A Quilter’s Dilemma—Or Not!

As I do almost every year, I’m working on UFOs this year. I hope to complete 13 in ’13. This idea came from QM Scrap Squad member Marty Dyer-Allison. (The girl also goes for 52 quilts in 52 weeks. Overachiever. icon smile A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not! )

misc11 A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not!

So yesterday I was merrily attaching the binding to the back of this pink and green quilt I pieced about 10 years ago. I had cut the binding back then, rolled it up neatly and stuck it in a drawer. The rest of the fabric is long gone.

bind1 A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not!Here’s what happened. As I’m approaching the place where the binding ends will be sewn together, it becomes clear that I’m ever-so-slightly short. It was only about two inches. AARGH.

MH900423155 A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not!

I take a deep breath and think these things:

  1. “I’ve run out of fabric before and have come up with a solution. So many times, in fact, that I’ve thought of creating a whole guild program/lecture about it. CALM DOWN.”
  2. “This is a utility quilt. I’m not trying to win any prizes.”
  3. “I’m a creative person. Surely I can solve this problem.”

nebraska1 A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not!

I live way out in the middle of nowhere (see the green neon square?). I’m almost an hour away from a quilt shop, so shopping my stash seems like the way to go.

bind7 A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not!

So-so options for a substitute fabric

I’m lucky to have a pretty healthy stash and much of it is sorted by color. So I dive into the red/pink drawers and come up with a few so-so options. If I had known sooner, I could have used all of these fabrics for the binding and it would have been great, but it’s a little too late for that option.

bind2 A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not!Eventually I land on this fabric. Not perfect but pretty darn close. Close enough for me and this utility quilt.

bind3 A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not!I cut a bit off of the original binding so as not to have two joins just inches apart. I set in the substitute fabric. Looks okay from the back.

bind6 A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not!Once it’s turned to the front and sewn down, I’m actually pretty happy with how well it camouflages itself.

If you run out of fabric, how should you proceed? Here’s what I have learned.

MB900423169 A Quilters Dilemma—Or Not!

  1. Keep things in perspective. It’s just a quilt. It’s not a terminal diagnosis.
  2. Embrace the situation as an opportunity to be creative.
  3. Look for substitute fabric in your stash or at the quilt shop. It will need to be similar in these ways:
  • Color
  • Scale (how large or small the print is)
  • Value (the lightness or darkness)

Sew it in and move forward! Sometime soon I’ll do a blog post with examples. This has happened to me so many times and I’ve learned how to roll with it. You can, too!


About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email: editor@quiltmaker.com.
This entry was posted in Quilting 101, Scrapbag, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to A Quilter’s Dilemma—Or Not!

  1. Claudia says:

    And when you snuggle a new baby granddaughter in this quilt, are you going to look at the “patch” in the binding? I think not.

  2. Marie says:

    Great save! I started a “utility” quilt a couple of weeks ago on the spur of the moment and thought for sure I had enough fabric for all the pieces I would need. No so! but like your suggestions I just kept on and chose a fabric that was close and I am pleased so far with the results. If you ever have a chance to look at antique quilts you will find that it has happened to lots of quilters! Thats what quilting is all about after all-creativity and ingenuity!

  3. I’ve had the same thing happen to me. I’ve actually thought of making a small fabric substitution at some point in all of my bindings and just calling it my own version of a Navajo blanket spirit line. I like the idea of that, and that way any gap would always be intentional! ;-D

  4. Sue says:

    I was making a Christmas quilt from fabrics I’d bought 2 years’ previously in another state and I didn’t have enough to finish the border as directed. I ended up creating new blocks from the fabric I did have and put it on alternating corners. Worked well, who would know besides me? But MY eye always goes right to it!!

  5. Bj Bevins says:

    Great Save and yes I’ve run into this same situation many times too, we quilters are a creative sort and we do what we gotta do to getter’ done, these little things just add pizazz as far as I’m concerned :)

  6. Joyce Mitchell says:

    My binding came up short one time too, but I had enough fabric left to add a short section, though my joins were close together. So now I always “rehearse” my binding before I actually sew it down. I start in the center of one side, laying the binding down along the edge, do the flip up/flip down for the mitred corners, and all around. This not only lets me know if the binding will be long enough, but I can also adjust the starting placement so I don’t have a seam join at one of the mitred corners.

  7. Marty L says:

    Thank you, Jean Dod, for your comment. It is so hard for me to quilt a piece for fear of not being perfect. I am going to frame your comment!

  8. Cathryn H says:

    OH, how I can relate to this! I have a couple of quilts that have unique bindings. Somehow, either I miscalculated the binding, or, I used part of it for something else. That’s why I don’t worry about it anymore. It’s a designer’s right to make changes and it’s a quilter’s right to make more changes. Your quilt looks great and if someone can spot it from the back of a fast galloping horse – let them find the fabric to change it out. :)

  9. vickie blose says:

    I fine something similar .unpick a few seams. insert the new fabric in a couple of spots so it looks planned

  10. Rita McCart says:

    I was just about finished with a celtic twist quilt, and I ran out of the fabric that went in the center. Went to get more picked up the same color, went home cut out the remaining squares I was missing, sewed it together, sewed the back on, bound it. And that’s when I noticed the green centers were 2 different colors of green. :(

  11. Jess in Tyler says:

    Love me some Aunt Marty!

    I think it looks great!

  12. Jean Dod says:

    Finished is better than perfect!

  13. Rowena says:

    Great save. I really don’t think anybody but another quilter would notice difference in fabrics, and even then another quilter may not notice if you don’t point it out.

  14. Joanne Bur says:

    I think so many times we get hung up on perfection! Nobody is perfect. I’ve heard that Amish women deliberately sew a “mistake” into their quilts to show their human imperfections—their belief is that God is the only perfect one!

  15. Tracy Pierceall says:

    Great blog!! I’ve run into the same problem on the back. (I’m new, so terrible at estimating.) It was for a gift so, like you, I had to get creative, and no one knew but me! ;)

  16. Sally Cooper Risinger says:

    I also live in the middle of nowhere in Southwest Oklahoma. I have learned to be creative in quilting and cooking, learning to substitute ingredients and fabric.

  17. Carri says:

    Way to keep yourself calm. I have done this a couple of times & usually end up making a “scrappy binding.”

  18. Regina says:

    You are the second blog I have read tonight with the SAME issue -and the same solution. I think it looks fine! :-)

  19. Gina says:

    I see so many antique quilts with a piece substituted here or there. It makes me smile.

  20. This is a very timely post! I’m currently trying to figure out how to turn 8 Dresden plates into a 3 x 3 quilt, and I don’t have any more of the fabrics that I used in the plates. So I found a print that coordinates for the center block, and it’s just going to have to be fabulous because it was the best option in my stash!

  21. Kaye M. says:

    It makes me crazy when things like that happen, but like you said it’s not the end of the world! I remember reading an interview with Jinny Beyer when she talked about making her award winning “Ray of Light” quilt. She didn’t have enough of a particular fabric and was short on time so it forced her to come up with a creative idea. She changed her original plan and came up with an alternate idea and it turned out great. She went on to win the contest and the rest is history!

  22. Vivian says:

    So, so true! The same thing hapened to me on the first bed quilt I made. In a queensize quilt that has red binding, the last ten inches at the top of each side is green! In my case, both were fabrics used in the quilt with the red being the originally intended binding (but in the end was short) and the green was what I had enough left of that visually worked!

    One day, historians will say that it was done to let people know where and how far to turn down the quilt on the bed! Never a mistake always a “design decision”, I say……..

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