 fabric stash each + 3 cats = happy girls.

  28. Nadia Lewis

    Those are darling! I have the book, but I’ve been resisting quilting for a while (I have way too many knitting UFOs). These look very tempting, though.

  29. maryse

    great job. i love that book. i haven’t made anything out of it, but it’s gotten me thinking about knitting projects believe it or not.

  30. Christie

    The coasters look great! The thing I love about you is that when something doesn’t work out immediately, you work it until it does…always with beautiful results. Me? I would have thrown in down and stamped off.

  31. Jamisyn

    Wow, absolutely gorgeous coasters! I tried piecing a purse before, and let’s just say it wasn’t perfect–usuable, but not perfect. I admire that fact that you tried ’til you got it right. Beautiful, I love your color choices!

  32. Jen

    Those are too cute! I got into quilting in college when my roomate showed me a quilt she had made. I never had tried quilts because even though I sewed garments, I thought they would somehow be really hard to do. She simply said that they were easy to make and that was all I needed to give it a try. You were smart to start small but I bet you’ll be hooked now. I have a binder full of color drawings I’ve done with quilt ideas 🙂

  33. Katinka

    You know, I’ve been sewing since I was a kid, and yet I’m feeling like I should come over to your house for sewing lessons. 🙂 The coasters are fantastic!

  34. karen

    I’m a new knitter but an old quilter. I bought the DSQ book when it came out and loved looking at all the quilts, particularly the Any Way You Slice It, but I ended up getting rid of the book. Why? Because there were templates!!! for string piecing, which IMHO should be improvisational and somewhat random, rather than precision-cut and perfectly planned. In fact, the inclusion of those templates was an insult to my intelligence, because I believe I have a fairly good eye for color and value and texture and can come up with a decent scrap quilt all on my own. As an experiment, try taking a pile of fabrics you love–at least 20 different prints/plaids/dots/solids/stripes–and a rotary cutter, ditch the omnigrid ruler and the templates, and see what you come up with. Once you have a handful of square-ish strip sets, trim them to a uniform size using the clear ruler so you can control what elements you want to emphasize in each block, sew them up and see what you get. An excellent book that covers ideas like these is “Liberated Quiltmaking” by Gwen Marston, and fortunately it looks like it was reprinted, because several years ago it was so hard to find and therefore cost a fortune used.

  35. Sue F.

    The Anyway You Slice It quilt reminds me of the Gee’s Bend quilt exhibit they had at the MFA; did you see it? One quilt type was nicknamed a Lazy Gal quilt (I think) because they were torn into long strips that tended to be tapered and then sewn together (narrow ends alternating with wide ends), I gather it’s a relatively quick way to make a quilt. As to not measuring, one of the quilters was quoted as saying “it always came out right in the end”. It was a fascinating and moving exhibit.

  36. Carrie

    Cute quilt and coasters! Just an FYI, although you probably know this already – if the batting wasn’t preshrunk, it will shrink in a hot wash, giving a wrinkly, vintage look to your quilts. It’s a cute effect, but not if you want crisp and modern. 🙂

  37. lola

    Those same blog quilts got me too! Last weekend I thought, I can do that. This weekend, I’m curling up underneath one. Think I’ll use the extras for some coasters.

  38. Laurie

    Okay, I have never – not once – had a desire to quilt. Ever. I don’t really like the way most quilts look. In fact, when I first saw this post, I thought, “eh,” seeing the quilt in the first picture. It’s okay, but not for me.

    THEN, I saw those coasters!! I can’t believe what a difference it made! The blue, yellow, green coasters are TO DIE FOR! And, then I started reimagining that quilt in the first pictures with colors and patterns more suited to me and thought that maybe, I could really get into this. I know – it sounds so obvious. Duh – you can customize things you make yourself, and I know this full well in knitting and sewing matters, but somehow that never translated into quilting for me. I had a mental block on the quilts. But no more! Thank you for showing me the light!

    I may never become a full-fledged quilter, but damn, I am going to run out and make some coasters soon!! (Especially since I’m moving into a new apartment in June – it will need new coasters!) And, maybe I’ll just have to get that Denyse Schmidt book, too.

  39. Thomasean

    All I can say is that just like everything else I’ve seen of yours, the quilt blocks make me want to quilt. They are so pretty.

    The socks are pretty too.

    Smart. That’s all just smart and talented is what you are.

    Keep on inspiring me.

  40. Julia

    These are wonderful. I love the colors you chose. I’ve had the Denise Schmidt book for a while and have been meaning to try something small like this – soon, soon!

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