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Basic Piecing for Your First Quilt

So you’re ready to start your first quilt? Picked out a pattern and cut everything out all pretty? Great! It’s time to sew it all together and make something pretty!

Even though this is your first quilting project, there are some rules you should always follow when piecing fabric together. The quicker you learn these rules and how to apply them, the quicker you will piece quilts and the less time you will spend agonizing over mistakes. Some basic rules of the game are:

  • You should always piece with an accurate 1/4″ seam – I know this sounds real simple and easy, but it’s not. If you are so much as a 1/16″ off you can throw your whole quilt off, resulting in puckering, uneven seams, unmatched corners, lopped off triangles, and every other quilting disaster you can think of. You need to actually set up your machine to stitch a 1/4″ seam accurately with either tape, a special foot, or moving the needle. Check and double check that it’s accurate with a ruler.
  • Right sides together – Unless you are piecing some inside out wonder, you should always have your fabric right sides together. This way when you open up the fabric the seam is on the wrong side.
  • Make blocks one at a time – I know you will hate me for saying this, but I do believe that blocks should be pieced one at a time. I’m not a fan of mile long chains of half square triangles. I just don’t think they’re going to be accurate. Focus on your work block by block and you will be much happier with the results.
  • Don’t drive drunk – Okay, I’m not suggesting you have a problem or anything, but when your piecing, make sure you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. If you find yourself weaving around, unable to focus, or just staring off into space you probably ought to quit.
  • Develop a lasting friendship – It’s time you were introduced with my best friend. Her name is Seam Ripper and she’s small, sharp, and likes to correct my mistakes. She doesn’t even hold late night visits against me. I don’t know what I’d do without her!

My philosophy is patience, consistency, and practice, or PCP for short. Go slow, be patient. I know it’s so overwhelming, the idea of all those quilts waiting to be made, but you can’t build Rome in a day or even stitch it in an hour.

Consistency is very important too. Once you sew a straight, 1/4″ seam on each piece within maybe four or five quilts you will have the technique ingrained into your soul. Up until that time you just need to be as consistent as possible, and hang out with your friend Seam Ripper when necessary. Most important of all is practice. The more you do this, the more you piece, the more you quilt in general, the better you will be. I promise!

Leah Day


One Response

  1. Hi Leah

    For those who can’t eyeball a quarter inch, try painters tape. See my blog post for a picture and description: http://sandgroper14.wordpress.com/2007/12/16/quilting-tip-6/


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