It's happening! It's finally happening! In Week 5 of the Shining Star sew along we get to put all of the pieces together and see our finished quilt blocks. Yay! This week we assemble quilt blocks.
I'm extra excited about the tips I have for you today because they are easy to apply and truly work. Are you ready to jump in, chain piece away and see some finished quilt blocks?
Shining Star Sew Along Schedule
- Week 1, July 8: Pick fabric and gather supplies
Sponsor: Sewing Arts Center
- Week 2, July 15: Cut fabric and make flying geese
Sponsor: Heather Alexander Longarm Quilting
- Weeks 3 and 4, July 22 and 29: Make improv log cabins
Sponsor: Week 3 DuckaDilly, and Week 4 Global Fiber Textiles & Notions
- Week 5, August 5: Assemble blocks
Sponsor: Traveling Dye Co. (fabrics being dyed for a shop update now!)
- Week 6, August 12: Assemble quilt top
Sponsor: Lamb & Loom and Trace Creek Quilting
Two Helpful Tools
As we sew geese to cabins and squares I have two recommended tools to help you get incredibly accurate and flat seams.
- Tailor's clapper - if you're new to using a clapper or still scratching your head as to why a quilter needs a block of wood, here are some helpful articles: 8 Things You Never Knew About The Tailor’s Clapper and The Science Of Getting Flat Seams Using A Tailor’s Clapper.
- Fork pins - recently I tested out "magic" fork pins and have come to the conclusion that they're not any better than the less expensive muggle fork pins I've been using for years. But of course, if you too are intrigued when it comes to trying out new sewing notions, give them a whirl. For more fork pin info, check out this post, Fork Pins: The Best Way to Match Seams.
Week 5 Assignment: Assemble Blocks
This week I have tips that will help with both efficiency and precision. These tips will also be applicable to many future quilts too! Before we get into the tips, let's first cover some troubleshooting because I got a bit sloppy with my cutting back in Week 2 and it's coming back to bite me...
When I cut out my block pieces I stacked a lot of fat quarters on top of each other, apparently not looking closely enough at my edges and selvages. In the photo below you can see that a little over a 1/4" of selvage is still in my flying geese block even after sewing and trimming it. Oops!
I know that most of that selvage will be hidden in the seam allowance so I'm not worried; however, if you have a not-so-subtle selvage that's made its way into one of your flying geese, I suggest "fudging" the seam when you assemble the block and going a little wider than a 1/4" in that specific spot. That way it will get sewn into the seam allowance and nicely hidden from view.
Uh oh. In the square below I cut a piece too close to the ragged edge of my fat quarter and didn't get the finished size needed. My solution was to trim the square down even more so the seam wasn't too close to the edge, then piece more fabric to it. Once pieced, I pressed the seam open and trimmed the square to the right size.
The lovely lady who taught me how to quilt many years ago liked to call this "making fabric." So the next time you slice off too much, just grab some scraps and make more fabric.
Sometimes your "mistakes" can turn into your favorite part. Do you remember last week when I needed to add more fabric to one of my improv cabins, but didn't have enough? I ended up adding a fabric from a different block and it turned out to be extra adorable!
I liked the look of that so much, I did it to a few other blocks, giving my finished quilt even more of a cohesive look.
Tip #1: Lay all of your blocks pieces out.
It's easy to get confused when sewing various pieces together, so no matter how confident you are that you won't mix these pieces up, I still highly suggest you lay out every single one of your blocks before you sew it together.
Tip #2: Stack your block pieces and chain piece.
We've done this a lot in the past, but recently you may remember doing this in the Holiday Party sew along. You can stack a couple or all of your blocks like I did here and then chain piece each section at a time.
NOTE: Make sure your pieces are in the right order! I accidentally left off the matching squares to my top block (can you see in the photo below?) and sewed the wrong square to every flying geese unit. Oops! Time to seam rip!
Ahhh. That looks better. It's easy to mix this part up if you're working with similar looking fabrics like me.
If you are new to chain piecing, below you can see it in action. I'm not snipping the thread between blocks. Instead I am "chaining" them together be continuous sewing. This makes the sewing process much more efficient.
Only do this if you can stay organized while doing it. What's NOT more efficient is sewing a bunch of stuff together incorrectly and then ripping it all out.
Tip #3: Sew over the triangle seam intersection to get sharp flying geese points.
You can sew directly over the triangle seam intersection or just a hair shy of the intersection like I did in the picture below. Even if you need to swerve a bit to hit that intersection, do it. A slightly wider or more narrow seam allowance will go completely unnoticed, but a perfect flying geese triangle? Mmmmm....you will love pointing those out to all of your friends and family.
Tip #4: Batch press your units.
Once you have finished chain piecing all of your units, stack 'em up and move them to your ironing board. There's no need for you to be jumping up and down sewing and pressing.
This is also the time to make sure you're pressing your seams in opposite directions so they will nest well during the final assembly process. See tip #5 for more details.
Tip #5: Nest and pin your seams for success.
Whenever you hear a quilter say "nest the seams" what we mean is press the two seams in opposite directions so they fit together like nesting dolls — sweetly and snuggly. The tricky part is getting them to stay well nested while being pushed through your sewing machine. Here's the secret...
If you have fork pins, stick them in like this (or turn them 180 degrees so you don't get poked), piercing either side of the seam.
If you only have straight pins, pierce both sides of the seam like the photo below. I choose to slowly sew over the pins so the fabric doesn't get the chance to shift. I have found this to be more successful than removing the pins right before sewing.
NOTE: You must sew very slowly if sewing over pins. You can even use the hand dial to manually move the needle up and down around the pin if you are worried about hitting pins with your machine's needle. Do not allow a child to sew over pins ever. If you are sewing with a child either do this part for them or remove the pins for safety and accept that some inaccuracy may occur.
Tip #6: Enjoy what you've made!
Lay out your beautiful blocks and enjoy them! Pat yourself on the back and let yourself feel pride over your accomplishments. You're almost finished!
Week 5 Sponsor & Prize
This week's sponsor is Traveling Dye Co. — a shop full of beautiful hand dyed fabrics! Jeanne, the maker behind the shop will be giving away $100 worth of hand dyed fabric. If you are new to quilting with hand dyed fabric, we cover sewing and washing instructions in this post, Using Ice Dyed Fabrics in Quilts.
How to Win
- Post a pic to Instagram. The photo prompt for Instagram this week is to post a picture of your Shining Star progress. Use #ShiningStarQuiltSA in the caption.
- You must have a public Instagram profile to participate.
- Each photo posted is an entry and you can enter as many times as you want in a single week. Once the week is over, those posts do not count in the next week's giveaway. Every week we start fresh.
- For an entry into the Week 5 prize your photo must be posted between Friday, August 5th, and Friday, August 12th. The winner will be picked randomly from all qualifying posts and announced at approximately 4:00 p.m. CST the 12th. Good luck!