job interview tips, live and learn, New Quilters, Newbie Quilters, perfect question, quilt sizing, Quilting, re-sizing a quilt, work advice, You're My Star Quilt

Live and Learn

Although the conference room was large, seating forty-five in a pinch, the air was stuffy. The ninth-floor windows were non-functional, so no hope of a breeze was to be found there, although my eyes seemed to think so by the way they kept drifting that way. Perhaps I was just following the sun, like a houseplant. The morning sunlight was setting the neighboring buildings afire, glinting off cold windows and stone. A wake-up call to the sleepy office workers dwelling therein, probably staring out the window, just like me.

Yawning, I got up from my seat at the conference table to check the thermostat on the wall. After knocking it down a couple of degrees, I turned to see my secretary bringing in the next applicant. I wondered if she would be able to answer the question.

We chatted for a while, and she – Sally – seemed pleasant enough. She laughed at my jokes. A good sign.

I noticed her purse. Handmade. Quilted. “Did you make this yourself?” I asked. She did. I was about to offer her the job based on this fact alone, when I remembered I was a professional. And this office doesn’t make quilts. I got down to business.

I asked all the required standard questions that are useless (canned questions get canned responses, my friend). She had the goods on paper. The right experience, the right education. But, so did the others. It would come down to the question.

I started down her job history. I picked a previous job from the list, and asked the perfect interview question.

“What did you learn there?”

This question had stumped all the other applicants. They could tell you what they did, name their “strengths” and “weaknesses,” and tell me why I should hire them. But they couldn’t tell me what they had learned over the years. They were all show and no go.

But not Sally. Sally answered the question.

Sally articulated what the job required beyond the job description, beyond the obvious. She told me what the challenges were, how she handled them, and what lessons she learned. She told me something real about herself.

Sharing what you’ve learned with others requires trust. It shows a willingness to engage in a relationship, in friendly dialogue with others. I like that. That’s the kind of person you want to work with.

She got the job, of course.

Everything you do teaches you something beyond the obvious.

Which brings me to my second bed-sized quilt, made for my daughter Grace. I could simply say, “I learned a lot from that quilt.” That’s obvious. But wouldn’t you rather know exactly what I did learn, in the off chance that it will help you?

Of course, you would. One of the things I like about blogging, and reading blogs, is the sharing. The friendly dialogue, the helping relationships. I bet you do, too, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

For Grace’s quilt, I used a pattern I saw in a magazine, called “You’re My Star.” It was featured in the April/May 2015 issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts. What drew me to the quilt was the stars. I’d not done stars yet, but they are everywhere in quilting, and after the Never-ending Nine Patch, I wanted a little bit of a challenge.1-IMG_3243[953]

What did I learn? First, I learned that sometimes you cry from frustration when you quilt. 😊 I almost gave up, many times. But I hung in there, and I learned a lot. If you are a new quilter, trust me – there are lessons here for you, too. Here’s just a few:

  • This pattern instructs making Half-Square and Quarter Square Triangle (HST and QST) units by cutting out little triangles and sewing them together one at a time. Problem: This is NOT the easiest or most accurate way to make these units. Lesson Learned: The secret to HSTs and QSTs is to make them bigger than you need and then cut them down to size. I got lucky and went to the AQS quilt show, where I just happened to walk by the Studio 180 booth where Deb Tucker herself was demonstrating how to make HSTs the easy way. She also demonstrated how to make several HSTs at a time. This saved my quilt and my sanity. I bought specialty rulers for the first time, the Tucker Trimmer and the Quilter’s Magic Wand (you can find them here) and voila! HSTs and QSTs solved.
  • The strip piecing in this pattern looked so simple, I made all my strips and cut out EVERY SINGLE ONE of the pieces before I started putting the blocks together. I thought I was a brilliant, efficient quilt making machine. Problem: Strip piecing looks easy, but can go very wrong if your seams are not exactly ¼” and/or you happen to stretch your strip when ironing and it is bowed. You won’t notice till you start putting the blocks together and the points don’t match up. Lesson Learned: Check your ¼” seam. The easiest way to check it? Keep an index card on your sewing table. The lines are ¼” apart, you can lay the card on the seam as a quick check. And it’s a good idea do a test block, before you start cutting everything up. It’ll save you a lot of ripping out later if the cut pieces don’t match up correctly.
  • The picture in the magazine looks like a queen-sized quilt, so it must be. Problem: I presumed the pattern was for a queen-sized quilt, and but I bought fabric and cut it out before I ever once read what the finished size would be. Rookie mistake. Once I realized it, I thought I could just add a row to make it bigger – but take a look at the pattern layout – adding a row would make it an EVEN number of blocks across instead of odd, ruining the design. Lesson Learned: Pay attention to the pattern measurements. Patterns printed in magazines are rarely queen-sized, most often they are throw or twin sized. If a pattern isn’t the size you need, it’s not that difficult to re-size your blocks. For example, this quilt measures 60” across and 84” down (without borders). I could have created 16” blocks instead of 12”, kept the five across/seven down pattern, but gotten a quilt that was 80” across and 84” down (again, without borders).

How to size your quilt (quick version): Decide how big you want it to be. Decide the block size and work backward from that. For example, if you want a 90” wide by 90” long quilt, divide the total size desired by the size of the blocks. For this example, you will need nine rows of nine 10” blocks. If you want the same overall size quilt, but want to use 12” blocks, just divide 90 by 12. You’ll need 7.5 blocks per row (just round-up to 8). If you need more details, here’s a link to’s handy chart and calculator which walks you through sizing your quilt. It’s the best I’ve seen so far.

In the end, the quilt came out beautiful, and Gracie loves it. Except that it has no puppies on it, which is a whole ‘nother story. 🙂


Thanks for spending your time with me. I hope you’ve learned something! I know I have.

Happy Quilting.


3 thoughts on “Live and Learn”

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