Welcome to the Leaf Peepers Quilt Along! I'm so excited to share this fun quilting project with my friend Sheri Cilfaldi-Morrill and guide you through the process of piecing and quilting this beautiful fall themed quilt. This week I'm kicking off with five piecing tips to help you get started on the right foot!
Quick links to everything mentioned in this quilting tutorial:
Don't forget to check out Sheri's tutorial for this week too! Click Here to find it at WholeCircleStudio.com
Five Tips for Better Quilt Piecing
I've been making quilts since 2005 and over this time I've tried every piecing technique under the sun. With every new skill I tried, I learned a little bit more about patchwork and about how I wanted to make my quilts.
Not everyone values perfect seams or precision piecing. Some of the tips I've included in this list do add extra steps and more time to the quilt making process.
But I encourage you to give all of these tips a try just once! You never know what works until you try it, and if you've been feeling frustrated with your piecing skills, that's a definite sign it's time to try something new.
Quilt Piecing Tip #1 - Prepare Your Fabric Properly
When you purchase fabric, it will always arrive feeling slightly stiff with deep creases where it was folded on the bolt. It's important to wash your fabric to remove the deep creases and any leftover chemicals and dyes that may still be in the material. Learn about all the steps to preparing your fabric in this quilting tutorial:
Click Here to find the Leaf Peepers Fat Quarter Bundle
Washing, Starching, and Pressing are steps that most quilters like to skip. Yes, it does take a bit more time, but the benefit is your fabric will be SO much easier to work with and SO much easier to cut accurately. Learn more about each step in the following podcasts:
Great Quilting Debate - Prewashing Fabric
Great Quilting Debate - Is Starch Bad for Your Quilts?
Learn even more about quilt piecing with my book How to Piece Perfect Quilts.
Quilt Piecing Tip #2 - Lower Your Stitch Length to 1.5 mm
Most sewing machines have a default stitch length around 2 - 2.5 mm. This is a gargantuan sized stitch!
Always lower your stitch length to 1.5 mm to create a tight, secure stitch that locks the pieces of fabric together. It's challenging to rip out seams when the stitch length is this tight so you know this stitch length is super secure.
Bonus tip - Use a scrap charger. This is a small 2 inch square of fabric folded in half. It lifts your foot slightly so it's easy to slip the next set of pieces in place. It also keeps your machine in "stitching mode" so you can chain piece the next set of pieces easily.
It also wastes less bobbin thread! Instead of pulling out long thread tails, you're using far less thread by stitching only 1-2 stitches between the scrap charger and the next set of pieces.
Quilt Piecing Tip #3 - Press Seams OPEN
This is another tip that can cause some controversy. I've shared another Great Quilting Debate on pressing seams open right here.
Because my stitch length is 1.5 mm and super tight, I feel like pressing my seams open is perfectly fine. No, this has never resulted in my seams splitting open or any issues for my finished quilts.
There are many benefits to pressing the seams open. The seams will be more accurate which means your blocks will finish the right size for the quilt pattern.
Open seams also result in a much flatter quilt and an easier quilting process. When all the seams are flat, you no longer have to fuss and fiddle with which direction they should be pointing in (always a headache).
Quilt Piecing Tip #4 - Use a 1/4-inch Patchwork Foot
Patchwork feet are designed to measure exactly 1/4-inch from the needle. I especially like feet that are designed with a narrow base like this one so you have 1/4-inch to the left and right sides:
So much of the effort of piecing an accurate seam is taken care of for you by using a patchwork foot and simply lining up the edge of your fabrics with the edge of the foot.
Quilt Piecing Tip #5 - Measure Your Seams
I know this step seems fiddly and silly, but it really is a great habit to get into! Place a ruler over your seam and make sure the seam allowances fully fill the 1/4 inch marks on the ruler.
Then measure the overall piece to see if the correct seam allowance was taken away.
- If your finished piece is measuring bigger than needed, that means your seam allowance is too small. You aren't taking away enough fabric.
Try using a 1/4-inch patchwork foot or moving your needle to the to create a more accurate seam.
- If your finished piece is measuring smaller than needed, that means your seam allowance is too big. You're taking away too much fabric.
Try moving your needle to the right or switch to a thinner thread like Aurifil Mako Cotton. Yes, the thread you're using for piecing is taking up space in the seam!
As you can see, piecing is a step-by-step, building process. Every step of fabric preparation to cutting to piecing builds on the steps before.
Please take your time this week and try out these tips! It might feel different and take a bit more time, but I promise you will learn something new and gain new insight into the quilt piecing process.
Don't forget to check out Sheri's first post on the Leaf Peepers Quilt Along! Click Here to find her quilting tutorial.
And just in case you're just finding this quilting tutorial, please know that you can join in the fun anytime. All you need is the Leaf Peepers Quilt Pattern, available here.
Let's go quilt,
Quick links to all the posts for the Leaf Peepers Quilt Along:
Evelyn Bicknell - October 23, 2020
Hi Leah, I’m new to quilting and am working on piecing my second quilt top. Despite many recommendations about pressing seams to one side, your recommendation about pursuing seams open somehow resonates with me.
Before I came across your blog and podcast about seam pressing, I used a stitch length of just under 2mm so I was wondering if it were you, would you still go ahead with pressing the seams open when it’s not a tight 1.5mm piecing stitch as per your recommendation?
Karol - September 04, 2020
Do you do any stitch in the ditch quilting, with the seams pressed open?
Thomas Clarence - September 04, 2020
My wife has a sister that will be giving birth to a daughter in a couple of months, and my wife wants to make them a quilt for them to use. I’m glad you explained that it is important to make sure you wash the fabric before you do any kind of sewing with it. Hopefully, by following your advice my wife will be able to successfully make her first quilt. http://www.sewspecialmaui.net/gallery
Judy Barchi - August 19, 2018
Hello Leah and Sheri, following along with cutting and labeling.
Judy Barchi - August 19, 2018
Hi Leah and Sheri, this time the starching is a lot better. Pieces cut and labeled…
Cathy Stoffel Koehm - August 15, 2018
Awesome! Thank you so much for your videos!