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So You Wanna Make A Quilt…Part 5- Piecing Quilts Together


Part 5- Piecing

What is quilting at its simplest form but cutting up pieces of fabric and sewing them back together…Oh, but somewhere in there our creativity and passion come to life! Aren’t you excited to finally start piecing quilts together! I am just buzzing thinking about all the joy I get from this process and I hope you feel it too.


When we piece our quilts together we line up our cut pieces of fabric and needle and thread join the patchwork together. This forms larger units called blocks, blocks form rows and rows create our quilt top. Now, not every pattern follows this basic or traditional quilt design, but generally this is the process. Always follow your pattern to put things together in the right order. To discuss Piecing I am going to try to answer some common questions that might be whirling around in that budding quilt brain!

Where do I stitch?


The foundation of all good piecing or patchwork is mastering the quarter inch seam! When stitching your fabric together, you will almost always sew 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric.  This keeps your fabric from pulling apart or unraveling. If you stitch too close to the edge the fibers can separate or tear. Sometimes a pattern will tell you to use a scant 1/4″ seam…this is like a slightly skinnier 1/4″, just about one thread shy of the full 1/4″. There can be a lot of seams in your patchwork and if each one is off by 1/8″ it adds up pretty quick. By the end, your block can be off by more than 1/2″ and there is no fudging that can stretch that:)

How do you know if you are stitching a 1/4″ seam?


You can purchase a 1/4″ foot for your sewing machine and as long as your fabric follows the edge of the foot, you should be okay. You can also measure 1/4″ and mark this line on your machine with some masking tape or a couple layers of post-its to use as a guide. The best thing to do is use some extra strips of fabric and do a few test seams until you can find a method that works for you and gives you consistent 1/4″ seams. I use the foot on my machine and for a scant 1/4″ I can move my needle over slightly.

Do I have to use Pins?


Often in quilting there is more than one way to get things done! You will have to experiment and figure out for yourself how you want to do it. Pinning is one of those..We have pinners and non-pinners:) The good news is you don’t have to commit to a team! I am a pinner. Using pins keeps your fabrics in place while you are stitching. That bottom fabric can slip on you if you don’t keep an eye on it. Remember, you don’t want to stitch over top of the pins!!! You can break your needle and damage your machine, so stop when the needle gets close to your pin and remove it….then just keep stitching. As a beginner I recommend using pins to start.

When do I Press my seams?


After stitching your fabrics together you will press your seams. This gives those seam allowances a direction to lay in and makes your patchwork lay flat. The more flat your patchwork is, the easier it is to quilt later on. Another thing to remember when pressing is to lift the iron rather than use a side to side motion. If you push and pull the fabric with your iron you will stretch and distort it a bit. Some like to press at every opportunity…me(yes I am a little obsessive!), and some only at certain points in their piecing. You have to find what works for you.

Do I press my seams to the side or press them open?


Pressing toward the darker fabric.


Pressing seams open.

There are pros and cons to both sides. I do a combination of both, typically pressing to the side of the darker fabric, but pressing seams open when bulk is an issue.


Pressing to the side allows opposing seams to butt up to each other and helps you line up seams in your patchwork. Pressing seams open distributes the bulk more evenly. Patterns may also give you instructions for which rules to follow for pressing.

Why am I cutting off some of the edges and points of my patchwork?


Most likely your quarter inch seam is off or your are getting a little heavy handed with the iron. If your points meet the edges of your block the you will lose them in your seam when you connect to the next block.  You will need a 1/4″ space beyond your points to allow for your seams, that’s called the seam allowance. Here is a little tip to look for when piecing to preserve those points: See where your seams cross here on the back of your patchwork…



Sew your 1/4″ seam just a little to the right of the point where the two seams intersect…this is your point. If you stitch to the left of it…you just cut off the tip of the point.


By the way…it is Okay to cut off a point or two! There are no Quilt Police and you will probably be the only one who notices. Give yourself a break in the beginning and just do your best. You have lots of time to perfect those perky points later:)

So get out some fabric…cut it up….and piece it back together!

Click HERE to find parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Beginner Quilting Series, So You Wanna Quilt…

See you next week for Part 6- Basting.

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So You Wanna Make A Quilt… Part 1-Quilting Tools


Part 1 – Quilting Tools

Do you have the urge to make a quilt? Are you feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start?

Well, this is the first post in a series for the beginner quilter in you! I hope to address all the fears and crazy thoughts we have when approaching quilting for the first time and make getting started a little less frustrating or scary!

First things first…you have to have some basic supplies. No need to go overboard and buy every single thing in the quilt shop! I’m going to give you a list of supplies so you know where to get started and let your inner quilter out:)


Here are your basic beginner quilting tools:

For pressing…

  • Iron– Now not every quilter is obsessed with pressing their fabric, but if it is wrinkled you just have too:) A basic iron with a steam function is fine. This is another tool that can be replaced later on if you want a higher quality. Pressing your fabric before you do any cutting and makes them more precise. You will also be pressing throughout the process of piecing your quilt.
  • Ironing/Pressing surface– This can be an ironing board or special mat designed for ironing on. DO NOT iron on your rotary mat!!! This causes virtually un-fixable damage and warping. Here is a great tutorial at Missouri Star Quilt Co. to make your own.
  • Spray Starch– This is lightly sprayed on the fabric before pressing and adds a stiffness to it. Starching is not everyone’s preference, but does keep it from stretching and less moving around under your ruler. If you don’t feel ready for this you can hold off on this one.

For measuring…

  • Rulers– If you are getting the smaller mat, the simplest ruler will be a 2″ x 18″. This will let you do your basic cutting. Once you are completely head over heels in love with quilting you will always be adding rulers to your stash. One look at the ruler isle can leave your head spinning! Here is a post I did on the three basic rulers a quilter must have.

For cutting…

  • Scissors– a nice sharp pair will save you some headache. Only use these on fabric to preserve the blade.
  • Rotary cutter– This is the thing that looks like a pizza cutter, but is even more dangerous! I’m just gonna come out and say it…if you are a little clumsy or even if you are not…use a saftey glove on your non-dominant hand and ALWAYS keep the blade closed when not cutting! LOTS of beginners are so focused on their slicing along the ruler that they forget their finger tips are on the other end!!! A trip to the E.R. is way more expensive. So, seriously, stay focused if you have never used one of these and if the kiddos are near your sewing stuff…keep it hidden.
  • Rotary cutting mat– This is the mat that you will do your cutting on to protect your table surface. A medium size is good to start, about 18 x 24. You will eventually want one that is larger, but they can be expensive. The best deal will be at a Joann’s with a 40% off coupon. Those are available by email, mail and a phone app.

For sewing and quilting…

  • Sewing Machine– A beginner only really needs a machine that does a simple straight stitch and maybe a zig-zag. Your big box stores sell these and are a little less expensive. A nice fancy machine like your local quilt shops sells will work too, but the can be hundreds to thousands of dollars.
  • Needles– Two kind of needles are needed to quilt. Hand needles and machine needles. You should have a few on hand because they break and should be changed often. There are many sizes and types out there, Universal or Quilting 80/12 or Microtex 80/12 are fine to start.
  • Thread– As a beginner thread can be confusing so I recommend going with a Polyester or 100% cotton. There are different thoughts on which is best, but neither will “ruin” your quilt. I have used both. The one thing you cannot due is use hand quilting thread in a machine. It has a waxy coating and will not make your machine happy.


Other quilting tools… Sewing Notions- these are tools we use to aid us in quilting.

  • Seam ripper– This is a quilter’s best friend. You might as well give it a name because you will spend a lot of time together!
  • Pins– Curved safety pins for basting a quilt(holds layers together) and straight pins for keeping things in place while sewing.
  • Pin cushion– These are great for keeping those pins and needles close by and easy to grab.
  • Marking pen– A chalk pencil designed for quilting or a Frixion pen works great. There are many different kinds, but they do need to disappear when you are finished with your project! Some work by water, friction, iron-off or disappearing. Make sure to use the right method for your tool so you do not permanently set the marks in place instead of get rid of them.


I believe that as a beginner you do not need to be overwhelmed by every detail of quilting and you need room to grow and perfect what you do. In my list I am giving you the basics….Yes, there are many types of awesome threads and needles and lots of details you can learn, but you will get there eventually. So, just relax and enjoy the process! Give yourself room to make mistakes:) When I started I didn’t even know what thread weight was and all those needle sizes….forget it. As I matured and expanded my skills(which never ends by the way), I tried new things and did some experimenting.

Also, there are all kinds of quilters out there! Some of you, if you are like me….a little on the OCD side….will press every step and even pull out the spray starch:) Others, won’t mind the little quirks or misaligned seams because it adds to the charm. Have fun and find out who you are. If you have any specific questions I am glad to help and share what I know, just ask!

Future posts in this series:

Part 2- Fabric- what do I need to know and how do I choose?

Part 3- Patterns– how do I read this thing?

Part 4- Cutting– how do I cut accurately and safely?

Part 5- Piecing– how do I know if I am doing this right and what do I do when something goes wrong?

Part 6- Basting– why am I basting a quilt anyway?

Part 7- Quilting– am I going to ruin my quilt?

Part 8- Binding– why is this so tricky?

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