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.)
These squares are cut 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″.
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 from one end to the other end. You do not need to backstitch when piecing quilts.
I can’t stress enough the importance of using a consistent ¼”seam allowance. It’s the key to good looking piecing.
A scant ¼” seam allowance is preferable. A seam allowance that is even a few threads wider than ¼” will make all quilt blocks smaller. This isn’t as big of an issue on the patchwork squares quilt that we’re making here where all of the blocks are the same size. But once we get into piecing multiple quilt blocks to sew together, it can make the blocks too small, making it difficult to fit all of the pieces together.
Some machines have a foot that is specifically a ¼” foot in which case you can line up the edge of the fabric with your presser-foot. Other machine feet are a little wider than ¼”. You can sometimes adjust the needle to create the scant ¼” seam allowance.
It’s a good idea to measure you seam to make
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 seem 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!