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!

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