Accurate Patchwork Piecing #2 Application

Sit back, relax, this is NOT the Quilt Police knocking on your device’s screen!

Quick recap from my previous post: ‘I’m on a gentle mission to reassess my piecing techniques and figure out where inaccuracies have crept into my process. My mission is NOT to create a perfect quilt but to increase the sense of satisfaction I gain from the piecing of quilt blocks and quilt tops. In this mini series I’m going to share what I’ve learned about accurate piecing, share how I apply the knowledge and, of course, share the results’.

Using some of the tips and piecing techniques I read about and/or watched during my internet search (find the links in my previous post) I made several changes to my piecing process. Obviously not a truly scientific bit of research on my part – changing more than one variable at a time (apologies to those of a scientific nature).

I broke down the piecing process into three areas: well maintained equipment; careful stitching; and careful pressing.

As for well maintained equipment I’ve got into good habits over the years and do: regularly replace rotary blades and machine needles; clean out lint; use good quality thread.

Change: I decided to try using a smaller needle size with my 50wt thread, switching from an 80/12 Schmetz Microtex down to a 70/10.

Moving onto careful stitching I continued using thread savers/chargers (this is such a good habit to get into!) but made quite a few changes in this area of the piecing process.

Change: After using a ‘Perfect Piecing Seam Guide’ and checking my ¼” seam accuracy using the simple method of stitching three 1½” strips of fabric side by side I was surprised to discover I needed to change the long established settings I’d been using on my Pfaff machine. Just moving the needle position one more notch to the right has made a big difference.

Testing for 1/4″ seam accuracy. Once I’d adjusted the needle position of my machine the centre fabric of the test strip was exactly one inch wide.

Change: I also shortened the stitch length one more notch. The stitches stay in place at the end of seams without being re-enforced but they are only just big enough to unpick!

Change: Pins! Yep! I’ve gone back to using pins even on blocks with no seams to match.

Change: As well as using pins I’ve been holding onto the bottom end of a seam, keeping the two layers of fabric in perfect alignment, as the seam is being stitched. I think this has definitely reduced the amount of movement between the two layers of fabric as they are being stitched. Quilt top edges are much more even with far fewer ‘over-hanging’ blocks.

Blocks lining up square to on another with no need for trimming.

Change: Pinning seam intersections just to one side rather than through the stitching. (Place the pin on the side of the seam that will go under the machine foot first).

As for careful pressing:

Change: Finger pressing seams open (on the back of the patchwork) before pressing open or to one side with an iron.

Change: I have invested in a tailors clapper but I must confess to not using it with as much patience as is required for it to work effectively! I did find laying my freshly pressed and ‘clapped’ patchwork pieces under the wool mat while I continued pressing the rest of the pieces did help keep the seams flat.

Evaluation

All-in-all quite a lot of easy to implement changes. My assessment would be that, not surprisingly, many of these changes slow down and add time to the piecing process. Maybe not such a bad thing to be crafting and creating at a slower, dare I say more ‘mindful’ pace?

These changes have had a beneficial impact on the accuracy of my patchwork and definitely achieved my aim: ‘to increase the sense of satisfaction I gain from the piecing of quilt blocks and quilt tops’ …without turning me into a neurotic perfectionist!

Do you think you might implement any changes to your patchwork piecing process to achieve greater accuracy? Are there any tips or techniques you’d recommend we use to aid piecing accuracy?

Linking with Susan for Midweek Makers.

Allison

 

Accurate Patchwork Piecing #1 Research

Sit back, relax, this is NOT the Quilt Police knocking on your device’s screen!

I’m on a gentle mission to reassess my piecing techniques and figure out where inaccuracies have crept into my process. My mission is NOT to create a perfect quilt but to increase the sense of satisfaction I gain from the piecing of quilt blocks and quilt tops. In this mini series I’m going to share what I’ve learned about accurate piecing, share how I apply the knowledge and, of course, share the results 🙂

Take this 10½ block for instance:

The block isn’t quite square…
The centre seams don’t meet; the strips should be 1″ across but measure slightly less…
… Not surprisingly the block edges are uneven.

I’m not not ripping into myself – or the patchwork block for that matter – just of a mind to consider why these inaccuracies creep into my patchworking and to (re)discover techniques to reduce their occurrence.

Here’s what I knew already and what I’ve added to my knowledge through research using dear old wwwdotsearch.

Accurate Patchwork Piecing requires well maintained equipment:

  • Rotary cutting kit – sharp blade, smooth mat, ruler with anti-slip markings/grips.
  • Sewing machine – new needle (sharps size 75/11 or 80/12) , good quality 50wt thread in top and bobbin, tension correctly balanced.
  • Before starting a new project- clean out lint from the bobbin race and under the stitch plate.

Accurate Patchwork Piecing requires careful stitching:

  • Consistent scant ¼” seams. There are various methods to test for accurate seams and a choice of tools to use.
  • Use of ‘thread savers’/scrap chargers.
  • Short stitch length.

Accurate Patchwork Piecing requires careful pressing:

  • Careful pressing of fabrics, before rotary cutting, and during piecing.
  • Pressing tools that may help include wool pressing mat and a tailor’s clapper.

I’ve searched for and read/watched quite a selection of posts and tutorials that deal with the multi-faceted issue of accurate patchwork piecing. Listed below are the ones I found most helpful – of course some of the advice will be contradictory but that just gives us options if one method doesn’t work for our machine, fabrics or ‘sewing style’:

Phew! That’s a lot to take on board. I’m going to apply a selection of the tips given in those tutorials to my latest patchwork project. I will post the results shortly and share any further tips and recommendations I find along the way 🙂

Allison

 

Speedy Patchwork and a Pre-Wash Surprise!

Well! This was a bit of a surprise! To allow the fibres to shrink before cutting and piecing I pre-washed a piece of white cotton from IKEA I wasn’t expecting the colour to change! I mean it’s white, there’s no dye to bleed!

Left: Before washing and Right: After washing

My husband knows a thing or two about this and says its the OBA (Optical Brightening Agent) in the detergent and demonstrated it’s effect with a UV light 🙂

Left: Before washing and Right: After washing

I generally wash my quilting cottons before cutting and piecing. I know there are good arguments on both sides of the pre-wash vs. don’t wash debate. I just feel more comfortable knowing excess dye has been washed out of deep colours and the cotton fibres have shrunk before I start sewing. Of course there are exceptions to most rules and I’m willing to be pragmatic on this issue. Fabrics in packs of pre-cut strips and squares can’t be washed without fraying and becoming distorted. If I’m using pre-cut strips or squares I don’t wash the background fabrics I’ll be piecing with them – they can all shrink together when the finished quilt is washed.  And scrap quilts do end up being a mix of pre-washed fabrics and off-cuts from unwashed pre-cuts. So, in principle, I pre-wash but there are plenty of exceptions 😀

Back to sewing 🙂 I decided to take out the dark solid from the blocks I made over the weekend. I don’t think it was the dark colour value bothering me, it was much more that the chunk of solid colour in amongst the prints and lighter solids kept drawing my eye – becoming less a place to rest the eye and more of a distraction.

Looking at a B&W image of the completed quilt top I’m satisfied there is a fair range of value without the dark solid.

 

Having completed this quilt top my attention went straight back to the remaining fat quarters.

I decided on another simple block pattern and found a really helpful strip piecing technique for making the blocks in Allison Harris’ book, ‘Growing Up Modern’. It was easy to adapt her width-of-fabric instructions to my fat quarters and non-standard width IKEA cotton. I am enjoying giving my sewing machine a pedal-to-the-metal workout as we race through all the long seams together 🙂

Ready for some high-speed strip-piecing action!

I haven’t decided on a layout for this quilt but as there are only four prints I think it may be easier to keep them in an orderly fashion rather than try to make a ‘random’ distribution. Here are the blocks I’ve made so far:

Linking with Jennifer for Wednesday Wait Loss – a place to encourage one-another to keep going with our WIPs. Also linking with Susan for Midweek Makers – she’s found a lot of green quilts to get in the spirit of St Patrick’s Day. With all this speedy strip piecing it seems appropriate to link with Denise for Put your foot down Thursday 🙂

Lastly a heads up that this coming Saturday, 20th March, is International Quilting Day 🙂 Will you be doing anything special to mark the day?

Allison

Saturday Quilting Bring and Share (247)

Welcome to a belated edition of Saturday Quilting Bring & Share. I hope you have been having some stitching fun this weekend. Bring along your project(s) and share in the some of the quilty goodness offered to us by other members of our Worldwide Quilting Community. Please do click on the links below and join in the conversations by leaving an encouraging word or two in the comment boxes at the end of any posts that inspire you.

I-Spy Puzzle Quilt. The quilt sandwich showing wonky, non- squared edges.

I’ve been absorbed in making a(nother) Scrap Vortex style quilt. I’m calling this one the ‘I-Spy Puzzle Quilt’ as I’ve included lots of pieces of

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