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A Fabric Faux Pax: How I Overcame Running out of Fabric in the Middle of a Quilt Block

I had a moment of quilty panic this month while I was working on the latest quilt block for my Space Quilt. It's a block that I called 'Kiwi Cosmos', because although it's a picture of Planet Earth, when I was designing it, it was suggested to me by a fellow Kiwi Quilter that I should be a bit cheeky and make New Zealand big... really big… so I did!

Anyway back to the story...

I had picked out a fun blue fabric with what looked like colourful confetti dots on it from my stash for the ocean portions of the quilt block and had already started merrily sewing my block together when it dawned on me that there wasn't as much of that fabric left as I thought there was when I started. 

A sample of the fabric I was initially using for the ocean part of my Planet Earth quilt block

I like to live life on the edge. I frequently try new things, especially things that scare me a little. One thing that doesn't usually include is the prospect of running out of a certain fabric in the middle of a quilting project. Probably because most of my projects are scrappy enough to cover any fabric limitations in my stash. Not this time.

I had sewn up about half of my templates when I realised that the blue fabric was running out… fast and there definitely wasn't going to be enough to finish the block! I stopped sewing and began to frantically search through my fabric stash.

In my desperation, I even got in the car and drove to the storage locker. I knew I had some fabric packed up in there... somewhere. After fighting my way past kids toys, boxes of extra linen, an overlocker, Nana's sewing machine, my computer monitors, a lazy-boy chair, a dismantled race car bed and my office desks plus a few other things (all in the storage locker while we are trying to sell our house) to find the boxes of fabric which I had neatly stored in there, I was still out of luck. There was no more of this fabric, and nothing even close to matching that particular shade of blue in my stash. 


Cue the mad-dash to my local fabric store where I initially purchased the fabric to see if they had more... they didn't. I couldn't even do a call around to other stores in Wellington to see if they had any because, honestly, I didn't know what the fabric was called, or who the designer or manufacturer was. I had NO information about the fabric, other than the scraps that were left in my hand.

After a mad dash to my local fabric store, Thimbles and Threads in Upper Hutt, I found this blue fabric with colourful squiggly lines on it. It appears to be from the same fabric collection as the confetti fabric.


In the end I found another fabric with the same colours (which I think is probably from the same collection, but still has no information attached) to use in it's place. I tried to make it look deliberately scrappy, and when I finished I had only one little scrap about one inch square left of that elusive confetti fabric.

Although I tried to make the sea look deliberately scrappy by the time I had realised I needed to use a different fabric it was too late and  you can definitely tell I made a mistake with my quilt block.

Even though I had finished my quilt block, I was really unsure about the end result given my fabric faux pax, and was considering re-making the block. I sent an email out in my monthly email newsletter (because it never hurts to get a second opinion or three) to determine if it needed to be re-made.

This is a photo of the finished paper pieced quilt block. Although I ran out of the blue fabric I had chosen, you can still see the contrast between the land and the sea on the Planet Earth,

I received a lot of replies, and all but one of those replies told me that the block looks great as it is. One of my lovely email friends even pointed out that the squiggles resemble ocean currents! This idea made me feel much better about the quilt block the way it was and the more I looked at it, the more I grew to like it the way it is, even though it's not what I envisaged when I first started sewing. As for the leftover scrap of confetti fabric, well no fabric scrap left behind, that little left-over fabric scrap ended up being the window in my Rocket Ship quilt block!

I wasn't going to let that last fabric scrap go to waste, so I added it to my Rocket Ship Quilt block!

What I learned:

While I would never recommend deliberately starting a quilt block with not enough fabric or at least without a solid plan in place to finish the block if you were knowingly risking it and cutting it fine, I believe that there are some lessons that can be learned from my experience. The first being, if you aren't planning to be scrappy, check how much fabric you have before you start to avoid any unnecessary angst mid project, because our crafting time is supposed to be relaxing. Yes it's only fabric and thread, but honestly, you don't need the stress!

The second thing I learned is that sometimes you can be too close to a project to see it's beauty. This is especially the case when you had an idea in your head of how it should look and it doesn't turn out that way due to unmitigated factors. Get a second opinion from a friend, your quilting guild buddies, or social media followers, before you give up on it and re-make it or repurpose it. You might find that what you made is fine as it is. It may even be better than you thought, and it may take someone else pointing out it's merits to you before you can see it. Of course if you have done that and still dislike it, go ahead and do what you need to do, but at least give those mistakes a chance first!

Happy Quilting, Rachel