Beginning Piecing: Sewing the pieces

beginning piecing beginning quilting quilting for beginners quilting tutorial

Believe it or not, but the hard part is over. The prep work and cutting your fabric sets the stage for a successful quilt or other project. The hardest part of this stage is getting that perfect 1/4" stitch.

As with just about everything, there is more than one way to achieve that goal. Experiment with them all and decide which one works best for you.

Most machines have a 1/4" foot. These feet have a flange on the right side. The raw edge of the fabric glides along that flange keeping the fabric straight and at that perfect 1/4".

The main downfall to this foot is remembering to put your needle in the center position. If you don't, you break the needle. Ask me how I know! My machine defaults to a left-side needle position, which for some reason always escapes my mind when using the 1/4" foot.

If you don't have a 1/4" foot for your machine, lots of people place a strip of painter's tape on the machine bed at the place where they would get a 1/4". Magnetic and sticky guides are also available on the market.

My favorite method is using the J Foot and setting my machine to do a 1/4". I like the J Foot because I can still see where I am going, which I find more difficult with the 1/4" foot. Once you set the machine to the right stitch, just keep the raw edge of the fabric underneath the edge of the foot.


To set the machine to the correct stitch, take a look at your stitch menu. Menus can be on the inside of the machine lid (Brother), on a separate card (Bernina), or in the machine (high-end combo machines). Look for the straight line stiches with a small "P" next to them.


I would choose the first one, so I would set my machine to do stitch #29. The machine automatically sets itself for a piecing stitch using the J Foot.

Some patterns call for a scant 1/4". Once you have your 1/4" set up, simply move your needle 3 clicks, or positions, to the right or closer to the raw edge.

Not knowing your pattern, it is difficult to go into specifics about sewing your pieces together. I do know, though, that you will have seams that need to be matched up.

I've borrowed this picture from Sew Can She because it shows how rows are stitched together. Once you have your rows built, you have to sew them together, matching all the seams. The best way to do this is called nesting the seams. To nest the seams, you press the adjoining seams in opposite directions.


You can see in this picture from C&T Publishing that the top layer's seam is pressed to the left and the bottom layer's seam is pressed to the right. Snuggle up the two layers together and pin. When you sew them together, your seam should not look interrupted by the different fabrics, as illustrated in this picture from Patchwork Posse. 

The only other piece of advice that I would offer regarding the sewing is this. Often, just like with rotary cutting, we tend to veer off course at the end. The seam can get larger or smaller on the ends. Over the mileage of the quilt, this can add up to being quite a difference and cause matching seams and pieces difficult. To avoid veering, I use a stiletto to guide my fabric along the edge of the foot. Toward the end of the fabric, I will put my left index finger flush against the left edge of the foot as I'm finishing the seam. This prevents me from veering at the end.

This is the stage I enjoy most. As you work through piecing all the fabrics together, the quilt top starts coming to life. It is fun to see it grow and mature into the final finished top.

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