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Chain Piecing with Accuracy

I know, I know – every article on piecing has something to do with accuracy and precision. Stop yawning! Sewing each piece together perfectly is the only way to achieve superior quilt tops.

Perfection takes time and can get a bit tedious. I don’t like the idea of spending years on one quilt just to get it perfect.

Now, chain piecing is so speedy, it really cuts piecing time in half. Unfortunately, the time you gain is sometimes spent struggling with pieces that aren’t very accurate. Let’s see if we can’t combine the best of both worlds to achieve accurate seams in a speedy fashion.

Here’s a couple tips for chain piecing with accuracy:

  • 1/4″ Piecing Foot – Whether you choose to invest in a piecing foot or not, make sure your machine stitches a very accurate 1/4″ seam. Take two 3″ squares and stitch them together, then measure the seam allowance. Put the 1/4″ mark of an invisible ruler right on top of the stitching line. If there is any fabric extending past the edge of the ruler then your machine is not stitching accurately enough. Even 1/16″ can make a huge difference over the surface of a quilt! Try moving your needle, changing feet, or taping a guide to your machine. Once you have an exact 1/4″ seam then automatically your pieces will start coming out more accurate.
  • Go slow – yes, chain piecing is fast, but that doesn’t mean you have to be Speedy Gonzales. Take your time and your pieces will definitely benefit from it.
  • Use a scrap charger – Take a scrap of fabric (about 2.5” x 2.5” works great) and fold it in half. This will be your charger before every chain. First, sew through the scrap to one stitch past the edge, stopping with your needle down. Take the first pieces of your chain and using your knee lifter, lift the presser foot very slightly to slip the piecing in as close to the needle as possible. Now sew through your first chain set, stopping again one stitch past the fabric edge. Lift and position your next piece, then sew. Using the charger as the first piece you sew through makes starting the chain easier and more accurate.
  • Inspect your work – Look over your work and double check your seams. Is the stitching straight and accurate? Set a ruler over the seam and check that it is exactly ¼”. If it’s crooked or inaccurate, rip it out and sew it again. Doing this small amount of quality control over your pieces will ensure the greatest accuracy for every seam within every block.

Chain piecing should be fast and fun, not a sacrifice! Don’t waste your time fighting with quilts that aren’t pieced accurately! Don’t spend three years piecing something really complicated either. Find a balance and always strive to do your best.

Happy Quilting,

Leah Day


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