Piece Quilt Blocks Faster, More Accurately with Simple Techniques
Strip piecing can dramatically cut the time it takes to sew together many pieced quilt blocks. Try these tricks other quilters use for strip piecing success.
What is strip piecing?
It’s an assembly-line technique that speeds up the process of cutting and sewing pieced quilt blocks. Instead of cutting out each patch and sewing each block together separately, you sew together sets of fabric strips, then cut them into blocks or smaller units that you assemble into complete blocks in batches. Strip-piecing methods help speed up the construction of many different blocks–including Log Cabin, Four-Patch, Nine-Patch, and half-square triangles, to name just a few.
These tips from experienced quilters will help you save time and achieve accurate results whenever you strip piece.
- Starch your fabric. You’ll find cutting and sewing much easier if you stiffen your fabric with starch. Use enough starch to make your fabric as stiff as a piece of paper.
- Keep your strips short. The longer your strips are, the more likely they are to get distorted when you sew them.
- Start sewing on a scrap of fabric, then chain stitch from the scrap onto your strips. This helps avoid those ugly thread nests that can develop on the back of your fabric when you start sewing.
- Use a stiletto or a bamboo skewer to guide the strips under the needle. This helps keep your seams nice and straight, especially as you get to the end of a strip.
- Reverse sewing directions as you add strips to your strip set. When you join two strips by sewing in one direction, reverse your sewing direction when you add the next strip. This helps keep your strip set from developing a bend as you add more strips.
- When you cut strips into smaller units, put the strips face down on the cutting mat. They will lie still and not wiggle under the ruler as you cut.
- Press seam allowances to help your units nest together. When you’re working with units that will be joined together into larger units, it doesn’t always make sense to press your seams toward the darker fabric, as quilters are usually advised to do. Instead, think about how the segments you cut from the strips will be joined. Press seam allowances in the direction that will let the units lock together when you assemble the segments. Sometimes this means pressing the seam toward the lighter fabric.
- Keep your strips and units organized in sewing order. Arrange them in piles or hang your strips on a pants hanger, with the ones you will sew first located closest to you. That way you can just pick up your strips and sew.