Jacquie from Tallgrass Prairie Studios is back for part three of her Quilting Basics series! Part one covered preparing and cutting your fabric, and part two focused on the quarter inch seam and pressing techniques. Be sure to visit Jacquie at Tallgrass Prairie Studios for her latest quilts, and learn more about Jacquie in her Sew,Mama,Sew! Board Member intro.

Today Jacquie teaches us all about Matching Seams and Quick Piecing Techniques:

A Good Match!
You’ve prepped your fabric, your pieces are cut and you’re piecing away. You have your units sewn and now it’s time to start putting things together. In most quilts you’re probably going to have to join units and match some seams. It’s not as difficult as it looks to achieve.

How you join units will depend on how you decide to press your seams. I’m going to demonstrate methods for both. As you gain experience with joining units you may be able forget the pins. I tend to use a pin or two, especially if I want a perfect match. That said, try not to focus on perfection, it can be paralyzing in quilting. A smidge off here and there won’t affect the beauty or utility of your quilt. A very experienced quilter gave me some wonderful advice about perfection. She told me to “get my nose out of my quilt.” Stand back and look at your work. You’ll be surprised how small imperfections disappear and the beauty emerges. (I’m trying to let go of my perfectionist tendencies.)

Joining With Side Pressed Seams
If you press your seams to the side, when you join units at seams you’ll want the seams laying in opposite directions so you can nest the seams together. Pressing to the side creates a tiny ridge. Nesting seams takes advantage of those ridges by butting them against each other. Opposing seams will also help distribute the bulk of the seam.

With both methods I pin the side of the seam allowance that the needle will reach last. This keeps the intersection from shifting, allows me to sew up to the center of the seam, remove the pin, and continue sewing. DO NOT sew over pins. You could damage your machine, dull your needle, or hurt yourself. Again, I know from experience!

If you press to one side, you will need to be aware of which direction you are pressing your seams as you assemble your quilt so that nesting is possible. Most quilt patterns will give you instructions for which direction to press.

Joining With Seams Pressed Open
If you press your seams open, joining is a little different. You won’t have ridges to butt against each other. When matching seams that have been pressed open, align them on top of each other, right sides together.

Some quilters stab a pin through the center of the seam in the top piece and through to the bottom piece to align. I simply wiggle them together with my fingers.

Again I pin on the side that the needle will reach last. I find that’s enough to keep my seams aligned and get accurate matches. You may want to pin more or less than I do.

When I’m joining sections of a quilt that contain multiple seams to match, I usually pin more. I pin at each seam match and then again halfway between seam intersections. You will find your own way to keep your edges aligned and give you accurate seam matching.

Here’s what the matched units look like either with seams pressed open or seams pressed to the side.

Quick Piecing

There are a few techniques I’d like to share that will speed up your piecing. These two techniques can be used in many quilt patterns. The first is strip piecing.

Strip Piecing
Strip piecing involves joining two or more strips of fabric and then cutting smaller units from those joined strips. The center sections of the ‘Snippets’ quilt pictured below were strip pieced using 22” long 1” wide strips.

When strip piecing do your best to keep your edges aligned and use that scant ¼” seam. Pin if you need to.

One problem that sometimes occurs when sewing strips is that multiple strips sewn together will tend to curve and form an arc and not lay flat. There are a couple of ways to prevent this. If you have many strips to join, sew them in pairs first, press your seams then join those units and continue joining units until you have all the strip sets joined. I’ve also found when joining multiple strips, sewing from the top down on the first set, and then sewing from the bottom up on the second set will help keep the strip set straight and flat.

When your strips are joined you can line up the bottom edge with a horizontal line on your cutting mat and sub-cut units whatever size you need. Look at all the units that were made from one strip set made up of two joined strips.

Chain Piecing
Another method that you can use to speed up your piecing is chain piecing. The pairs of squares below are candidates for chain piecing.

Chain piecing involves stitching similar units one after the other without clipping the threads between the units.

I stack my units to be chain pieced with the edge to be sewn to the right. I lay them beside my machine so I can pick them up and move them to the machine in an orderly manner. This helps make sure that I’m sewing the correct side.

Stitch the first unit as usual and stop with your needle down at the end of the unit. Without lifting the presser foot feed the second unit under the presser foot without clipping the threads. Continue feeding and sewing all of your units. Clip your final threads and the units will be connected in a long chain that you can carry over to your ironing board. Clip the thread between the units and press.

Chain piecing saves time and thread and can also help you keep units in the correct sewing order. To save even more time you can chain piece your strip sets. You’ll have a quilt in no time!

Part 4, coming up next week: Maintaining Your Momentum

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