Today on the quilt along, we are going to talk about piecing. (If you missed Part 1 on fabric selection, click here). I am going to give hints that relate to this project, as well as piecing in general. If aren’t sewing along with me, feel free to read along.
A few hints before you start sewing:
1. Accuracy is very important for Mini quilts.
Usually the smaller the pieces, the less fudge factor that you have, and the more important being accurate is. Our project has small pieces, especially the sashing. If you are accurate right from the beginning, it will make the assembly much easier.
2. Use the same sewing machine throughout the entire project.
Have you ever noticed that not all 1/4″ feet are created equal? I have two sewing machines – A Bernina 1230 and a Pfaff Grand Quilter. Both have a 1/4″ foot, but the Bernina foot is an exact 1/4 and the Pfaff is a scant quarter. Therefore, if I sewed half my blocks with one machine and the other half of the blocks with the other machine, the seam lines (especially the sashing) will not line up.
3. Do a test swatch
Cut three strips at 1 1/2″ wide and sew together as shown below. Press and then measure the middle strip. If it measures exactly 1″, then you can move forward. Please notice that I measure (or in my patterns, it’s called proofing), by laying the ruler on top of the block, rather than laying the block on my mat and using those lines. By laying the ruler on top of the block it is much easier to see if the seam lines are accurate.
4. This particular project uses a Charm pack, so some of the edges have pinking. If you lay two pieces next to each other that are pinked, it can be hard to tell exactly where to line up the edge of your quarter inch foot. I like to pair a straight edge next to the pinked edge when sewing to avoid this problem.
Like this: Notice the pinked edge is to the top side so I can see that the tip of the pinked edges is aligned with the straight edge of the white strip below.
5. Pressing is also very important for accuracy. Make sure that there isn’t extra fabric hiding in the fold next to your seam.
Like this (see photo below). There is probably 3-4 threads hiding in there – per side of the seam allowance. That could add up to 1/8″ on this seam alone, not to mention all the other seams in the quilt. When I teach classes, this is the #2 issue that leads to inaccuracy (behind seam allowance).
5. Learn to nest. This is probably something that most of you know, but I find lots of people in classes who don’t know how to nest. Though this is much easier to explain in person, I will give it a go.
Nesting means that you press the seams allowances that need to line up in opposite directions (see photo below). This helps to reduce bulk and is also means that you shouldn’t have to sit and pin every intersection to get them to align perfectly. (My patterns all have little arrows showing you which way to press the seams so that they nest – so follow the arrows in Steps 1 and 2)
That doesn’t mean that you just sit down and sew and hope the seams line up because they are pressed properly. I use my fingers as pins, instead of taking the time to actually pin. This is hard to do with one hand sewing and the other hand holding the cell phone, but see how my finger is right on top of the seam allowance? It is holding that seam in place until I sew over it. I also use my other hand and place my pointer finger inbetween the layers, and put a slight bit of pressure on the bottom piece, helping to lock that seam together. Once you do it a few times, you will be able to feel with your top finger that those seams are locked tight and just keep them locked together as the piece is sewn.
The sashing seams have two pieces to get lined up and they are very skinny so please don’t hate me ;-) If you can line up these skinny pieces, you have the technique down pat. With some practice your intersections will look pretty close to lined up. (Then you just hope that any seam that is a few threads off will “quilt out”.)
6. Sew a block or two and see if the size of your block matches the proof size listed in the pattern. I always try to put proof sizes in my patterns so you know what size the blocks should be. Then sit back and admire your work a bit! Aren’t those fabrics cute?
Next you are ready to sew the block into rows. I help things stay in order by simply pining the rows in each block together. I don’t have much luck with stacking blocks and hoping they stay in order. I could blame this on my two year old, but it isn’t always his fault.
To keep track of my rows, I put one pin at the beginning of the first row, two pins at the beginning of the second row, etc.
You can also use little Post-it notes or numbered pins. I kept the rows in order as I chain sewed my blocks together and didn’t clip the threads between the blocks as I sewed, so everything stayed in order. There are lots of ways to keep track, so just use the method that works best for you.
Stop when you get to the point where you have 4 large blocks. I stop here because I like to do the applique on the smallest possible area, rather than having to work with the entire quilt going round and round in my machine.
On a side note, feel free to get creative with your project. I laid my blocks out before sewing them together, just to see what they would look like as a table runner. If you come up with something fun and you blog or do some other sort of social media, please leave a link in the comments so the rest of us can see it! You can also post directly to the Instagram quilt along page at #prettyinpinkqa.
We will talk all about the applique next, so come back and join us for a lesson in machine applique!