Your quilt pieces are now cut and organized (the way that makes sense to you). You are ready to sew. Before you sew – re-read the directions once again. See what order they have you sewing and how to press the seams. You may want to post the directions on a wall near your sewing machine to reference during the process.
A couple of things to keep consistent. Try to sew the entire quilt on the same machine. The ¼” foot and needle placement are unique to each sewing machine. Even if you use a marking ruler to check your ¼” seam allowance, your seam allowance may vary a little. Also, keep your seam allowance the same. If you start sewing with a scant ¼”, keep it for the entire quilt. If you start with a full ¼”, stay at that. Your blocks may be slightly larger or smaller than what the pattern says. But if all your blocks are the same size, they will go together just fine. At the end of making your blocks, you will probably need to square some of them up anyway. Just square them up to the smallest block.
If your pattern has you sewing the same two pieces together over and over, you can chain piece. This is sewing the first two pieces together and then without cutting the thread, sliding the next two in to sew together. This will give you a long chain of the same pieces. You can do all of them or a number that you are comfortable with. Sew a couple of stitches between each set. These will help keep things from unraveling so much. Once you finish sewing your chain, cut them apart and press the stack. This allows you to sit a while, and then move around a bit.
Click here for a good demo on chain piecing.
Let’s talk about pressing (not ironing) your seams. You can use a dry iron or steam. It's your decision. First, set the seams. Using a straight down and up motion, place the iron on the seam. This will slightly shrink your cotton thread and fabric. It will lock the stitches and also help keep things from unraveling so much. Don’t place the iron down and then slide it along the fabric. This will stretch it along the grain you are pushing the iron. Manipulating the fabric too much will cause it to go wonky. After setting the seam, press it the way the directions state. If they don’t say anything or just say press, you can 1) press the seam open, or 2) press towards the darker fabric. You want your seams and meeting of corners or points to lay as flat as possible. This will make it easier for quilting, no big lumps for the machine to get hung up on. Sometimes you can press the seams that you match up in opposite directions. This allows the seams to match up and the seam allowances to kiss each other. It gives a good match and evens the bulk at that spot.
When you finish your blocks, put them up on a design wall or another flat surface. Place the blocks in the rows and columns you want. Once it is laid out, step away from the quilt! Look at it from a distance. It will look very different, and you will be able to see the design and color arrangement from a different perspective. Now take a picture with your phone. Look at the picture in the phone’s photos, the color may look different but give you a good view of the quilt. If the quilt is scrappy or even a range of colors, edit the picture to black and white. Now you can decide if you need to move any of the blocks. You want the darks and lights balanced even if the colors are grouped. You may have blocks with the same fabrics in different places. When you put them together, do you want these fabrics scattered or touching. This may be the time to audition sashing and/or borders. See how the colors go together. Do you want something different that you originally planned for? Remember there are no quilt police. You can change your mind about pattern or fabric at any time.
Now it’s time to sew the blocks together. It doesn’t matter if you sew the rows or columns together first. It will matter how you press the seams. Row 1 the seams get pressed all in one direction. Row 2 will be pressed the opposite way. Keep doing this alternating pressing. This will allow the corners/seams to match up well and decrease the bulk (the nesting/kissing seams mentioned above). Now sew your rows together and press the seams open, again to lessen the bulk. Add your borders, if that’s what your pattern calls for or if you need to make the quilt larger. Or don’t add anything if you have the size you want.
Click here for a good visual review of what we just talked about!
AND the top is finished!!!!! I’ve been able to write about sewing the top together in one e-mail. That doesn’t mean you will finish sewing your top together quickly. It will get done when it needs to get done. Some of us take six years to finish a top or a weekend. Whenever it gets done is perfect. The top may not be “perfect” but finished is better. Remember no one will see that spot where the seams meet 1/8” off except you. They will see the love you put into making it, no matter it’s final destination.
Don't want to go through the mind game of picking fabrics? We have some great kits for you. We just got "On The Tide Kit" from Michael Miller. It has the cutest crabs! We also have a Kaffe Fassette "Festive Jewels Kit" and others. There are strip sets/jelly rolls and books of what to do with them. Also there are 5" squares in packs and books for them. Come by and see them.
AND to help you get started this week, buy a pattern or book and fabric for a project and get 15% off your entire purchase.
Can you believe it's been a year since we re-opened the shop for people to shop in person? We're still doing the cleaning, masks are optional for those vaccinated, and classes are being scheduled. Oh what a difference a year makes.
Happy sewing everyone and see you soon,
Phyllis and the QA staff