sofa pillow cases customized rustic pillow covers Quilt Basics - Piecing Quilt Blocks by Machine Part 4A of 5
In？quilting， there are special techniques used to sew patchwork pieces into blocks， then assemble those blocks into a quilt. The precise execution of these techniques is paramount to a beautifully finished quilt. It's similar to putting together a puzzle； each piece has to fit perfectly in order for the larger picture to come into view. As we go through the specific piecing techniques， don’t be surprised to find you can apply many of them to other areas of sewing! This is part Four of our Five-part Quilting Basics series. If you haven't already， we do recommend you read parts One through Three prior to launching into today's tutorial. You'll find the related links listed at the bottom of the page. To keep these instructions to an manageable size， we've broken this Part into two sub-parts. And just like a good television soap opera， we're sure you'll be on the edge of your seat， waiting for tomorrow's installment!？
We have a few primary goals in patchwork piecing. As we already mentioned， precision is a big one. We discussed this in some detail in Part 2 - Rotary Cutting， because this is actually where you begin the quilt construction process. If you havne't？cut precisely measured pieces， they will not sew together precisely.？floral standard pillowcases
Our other goals include maintaining an accurate ？" seam allowance， lining up sewn seams perfectly， and keeping the fabric flat with constant pressing (quite contrary to those of you who’ve sewn garments where you want to add shape). None of this may make any sense now， but when we’re through， you’ll understand why it’s all so important!？
We thoroughly discussed the various tools， needlessofa pillow cases， thread， fabric， etc. you need to sew a quilt in Part 1. Therefore， we’re going to assume you have everything ready to go. In this section， we’ll discuss the various settings on your sewing machine. In addition， we’ll review some general stitching details that pertain to sewing a quilt top， along with a few other important aspects involved in the process.
NOTE： Knowing your machine's features is important to successful sewing， regardless of what you’re making. If you have questions about any of the details below， we encourage you to visit with your local sewing machine retailer for guidance about your specific sewing machine brand/model.
When sewing patchwork pieces together， it's customary to use a straight stitch. The length can range from 1.8 - 2.4， depending on the type of stitch adjustments you can make on your particular sewing machine.？
A smaller stitch length is usually recommended since the pieces you're working with are small and the seam length is short. Plus， you do not backstitch in piecing! This is because you will most likely be sewing across the seam later， locking it as you continue to build the block/quilt.
In addition to stitch length， sometimes you have to adjust stitch width. When you adjust the width on a straight stitch， you are moving the straight stitch to the left or right within the oval opening of the foot/needle plate. Now， why would you want to do this in quilting？ Because many quilters love to use what’s known as a scant ？" seam for piecing. This obscure measurement is slightly less than ？". You could think of it as a "thread width or two" of stitching from a true ？". In the picture below the seam on the top is a scant ？" and the one below is a standard ？". ？
The idea behind this is when two sewn pieces are pressed， some of the ？" seam allowance is taken up in the fold of the pressed seam on the right side. The scant ？" seam compensates for this loss， providing more accurate piecing and matching of seams.？
The scant ？" seam is primarily used by intermediate to advanced quilters， who are creating more complex designs. However， it's a very good technique to understand， and now， when you see it referenced in quilt instructions， you’ll know exactly what they’re talking about!
Scant or standard， the accuracy of the seam allowance in quilting is very important. As we’ve stressed， the pieces simply won’t fit together properly if you do not take the time to determine where you need to sew every seam. You can use a Quarter Inch Seam foot (as we have on our Janome studio machines)， a seam guide on your machine (another option we like and use ourselves)， or you can mark the bed of your machine with a removable tape， such as blue painter's tape. The photo below shows you a standard Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot (Janome also has a 9mm Quarter Inch Seam foot).
Regardless of the method you use， always test your stitch setting by sewing a scrap， then actually measuring the resulting seam allowance with a seam gauge or ruler.
Two additional aspects of the sewing machine， that are important for quilting as well as many other sewing projects， are the fabric feeding system and ability to adjust the foot pressure.
Since you sew from the very edge of the fabric when piecing， it’s not uncommon for the fabric (especially triangles) to get caught and pulled down under the needle plate. This is a mess that can be avoided. Understanding the type of fabric feeding system on your particular sewing machine will help you anticipate if this will be an issue. For instance， as our exclusive sewing machine sponsor， Janome provides us with a variety of models for the Sew4Home studios. Most of their models have a 7-piece feed dog system， and/or a built-in AcuFeed？ system， both of which are designed for smooth feeding of fabric under the foot regardless of thickness， type of fabric， or starting point. Therefore， we have no problems with piecing from the very edge of the fabric.
Many quilters use a little trick called a "starter" piece of fabric. This is a fabric scrap you sew on first， feeding the actual pieces to be sewn immediately after it (similar to chain piecing). The "starter" fabric takes the brunt of any starting hiccups， preventing the "real" fabric from going under the needle plate.
We mention foot pressure because this is an additional feature on many sewing machines that can help with various sewing tasks. On our Janome studio machines， we can adjust the amount of pressure depending on the thickness of the fabric.？
Heavier fabrics require less pressure， while light fabrics require more. The foot pressure helps keep the machine stitching evenly. Even though basic woven cotton fabric is used most often in quilting， some of the latest trends include utilizing other fabric types and weights. So， you may find adjusting the foot pressure helpful when piecing.？
Your machine is set up and you're ready to sew your quilt pieces together. Whether you’re following a pattern or designing your own， you need to keep track of the blocks and the overall quilt layout. This means you want to work methodically across (or down in some cases) the quilt. It’s easy to sew pieces (or blocks) out of order. You don’t want to have to rip out a block in the middle of the quilt!？
To avoid this， you can use a felt-covered design wall (we mentioned this in Part 1)， or you can place pieces on a (smaller) cutting mat or quilt ruler to transfer them from your cutting area to your machine， or you can simply place them in order on a table next to your machine. Depending on the size of your block/quilt， sometimes the floor becomes your new best friend. Whichever method you choose， just remember you have to pay attention to the order.？
Have you ever wondered why we always say to "press" your fabric instead of "iron" your fabric？ In all areas of sewing， we "press" our fabric， which means actually pressing down with an iron on a particular area (usually a seam). Ironing is what we do to our shirts and sheets. You never want to take an iron and just run it back and forth over your fabric， especially in quilting! Pressing is an important part of the seaming process， and keeping track of the direction in which you press the seams between the pieces becomes part of how well the seams line up as you build the quilt top. You’ll see pressing notes in most quilt instructions； it's a very important part of the overall process.
When you’re ready to press your quilt pieces， you'll most likely be using cotton fabric. Turn your iron to its cotton setting， preferably with steam. The more diligent you are about pressing， the easier it will be to sew your quilt.？ Some quilters prefer to starch their fabric (especially if they preshrink the fabric). You'll find starch to be a major component in quilting too， as some techniques require super stiff fabric pieces.
In general， proper pressing is as important in sewing as the needle and thread you use， regardless of the type of sewing you like to do most. It’s not uncommon to press sewn pieces from the wrong side， the right side or both (depending on your fabric， of course). You should own the best iron for your budget. Take a look at the recent article on our new love： the Oliso？ TG1050 Smart Iron with iTouch？ Technology.？
NOTE： In the techniques below， we assume you have your machine set up for a straight stitch， with proper thread， needle (size &； type)， as well as an appropriate foot (see Part 1) on your machine for piecing. Also， we are using a bright colored thread so you can see our stitching. You would use a neutral tone thread or thread that matches your fabric， depending on your selection of fabrics (one color or many).
Another aspect of precision in quilting is the ability to line up the intersecting seams between the patchwork pieces within a block and the blocks within the quilt top. If you’ve cut and sewn the pieces accurately， lining up the seam lines should be automatic， right？ Wrong. It’s not uncommon (and very frustrating) for seams to not line up. Fortunately， there are two different techniques you can use to help.
Remember to join us tomorrow for Part 4 of 5 - Sub-part B.
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline： Jodi Kelly
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