Can you believe it’s already Week 5 of the Voyage Quilt Sew Along? It’s flying by, and we are going to start seeing our quilt come together this week, because we’re chain piecing our blocks together!
If you’re new to chain piecing, here’s a brief overview. Chain piecing is a technique that helps speed up piecing because you do not stop to trim your threads or lift your presser foot. Just sew your pieces together one after another without stopping so they are connected in a continuous chain of thread. It’s an exciting technique to learn! We’ll chain piece our blocks together this week, and they’ll be ready to fully assemble next week.
Chain piecing Voyage quilt blocks is also an excellent way to stay organized. Because the Voyage quilt is such a unique shape, it can be tricky to keep track of which direction your HSTs and HRTs should be facing. By chain piecing as the first step, you’ll have a great foundation for assembling your blocks.
For details on how this sew along works, check out the Voyage Quilt Sew Along introduction post here, and don’t forget to join me on Wednesday at 7:30pm Central for a live video on Instagram where I’ll go over all of these tips and answer as many questions as I can.
Voyage Quilt Sew Along Schedule
- Week 1, March 31: Pick fabric and gather supplies
- Week 2, April 7: Cut fabric
- Week 3, April 14: Make HSTs - video tutorial
- Week 4, April 21: Make HRTs and finish HST overflow if more time is needed - video tutorial
- Week 5, April 28: Chain piece blocks together - video tutorial
- Week 6, May 5: Assemble blocks
- Week 7, May 12: Sew blocks into rows to make the finished quilt top; discuss quilting ideas
Week 5 Assignment: Chain Piece Blocks Together
At the end of this week, your Voyage quilt blocks will be assembled into rows that are connected vertically by thread. Next week, we’ll talk about pressing and piecing those rows, and all of your blocks will be completed!
If you are making a throw quilt, start by separating out 20 Color 1 HSTs and 20 Color 10 HSTs and set them aside. These form the top and bottom rows of the quilt and will be made during Week 7. If you’re making a different size quilt, check the layout diagrams included in your pattern to find out how many HSTs to set aside.
Tip #1: Lay Your Pieces Out Before Chain Piecing
The first step for chain piecing is to lay out the HSTs, HRTs, and solid squares that make up the individual Voyage quilt blocks. This step is crucial because if it’s done correctly, you’ll piece all of your Voyage blocks correctly the first time!
If you’re making a two-color quilt, stacking every one of your HSTs, HRTs, and squares on top of each other before chain piecing, is an efficient way to work. The two-color quilt is made using only one block that is rotated to get the Voyage shape, and you don’t have to track color changes, so this is a great idea!
I found that with the multi-color quilt, it can be easy to get confused, particularly with the color change. But also because while nearly every block is oriented the same throughout the quilt, the half rectangle triangles must be rotated before piecing. So if you’re making the multi-color version, I recommend laying out the pieces for each block one block at a time, like you can see above so that you can keep track of both color and the orientation of your squares more carefully.
A Note About Directional Prints
Directional prints can present more of a challenge for the Voyage quilt, and I’m here to help! I chose a directional print for the purple baby quilt I’m making, and I have a couple of easy tips.
First, when laying out fabric before chain piecing, I highly recommend planning the entire directional print row out in advance instead of one block at a time. That way, you can choose the orientation of your pieces for each block before sewing them together. As you can see in the picture above, I was able to organize the directional print in my quilt in a way I really liked by laying the whole row out before piecing it together!
Second, if you have extra fabric and you don’t like a directional print that is upside down, you may want to make extra HRTs. By doing this, you can have consistency in the orientation of the print where it is featured most prominently. But if you don’t mind an upside down print, go ahead and sew some HRTs upside down!
Tip #2: Check the Quilt Diagram Frequently
Chain piecing is great because it’s such a speedy technique. But don’t let that lead to mix ups in your blocks! Confession time—I sewed a row upside down! I’m so grateful for my trusty seam ripper, because I was able to start over and piece it together correctly. I can tell you from experience that double (or triple) checking that your HSTs and HRTs are oriented correctly is very important.
So, you’ve laid out a block and checked your diagram to make sure the pieces are all correct. Now it’s time to get started!
Tip #3: Watch this Video Before You Start
Suzy made a very helpful video demonstrating exactly how to chain piece the Voyage quilt block! Be sure to watch this video, because there’s a trick to chain piecing this specific block—your block is chain pieced vertically!
That means that once you've laid out your block, the next step is to stack the pieces of fabric in vertical columns instead of horizontal rows for piecing. Confused? You won't be after you watch Suzy's video demonstration!
Because you chain piece vertically, you also have to work around your HRT. Suzy demonstrates exactly how to do that in this video! I recommend watching it once before you start, and also having it on while you chain piece your first block while you get the hang of the steps. Watch it as many times as you need to before starting to feel confident in your chain piecing.
For those of you who are new to chain piecing, there are also close up photos of how it works in Tip #5.
Tip #4: Sew Slowly to Avoid Fabric Shifting
You probably noticed that Suzy doesn’t pin her fabrics together in the chain piecing video in Tip #3. Neither do I! It’s part of what makes chain piecing such a speedy technique, but it can also lead to fabric shifting or slipping as you sew.
It can be tempting to put your sewing machine pedal to the metal and zoom through all your chain piecing. But you’ll still be saving time using this technique even if you slow down the pace of your sewing to make sure your fabric stays neatly lined up!
Tip #5: Don’t Trim Your Threads or Lift Your Presser Foot
If you’re new to chain piecing, Suzy’s video demonstration was probably incredibly helpful! I’ve also included the photos below to help you get a sense of how the basics of chain piecing work. What makes this technique so fast is that as you piece, you don’t trim your threads (except where Suzy shows in her video), or lift your presser foot. Here’s how it works!
To start, sew your first two pieces as you normally would, following the piecing instructions in the video in Tip #3.
When you get to the end of the first two pieces, sew off the edges a little bit, but do not trim the tread or lift your presser foot.
Line up the next two pieces and sew them together. Repeat this for all of your fabric, only lifting your presser foot and cutting your thread at the end of each column.
When all your pieces are chained together, the horizontal rows of the block will be sewn together, and all five rows will be connected by the vertical continuous chain of thread, like you can see below!
Repeat this for all 16 blocks in the throw Voyage quilt, and you're done with this week's assignment! Next week, we'll put the finishing touches on our blocks by fully assembling them. Check the Week 6 blog post for tips on pressing, using fork pins, and lining your seams up accurately!
Voyage Quilt Sew Along Book of the Week
For the book of the week this week, I was inspired by a quote I read on the Suzy Quilts blog. As Suzy wrote, “A really smart designer once said to me, ‘If you are trying to design a lamp, don't look at other lamps. Look at trees, buildings, animals – anything but lamps.’”
So this week, while we are talking about chain piecing, I am excited that our book of the week is all about an extraordinary artist whose medium is chains!
Ruth Asawa: Life’s Work is an exhibit catalog that accompanied a recent exhibit by the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Ruth Asawa was a Japanese American artist working primarily with wire, which she used to create minimalist suspended sculptures that she described as drawings in space.
In the 1940s, Asawa’s family was imprisoned at an internment camp. She aspired to be a teacher, but after her internment she was not allowed to fulfill her student teaching requirement because she was Japanese American. She decided instead to focus on studying art, enrolling at the famous Black Mountain College, where her experiments making sculpture from wire blossomed. She was a working artist, education and art advocate, mother, and wife for the rest of her life, creating beautifully calm sculptures that play with shape, space, dimension, and light.
The book opens with one of my favorite quotes from Ruth Asawa, which I think sums up our journey of learning and growth in quilting beautifully.
“Learning is cumulative, which comes from experiences with many people with different viewpoints and techniques. Techniques are simple to learn. Digesting them and making something that represents you will take a lifetime. Learn to draw, build, work with materials. Above everything, be curious, learn all you can, and take a lifetime doing it.”
Sponsor & Prize
This week’s sponsor is Fabric Stork, a beautiful online fabric shop with an excellent selection of fabric bundles. Fabric Stork is giving away a lovely low volume fat quarter bundle that would pair nicely with many Suzy Quilts patterns, including upcoming fat quarter friendly patterns!
How to Win
- Post a pic to Instagram. The photo prompt for Instagram this week is to post a picture of a chain pieced block. Use #VoyageQuiltSA in the caption. Make sure to use the correct hashtag! Remember that the quilt is called the Voyage Quilt, not the Voyager Quilt.
- 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.
- Your photo must be posted between 12:00 a.m. Central Time on Wednesday, April 28 and 1:00 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.
- This prize is open in the United States only.
- The winner will be picked randomly from all qualifying posts and announced at approximately 4:00 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.