The Quilting Process: Piecing your Quilt Top

Welcome back! where were we? Oh yes, you have successfully cut all your fabrics  into the required pieces for your chosen pattern…Excellent! Now it’s time to join them all back together or how else are you going to bring that design to life? At this stage you are going to need a few things such as:

  • Sewing machine obviously (unless you are doing hand piecing, and if you are wow, you are a strong one…i’m far too lazy for that unless the occasional English Paper Piecing, applique or binding of course),
  • Needles (I use the 90/14 needle for my piecing, I don’t know why but it works for me). I personally use Schmetz needles,  I got the Universal needle pack (Containing 70/10, 80/12 and 90/14 sizes) off  Amazon  and then I got a good deal on Massdrop for the box of 100 in the 90/14.  Find out more about choosing a needle here or here .

  • Threads (The thread I buy around here don’t have any indication of the weight but in comparison to my 50wt Aurifil I’d say I have a mix of both 50 and 40wt threads I use for piecing ) check out this post on Craftsy to learn more about Quilting threads.
  • Lots of pins (I have both flat head and glass head pins for this purpose)
  • I’ll include starch again in case you didn’t listen to my advise about starching your fabrics before cutting.
  • Temporary Spray or fusible web might come in handy too for applique pieces or just for holding things together.
  • Pair of scissors
  • Thimbles for hand piecing
  • A good steam iron
  • I almost forgot seam ripper…love or hate it but you must have one1-4 inch foot

If you know anything at all about Quilting then you know no pattern, book, magazine or tutorial is complete without mentioning the almighty “1/4 Inch Seam allowance” or “scant 1/4 Inch seam allowance“. While I was never really interested in the history of why it has to be a”1/4 Inch Seam allowance“, I gladly accepted it as a standard especially when you are piecing a grid and the size of your finished block is of great importance (besides it also makes sense that you don’t want a bulky seam so 1/4” is probably as low as you can go for easy piecing and less bulk).

I’m going to assume you already cut your pieces with a “1/4 seam allowance” as indicated in your pattern. However, how’d you ensure that you sew at exactly “1/4 seam allowance”? Well you’d want to do yourself a favor by buying a 1/4″ presser foot (refer to above image), I found out the hard way that my default presser foot that claimed to be 1/4″ wasn’t at all so I ended up with seam allowances slightly bigger which means my blocks end up slightly smaller. As you will come to find out, there’s nothing like slightly in Quilting…the slightest discrepancy in 1 or 2 blocks adds up to become significant. In this picture, I was aiming for 18″ finish and I don’t even know how that’s possible but this  block finished at 14″ not even 16″.1-4 inch foot (2)

Granted this was my first trial after beginner’s class and I probably messed up right from the cutting stage but I’m looking at it now and thinking well there’s no way that’s a 1/4″ seam allowance. Never mind the fact that it won’t lay completely flat as it is bent out of shape…That was due to me ironing back and forth instead of pressing as advocated by those who have gone before. Read more on allofpeoplequilt or Sewmamasew to find out the difference between the two and tips on pressing your seams either open or to one side.

I’ve pulled out a couple more examples from my unfinished object more like abandoned object pile to show you the importance of getting this stage right.

1-4 inch foot (3)

This one came out so wonky and out  of place that a less than perfect point was the least of my worry. I’m not even sure squaring this block can salvage it.

1-4 inch foot (1)

I was so excited to try out  courthouse steps but I ended up with this wonky block…It’s hard to believe that all the strips are same width. I might be able find a use for this someday but for now it’s in the dump

 

 

1-4 inch foot (4)

This is a result of one of those days when I was in the mood for some chaos so I started with my background fabric and kept slashing and stitching away until I got bored. Some piecing issues here and there left it twisted and stretchy 

And finally this

 

1-4 inch foot (5)

This one has a lot going wrong, besides the fact that I gave up halfway attaching my background due to the Y-seams involved, there is also all the puckers and imperfect points, all the stretching due to the fact that strips are cut on the bias edge. The most obvious being the difference in the length of the stars, I used the exact same sizes of strips but had more experience with piecing accurately hence the diamonds are bigger and slightly more accurate on the latter ones.

Oh in the absence of the 1/4″ presser foot, get masking tapes to mark a 1/4″ allowance on your sewing machine.  Find out how to use the masking tape and other tips on achieving a perfect 1/4″ seam allowance from any of these links.

http://www.mccallsquilting.com/content_downloads/Accurate_Qtr_Inch_Seam_Allowance.pdf

http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2014/11/quarter-inch-seam/

http://www.seamstobeyouandme.com/2012/02/09/how-to-get-a-perfect-14-seam/

https://www.connectingthreads.com/tutorials/How_to_Sew_an_Accurate_Quarter_Inch_Seam_Allowance__D95.html

http://quiltville.com/quarterinch.shtml

http://academyofquilting.com/library/free-lessons/accurate-quarter-inch-seams/

On a final note, when I started, I ended up with a couple of those smaller than anticipated Quilt tops but it wasn’t the end of the world, I just added borders to make up for the difference (So don’t be afraid if you end up with less than perfect blocks, you can pull out the seam ripper or live with it… you’ll certainly be wiser). Again it helps to check each block as you go, the little discrepancies all adds up to something significant if you wait until the very end. For this reason, I deliberately make my blocks bigger and trim down to size afterwards especially when making HSTs…It’s worth the pain.

Thanks again for stopping by and it’ll be lovely to hear your opinions or word of advise on the subject. Have a very productive weekend ahead…TGIF!

Sola 🙂

 

6 thoughts on “The Quilting Process: Piecing your Quilt Top

  1. I learned this the hard way early on in my sewing days. I would go to a friend’s house and use her machine to work on a quilt then go back to my house and use my machine to work on the same quilt. Things never lined up quite right and I just attributed it to my beginner’s skill. Come to find out what she thought was her “quilting foot” wasn’t a true 1/4″. Now I just take my own machine if I go somewhere to sew.

    • It took me too long to learn this but things began to make sense when I did. I used to dread sewing strips cos they just end up wonky and never the desired size. It’s really worth taking that time and effort to check the seam allowance. I had the tape marking on my machine at well as the foot…you can never be too sure. I only took out the tape when I became more confident in my skills and the accuracy of my foot. Thanks for your comment.

  2. These are amazing! I want to try but I’ve been afraid I’ll mess it up- I think I will soon! ❤️

    • You really should, taking the plunge was the only way I could learn and I’m much better now even if I do say so myself ?. I’m still learning but hey I’m wiser now, I’ll probably try fixing or even making a replicate of these blocks just to show my progress. Thanks for your comment.

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