When An Inch Makes All The Difference

Now, now, settle down.

This is what I mean

PDF file instructions

With the amount of independent designers creating patterns to be printed off as PDF files these days, those of you who use them for dressmaking, patchwork  or other crafts will know what I mean by the all important inch square when printing patterns.  There is no use briefly wafting a tape measure in the general direction of the square and saying ‘yes, that’s about right’ because a minute fraction of an inch bigger or smaller is a mistake that will multiply itself throughout the whole pattern and you will end up with something too big, too small and possibly unusable.

I don’t really hold myself completely to blame as I have never set any scaling on my printer but it seems to have taken control and robbed that inch of a teeny tiny morsel so that after two or three hours of painstaking cutting out, sewing on, joining up and congratulating myself on a beautiful bit of paper piecing, I placed my 12.5 inch square ruler on top of it and realised it was the wrong size.

So this block that I had been so proud of only minutes earlier…..

Foundation Paper Piecing

….. had to have a border put round it to bring it up to the requisite 12.5 inches as it is for the new round of F2F Block Swap which starts this month where all the blocks need to be the same size.

MyBlocksforSandra F2F2016 -17

So, it’s still not perfect because those outer triangles have had their inner points a little truncated because of the sizing but I think I might still give it to the person I made it for either as a spare block for her eventual quilt or to make a cushion to match.

I know I’m a European and all (for now, anyway 😉 ) and should be speaking in metric tongue but, with patchwork, it really is easiest to keep it in inches.  It seems to be the universal language of patchwork – except in France.  (How is it in the rest of  non-British Europe?  – can anybody enlighten me? Do inches rule?).  When I was cutting out fabric for another FPP block the other day at my friend’s house, she only had metric rulers and cutting mats.  Quelle horreur!   However, in a desperate attempt to get on with it, I converted the centimetres into inches and cut the pieces out accordingly.  When I got them home and measured them against my imperial rulers, they were all wrong.  I think I said ‘merde’ because it is one of the few French swear words I know which is not too rude.  Although no French swear words are as bad as some of the ones I know in English (again, unless somebody can enlighten me 😉 ) So, in future, when I go to sew ‘chez Sandra’ I will be taking my own mat and ruler.

I am the first recipient of the blocks this time round and I have already made my three, two of which I have already shown you but here is a ‘little’ reminder

Practising Paper Piecing

Paper Pieced Star for F2F 2016/2017

and this is the third one

Paper Pieced Block Esther Franzel

This is called ‘Building Blocks’ – guess why.  The darker ‘side of the block’ is actually navy blue but you get the idea. I just love those little dogs.   The pale grey background, morphing into a slightly darker grey is not because the colour ran in the wash but is part of my haul of beautiful Gelato ombré fabrics.  The colour starts dark(ish) at one selvedge edge, fades gradually into the middle and then starts getting darker again.  I bought a half yard bundle and so have a lot of colours.  It is actually very useful and you can see some more of it in the pale greens I used in the ‘failed’ block I showed earlier.

I’ve decided that the colours I’ve chosen for my blocks this time round are quite ‘masculine’ and realised I have never asked Mr. T. whether he would like a quilt to have in his weekday U.K. apartment as a reminder of home comforts – or perhaps he likes to get away from the fabric fest during the week.  Anyway, he liked the idea so that is where my eventual quilt will end up – in the London flat frequented by my husband when he’s not here, shortly to be shared with Mlle. Tialys the elder who has just finished University and has landed a job in Shoreditch which, I am reliably informed, is dead trendy these days.  At least I know she will be fed properly three evenings a week.

A bit early – Sandra isn’t due to receive her blocks until July – and in the full and certain knowledge that she will not see this blog – here is the block I re-did for her after I re-sized that inch.

'Out There' FPP Pattern Esther Franzel

I know the stripes go in different directions on alternate corners but it was deliberate to give the block a feeling of movement – like the blades of a windmill turning.  (Yeah, right)  However, that did make sense to me once I thought of it as an excuse  so I’ll stick with it.

This lovely pattern is by one of our talented F2F Block Swap members, Esther, in the Netherlands.  She is so talented and I’m glad she’s participating again this time because she sent me such amazing work last year and it was what inspired me to try foundation paper piecing out for myself.  Now, I’m hooked.  She has lots of beautiful patterns available on Craftsy and you can download this one called ‘Out There’ for free on Craftsy here.  (Esther – I hope I’ve made you proud 🙂 )

Have you ever had a disastrous experience with PDF patterns?

I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish Kate of Tall Tales from Chiconia – a blogging friend and one of the organisers of the F2F swap – a full and speedy recovery from the back surgery she underwent this morning (Australian time) and hope she gets back to a normal, pain-free life and continue with the things she loves to do as soon as possible. 



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  1. #1 by sew2pro on June 3, 2016 - 15:58

    I believe it’s only the English speakers use inches. I think it’s because their language is so simple (no genders, no cases), they compensate for this easy life by burdening themselves with an over-complicated, archaic measuring system like 1/16th of 2.5cm or something. The Brits even measure their floorplans in square feet but no one knows how big their homes are, just that they’re very, very expensive!

    I’ll get my coat.

    Beautiful work, as always (*ducks*)

    • #2 by tialys on June 3, 2016 - 16:20

      I think you are right that English appears to be an easy language to learn and, in the early stages, it probably is. (Mind you, it took me almost three years and I was born there 😉 ) However, as you get ‘deeper in’ to the language it gets more complex but not everybody bothers to progress much further than the basics – and I’m including a lot of native English speakers in that statement. I still don’t understand the point of genders in language. It seems to be completely arbitrary. Who, for example, when the French started calling the weekend, ‘le week-end’, decide it should be masculine?
      I don’t really miss the measurements (apart from in patchwork and quilting) but I do miss the money. There can be no equivalent in French at least – of the raucous London market traders cry – ‘free ferra paaand’ – unless you can enlighten me of course 😉

      • #3 by tialys on June 3, 2016 - 16:33

        Ooh and I just remembered this –

        We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
        But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
        One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
        Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
        You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
        Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
        If the plural of man is always called men,
        Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
        If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
        And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
        If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
        Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
        Then one may be that, and three would be those,
        Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
        And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
        We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
        But though we say mother, we never say methren.
        Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
        But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

        Now, I’ll get my coat 😉

  2. #4 by http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com on June 3, 2016 - 16:24

    Amen to your wishes for Kate.

    I was an utter beginner when we came to live in France in 1993. I was on my own in a totally non-English-speaking village for 3 months, so I joined a French choir and a French patchwork group. Bit by bit I acquired equipment, cutting mat, rulers etc, so when I bought English Quilting magazines, I had to juggle inches and centimetres, with (like you) the occasional need for adjustment/extra borders etc. Nowadays most of my quilting is done off the top of my head – if it turns out bigger or smaller, so be it. But I still came unstuck with Dresden plates for Kate.

    • #5 by tialys on June 3, 2016 - 16:38

      It was sort of similar for me – although I had young kids which helped – I joined a patchwork group eventually but nobody would ever let me near their choir.
      I already had quite a lot of ‘kit’ when we moved here but I confess that I buy any new equipment I need online – in inches!

      • #6 by http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com on June 3, 2016 - 17:37

        Ah. I mix them up with a big grin!

      • #7 by Postcard from Gibraltar on June 5, 2016 - 13:21

        What beautiful blocks. I love them all 🙂

      • #8 by tialys on June 6, 2016 - 08:51

        Thank you – sometimes it’s hard to give them away but I know I will be getting some lovely ones in return so I manage 😉

  3. #9 by claire93 on June 3, 2016 - 16:45

    well as a Brit in France, like you, I prefer to stick to my inches when it suits me and for patchwork it makes life so much easier.
    What I don’t understand is: when I belonged to a French patchwork club, where everything was done by hand, ladies drew their templates using cm for measurements, but they all the the 1/4″ quilters ruler for adding on their seams lol.
    I hope you’re going to let Sandra borrow your inch rulers for the F2F2 swap, otherwise the poor woman is going to have a hell of a time measuring.

    • #10 by tialys on June 3, 2016 - 17:00

      I think I’ll have to Claire – especially as she is not ‘good on the internet’ so relies on me to supply her with patterns which, of course, are all in inches. Maybe I’ll buy an extra one to keep round at hers – my 6.5 x 24 inch one that I use all the time and have had for ages is getting a few nicks in it now where I’ve mishandled the rotary cutter so it would be a good excuse to invest in another.

      • #11 by katechiconi on June 4, 2016 - 03:19

        Maybe Sandra will become a patchwork addict, and will invest in her own set…? Meanwhile, it does seem safest to bring your own rulers. Thank you so much for the good wishes, I’m definitely on the mend. It will be a bit of a slow process, but I’m getting there. It also looks as if WP is letting me reply to existing comments, just not make new ones of my own…

  4. #12 by nanacathy2 on June 3, 2016 - 17:46

    Oh my my MY. I LOVE your colour choices. Absolutely stunning the yellows with the navy. As to printing off patterns I have a headache just thinking about it. I need my patterns full size and ready to go!

    • #13 by tialys on June 5, 2016 - 11:12

      I did vow never to print off a PDF for anything larger than a top in future. Some of the dress patterns seem to go on forever and I think I’d rather pay the postage for the printed pattern to be sent to me than spend hours on the floor with multiple sheets of paper and sellotape.

  5. #14 by nanacathy2 on June 3, 2016 - 17:49

    And I just read the poem. Brilliant!

  6. #16 by knettycraft on June 3, 2016 - 18:07

    Hello Lynn, what heartwarming words concerning Esther and Kate. I totally agree with you! And yes… I had sunch an inchdesaster too in the last F2F round. It was a block I made for Susan and I solved it in the same way as you did… I added some corners to the edges and cut the original corners off.
    Inch or metric… I thing in Germany it depends on every single quilter… when I learned quiltmaking I did it mostly with English blogs, videos and books, tutorials. The inch system was new for me but I soon bought inchy rulers and mats because I found it difficult to transform all the measurements… and then I bought my Janome where I have an quarter inch food… and the Fiskar’s hexagon punch makes 1″ hexies, all the wonderful precuts … meanwhile I wouldn’t have the idea to make a metric quilt! But I know there are German quilters – and they wouldn’t call themselves quilters, they do patchwork… and they don’t quilt, the are stepping – who do it all metric. Perhaps some of them don’t speak/understand enough English…
    I really love your colour scheme for F2F2!!!

    • #17 by tialys on June 5, 2016 - 11:10

      I might be wrong but I think patchwork and quilting became popular as an art form, rather than as a necessity, in the English speaking countries first. This is probably why most of the basic books, tools and patterns are in English and, therefore, in imperial measurements. When I first came to France, eleven years ago, I found the French seemed to prefer appliqué but there are more and more magazines appearing all the time now.

  7. #18 by Janice Marriott on June 3, 2016 - 19:13

    Glad To see you are keeping busy, Building Blocks is one of my favorite motifs

    • #19 by tialys on June 5, 2016 - 11:03

      It’s another of those optical illusions that fascinate me – I’m easily pleased.

  8. #20 by Magpie Sue on June 3, 2016 - 19:33

    I LOVE your dog blocks! What a great use of that print. I would have done what you did with the stripes on the block for Sandra on purpose so no excuses needed. You’ve done impressive work. There will be no FPP coming from me however, I hope everyone will be content with traditionally pieced blocks. Now I’ve got to rustle up some navy blue; I don’t seem to have much in the stash!

    • #21 by tialys on June 5, 2016 - 11:02

      I’ve no sympathy – I have the same issue with black 😉

  9. #22 by jendavismiller on June 3, 2016 - 22:14

    Lovely and so confusing post. Inches? Metrics? Good lord I’d never get anything figured out. What I do know is that your squares are wonderful, lovely color scheme and of course, I love those long little doggies. That poem is great, and don’t forget …although, through, enough…

  10. #24 by rutigt on June 4, 2016 - 13:56

    I know the feeling (about wrong size, I mean). When I sew the FPP block for Kate´s Tea party quilt, the inch square on my printed paper was just a tiny bit to small and I have to redo the whole block. In Sweden we use the meter scale, but when I sew, I mostly measure in inches. Took a while to learn and I still have some difficulties with the 16´s 🙂 but I´m getting better.

    • #25 by tialys on June 5, 2016 - 11:00

      I try not to go as small as the 16s! I have learned an important lesson though – although one I thought I already knew – and I will never again be flippant about measuring that inch square. Better to do that than have to redo a whole block.

  11. #26 by sewchet on June 4, 2016 - 14:53

    I enjoyed the discussion about English as much as that of the blocks – very entertaining!

  12. #28 by Kim Hood on June 5, 2016 - 10:34

    Beautiful blocks, but not being a quilter I have no input ‘re cm or inches. I confess to switching between the two in my sewing depending on what suits my needs better. Not helpful for anyone following my instructions!

    • #29 by tialys on June 5, 2016 - 10:48

      Thanks Kim. Most clothing patterns also give you a choice don’t they, now that I think about it. There’s a nice little indie French company called ‘Deer and Doe’ which caters mostly for younger women than me and even they are ‘bilingual in their measurements.

  13. #30 by Dartmoor Yarns on June 5, 2016 - 22:41

    As a dyslexic, I have enough trouble with English without worrying about other’s languages and all this assigning genders to things that clearly don’t have a gender. But I’m pretty bilingual in feet and inches vs metres and centimetres However, when the builders start on their measurements in millimetres, I do rather lose it. Still that’s men for you, trying to make something small seem bigger.

    • #31 by tialys on June 6, 2016 - 08:49

      I usually lose it when talking to builders about anything at all – especially when it gets to the bill. I have trouble with kilometres too – I still think about distances in miles and the weight of people in stones and pounds – although I’m fine with food ingredients, sacks of dog/cat/chicken food, parcels and suitcases in kilogrammes.

      BTW, I had to approve your comment as if you were a first time commenter. Which is odd. WP playing up again I think.

      • #32 by Dartmoor Yarns on June 6, 2016 - 11:42

        Oh yes I do people in stones and llbs and dog food in kgs too. I think WP was having a real moment yesterday, as I saw a few comments I left said they needed moderating. and I had to approve a few people I’m always chatting to.

  14. #33 by dezertsuz on June 5, 2016 - 23:54

    So I would have been perfectly happy with the first block you made. It’s gorgeous! Nice tip of the hat to Esther, and either block you made is quite nice – and I usually have the stripes going every which way! I’ll have to remember not to put my blocks up on the blog. I’m making them this week, so I can mail them off early. They won’t be paper-pieced, though!

    • #34 by tialys on June 6, 2016 - 08:41

      Don’t worry Susan – I know lots of people can’t bear to do paper piecing – I thought I was one of them but now I’m addicted so everybody will probably get at least one FPP block from me. Although I might not send one to Esther!!
      I already spotted my goldy mustards on your blog and very nice they are too.

  15. #35 by PendleStitches on June 6, 2016 - 11:20

    I think I’ve said this before but I’m in awe of your piecing skills. And you fabric matching. These blocks are stunning.

    • #36 by tialys on June 6, 2016 - 14:56

      Thank you. You may say it as many times as you like! 😉 I have done patchwork on and off for a while now and, when I was still in the U.K., used to belong to a group that met every couple of weeks in a local craft and fabric shop. We held our ‘class’ – we had a nominal teacher – right in amongst all the lovely fabric which was a clever move as nobody ever left without ‘just one more fat quarter’ they just had to have. Anyway, although some of my piecing skills seem to have taken a long time to develop – and some still have a long way to go – I think I learnt a lot about colour matching in those days and it has stayed with me I think no matter how many times I veer off the patchwork path into dressmaking, box making, dog collar making, etc. etc.

      • #37 by PendleStitches on June 8, 2016 - 22:36

        That sounds like such fun. I’m just getting back into sewing classes every couple of months and it’s the same there. You learn so much from the other ladies, and from watching what they’re making. It’s very inspirational. As is your patchwork!

  16. #38 by PendleStitches on June 6, 2016 - 11:21


  17. #39 by poshbirdy on June 6, 2016 - 13:49

    Love the building blocks/ dogs. What a lovely simple design. It just works so well

    • #40 by tialys on June 6, 2016 - 14:51

      Thank you. It’s another design that strangely fascinates me and appeals to my inner child.

  18. #41 by claire93 on June 6, 2016 - 17:04

    Lynn, “lettre suivie” info on line tells me parcel was delivered on 4th. Please reassure me and say you have my blocks in your sweaty little hands ?

    • #42 by tialys on June 6, 2016 - 17:24

      Eek! I’m emailing you. x

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