Chain piecing is a technique every quilter should know! It saves time, thread, and prevents thread nests while sewing. Chain piecing is especially useful when you’re piecing multiples of the same block or unit. I’m going to show you how to do this helpful technique, plus some creative uses for chain-piecing.
The most common use for chain-piecing is piecing multiples of the same block. Here, we’re sewing Four-Patch units. To chain piece, start sewing your units together. When you get close to the edge of your first pair, get the next units ready. Sew off the end of your first units and feed the next pair through without breaking the thread. No stopping is necessary, but you may want to slow down. If you do need to stop, stop with your needle in the down position. We find it most helpful to use the 1/4" seam foot, so we can get the most accurate seams. And if you’re sewing units that already have seams like this Four-Patch, it’s easier to position the seam pressed toward you and away from the machine. This helps your machine foot sew easily over the seams without twisting them.
Another use for chain-piecing is when you’re sewing many of the same size pieces to one color of fabric. In this example, we’re sewing a variety of square colors to one color – this white. We’ve cut a long strip of the white in the width needed. As we chain piece these together, you’ll add the different color squares as close together as possible on the strip without much thread in-between. Once it’s pieced, you can simply press the squares out, then cut the units apart.
When you’re working with pieces with points, such as triangle-squares, it’s helpful to chain piece these units. It prevents thread nests from forming or the points from getting pulled into your machine. Here’s a trick for chain-piecing triangle-squares. Sew 1/4" away from the marked line on one side of a triangle-square, then offset the next triangle-square and sew 1/4" on the opposite side. It nests the pieces so you’re wasting less thread, and can keep your pieces from bunching together.
When you’re sewing units or blocks together in a specific order, there are some helpful tricks we use to keep the pieces organized! Have your pieces laid out in the order you want them on the table next to you or a design wall. Put a small piece of tape labeled with the row number on the first piece in each row. (Similarly, you could also add a little pin with the pin head marked with numbers.) Pick up all the pieces in order and set them in a pile. The first piece you pick up should go on the bottom while chain piecing together. Keep chain piecing until all the pieces are together. You’ll be able to organize your quilt again by finding the row numbers, as well as which piece was positioned on the bottom.