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?
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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