The Blind Spot in My Brain
I had an epiphany yesterday afternoon while driving home from town. I wish these epiphanies would happen at more convenient times and in more convenient places, but I suppose I should be grateful they happen at all.
We need to back up to the step in constructing the Ultimate Travel Bag where I have to cut the exterior fabric, lining fabric, and foam to make the quilt sandwich. My brain is used to processing quilting instructions which have you fold the fabric lengthwise so the selvedges are aligned, then cut pieces across the width of the fabric. In fact, many quilt patterns will say something like, “Cut a strip 3” x WOF,” where “WOF” is an accepted abbreviation for “width of fabric.”
When I saw the instructions to cut a piece of fabric 22” x 45” and a piece of fabric 20” x 45”, I assumed (wrongly, as it turns out) that that meant to cut a strip 22” x WOF, because most quilting fabrics are somewhere in the neighborhood of 44”-45” wide. Had those instructions said to cut a piece 22” x 53,” on the other hand, I would have known to orient the pattern pieces vertically, not horizontally, because the fabric wouldn’t have been wide enough. (I’m not using a piece of directional fabric, thank heavens, or that would have thrown another wrench into the works.) The epiphany came as my brain was trying to work out why a designer would have you cut a piece of fabric 22” wide across the width when the width had the potential to vary so much. Some fabrics are only 42” wide. It was then that my brain decided to kick into gear and I realized that the intent all along was for the fabric to be cut vertically, not horizontally.
I am really struggling with this. Every time I think I’ve got this spatial perception deficit managed, it leaps up and bites me. What happened in my early years that I—the daughter of a mechanical engineer who designed rocket engines and a woman who owns a metal stamping plant—cannot “see” these things? Was I dropped on my head as a baby? I hesitate to refer to this as a handicap or a disability, because it’s minor compared to the limitations that some people deal with on a daily basis, but holy cow—when I screw something up that other people find obvious or easy, it sure feels like a disability to me.
[Some of you no doubt read yesterday’s blog post and knew exactly what I had done wrong. Thank you for having the grace to stay silent, but it’s okay for you to point out my stupidity to me.]
And of course, I have to fight against the instinct to blame the designer. How could she not know that I, spatially-challenged Janet, would have a problem with her instructions? I’ve sat on that side of the fence as a designer myself. I KNOW how hard it is to anticipate all the ways that someone is going to misinterpret your instructions and believe me, they are many and varied. Still, when I look at the cutting instructions for this bag, I think that all of this could have been avoided by identifying the selvedge edge in the cutting layout diagram. That is standard practice in commercial clothing patterns. The cutting layouts always identify the selvedge edges and indicate which way the fabric should be folded (or not folded) for cutting. Selvedges are great landmarks, so why not use them?
I comfort myself with the fact that I made the pattern layout work despite doing it the wrong way. In fact, my layout actually used less fabric. This is where I am now:
I have to make bias binding (pray for me) and then I can start assembling the bag.