Welcome back to the Lighthouse Steps Quilt Along!
In today’s post, I will be sharing some tips for sewing those rows together.
First, how did your cutting go? Are you all organized and ready to sew your rows?
Before you Sew your quilt along rows
Before you sew, there are a few things you can do to get ready.
First, have you threaded your machine with a neutral thread?
Have you wound a few bobbins?
Have you put in a new needle?
Did you test your ¼” seam with your fabrics?
Hmmm…. my guess is that last one is a no. And maybe even the new needle one! (Read to the end for a fun giveaway!)
You may have a ¼” foot, or use a mark on your machine that you line up your fabric with and so you feel ready to go. Can I make one suggestion? Grab some of your leftover bits of fabric from your strips, background and/or contrast fabric.
Cut 2 squares 2 ½” x 2 ½”.
Sew them together. Press the seam to one side.
Now measure through the center of the unit. Does it measure 4 ½” across?
If not, you need to adjust your ¼” seam.
Notice I did not have you measure your seam allowance. Because it could be a full ¼” or a scant ¼” seam. What really matters is the size of your units when you sew them together.
Not sure what a scant ¼” seam means? It is a seam that is just a few threads smaller than a full ¼” seam. By being just a bit smaller, it leaves enough room, so when the seam allowance is pressed to one side, it adjusts for the fold of the fabric and the units will still measure the correct size. And that is why I suggest testing each time with the thread and fabric for your current project!
If your unit is larger than 4 ½”, you need to make your seam allowance a little bit bigger. If your unit is smaller than 4 ½”, you need to make your seam allowance a bit smaller.
I even have a video, made from a Facebook Live I did, on 3 tips for achieving a great ¼” seam! Click here to go to YouTube to see it.
Or for more information on the ¼” seam, check out this blog post!
Setting up Rows to Sew
Now that your machine is ready to go, let’s set up your rows. Hopefully you have them separated by section and by Row 1 and Row 2. Let’s start with the top section and the Row 1 group.
I love to use flannel design boards to lay out my pieces. Having them laid out like this makes it so easy.
I made these easy design boards using foam core, batting and duck tape! Click here for the blog post where I show how to make them!
Once I sew a section, I lay it on the board until I have all my sections sewn, then I carry the board over the ironing table to press and that way, the sections stay organized!
Note: I am making the queen quilt so my rows may look different from yours! Refer to the pattern for row layout.
If you grab your pattern and look at the piecing diagram for Row 1, you can see how to break it down into small sections. Once you piece some smaller sections, you can create side sections of the row and a center section. The 2 sides of the row are mirror images of each other.
So, what I like to do, is piece the small sections together, then piece them into the side sections. Unless you have directional fabric, you can make both sides the same and then just rotate the second side.
Then I make the center section and sew the sides to both sides of that.
Ta-Done! Row 1 is done. Does that make sense?
If you make all of your top section Row 1 rows at the same time, you can do chain piecing.
I love to chain piece and I love to sew fast- pedal to the metal, baby!– but my biggest tip for sewing things together and being able to leave Jack (the ripper!) in the drawer, is … slow down.
I will tell you, it is easy to sew your rows wrong! Ask me how I know! I will even show you a major mistake in my quilt!
Chain Piecing Tips
For those who aren’t sure what the term means, chain piecing is when you sew multiple units at once, in a continuous chain without breaking the thread between units.
It’s a great way to piece quickly.
But you can end up with units where the things aren’t quite as straight as you might like. So here are a few tips:
- Be sure to line up the top edges of the 2 pieces you are sewing together. If they shift, you will end up with pieces that are not lined up!
- Sew all the way off the first unit BEFORE you pick up the next one! I have a tendency to let go of my pieces too soon and then they usually shift a little to the left so my seam is not even all the way down the unit.
- Line up the next unit but don’t shove it under the feet. Stop, place it down and then start sewing again. I stop my machine with the needle in the down position and my presser foot hovering slightly. I love that my presser foot hovers so I can line up the next unit under the foot! If you shove, it often makes the beginning of the seam too large so, again your seam is not even all the way down the unit.
Sewing the Rows
Once the Row 1s for the top section are pieced, I place them back into their respective plastic bags so they stay organized. Then I move onto the top section Row 2s.
But you can also make all the Row 1s for your quilt first, moving next to Row 1 for the center section and then for the lower section.
And then move onto your Row 2s. A little note: all the rows have colored strips pieces next to background pieces. So in theory, that should help keep things organized. Just note that Row 2 is especially easy to mess up!
How do I know? Look closely at this lower section of the quilt.
Hmmmm…. see it? Some of my Row 2s are reversed along the sides. Oops! I didn’t discover that until after the quilt went to the long arm quilter so… it stays!
Pressing the rows for your quilt along quilt
Let’s talk pressing your rows. In the pattern, there are arrows to indicate which way I like to press.
Every time I have made this quilt, I have pressed the top section and bottom section rows to the colored strip pieces, away from the background. And that is because my background was light!
Then, in the center section, since we replace the contrast fabric for the background fabric, I like to press to the contrast fabric.
And this works because there are 2 solid rows of contrast fabric separating the center section from the other 2 sections. You don’t need to worry about matching seams between sections.
Just be consistent in how you press and then next week, sewing the rows together will be easier!
Pressing Seams Open
A quick note if you like to press your seams open. I am old school, started quilting back in the day when you had to worry about poly batting slipping through the seams! Pressing to one side was really helpful to prevent this. Another reason I usually press to the side is that seams pressed to one side are less likely to pull apart than seams pressed open. And I love nesting my seams; I just find that works for me. More about that next week.
But, if you want to press your seams open, be sure to reduce the length of your stitches. Smaller stitches will reduce the likelihood of the the seams pulling open. (Smaller stitches does make it harder to rip out mistakes but hopefully Jack will stay in the drawer!)
And when you test that ¼” seam, be sure to press the seams open so you know the seam size is good to go!
Have fun making all your rows and next week we will move onto sewing the rows together!
Quilt Along First Giveaway!
But wait…. I did mention a giveaway, didn’t I? My good friend Rhonda from Schmetz needles sent me 3 little goodie bags with new needles (I love using these quilting needles for piecing, especially with batiks!), a Pocket Guide and tag AND I will even include a little fabric goodie with each one!
Giveaway is closed! Thanks for entering!
To enter, just leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite tip for getting a good ¼” seam or your favorite size needle to sew with or… well, just leave a comment! Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends at midnight Monday March 22nd.