Tips for Accurate Piecing

Do you find that your piecing isn’t as accurate as you would like? Do you sometimes lose those sharp points on your triangles? Well, it really isn’t beyond you with a few useful tips. These are the methods I ALWAYS use. Hope you find them helpful.

1. It probably goes without saying that the most important thing to begin with is accurate cutting. But, hey, I will say it anyway! If your pieces aren’t cut accurately to begin with, then how can you expect the jigsaw to fit together correctly? So, before you begin to sew, try checking the accuracy of your cutting. If you need to wear glasses for close work, forget the vanity and wear them! This could possibly be one of the reasons you are not cutting accurately and so easily resolved.

2. Check the accuracy of your ¼” seam. Once again, if the ¼” seam isn’t accurate then each of those tiny little discrepancies all add up when you try to re-piece the block jigsaw. So, sew yourself a ¼” seam on your sewing machine and check it out with your ruler. If it is not accurate adjust your sewing accordingly. Make a mental note of exactly which part of your ¼” foot you should be lining up to. I find that all sewing machine feet vary and sometimes your fabric may need to be a whisker inside or outside of the foot.

3. Now this one is a must as far as I am concerned. Spray starch your fabric before you cut. You may notice when you buy a new sewing machine that the little stitched fabric samples that they have included with the machine are sewn on starched fabrics. This is because sewing machines love starched fabric. They behave better when a lovely crisp bit of fabric is fed into their jaws. If you use starched fabrics you will find it so-o-o-o much easier to sew those triangles. The machine will be less inclined to mangle up those little corners as you begin to sew and your bias seams are less likely to stretch. I ALWAYS use starched fabric.

To starch:
Spray lightly once and then iron dry. Repeat this process three times. Do not be tempted to just coat with a huge amount of spray starch and iron dry. You will just end up with a gunged up  iron and a messy sticky piece of fabric. Always spray starch your fabrics before you cut out your pieces otherwise your cut pieces may distort shape if starched afterwards.

4. THIS IS MY MOST VALUABLE TIP which I use for ALL my piecing. Your machine, once again being a very fussy sort of a feller, likes to always have a piece of fabric in it’s jaws ready to sew. Therefore, chain piecing is ideal, whereby you keep feeding in pieces of fabric to sew instead of stopping and starting. But also, (this is it!)  keep ‘a little tab of fabric’ (doubled) about 1½” ish square next to the machine and EVERY time you finish sewing, sew on to this piece of fabric, just enough for you to remove your completed piece and leave the tab in the machine. Then, when you come back to the machine, sew from this ‘little tab of fabric’ and add in the next piece that you wish to sew and continue sewing. Once again when you have completed your sewing find your ‘little tab’ which will now be at the beginning of your sewing, cut it off and bring it back to the front of your sewing and sew on to the ‘little tab’ once again before removing your completed piece. This may sound complicated. It’s easier to do than to explain! But try it. It is very straightforward and soon becomes routine. Therefore, whenever you see my sewing machine idle you will always see a ‘little tab of fabric’ beneath it. You can keep using this same tab until it has too much stitching on it, then replace with a new tab. Your machine will perform better, it won’t mangle up the beginnings of your fabrics and eat your threads and the added benefit is…….. you will use far less bobbin thread and therefore need to change your bobbin much less often. This tip is a real gem. Try to get into the habit. You will love me for it!

Sewing on to 'little fabric tab'

When sewing is completed 'fabric tab' is now at the other end of your sewing

When you want to remove your sewing, cut off tab from leader end and bring it back to the front and sew on to it

You can use 'fabric tab' over and over again

5. My next tip is Pinning. Yes, I know you may think it is an ugly word, but nevertheless critical for accurate piecing where you want your points to meet. I ALWAYS pin, but only where I need to match points. Firstly, place a placement pin directly though the point where you need the points to meet at the ¼” seam point. This pin is only a temporary pin, but is the most critical one. Make sure it is accurate. Then place a pin as close as possible either side so that the points cannot shift apart and then remove your first placement pin. When you piece together, sew as close as possible to the first pin (within a couple of threads), remove the pin and then sew as close as possible again to the next pin before you remove it. This means that your fabrics have not had the opportunity to move apart and your points should be accurate. If they are not, it is only down to how you positioned that first placement pin. So, always double check that this pin is accurate.

(Click on any image to enlarge)

Positioning Pin

Pins either side

All points pinned ready to sew

6. Finally, pressing. This is a very important part of the piecing process. I iron EVERY seam after I have sewn it and before I add the next piece. Take a look at my sewing set up in the following picture. You will see how I have everything carefully planned around my machine to make my sewing experience a pleasant one. It involves no movement away from the machine (except to hunt for chocolate), so saves masses of time.

My Sewing Machine Set Up

I hope you have enjoyed my tips and you find them useful. Please leave a comment to let me know how you get on.

HAPPY (Hope All Piecing Pleases You) SEWING.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips! I pinned them.

  2. I’ve just started quilting and will definitely use the starching tip for my first quilt! My first block was a mess, and the second was better and I have a whole stack to sew right now. I have been nervous to cut my quilt blocks (not just practice ones!) but the starching will definitely help!

  3. Elda Viscomi says:

    Really enjoyed your tutorial, I have been quilting off and on for many years. Your tips were a great reminder of many things I’ve
    forgotten. Thanks

  4. Diane E Swett says:

    Thanks for the tutorial once again. I recently started teaching my 12 yr. old granddaughter how to quilt, teaching her these basic steps

  5. I totally enjoyed reading your tips!! Starching the fabric is a good idea, especially for mini quilts..I love making mini quilts,,the cutting is tedious but when that is done, the piecing, ironing is a breeze!
    Kudo’s to you and I just love your site!

  6. I love you blog. I have been setting up my sewing area like yours so I don’t have to get up. I love it this way also.
    Stephanie

  7. sylvia.wright says:

    really good tutorial, I am about to try a postage stamp quilt,
    so i will make good use of your tips

  8. Diane E Swett says:

    Great tutorial. I would like to linkthis page on my blog for my readers.

  9. Suzanne Chapek says:

    Love your tips. I have been sewing for awhile, looking for inspirations. Loved your sewing accurate seams tips. Will adapt. Happy Holidays

  10. Hi I use most of these methods for piecing as well. I know ‘The little tab of fabric’ as a ‘threadkeeper’, because,as you said in your tips,it keeps your threads instead of wasting them. I also keep the threadkeeper in my machine and I have several knocking around as I’m always losing them!(they always get found again and re-used though)
    Keep up the good work and thanks for the tips.

  11. Gillian says:

    Hi – pleased to ‘hear’ from you again! our tips for piecing are very helpful. Have you any other suggestion for people like me who cannot tolerate spray sstarch because of a bronchial problem? I do use a ‘tab’ when string-piecing, but have found that changing the needle plate with the slot to the one with a single hole for the needle prevents a ‘coggle’ when starting to stitch. Gilly

  12. Thank You so much for the tutorial. I’m a beginner at quilting and I hate not having all my seams match up perfectly. The pinning helps !!

  13. Awesome tips, now to try them out! Thank you!

  14. Magdalena ornelas says:

    Thank you so much for all your tips. I started leaving a piece of fabric in my machine between sewing and it has made all the difference. Now I spread the word around.
    I am a bit confused still! About the pins to match the points. Do you have anymore advise for this? Thanks and warm regards.

  15. Julie Conway says:

    hi lesley from Shellharbour in Australia, I came across your site thru facebook. what a little gem of information! I will definately be spending a few ‘more’ precious moments to do all your handy tips. I really love it when people appreciate what I’ve made for them and I only feel really happy when I know every little stitch is perfect. thanks a bunch for sharing your worldly wisdom. cheers & love Juls xoxoxo

  16. Vicki Jeffries says:

    Thank you so much for the clear tips. Brilliant. I have had a lot of problems with triangles and losing the points. Could not have wished for better instruction. Thank you. Love the tip about leaving a little piece in the machine, will definitely use that one.

  17. Thank you, for these tips, and for your time to explain, greetings from Costa Rica.PURA VIDA

  18. When cutting ½ square triangles you ned to cut the square ⅞″ larger than the finished size. Example: If you want a square to be 2″ when finished you would cut your square 2½″ to allow for the ¼″ seams but if you are going to make the square with two joined triangles you would need to cut a square 2⅞″ first (before you cut it in half diagonally), then when you join these triangles together they will make a 2½″ square, ready to complete as a 2″ square when joined to the next piece. Therefore the formula for half square triangle is always cut ⅞″ more than the completed size.

  19. when cutting 1/2 square triangles how much bigger should they be made to make them come out so you don’t have to cut them down???
    I never have luck with this aspect.

  20. Thank you for these tips. I am going to use all of them!
    One that I found a while ago is using the little piece of fabric, which I “tweaked” a bit. I am making a queen quilt that requires all half square triangles, like a bazillion.
    I cut out squares a little larger then needed, and keep a stack by the machine paired light and dark. I use these instead of the scrap fabric, and every month or so trim up what I have to the size needed. No wasted stitches, and I am making good progress on my scrappy quilt without sitting and sewing a bizillion half squares at one time. make sense?

  21. carmen delo pozo says:

    graacias por los consejos,el empalme de telas siempre ha sido un dolor de cabeza, pero, con estas instrucciones fàciles de seguir,tendrè un mejor terminado, saludos desde Mèxico y mi agradecimiento

  22. Thanks for all the tips. I’m going to try each and everyone to improve my piecing. Blessings

  23. Thanks for the great tips-I use them all but know lots of quilters who do not and have sloppy results. They are critical to a good piece of work. Thanks most of all for the Friday Freebies. I love embroidery and my friend & I are loving this neat Christmas project. Will probably use them for ornaments as gifts for our Sunday School class. You are a great designer!

  24. Thank you so much for the wonderful instructions! Especially the tip about the little piece of fabric. I’m going to start using that! I made the exact same block last night that you have here! It is the first block in the Blogger’s Block of the Month.

  25. Lynette Edwina says:

    Thank you so much Lesley. The instructions were beautifully simple to follow. I will be using ALL your tips. Thank you for sharing. Kind Regards.

  26. I have just spent a frustrating afternoon having fabric eaten by my sewing machine and getting angry with mismatched points… and as if by magic, I have ‘stumbled’ upon this page – so, I am going to follow ALL your tips tomorrow! Thank you for detailed but clear advice!

  27. dorothy vanseeters says:

    i just love this site suzieQ

  28. Thank you so much for very good instructions. Regards from Snefrid

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