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Patchwork Pillow Sham Sew Along Part 3: Piecing your top

Welcome to Part 3 in our Sew Along – now we are getting into the good stuff! Tonight’s post is all about piecing your top and getting it all ready to quilt. This is my favourite part because you really get to see everything coming together and knowing all the gorgeous fabrics many of you are using makes me even more excited to see this step completed.

Before we begin I have another glossary for you – this time of common quilting terms. These are the ones you will see the most in my patterns and tutorials, and will help you as you find your way in the quilting world. Feel free to save, print and of course share this for later use.

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Piecing a quilt isn’t at all tricky and, with a small amount of knowledge and practice it is amazing how quickly you can create a quality finish. Let me assure you that it never needs to be perfect. Somewhere along the way our community started to get all pedantic and niggly about points and things matching up and that caused many people to just not even try or to only see fault with their finished tops. I am here to tell you that the idea behind a quilt is not about any of those things – if you are showing them then sure there needs to be an element of execution to the piece but otherwise I say dig in and enjoy the process. Just because a clever photo gives the illusion of perfection it doesn’t mean every single seam is perfect in every single quilt a quilter makes. In fact I will happily admit to faults in mine because handmade has never ever been about mimicking the work of a machine. We are all learning, all perfecting our skills and the most important thing is that we enjoy ourselves along the way and keep growing. So please please don’t get disheartened if your seams are slightly out, over time I promise you will only get better and better at this part.

To start let me show you how I set up my sewing space when I am getting ready to piece a quilt top of any size. You can see in the pictures that to the right of me at chair height is my ironing board and iron. I find this is a huge time saver when piecing especially as the iron is so important to the finished product. Keeping it right beside me really speeds up the process and stops me taking shortcuts. The hot cup of coffee is also a vital part of my set up to be honest, any of you who know me would know my love for coffee runs extremely deep. Oh and the big pump pack of sorbolene? Quilting murders my hands and they are always so dry, I have hand cream all over the house as a result lol.

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{Are you in our Facebook group – Piccolo Pattern Studio? All individual photos are in an album in there if you are having trouble viewing the collages from your screens}

As you can see in the pictures I am using my quilting extension table and also a 1/4″ piecing foot – they aren’t necessary but they are a standard part of my piecing technique as they make life easier.

In Part 2 of our Sew Along we were left with a neatly stacked bundle of squares, all sorted by row. Now is the time to get them to your machine and work your magic.

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Pick up your first row and take the top 2 fabrics, laying the second fabric to the RIGHT of the first one. You are then going to place the second fabric on top of the first, right sides together (RST). I set a very small stitch length when piecing my quilted tops because then you don’t need a locking stitch at both ends, which saves time and thread. Set your stitch length to 1.8 and very carefully stitch down the right hand side of the fabric, making sure the edge of your presser foot stays in line with the edge of the fabric at all times. Your first seam is now done.

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Pick up the 3rd fabric in your pile and place it RST onto your 2nd fabric. Lining up your presser foot with the edge of the right hand side, carefully stitch your seam, again making sure you keep the edge of the foot in line with the fabric edge at all times. Repeat with with the rest of your squares until you have all 7 blocks stitched together. Row 1 is now done!

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Next we iron. Place row 1 face down on your ironing board. Using your fingers press the seam open and then place the iron on top of that seam ironing it flat and wide open. Be careful not to rub at the fabric with the iron as that can distort the fabric, rather pick the iron up and press down on each section using lots of steam. Iron all seams open then turn the row over and give it a good press from the front to make sure the seams have opened properly and are lovely and flat.

Important side note: The quilting world is very divided on how to iron seams. There is no right or wrong way I promise. If you prefer to not iron your seams open but to press them to one side then please do that and alternate each row as you go. I prefer my quilt top to sit flatter to the wadding and to limit my seam bulk which is why I do it this way. We dont need to argue about this, do whatever makes you happy and I am happy I promise.

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At this point I like to place a pin in my first fabric of the row, especially if the fabric isn’t directional, so I know the correct way up when sewing the rows together.

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Repeat all the steps as above for your second row of fabric. It shouldn’t take you much time at all now you have already completed one row and you are in your piecing groove.

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Lay your 2 rows out in order and then place right sides together. You are again going to sew from the left side, to the right of your very first fabric. You may remove the marker if you think it will get in the way, just replace it again if you need to once the 2 rows are stitched and ironed.www.piccolostudio.com.au

Now I have a wee trick I do when I am sewing my rows together and it means my seams match up most of the time. Line your fabric up neatly at the top and right edge and do a couple of small stitches to hold it in place. Now using your left hand press the first two seams you are crossing together. You may need to gently pull the top or bottom fabric to make that happen, not to much or the seam will separate. Get it as close as you can then start stitching again slowly, keeping your finger on those seams the whole time until the presser foot is just crossing over. Stitch over them and then repeat the process with the next two seams you will be crossing. Do this all the way until the end ofย  your row. It takes a bit longer in the beginning but soon you will be doing this automatically without thinking every time you assemble a quilt top.

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Place your rows face down on your ironing board and press the seams open, using your finger to open them as you go (the iron can burn them if it gets too close so be careful!). Bring it to the front and give it a good press and steam to set everything lovely and flat.

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I like to sew my tops as I go rather than assemble my rows then piece them all together at the end. I do it so that a) I can pick up mistakes much quicker and fix them more easily, b) I don’t lose my place or get things out of order and c) because I am super impatient and like to watch my progress happen right before my eyes. Again personal preference and you will all find your own way of doing things as you go along.

Now to finish your top it is a simple case of repeating the directions above with the next 3 rows. Making sure you attach them to the correct side of the growing top each time.

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Despite our best piecing and sewing intentions from time to time you will get a seam that hasn’t completely lined up. Don’t panic because so long as it isn’t a massive miss we can easily hide it in our seams. Like I directed above use your left hand to hold the 2 seams in line with each other and make sure the edges line up. When you do that the natural line of the seam will come into play (be it out or back from that edge) and you can just sew as normal.ย  When the row is sewn it is important to check you have caught that seam adequately to make sure it doesn’t cause a weakness in the top and then a hole down the track. It may be worthwhile stitching over that seam a couple of times if it is quite narrow on one side to reinforce it.

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Obviously it would be amazing if every single seam lined up like the pic on the left – in fact in my books that is a huge win! But at times there will be small puckers in your seams no matter what you do. I would rather have a fold to make sure my seams line up and the whole row isn’t thrown out than the alternative and find that in the quilting stage many of these are no longer seen anyway. Again none of us are here for perfect quilts, we are solely here for lovely ones.

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Once your top is finished give it a good press and set it aside. We will starch it properly later when we baste and quilt it. It should measure 20.5″ x 28.5″ (52 x 72.5cm) approximately.

Now that wasn’t so hard was it? Taking a bit of extra time to iron, and line things up properly makes all the difference – I really hope you all find this much easier than you initially thought it would be!

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If anyone is sewing a sham with a border print inserted then the assembly is very very similar to that above. Sew your first 2 rows as per the directions above and then sew your strip on, lining up one top edge. Don’t worry if there is extra hanging out the end – we will cut that off when the top is finished.

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Rather than sew one row at a time and assemble like we did with the sham above we are going to sew both bottom rows together and iron before we attach them to the rest of the top. This helps us to line our top up correctly. Then place the bottom two rows RST to the rest of the top and line up at both the top edge and the right sewing edge. Stitch your seam as normal.

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Once the seam has been stitched it is time to square up that row to the rest of the top. Iron the seam flat and then using your rotary cutter and ruler trim it off, in line with the rest of the edge.

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Your top is now done and what a very pretty top this is!

And with that Part 3 is now complete! I really hope I have explained things well enough for you all. If you have any questions please post them here or of course in our Facebook group and I will ask them as well as I can. I cant wait to see all your photos guys and see your finished tops – we are nearly at the end now with only 2 steps to go!

Sarah xxx

The Patchwork Pillow Sham tutorial runs over 3 weeks.

Sunday 5 August ~ Tools for quilting and Fabric Selections
Wednesday 8 August ~ Cutting and laying out your top
Sunday 12 August ~ Piecing your quilt top
Wednesday 15 August ~ Pinning and Quilting your top
Sunday 18 August ~ Finishing off your quilted sham

 

 

 

 

 

 

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