Quilt Magazines: The Agony of An Error

Stare at this delicious cupcake and remember: you love magazines. You do!
Stare at this delicious cupcake and remember: you love magazines. You do!


Donna, this one’s for you.

I got an email the other day from a delightful lady who alerted me to a possible error in the Jan/Feb ’14 issue of Quilty. Here’s what she had to say — and I’ll tell you right now, she was right.

“I decided to make the quilt entitled Twists & Turns on pages 28 thru 31.  I cut as instructed, but discovered an error when I attempted to join the blocks.

The directions tell you to cut the E rectangles at 2 1/2″ x 8 1/2″.  I did that, but came up with a block that is too short.  The block produced by the E rectangles (cut as you directed) produces a 4″ x 8″ finished block.  It should produce an 8″ square block.  THE DIRECTIONS SHOULD HAVE YOU CUT THE E RECTANGLE AT 4 1/2″ x 8 1/2″.

The square section which is joined to the E rectangles uses four Bs and one 4 1/2″ square and produces an 8″ finished square.”

Drat. I sent this along to the technical team and indeed, Miss Donna had discovered an error. Before I share the message (and the lesson) we take from errors, here are the two corrections pertaining to the green solid in  Twists & Turns on p. 28 of the Jan/Feb ’14 issue:

3 1/4 yards green solid (not 2 yards)

From green solid, cut:
10 (8 1/2″-wide) strips. From strips, cut 80 (4 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) E rectangles.

First, note that we post any and all corrections to patterns on the website. Click the Magazine tab and drop down to “Corrections.” There, you’ll find any errata that has occurred in Quilty. There isn’t much, but as we’ve just seen, it happens. This correction will be posted there, too, but it’s even quicker for me to blog about it, so I’m taking the opportunity to do so and to talk about published errors.

I’ve made a lot of quilts, and there have been plenty of occasions when I couldn’t get something to fit or go or otherwise look pretty so I pursed my lips and put my hands on my hips and declared with conviction — and not a little anger: “There is something wrong with this pattern!”  I did this, loudly, only to find when I came back to the sewing table the next day the problem was me and my brain, not the directions. Thus, I usually look at a problem with a quilt pattern as an opportunity to sit still, put down the rotary cutter and slowly go through the pattern again to make sure I understand what’s being instructed. I also take sample blocks very seriously; I don’t cut out a whole quilt until I make a sample block. Aside from making sure I like my fabric choices, I  ensure I can make one of the darned things at all.

A quilt pattern magazine like Quilty or Love of Quilting is in the business of publishing perfect patterns. That’s our job. Getting incorrect patterns is like going to a nice hotel and finding you have no hot water in your shower. A hotel’s job is to give you a bed and  a shower with hot water — that’s their business model. It’s safe to say that 100% of nice hotels pride themselves in being able to guarantee a hot shower 99% of the time. Well, 100% quilt pattern magazines promise perfect patterns 99% of the time, too.

But we’re  human. Robots don’t write patterns; people do. And computers can only calculate the numbers that humans give them. Every so often, you turn on the shower in your (nice) hotel room at 5am and there’s no hot water and you have to go down to the lobby in your bathrobe and glasses and speak very sternly to the night desk lady who is scared of you.** Sometimes you find that there’s a typo in a quilt pattern and you spend two hours going nuts before you realize that yes, there’s actually something wrong in the pattern, and you write to the company and they post a blog about it and update the corrections page.

We’re sorry.

We are! That’s the truth. Whenever a mistake happens, we feel more than bad. We feel sheepish and lame. We feel worse than you do and we know you feel lousy as all get-out, what with the cut fabric and the time spent, etc.

It’s not an excuse, but I do want to play PR gal for a second and mention the fact (!) that F&P publishes hundreds of patterns each year. Hundreds! That’s a lot of seam allowances, friends. We do our utmost and our very best to set the industry standard, and I think we do. It’s honestly a point of personal pride, if I may say so for two seconds: that’s my family name up there, after all. Nice to know it means something.

Donna? I hope you’re still reading. You might’ve just gotten the correction and gotten back to sewing. We support that decision, as always.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Hey Quilty Blog
Mary Fons

About Mary Fons

Mary Fons hails from a prominent quilt mafia family. A professional writer and performer, Mary co-hosted the nationally-airing PBS program "Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting" along with her mom, famed quilter and educator Marianne Fons. In 2010, Mary began hosting Quilty, an online show offered weekly on QNNtv.com. In 2012, Mary became editor of Quilty magazine. She holds a Theater Arts BA from the University of Iowa.

26 thoughts on “Quilt Magazines: The Agony of An Error

  1. Mary,
    No one is perfect ; no magazine is either. And no one will perish from the earth as a result of an error in a quilt pattern. I just wanted to say that I LOVE your magazine, mostly because of your writing style. 🙂 Keep up the great work! Thanks for the terrific magazine and for putting a sense of humor into quilting.
    Kelly King

  2. You’re right….mistakes happen! Never intentionally that’s why they’re called mistakes. BUT just say sorry & post the corrections. Also I hope you gave that quilter who found your mistake something as a reward like a years subscription. After all she found an error that a team of quilty people let slip by!

  3. I have had many mistakes ,some were indeed my fault but some where the patt so now i always test a block before i cut all my pieces .Have fun learn from mistakes .

  4. I have to agree with Faye the times I have cut something incorrectly because I haven’t read the instructions correctly.
    Love anything to do with Quilty, Mary your style is unique and I love it.

  5. Beautifully handled, by you and Donna. A private email is by far the best solution for all.
    I get so tired of seeing people who find an error slamming designers on their various social media platforms before even contacting the designer, magazine or publisher.
    Courtesy is free, stay classy. xx

  6. love your magazine, style and flare. we all make mistakes – and it’s part of the community element of quilting that allows us to correct each other or offer suggestions – whether online or in print. love it.

  7. I would like to be able to make a sample block before cutting everything out but most instructions don’t seem to make it easy to do so, especially when using techniques that call for cutting a bit bigger, piecing, pressing, and then trimming to proper size.

  8. There is also an error in Connections, Jan Issue 9. Rectangle C needs to be cut 8 1/2 wide, not 8 3/4.
    Rectangle D needs to be cut 5 3/4 wide, not 6. Then the rows will match in width!

  9. I just made a quilt following a well known designer and a popular book. Very frustrated that the pattern was wrong, but I am now going to make a modern quilt by cutting it up and having lRge spaces. Everyone makes mistakes, so to say sorry and to correct it is great. A wonderful, happy and informative magazine. Keep up the good work.

  10. I discovered the mistake today. I already cut every thing out, now I cannot use this fabric because I used all that I had with an exception of a small scrap. I am really bummed out. I wish I saw this blog before I cut all my light green fabric up. Rats!

  11. This is such a great, honest post! 1) I have found myself in that same frustrated blame-throwing position, pinning the pattern as wrong… later to realize (like you said) it was my brain all along! 2) I had never heard of making a test block–I’m very new to quilting!–but that is genius!! Just like a swatch when knitting, right? Sooooo worth it! Thank you for this post!

  12. I had the same issue as Cheryl. Only after cutting the strips did I figure out that they wouldn’t work. It isn’t easy to make a sample block first with the directions, and I never thought I had to test the pattern. Quilty is great, I love the patterns and the vibe. Just expected that the patterns were tested first.

  13. I am furious. Cut out the whole thing.. Now what do I do with all these useless pieces? My background fabric is no longer available, let alone 85 more inches of it.