Handy Hints and Tips

Strip piecing, joining seams and pressing.

Today I would like to discuss tips for strip piecing, joining strips and pressing blocks in preparation for ‘The Desperate Housewife’s Quilt’.

Strip piecing
Strip piecing is a timesaver when you are making multiple blocks which have identical rows made up of square, diamond, triangular or rectangle pieces.

Simply it is joining strips of certain widths and cutting those strips at various angles into equal widths to create a block row.

The important steps in producing perfect strips are:

  • Accuracy in initial cutting of strips
  • Use starch
  • Pin
  • Consistence 1/4″ seam
  • Press open (or press over) seams
  • Use a centre seam for angle measurement rather than top or bottom of strip set
  • Keep adjusting ruler every few cuts to make sure angle and measurement is still accurate. 
Accuracy of cutting strips
This is important because you are trying to produce a repetitive sequence of pieces that must be all equal. If your initial strips are not all cut to the correct width it will cause distortion on the strip set and your intersecting seams will not line up.
Starch or Starch Identical Products
I use a light spray of Best Press when making strip sets. It gives the fabric body and support and makes it easier to maintain accuracy. Remember starch is a polysaccharide (sugar complex) and makes a lovely treat for crawlies. It also can yellow over time. Wash out the starch from any project if you are going to store for a long time.
Pinning stabilises the two layers of fabric as you sew. Place pins at close intervals along the strips as you sew them together. Only take a bite of the layers of fabric when you pin. This causes less puckering.
Consistent 1/4″ seam
Make sure you sew slowly and ensure that the seam allowance is consistent for the whole length of the strips and every subsequent strip you sew.  Use a sharp pointed object, such as a stiletto, to grab the strips at the end so the 1/4″ seam is maintained until the end.
Press not iron
When you set a seam or open a seam, please just press. Pressing is just lifting the iron and lowering the iron along the seam. The weight and temperature of the iron will flatten the seam. If you move the iron too fast and furiously over the seam it will distort the seam. I do not use steam when I press as it can distort a block. Remember to set each seam after you sew to ensure that the piecing is accurate. Even the slightest error will compound when making multiple blocks. I only press the seam once and then try not to press the set over and over again. Minimum handling equals minimum distortion.
Choosing the line at which to measure your angle
Always choose the straightest seam somewhere in the centre of your strip set to use as a reference line to measure the angle to cut. The top and bottom of the sets can be slightly distorted. 
Cutting a 45 degree angle
Measure Twice, Cut Once
When cutting along the strip sets, make sure your measurements are accurate and your angles still correct. Check every few cuts. If every strip is cut accurately, then the seam intersections will fit beautifully together.
From this 
To this

Open vs seams to one side
Both methods have their place in quilting. I tend to use more open seams these days because I like the flat look with no bulk. If your stitch is short and tight then nothing is going to poke through and you never have to worry about which side to press towards. Dark or light, up or down. Sometimes, you will need to press the seams to one side, especially when many seams intersect. Seams to one side is also handy when you want to quilt in the ditch. The higher seam acts as a guide.

Seams Open

Seams to one side – ‘ the dark side Luke ‘

Pinning the Seam Intersections

I start with pairing the two pieces, right side together. Move the pieces until the seams fit snuggly together.

Place a pin at exactly 1/4″ (equal to your seam allowance) straight up and down through the two seams. The pin should be right through the stitch line of both pieces. If it is not, manipulate the pieces until it is. Remember, the pin must be straight. Shifting to left or right will move the pieces and the seams intersections.  Place a pin on either side and remove centre pin. This should hold the seam position in place and stop the seams being caught or shifting under the presser foot. Repeat this for all seam intersections and pin in between each piece.

Always reduce sewing speed when coming to a seam. It is like driving fast over a speed hump. The car takes off and veers to to the left or right. If the sew line is not 1/4″ inch it will effect your angled intersections. (It is more forgiving with straight seems). Get your needle as close to the pin as possible before removing it. Try not to sew onto the pin. It distorts stitches and damages the needle.

Give your block a press. ( A gentle laying of the hands not a deep tissue massage ) and you have one perfect piece to add to your quilt block.

Seams to one side


Thank you for your comment. Your comment will appear after approval.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.