Reverse Engineering (Part 2)

Last week I worked on a quilt top that I had made about two years ago. I had set it aside, and when I revisited it, I was not thrilled. So I took it apart and changed what I didn’t like. Reverse engineering by un-sewing and re-sewing the center and first round of geese.


I had shown it to some friends, and even with its flaws, they encouraged me to write up the pattern. OK, I can do that. But it will require more reverse engineering, of a different kind.

You see, I worked in the tech world for many years (before embarking on the quilt life), and we often had to take apart an object/idea/piece-of-software, and figure out how it was made, so we could make our own, improved version. Think building a better mousetrap – you need to know how the current one works if you hope to improve on it, right?

Then we had to document it. As a technical writer, that was my job. And as a pattern writer, it is STILL my job. Major respect to the illustrator who documented that mousetrap, BTW.

If I had known that I needed to write up the instructions for it, I would have documented the process as I went along: how many half-squares triangles to make, which direction to press, what’s the most satisfying curse word to use when I make a mistake, and all those other nit-picky details that go into writing a good pattern.

But I didn’t. I was making it up as I went along. I do that sometimes.

So now I am faced with the task of reverse engineering it, documenting it by working backwards. Measuring. Counting. Doing MATH.

mathi-hate-you-2Yeah, that day is here… Good thing no one else has to decipher my notes:

And it’s a very good thing that I didn’t get it quilted yet, because I can still turn it over and see how I pressed things. You want some suggestions on that, I assume.


Whenever I sit down to write up a new pattern, it feels like a return to my days as a tech writer. That’s not a bad thing, just a familiar mindset, a get-to-work attitude. And I have to say, I’d much rather reverse engineer and document a quilt than the stuff I used to do.

But next time I start a project without a plan, I’m going to keep track of it as I go along – just in case. 🙂

And I still need a name for this thing. If I use your suggestion, you will get bragging rights and a copy of the pattern as soon as it comes out! Thanks!

Reverse Engineering (Part 1)

I don’t always get it right the first time. Sometimes I have to resort to reverse engineering.

I began this quilt top in the summer of 2013. Making it up as I went along, no clear vision for the finished thing. I was working on it at camp, and that laid-back chilled-out attitude spilled right over into my sewing.

Here is my happy place at the lake, and the work-in-progress on my little design wall:

For a number of reasons, it got put on the back burner until recently. I pulled it out with the intention of finishing it, and put it up on the wall in the studio at home. I was expecting to be pleased with it, and transported back to those casually creative camp days and … meh. Something is just not right.

That center is just not working for me. Boring, Repetitious. Lacking focus. I’ll kick myself if I go ahead and quilt it like that. I can do better. So I reach for that essential tool we all love to hate. Does using a pretty seam ripper make this any less tedious? I think not.

And out comes the entire middle section.



It came out easier than it went back in… Three out of the four corners went in nicely, the fourth fought back, until we reached an acceptable compromise. Here is the improved version, with a “Sister’s Choice” block for the center, and the first “goose chase” round running in the opposite direction.


The difference is not dramatic, and maybe it would not have bothered anyone but me. But I am happier with it now. Worth the effort when I look at them side-by-side, don’t you think?




In Part 2 (next week, I hope), I’ll look at another type of reverse engineering – the kind that happens when you have to work backwards to describe how a thing was made. Because now I have to write up a pattern for this, and I didn’t keep track along the way. That’s the price I pay for casual camp creativity!

And it’s going to need a name. Any suggestions??