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Strip Piecing Success Tips

Strip Piecing Success Tips post image
Like most things in quilting, strip piecing works a lot better if you use a few tips worked out by experienced quilters. Here are nine ways to make your strip piecing go smoothly and quickly.

  1. Starch your fabric. Stiff, starched fabric makes cutting and sewing much easier. Use enough starch to make your fabric as stiff as a piece of paper.
  2. Keep your strips short. As fabric strips get longer, they are more likely to twist in one direction or another when you sew them.
  3. Use a quarter-inch seam guide for piecing accuracy. Learn how to sew a scant 1/4″ seam. 
  4. Start sewing on a small scrap of fabric, then chain stitch from the scrap onto your strips. This helps avoid those ugly thread nests that can develop on the back of your fabric when you start sewing.
  5. Use a stiletto or a bamboo skewer to guide the strips under the needle. This helps keep your seams nice and straight, especially as you get to the end of a strip.
  6. Reverse sewing directions as you add strips to your strip set. When you join two strips by sewing in one direction, sew in the other direction when you add the next strip. This helps keep your strip set from getting the bends as you add more strips.
  7. When you cut strips into smaller units, put the strips face down on the cutting mat for cutting. They will lie still and not slip under the ruler as you cut.
  8. Press seam allowances to help your units nest together. When you’re working with units that will be joined together into larger units, it doesn’t always make sense to press your seams toward the darker fabric. Instead, think about how the segments you cut from the strips will be joined. Press seam allowances in the direction that will help lock the seams together when you assemble the segments. Sometimes this means pressing the seam toward the lighter fabric. Here are two blocks with their seam allowances pressed in opposite directions so the seams nest together:And here is a quilt top, seen from the back, with the seam allowances on each row pressed in the opposite direction from the rows before and after them so the seam allowances would nest when the rows were sewed together. The red arrows show which direction the seams were pressed.
  9. Keep your strips and units organized in sewing order. Arrange them in piles, like this:

    Photo by Heidi Elliott, Flickr.com

    Or hang your strips on a pants hanger, with the ones you will sew first located closest to you. That way you can just pick up your strips and sew.


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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Beth February 28, 2016, 6:34 am

    Tip # 6 says, “Reverse sewing directions as you add strips to your strip set. When you join two strips by sewing in one direction, sew in the other direction when you add the next strip. This helps keep your strip set from getting the bends as you add more strips.”

    I witnessed this first hand not long ago. A very eager young lady wanted to help me piece strips for cutting the Irish chain quilt and was a great help, but when she got too wound up sewing on one side of the strips they started to curve. It took a lot of picking to get back to making them straight again.

    • Felicity Walker February 28, 2016, 7:32 am

      I’ve had the same experience myself, Beth. Listen to the voice of experience, everyone!

  • Beth March 2, 2016, 7:09 am

    My normal method of handling the “curve” problem is to let the two fabrics rest on top of each other before I start to sew, take hold of them with my fingers at the beginning and at the end point, and then run them through the sewing process. I have yet to have one piece of cloth move farther or faster than the other. I suppose years of sewing clothing has helped with that. I keep in mind that the pressure foot is going to draw the bottom piece faster than the top and so that is why I hold them together.

    • Felicity Walker March 2, 2016, 7:29 am

      Do you hold the fabric taut, or leave it loose between the two points where you hold it?

      • Beth March 2, 2016, 7:57 am

        It may be a toss-up. I try just to hold it taunt, but not actually stretch the two pieces. You would end up with ruffled seams if the two pieces are stretched.

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