Welcome to week 2 of the Down Memory Lane Quilt-Along. This week our focus is on accurate piecing.
If you missed the cutting tips for week 1, you can find them here.
How often do we hear the phrase, “done, is better than perfect”?
Sometimes, I think a little too often!
Don’t get me wrong – I get it!
Perfectionism can literally stall us in our tracks and keep us from moving forward. Perfectionism can be the enemy of creativity!
there is something to be said for ‘craftsmanship’.
Together, patchwork and quilting are considered to be a craft. And the definition of a ‘craft’ is,
“an activity that involves skill to make things by hand”.
All this to say, don’t be in such a rush to finish a project, that you neglect to hone your skills and develop your craftsmanship. Nurture your craft and you will refine your skills and your creative expression. Take your time when it comes to accurate piecing and you will be rewarded with a better end product.
Here are 5 important tips to help you achieve accurate patchwork piecing,
5 Tips for Accurate Piecing
1. Use a scant 1/4-inch seam allowance.
All quilt patterns are written with a 1/4-inch seam allowance in mind.
However, the reason you want to ensure your seam allowance is ‘scant’ is because patterns are written for mathematical accuracy and don’t account for the bulk you will encounter in any real-life scenario that includes fabric and thread of different thicknesses.
A scant 1/4-inch seam is approximately a thread thickness shy of a true 1/4-inch. Possibly a little less if you are piecing with flannel fabric or even linen.
Because the combination of sewing machine presser foot, fabric, and thread is different for everyone, it is really important you find your own personal ‘sweet spot’ seam allowance.
Amy, from A Diary of a Quilter has a great explanation and picture of a scant 1/4-inch seam on her blog – check it out.
2. Press well.
After you have stitched two pieces together you will need to press the seam. Don’t sew multiple pieces together before you take the time to press!
I prefer to have my iron on the highest cotton setting with a small amount of steam.
Many people believe that steam distorts your piecing causing the fabric to stretch and/or shrink – but if you consciously ‘press’ rather than ‘iron’ your fabric, you will not encounter such a disaster.
Steam helps to set the seam and also creates a crisp edge at the internal fold of the fabric.
As a general rule, I first set the seam by placing the iron directly on top of the unopened unit just sewn. Setting this seam relaxes the thread and slightly embeds it into the fabric.
Next, I finger press my seams either to the side or open (depending on the situation), and then immediately use the iron to press the piece.
By finger pressing first, I reduce the likelihood that the seam will have an unwanted fold ridge at the seam intersection. (Just a quick word of warning – be careful not to burn the tips of your fingers when finger pressing, as the fabric will likely still be hot from setting the initial seam.)
Pay attention to the pieces you are pressing. And if there are any that don’t seem quite right, set them aside and try to determine what they need to be rescued – possibly unpicking and restitching, re-pressing or perhaps a little bit of starch to coerce them into shape.
3. Trim away excess fabric.
Don’t be tempted to leave excess fabric beyond any seam allowance. Also, cut away any ‘dog-ears’ that develop when stitching pieces together. The presence of any excess fabric will most likely result in inaccurate blocks, and wobbly stitch lines as you encounter too many layers of fabric when stitching pieces together.
4. Square up blocks when asked to do so.
Depending on the pattern designer, you may be asked to create oversized blocks and then trim them down to the correct size. This is often a scenario when Half Square Triangles or Flying Geese are being made. When a designer does this, it is to increase your chance of piecing an accurate block successfully. Take the time to follow the pattern instructions and trim as required.
5. Pin, pin, pin!
‘Pinning’ is not a bad word, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise ;).
At some point in almost every quilt pattern you will benefit from using pins to hold your pieces in place prior to stitching. (You will definitely need to pin when you assemble this particular quilt top, although probably not so much when piecing the blocks!)
Usually the more complicated a quilt block, the greater the chance of you needing to use pins while piecing.
However, the more pinning you do, the less unpicking will be required, so it is worth the extra time it takes.
Choose quality pins that are sturdy enough not to bend and fine enough not to distort your pieces when being used. Lately I have been using the Little House glass head pins.
Specific tips for the Quilt-Along pattern
- The full size pattern
These blocks are mostly stress free when it comes to piecing. They are very forgiving, and believe it or not, don’t require a high degree of accuracy to be successful – making them a great block to begin to fine tune your piecing accuracy!
If you would like a way to speed up the overall process, the units can be chain-pieced quite successfully.
You can also avoid having to draw all the diagonal lines on the corner pieces by using a guide or masking tape on your sewing machine bed as I have done in the picture above.
- The mini quilt pattern
Contrary to what I just said regarding the full-size blocks, in this instance, do what the pattern says and draw your diagonal lines on to the background squares. Don’t be tempted to avoid this step by using other means to gauge the centre seam line. Such small pieces don’t provide room for error and as such it is essential that your stitch line is straight and accurate from beginning to end.
A little side note – If you make an extra block, it makes for the most adorable pincushion ;).
Until next time,
Dedicate some time this week to honing your craft while you focus on accurate piecing.
The more conscious you are about your level of craftsmanship, the greater the knowledge and understanding of your endless capacity.
And as a result, the more self-confident you will become as you see your craftsmanship grow.
Don’t forget, if you would like to join the quilt-along, you still can…
Purchase your pattern now, and join the Facebook group to connect and share your quilt making progress with others in our community. Similarly, on Instagram follow the #dmlqal or #downmemorylanequilt hashtags.
PS: This week I am offering each participant in the QAL a random chance to win 2 PDF patterns from my shop and a copy of the latest compilation book by Martingale – Fat Quarter Favorites. Be sure to share your work to be in with a chance to win.
|Week 2||Piecing the blocks|
|Week 3||Continue piecing the blocks|
|Week 4||Quilt top assembly|
|Week 6||Backing and binding preparation|
|Week 7||Quilt Parade|