Perfect Your Skills | Staff Blog - Part 2

Perfect Your Skills

12 posts.

Perfect Your Skills: Hexagons

Each month, learn a fun trick or tip to make your quilting easier and more polished! This month, learn the secret to machine-piecing hexagon rows.


When joining hexagon rows, set-in seams are required. Though the positioning of the pieces is unusual, sewing hexagons together by machine doesn’t have to be difficult; just take it one seam at a time, pinning and sewing carefully from dot to dot. (Be sure to transfer dots from patterns to templates, then to fabric pieces before you start joining pieces.) Follow our step-by-step photos, below, to guide you through the process.

1. To join hexagons in vertical rows, adjacent rows need to be offset. (Example that follows shows top hexagon in Row 2 already trimmed to make a half hexagon.)

2. With right sides together, place first Row 2 hexagon atop first Row 1 hexagon. (In this example, Row 2 begins with a half hexagon.)

3. Push a pin through each pair of dots to align pieces, then pin pieces together.

4. Sew from dot to dot, locking seam ends with backstitches or tiny (0.5-millimeter-long) machine stitches.

5. Open up pieces and reposition Row 2 over Row 1. Align and pin next seam.

6. Without catching seam allowance in stitching, sew next seam from dot to dot.

7. Open up pieces and reposition Row 2 over Row 1. Align and pin third seam.

8. Sew third seam from dot to dot. Do not sew through seam allowances. Continue in same manner until all seams are sewn.

9. Press first seam intersection counterclockwise, forming a tiny hexagon on the fabric wrong side. Press next seam intersection clockwise. Continue alternating the direction you press as you continue down the row.

Perfect Your Skills: Rickrack

Each month, learn a fun trick or tip to make your quilting easier and more polished! This month, learn how to join rickrack ends when you’re using them in a quilt!


When adding rickrack to the pieced block, the goal is to make the scallop pattern of the rickrack appear continuous so the join is nearly invisible.


To achieve this look, ease in the loose rickrack tails at the beginning and end of stitching so they finish with perfectly overlapping scallops. Fold one rickrack tail back on itself in the middle of a outer-facing scallop.


Pull excess rickrack into seam allowance and pin.


Repeat with remaining rickrack tail. Stitch rickrack in place, then trim excess.

Perfect Your Skills: String Piecing

Each month, learn a fun trick or tip to make your quilting easier and more polished!

String Fling from American Patchwork & Quilting August 2012 (buy it here)


The rules for string piecing are simple–there are no rules! So give this technique a try. It’s the perfect way to use up your scraps while enjoying the freedom of piecing without perfection.


1. Position a strip diagonally across center of a muslin foundation square. (Note: foundation square should be 1/4″ larger on all sides than finished block.) Pin in place.


2. From an assorted print scrap, cut a strip that is at least as long as first strip.


3. Place print strip right side down on first strip; align a pair of long edges. Sew through all layers with a 1⁄4″ seam allowance.



4. Press print strip open.


5. Roughly trim print strip about 1/2″ beyond muslin foundation (Photo D).


6.  Cut a third print strip that is at least as long as the long raw edge of the first print strip. Repeat steps 3–5 to add third print strip to foundation.


7. Continue in same manner, covering each half of foundation square with print strips; skew strips in opposite directions so interesting angles are created.


8. Trim foundation to desired square including seam allowances to complete a string block.


Perfect Your Skills: Flying Geese

Each month, learn a fun trick or tip to make your quilting easier and more polished!

We love the look of Flying Geese, but sometimes we don’t like making them. You can sew Flying Geese units using two methods. Find the one that’s easiest for you, then get quilting!



Method 1: Specialty Ruler

1. For one Flying Geese unit, gather the two squares and one rectangle as stated in your pattern.


2. Align one square with one end of the rectangle.


3. Place the ruler on layered fabrics with one 45° line along the top edge of rectangle and the other 45° line along the perpendicular edge of square. The corner of the square will fit neatly into the notch that is created where 45° lines cross (Photo 1). The black dotted line on the ruler, which is the seam line, will run diagonally from corner to corner on background square.


4. Trim off the corner (Photo 1). Sew layered pieces together, 1⁄4″ from cut edge.


5. Press open attached triangle, pressing seam toward triangle (Photo 2).


6. Add a second square at opposite end of rectangle. Fit corner of square into the ruler notch, making sure the dotted line runs from corner to corner. Trim off corner (Photo 3). Sew as before to make a Flying Geese unit (Photo 4).



Watch designer Karen Montgomery demonstrate this method using her Quick Trim ruler from Creative Grid.



Method 2: Mark Pieces

1. Use a pencil to mark a diagonal line on wrong side of each square. (To prevent fabric from stretching as you draw lines, place 220-grit sandpaper under each square.)


2. Align a marked square with one end of a rectangle (Diagram 1; note direction of drawn line). Sew on drawn line, then trim excess, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance. Press open attached triangle, pressing seam toward triangle.


3. In same manner, add a second marked square to opposite end of rectangle (Diagram 1; again note direction of drawn line). Stitch, trim, and press as before to make a Flying Geese unit.


See editor Jennifer Keltner demonstrate this technique.

Perfect Your Skills: Small Pieces

Each month, learn a fun trick or tip to make your quilting easier and more polished!

Love the look of small pieces in quilts but can never get them to turn out right? These tips from designer Mary Elizabeth Kinch will help you become a small piece aficionado in no time! Her quilt, Best In Show (below) from our December 2012 issue, features her work with tiny pieces!



Break the work into manageable portions. Mary Elizabeth prefers piecing one block at a time, a technique she calls “batching.” While you can employ faster construction methods, batching is particularly useful if you have limited amounts of time to sew. Another benefit is seeing entire blocks develop before your eyes. In addition, you can make small changes in seam allowance or needle position to ensure piecing accuracy.

Be consistent when cutting. Use the same brand of ruler, and choose the same place on the lines of the ruler: just inside the line, down the middle of the line, or just outside the line.

Ensure piecing accuracy. While the difference of 1⁄16″ on 10″-square blocks is minor, when working with pieces this small, that minor variation per block quickly multiplies. Perfect a scant 1⁄4″ seam allowance and keep your ruler handy to check occasionally that your stitching is consistent. Use the same thread on top and in your bobbin throughout the entire project. A stiletto may be helpful in guiding pieces under the presser foot.

Press for precision. Instead of taking units to the ironing board for pressing, which can cause stretching, finger-press the seam allowances, and save pressing for when a block is complete. When pressing, to avoid stretching the fabric, maintain an up-and-down motion with minimal sliding of the iron. Use steam judiciously as it can add to the stretchiness of the fabric.