Tuesday, July 16, 2013

the key to Precise Piecing

I remember when I found out that most quilters sew a scant 1/4" inch seam.  Aha!  It felt like being officially initiated.  And suddenly my blocks weren't annoyingly small... instead they'd finish just that little bit too large that I could neatly trim down to size.

precise piecing

Since that revelation, I've made all sorts of blocks in all sorts of sizes, and I've come to see that it isn't so easy as "always sew a scant 1/4" seam".  Actually, sometimes you need a scant 1/4" and sometimes you need a true 1/4".  And, happily, there is a method to the madness, which we'll be exploring during our precise piecing theme in the Penny Sampler.

4 Penny Patch project

As I worked on lots of small, traditional blocks for the Penny Sampler I saw also how little details like pressing seams open vs. to the side and even the thickness of sewing thread can effect accuracy.  Now, I don't always want to work like this - striving for no-trim, near-perfect blocks.  A lot of times I prefer to casually accept the not-so-right angles and slightly chopped points.  If I'm having fun and the end result is pleasing to the eye, why fuss over the details?

6" traditional blocks

But, other times I'm in a mood. You know the one?  The one where doing it juuuuust right feels good.  Real good.  That's when those charming 6" traditional blocks (a la Farmer's Wife) start enticing me as a challenge.

Penny Candy project

The Penny Sampler includes a good number of traditional blocks, building on the folk heritage vibe of the quilt.  Students will learn how to sew tried-and-true favorites like the half square triangle, hourglass, flying geese and diamonds.  The smallest ones (the Penny Candy) finish at 3" square.

untrimmed Ribbon Square

When I had got past the initial mental block of thinking all my Penny Sampler blocks would be the same size, I chose to make some of the more intricate traditional blocks larger.  Makes sewing them a whole lot more fun!  This is the untrimmed corner of my Ribbon Square block, which finishes at 12".  So many pieces!

Snowflake favorite!

My personal favorite I call "Snowflake".  It doesn't have too many pieces, but is nice and sharp with good movement.  Thinking on making a whole quilt of snowflakes someday...

But then I'd like to do that with more than one block in this quilt.  So much to explore! 


  1. I'd love to see a picture of the quilt with the little blocks and the large blocks. Looks interesting.

    1. I'll be revealing the full quilt in Monday with Registration!

  2. I have a hard time with online courses (instead of in person ones), but I'm starting to think that I shouldn't miss out on this one. The content looks inspiring enough to keep me interested, and I definitely need the skill-building instruction. I'm very excited!

  3. You are certainly tempting me Rachel...your pictures and the write up's are so enticing. What I'd really like to see, though, is how you deliver the class. My job as a technology coach has traditionally been face-to-face, but in the future it is going to be moving into more of the virtual world of instruction. You always do such a good job of marketing your product, and presentation is also a strong area for you. My sewing skills can always benefit from your wonderful instruction, and I think my professional side can, too!

  4. I've gone through some of this thought process myself, but I haven't taken the time to systematically set firm rules for the different shapes. I did recently finally get my HSTs perfected but I'm excited to take on the others! You're just enough ahead of me to make this class really worthwhile!

  5. So there is a difference between the 1/4" foot and a scant 1/4"...that would explain why even when I'm trying to cut perfect and stick to those 1/4" seams..my blocks fall short on size. I'll be trying to move that needle...thanks for this entry!

  6. I never knew the difference between scant and 1/4 inch either. thanks for enlightening me

  7. wowwwwww so excited!!!!!
    And in my mind I have the perfect fabric's bundle for the Penny Sampler!!!!

  8. I teach beginning quilting and you have nailed the 1/4" seam on the head! I, too, use a scant 1/4" seam allowance and I love it when my block turns out to be just the right size. I try not to get hung up on perfection, however. I really don't like to use my seam ripper unless absolutely necessary, so I'm o.k. with a few mismatched seams. As they say... If you can't see it from a galloping horse 20 yards away (or something like that), you're o.k.! Thank you for a great post!
    Julie @ The Crafty Quilter

  9. Totally agree about the scant 1/4 inch seam. Fortunately I just sewed like that (I think it's to do with my lack of height) but mt friends have a lot of trouble with it. Much moving of needle position is required!

    The beauty of paper piecing is that it makes precise piecing quite easy. (I think your ribbon star could be constructed with far fewer pieces but assume the construction is harder for teaching purposes.)

    I've never followed an online course before but am sorely tempted by this one. :-)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Annie. Yes, the ribbon square block is our half-square-triangle challenge!


Related Posts with Thumbnails