Thursday, June 14, 2012

Patriotic Project with tips for perfect piecing

My DH is a veteran who spent 24 years in the United States Air Force and I wanted to make him something  special for his July birthday.  After creating the embroidered grill apron (top left), I was inspired by reading about Marianne Fons' involvement with Quilts of Valor from Quilty magazine to create a Carpenter's Star in red, white and blue patriotic colors.
(New: Frosted Peanut Butter Banana Bread recipe at the bottom of this post!)

I found a carpenter's star pattern that used very large half square triangles (HST's), but I wanted something smaller to sit on the table next to my DH's Lazy Boy chair, so I got out my AccuQuilt Go! cutter and cut out 2" squares in white and 2.5" HST's triangles in a medium and dark blue and in a medium and dark red.

If you use a 1/4" piecing foot for your machine, then your piecing will be much more accurate.  No matter what brand machine you use, it may be possible to purchase a 1/4" piecing foot for your machine.  Your local quilt shop can help you with finding the appropriate foot, but they will need to know if you have a short or long shank.  If you're not sure, it's best to bring in your machine or ask if you can buy a couple different feet, try them out and return the ones that don't work.

This is more costly than a 1/4" foot, but for accuracy, it is very necessary.  If you have experienced frustration while piecing because your machine 'eats' the fabric, purchasing a second plate with a small hole called a straight stitch needle plate, which will eliminate that problem entirely.  

I set my Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0 to stitch 1.  Caution:  When using the piecing plate, you have to be sure to use a straight stitch only, otherwise you will break your needle!

Pfaff sells machines with IDT which is best explained by this short youtube video HERE.

After cutting all my 2.5" HST's, I placed them right sides together, all stacked neatly in front of my machine so I can feed them one after another into the machine, creating what is referred to as 'chain stitching'.

I like chain piecing because it's quicker and saves a lot of time, thread and money!

Pressing is very important for perfect piecing.  Let's look at one method...
using a dry iron (so the fabric doesn't stretch out of shape) set to 'cotton', press the seams.
Press seams with lightest fabric facing up, then press open.  This way, your lighter fabric will be pressed towards the darker fabric and won't show through on your quilt top.

If you used a ruler to cut your HSTs, then you'll need to square your pieces and trim.  This step isn't necessary when cutting with the AccuQuilt cutting system, which saves more valuable time!

Speaking of time, how about money or value?

Another inexpensive way to keep track of a project in progress is to lay out all your pieces onto
a paper plate.  I like to do this so they don't 'float' around my sewing room, especially if I need to move on to another activity (like making supper or helping the kids with homework).

Now, how to take a stack of finished HST's and squares, line them up in proper order, row by row and sew without using a design wall!

First, lay out your finished HST's and squares (you can use a photo or picture to help you)

Now we're going to stack each row together...
always stacking from top to bottom and left to right.  

Place the first piece on top of the next, then lay these two pieces on top of the third, etc., continuing             all the way to the end of the Row.  

Begin again with a new stack for each consecutive Row.
Place a small piece of paper marked Row 1, Row 2, etc. onto each row as needed.  

These are rows 3-8 (I sewed rows one and two before I remembered to snap a photo - my apologies!)

Here is my nice, neat Row 2 stack, which I place to the right of my work area.

Here's how to sew up our stacks without losing the correct placement:

Lay piece 1 of your Row directly to the left of the Row stack.
Lay piece 2 right sides together, flipping piece 2 over onto piece 1.  Make sure you don't turn it.

(It is difficult to see because the fabric to the left of my hand is white, the same as my sewing bed.)
Lay the first piece to the left of the stack (without moving the piece around - simply lift it off the top and directly over to the left.)  Then, take piece 2 of your Row and flip it directly over so that right sides are facing together.  Place a pin in the right sides to keep track of where to sew, if you like.  You'll be sewing from the top down on the right side of the two squares.  

(Sewing down the right side.)

Open the pieces so that the first piece is on the left (in this case, the white piece), then flip the third piece of your Row over onto the second piece...

Now sew down the right side and continue on to the last piece of the Row.

(Sewing piece 3 onto piece 2 with piece 1 hanging off to the left.)

Perfect!  Pieces one, two and three are sewn together in the correct order!  The dark blue pieces look 'off', but they really are not because there is an extra 1/4" at the top and at the bottom for when you sew rows together.

Here are four of the eight Rows.  Looking good so far!

(If you have little ones running about, it is advisable to pin the numbers and pieces of each row together.)

Now to complete Rows 5-8 utilizing the same method so we can begin to sew the rows together 
and add borders!

Now it's ready to sew the Rows together.  The trick for perfection is to be sure to have a clean iron set to 'cotton' and use the following pressing (not ironing back and forth) method....

It's a 'must' to iron the rows opposite directions.  Here I chose to begin ironing the top row towards the left and the second row towards the right.

Make sure your rows are situated correctly, then put right sides together and pin, beginning with the middle seam, working your way out towards the ends, all the while 'butting' your seams together carefully.  
Perfect pinning = perfect piecing.
The seams won't butt up against one another without having been pressed opposite directions, so pressing is also vital to the success of your matched (or not-matched) points.

Butt the center seam first.

A stiletto is a useful tool to make sure points hold in place when you remove pins.  It is advisable to have a magnetic pin holder for this job.

Set your seams by pressing the edges where you just sewed, then open up the Rows and press dark to light whenever possible.  Some people choose to press the seam together and 
some prefer to press the seam open.   If you will be hand quilting, then press together, but if you will be machine or longarm quilting, pressing open will be fine, too.

Continue pressing, pinning and sewing until all eight Rows are joined.  Now, it's time to add borders!

You will want to 'audition' your borders to see what direction you want your fabrics and to see what colors you prefer.

Time to stack from left to right, piece 1 overtop piece 2, then those two pieces overtop piece 3, etc. to the end of each of the four Rows of borders.

Perfect point!  We want this look!

Not perfect...time to use the quilter's best friend...the trusty (not rusty!) seam ripper :-)

Clear proof that seam rippers are our best sewing friend!

Pins create wins!  Matching side seams are important here.

Once our borders are complete, sew on the top and bottom, then the left and right sides.  
Working with opposites works best.

A thing of beauty!
Thank you kindly to Harriet and Carrie Hargrave's and their "Quilter's Academy Freshman Year" for teaching me all these wonderful piecing techniques :-)

I'm ready to continue with batting, backing and binding...

...but that's for another post.

What are you creating for Canada Day or the Fourth of July or other celebration day in your country?

Have you ever experienced difficulties with piecing?  I hope you will find this post helpful!

I love to read your comments and value each and every follower, too :-)

New recipe for Peanut Butter Banana Bread from RocknRecipes just for you - enjoy!
Happy Quilting!



  1. Your patriotic star is stunning. I'm sure your hubby will be pleased with it.
    Thanks for such a great, detailed tutorial.

  2. I love it!! I used the same color scheme and made a larger whole quilt -

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Brilliant step by step instructions. Thanks so much. Sometimes when I chain piece, I manage to get them out of order. I am going to use your way of stacking to the right of the needle...and focus! The red, white and blue is gorgeous and thank you so much to your hubby for his years of service and to you for supporting him.

  4. I am making a quilt called Soldiers Star. It is similar to what your doing (one giant star). It is all in red/white/blue materials with stars on it. I got the pattern at a class I took at HMQS. It is a neat star.

  5. Very nice!
    I never think of these things until company is walking in the door!


Thank you for visiting! I appreciate your comments and hope you will choose to follow my blog.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...