Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Continuous Piecing

There are many ways of sewing a quilt together. Some quilts are meant to be sewn together piece by piece by carefully hand stitching. Those are reserved for very special people and occasions. Other quilts are pieced together with methods that are quicker and I'm going to show you my favourite way to sew blocks together while keeping their layout intact.

Continuous piecing is just sewing blocks together, one after another without a break or having to cut any threads between (or minimizing the cuts!) It's also called chain piecing and you'll be able to see why when you've tried it out. Start by laying your blocks out in the desired pattern or order.

 This is a basic, simple 9-patch block, but the technique works with much larger quilts as well. There is nothing directional in these squares, but if you are working with blocks for a large quilt top, you'll want to keep track of which end is up on your blocks. I do this with a scrap of paper pinned to the top of each row with an arrow pointed to the top of the block. Then I am careful to stack all the blocks in a column with the tops the same direction.

The next step is to take your 2 far left columns and flip column 2 over column 1 right sides together so your seam goes down the right hand side. Carefully pick up each pair, starting at the top and adding the others BEHIND your stack, so your top pair stays at the top and the bottom pair at the bottom of your stack. If you are trying this out with a small block like this 9-patch, just lay it out beside your machine and don't worry about stacking, just start sewing your patches from the top left down the column to the bottom. DO NOT SNIP THREADS between your sewn matched pairs. Just one snip AFTER you've sewn the last pair.
You'll end up with your pairs sewn together as shown and a small bit of thread between holding the blocks loosely together. You will not be snipping these threads, ever! Now take the next column of blocks and stack them from row 1 down, in the same manner. Top block is on top, others are stacked behind, with the last block in the column on the bottom as shown.
 Now, take your first set of sewn squares, keeping the top left to your top left (if you have them marked somehow, you won't mess this up! Promise!) Put your new stack of blocks to the right of your sewing machine with the top away from you as you are looking at it. Now, flip the top block from your new stack onto the right side of the top row of your sewn squares and sew down the right side. Flip the next block onto the next row and continue down to the bottom! These are non-directional fabrics, so an accidental rotation of a square is no big deal, but if yours are directional, just keep track of the tops!
Trust me! NO THREAD SNIPPING until the last block is sewn from the stacks! Leave the other threads intact that join your rows together!
Now, your whole quilt top will be tacked together - rows sewn together and held in their correct order by the small lengths of stitches that you didn't snip! Amazing! It's time to press - one row at a time - seams one way on one row, the opposite direction on the next row. I love doing this at a sewing day or a retreat as I can easily move my quilt top at this point without it getting mixed up and having to rethink the layout again.
 Now sew your rows together one at a time. I do this without pinning, but you could pin if you want.


And ta-da! Your block (or quilt top) is pieced! Add borders and quilt as desired! Don't be put off by the lengthy how-to, this is an easy thing to do and just takes some practice! Main things to remember are don't clip threads and keep your tops at the top!

Happy quilting!
--Ann
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