Sewing Better with Simple Math: Just Count to 20

I find it highly ironic that so many quilters hate doing math, yet many quilt designs require some sort of math. Many times, it’s as simple as counting 12 blocks, or measuring a 1/4″ seam, or making 100 flying geese.

I’m a bit of a math nerd myself, having been a certified Mathlete in middle school and taking 5 quarters of calculus in college as part of my engineering degree. I may have taken slight offense to my son claiming that I wouldn’t understand his advanced 7th grade math this week (yet will adamantly deny having to Google what -2 to the power of zero was, but hey, I got it right faster than my husband, another math nerd).

All that to say that I’m okay with math, but I totally get why it’s not everyone’s jam. I still make simple mistakes sometimes, like making 20 pieces instead of 25, for example.  That particular mistake isn’t all that unexpected since I tend to count out my units in sets of 20. And that brings me to today’s tip: Just Count to 20.

You can apply this in multiple ways!

Part of getting things done in the sewing room is not dreading going in there to work on your projects.  If you can spend 20 minutes a week in your sewing room tidying up and sorting and organizing what needs to be where, you can reduce that dread factor by a great amount. It may be that you spend that 20 minutes cutting scraps to size for an upcoming project, or you spend it de-fuzzing your cutting mat from fabric goobies that collect in the cut crevasses, or you can even spend it putting away a recent purchase. Something that cleanses the mental sewing palette so you are reducing the visual noise of your sewing room.

Another simple way to use the “Just Count to 20” method is to break the number of units you need to sew in any given timeframe into 20s. The human brain likes base-1o numbers, I suspect because it matches up on the number of fingers and toes we have (again, I’m an engineer and not a cultural anthropologist). Regardless, 20 is a number we can hold in our brain, so when I’m assembling massive numbers of units, I break them up into sets of 20. It’s a lot easier to think about sewing twenty units than one hundred! 100 HSTs sounds like you need two weeks to make them, but twenty HSTs can be sewn in an evening.

So, go count to twenty. It won’t hurt, I promise.


Author: Pam

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