Piecing a Quilt 101 and adding a Zinger Fabric

Part 5 in the Beginning Quilting Series

Piecing is the part of the quilt-making process where you sew the pieces of the patchwork together.
With a pattern of simple squares we are mainly playing with the fabric design to get the look that we want. There are lots of options here: alternating lights and darks, diagonal rows by colors, etc. There’s no right or wrong – just personal preferences. For this project I chose to go ‘scrappy’ – meaning there’s no rhyme or reason to how I laid it out other than I just liked the way it looked – and I tried to balance the solids, prints and colors. (If you’re eagle-eyed you may notice I changed my layout a little from a couple of weeks ago. You can read more about adding a ‘zinger fabric below.)
1. Lay out the 81 squares in 9 rows of 9 squares each. (If you are working with the pre-cut Charm Packs you will need 64 squares laid out 8 x 8.)  Stack the squares in each row, starting left to right, on top of each other.  I suggest labeling your rows by number to help you keep track of them.  Use a piece of tape with a number, chalk, anything easy to help remember which row goes where.
2. Take the top square (square 1) and lay it face up. Pick-up the square 2 and lay it face down on top of square 1, then pin the right sides together.
3. Bring the paired-up squares to the machine. Sew the squares together with a ¼” seam allowance.  This usually means lining up the edge of the fabric with your presser-foot. (Some feet are a little wider than ¼”. You can sometimes adjust the needle to help. A scant ¼” is better than a wide ¼”.)
***This is the part where I can’t stress enough the importance of using a consistent seam allowance.  It’s the key to good looking piecing. Always keep the edge of your fabric lined-up with your presser foot.***
4. Now open up that pair and pin square 3 facing square 2. Sew a ¼” seam. Repeat for the next 5 squares and for rows 2-8.
5. You will want to press your fabric here. Pressing may seam tedious, but it really makes a difference in how your quilt turns out.   (There’s a difference between pressing and ironing.  Pressing is a little more gentle.  Using some steam can make things crisp.) For this project we are going to press our seams to one side – not open.
Alternate directions the seams are pressed for odd and even rows. (See top photo just above.) This illustration shows rows 1 and 2 with seams pressed alternating directions. Continue to do that in the rows that follow.
6. Place the two rows facing each other, matching up seams.  The pressed seams should butt up against each other. Pinning at the seams will help the square points to match up.
7. Repeat this process to sew all the rows together and then press the pieced part of the quilt.  Hopefully things will line up neatly. All of this – pressing, getting used to a consistent seam allowance especially – will take getting used to and I promise it gets easier and more natural the more you do it.
Now, don’t have a panic attack if some points are not perfect.  Promise? Especially if this is your first quilt. The final quilting will help hide some of those flaws later.
Up next Tuesday in our Quilt Along Series: Adding the Borders.

 This is the quilt as I laid it out a couple of weeks ago. And I didn’t like it. At least not as much as I thought I would. It felt too bland.

So I added some red squares and I like it a whole lot more now.  Quilts need a ‘zinger fabric’ to make them interesting – a fabric or two that’s a little brighter than the rest – that kind of pops out of the quilt. Sometimes zinger fabrics totally clash – and that’s what makes them so awesome.  Balance is important too. Notice how the red is spaced throughout the quilt.

So if your quilt feels flat or boring, try a ‘zinger fabric’ to give it some spunk. Has this worked for anyone else? Feel free to link to examples!

Originally posted at Make and Takes


  1. says

    in my family, we always add an "ugly" fabric or two. not that the uglies are actually ugly…they just don't match perfectly with the other fabrics. it creates more interest. (or "zing" as you like to put it. :) )

  2. says

    Thanks for the tip, I'm always worrying that my fabrics don't match well enough because they're not from the same line.

  3. says

    I agree I recently made a pink quilt for my niece but it was the flashes of clashing red that made the quilt pop and stopped it being too sickly sweet

  4. says

    I agree….alot of ho hum quilts could go fab if they had just used a zinger! It's hard to brave and go where no quilter has gone before! LOL! yeah, a little Trekkie there LOL!

  5. says

    Excellent tip! I think we sometimes get so hung up on using a "line" of fabric that we forget it wasn't always that way – people actually had to put together their own color combinations! Your quilt is much more interesting with the addition of the red – it gives the eye something to "stop" on, then it gets to admire the rest of the quilt!

    • says

      Oh see, I look at that and I think it totally goes. It matches with the black in the sunflowers and with that darker stripe.

  6. says

    this is beautiful with the red…sometimes colors fall flat. this happened to me recently while working on a quilt for someone who said their favorite colors were pink and purple…and just those two alone seemed a little nauseating so i added some blue and green. i did not think it worked at first but once it was all done i knew that those extra colors were what made all the difference.<br />

  7. says

    That must be what&#39;s wrong with my most recent project. It&#39;s all blues &amp; greens (ranging from limey to teal) with a bit of very pale yellow, so it&#39;s very oceany. While it&#39;s very pretty (and for me, very well matched &amp; pointy at the tips, tyvm!) it is kinda boring. I think &#39;cuz it&#39;s all the same values. Maybe next time, I&#39;ll throw in a splash of ummm…see,

  8. says

    Wow, what an obvious difference. I like it okay without the red, but with the red it&#39;s just gorgeous.<br /><br />I studied English lit. in college, and I remember hearing that the most famous and popular of Shakespeare&#39;s sonnets (and this goes for other famous poems, too) were ones that mostly followed the traditional rhyme scheme and meter, but had one or two noteworthy exceptions where

  9. says

    I think the red adds some &#39;pop&#39; to the quilt.<br /> I always try to add something that is a little out of the range of the basic fabrics too because I feel like this style of quilt needs to have… for lack of a better word the &#39;pop&#39; in it. I also, I have been wandering around your blog for a few days and it is a wonderful blog. I love the tutorials and projects you share. Thank

  10. says

    I really enjoy your blog. I made a Halloween table runner with your tutorial and featured it on our Praiseworthy blog (lovelypraiseworthy.blogspot.com). I think there are a few zinger fabrics in it, and I love how it turned out!

  11. says

    I really &quot;get&quot; the zinger thing, but there are a few people who don&#39;t love it so much. I used one brighter green polka dot that wasn&#39;t part of the &quot;Dandelion Girl&quot; quilt I made, plus some black touches throughout. I think it&#39;s great! I put it in one quilt show, and it didn&#39;t even rate a comment from the judge. In a different show, I won a blue ribbon. To

  12. says

    Thank you for this, I have just started my first quilt and have been a little bit worried about piecing it. I am only doing square blocks as it is my first project. I will be very careful with the seam allowance!!

  13. says

    Thank you so much for your tutorial! I am a first time quilter and I am making a quilt for my son, so I ordered charm pack thinking it would be easier, but I am finding that not all of the squares are exactly 5×5&#39;s! Some are 5 1/4, so I just laid them all out like I wanted and started piecing and by the time I lined up my second row, none of the lines matched……I&#39;m trying to know get

  14. says

    Well, it&#39;s 2013 so not sure anyone is still around but…. so super excited I found this tutorial. So detailed that I&#39;m thinking I can do this! Wow – does make a difference with the red! Who knew? Thanks!

  15. says

    Well, it&#39;s 2013 so not sure anyone is still around but…. so super excited I found this tutorial. So detailed that I&#39;m thinking I can do this! Wow – does make a difference with the red! Who knew? Thanks!

  16. says

    I found your quilting tutorial because I wanted to try my first quilt. I&#39;m due with our second kid in June. Our first got six lovely hand made quilts; and I know there is no way the second will be gifted so many. I decided to go with a charm pack to save time. I&#39;m also doing this all by hand as we don&#39;t have a sewing machine. I&#39;m almost done with the quilt top. It&#39;s

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