Pro-Tips for Piecing Progression with Becca
23rd May 2022
When I started quilting, I devoured MSQC videos - and often heard Jenny say 'finished is better than perfect'. I remember a particular video tutorial where she shared no one is born a perfect quilter - they have to learn and practice their skill to get where they are. And that message really resonated with me!
My projects were almost certainly anything but perfect: my seam allowance was not consistent, my points never really matched up, and I was tackling FMQ attempts with my feed dogs up using my normal foot in a down position. Let me tell you - that was a struggle! Along the way, I reminded myself that no Quilter was perfect on their first (or second, or third) project. It took practice to get where they need to be! And, any finished quilt is *always* better than a UFO...even if the points don't match!
In today's blog post, I want to share 3 things I've learned that have helped me drastically improve my piecing game.
Measure Twice, Cut Once!
When I first began to sew, a friend taught me the tools of the trade - to include using rotary cutters and reading rulers. After I had been sewing for a little while, I remember trying to help friends & family get started with a rotary cutter - and how difficult it was for them to figure the device out. So, I created a video on how to use a rotary cutter and a follow up on how to read quilting rulers. By taking the time to carefully measure and cut my fabric, I can efficiently make sure I have accurately sized pieces ready for sewing! By knowing how to work with my rulers, I can measure each step of the way and trim down any pieces that are a little too big. :)
Be Consistent With Your Seam
The 1/4" seam allowance is so heavily used in quilting, and I've learned this little measurement can fluctuate greatly! Who woulda thought?! I remember I was so discouraged in the beginning because my points just would NOT line up even though I was sewing *exactly* 1/4" away from the edge of my fabric. And then, something clicked. A 'perfect' quarter inch isn't really a full 1/4" away from the edge of the fabric - it's got to account for the folded fabric and the new thread I just added to the project. I put together a video demonstrating how I measure my seam allowance - and learned, once I know what my seam allowance should be - stay consistent.
I have found that if I stay consistent with my seam allowance, then my points nest up really easily, and I get pretty dang close to not chopping off my points without much extra work. Personally, I tend to aim for a scant 1/4" when sewing which leaves my pieces just a thread or two bigger than needed - and I can easily trim that down after pressing.
I have found the flatter the fabric lays, the better my cuts will be. So, I make sure to press anytime I need to cut my fabric! I'm a huge fan of Best Press because it adds some body to the fabric (so it's not so flimsy) and it helps reduce stretching and fraying in my seams. But, if I'm working with fabric that is *exactly* the size needed (like a pre-cut, or the die cut pieces for the PMQ) - then I just use a dry iron.
When I'm pressing, I tend to follow Karen Brown's tips for pressing. I found this early in my quilting journey - and it's made a difference.
sometimes using Best Press isn't the 'best' (see what I did there? hahaha!). Below are my rules of thumb for when to dry iron/starch.
Yardage: Most of the time, I will use Best Press on all of my yardage before I cut it. However, if I'm using yardage with a precut that cannot be starched - I'll just use a dry iron to tame any unruly creases/wrinkles.
Pre-Cuts: If the piece is *exactly* the size that I'll need (like the clue pieces for the PMQ's), I will *not* use Best Press, and will reach for a dry iron instead. If I know the piece is at least 1/4" bigger on all 4 sides, then I'll press using Best Press
There are also a couple of gadgets that I've invested in that help me make *SURE* I get nice flat seams.
I use a felted wool pressing mat (seriously, I notice a *huge* difference from just a straight on cutting board). These are supposed to absorb heat from the iron so when you press a seam, the fabric is being heated on both sides. Plus, I feel like something about the wool cushioning forces things to lay flatter.
I love my clappers for really locking in that seam! If you didn't know, fabric has a memory - and the best way to 'reset' a fabrics memory is to iron it (with moisture of some sort), and then allow the fabric to cool in the position you really want it to lay in. I use a clapper (which is a block of solid wood) to apply even pressure to my block once I'm done with my final pressing. This wood absorbs the heat from my mat & my block while applying even pressure across the entire seam. The result is the fabric's memory is set with the seam being as flat as it can be. This is a game changer for blocks with bulky seams!
Once I started implementing these, I noticed an improvement in my quilting journey...though I will say my piecing is still far from perfect. It's about the journey.