Now that I cut everything I can begin piecing. To me this is the fun part. It’s when everything starts coming together and coming alive. -- Molly
Step 2: Pinning + Piecing by Hand
Pinning is another one of those things, like cutting, that should be done as precisely as possible. Luckily, it’s a pretty simple skill to master. I like to use sharp, thin Clover patchwork pins for this kind of cotton because they are precise and leave no mark.
First I pin the corners of two of my squares right sides together. I always make sure that my pins are going right into the corners of my drawn seam lines on both pieces of fabric.
Next I pulled my seam line fairly taut and pinned the middle of it. For a longer piece I would have kept adding pins in this manner. You can’t have too many pins! Don't hesitate to secure your seam with as many pins as you need.
Now it's time to sew. Hand piecing uses a simple running stitch, just in and out, in and out, in a straight line. I used 100% cotton thread, and hand-sewing needles known as sharps.
To start I took out my first pin and inserted my needle in it’s place in the corner of my drawn line. Then I back-stitched on top of my first stitch, so there was no need to tie a knot. If you look closely you can see that I did tie a knot in the photographed pieces below and have since learned that I don’t need to. I’m definitely still learning...blush!
Then I started my running stitch; in order to make the sewing faster, I kept my needle stationary and moved my fabric along it. I like to imagine my hand as a little sewing machine. I held my needle upward with my left hand. With my right hand I folded my fabric back and forth onto the needle as shown above. I made sure that every time I pierced my fabric I was going into the drawn seam line on both pieces of the fabric. I tried to keep my stitches uniformly small and even. I didn’t always succeed but they got better as I went along.
After about 5 stitches were on on my needle I pulled my needle through, making sure that I didn’t pull it too tight and pucker my fabric. I continued doing the same thing, starting with a back stitch, filling up my needle with running stitches, and pulling my needle through, until I reached the end of my drawn line. At the end of the seam I back-stitched a few times and cut my thread.
I continued piecing in this way, making strips and then sewing the strips together.
Here is the front of my finished top. It only took about two hours, which was much shorter than I’d expected!
Step 2: Pinning + Piecing by Machine
Pinning is also very important, and very simple, in machine-piecing.
To begin, I lined up my squares right sides together. Because of the way they were cut the squares matched up almost perfectly. I pinned each corner and then pulled the side taut and pinned the middle.
Making a quilt by machine is obviously a lot quicker than by hand. In order to make it even speedier I like to set up an assembly line of sorts. I pinned everything I could first and then sewed them all one after another by chain-piecing. Here is everything pinned and ready to be pieced.
The skill involved in machine piecing is maintaining a consistent 1/4-inch seam allowance. I find that the more relaxed I am the straighter my sewing is. If I’m too concerned with being perfect it ends up all wobbly. The machine should sews straight without too much help from you, so try not to push or pull the fabric as it goes through. It takes practice, so be patient!
Note that in machine-piecing I sewed all the way to the edges of the fabric, while in hand-piecing where I sewed only to the end of the drawn seam lines.
Now it's time to press the seams. Pressing or ironing not only makes the front of the quilt top look nice; it also organizes the seams on the back, which is important in machine piecing because you will sew over these seams as you continue piecing. Fret not, iron-phobic people! It's not nearly as hard as ironing a dress shirt and it's much more rewarding!
Place your pieced section with the dark side up and peel it back as you iron the bottom (lighter) section. Pull the darker section taut as you iron it flat. This will orient the seam on the back of the darker side of your piece so it won’t show through.
After I ironed all my seams, I pinned and pieced the center square; then the strips; and then I sewed the strips together. When pinning something that already had a seam I was very careful to line up the seams while pinning.
Remember when I said you can’t have too many pins? I really meant it....
Here is the finished square: