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Tips for Hand Piecing

Need help perfecting your hand-piecing technique? Designer Jo Morton shares some tips.

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Jo Morton says: "Hand-piecing is my favorite way to assemble a quilt. Because you don't sew across seam allowances in hand piecing, I can change my mind about the direction I piece my seams. It also improved my hand quilting. 

When I was shown how to hand-piece (many years ago), I learned to repeat a pattern of three forward stitches followed by a backstitch from one end of a sewing line to the other. Because the quilts and blocks I am making today are small and the finished projects don't get hard wear, I have adjusted my processes slightly. Here's how I hand-piece today.

I use a Tulip size 10 big-eye needle. It is easier to manipulate the stitches onto the longer needle, and the big eye is easier to thread. I find Aurifil 50-weight 100% cotton thread is great for hand-piecing (or machine-piecing) smaller projects."


For Best Results:

  • Pretend you are trying to achieve small quilting stitches.
  • If the seam you are stitching is longer than 1-1/2 inches, take a backstitch at the halfway point to secure the stitching.


For No-Knot Hand Piecing

  • Pin two shapes together, matching seam lines and dots.
  • Take a stitch at the dot on the right-hand or left-hand end of the sewing line, depending on your handedness; leave a tail of thread.
  • Backstitch over the first stitch.
  • Take a second backstitch, running your needle through the thread loop and pulling the thread down to lock it in place.
  • Take a third backstitch.
  • Using a small running stitch, proceed to the dot at the left-/right-hand end of the sewing line.
  • Pnly sew dot to dot; do not stitch across any seam allowances.
  • Check the back side of your stitching often to be sure you are staying on the seam line.
  • At the left-/right-hand dot, take a backstitch.
  • Take a second backstitch, running your needle through the thread loop.
  • Take a third backstitch to lock the thread in place.
  • Clip the thread, leaving a small tail.


To Inset a Piece:

  • Pin one side of the piece you wish to inset to your unit.
  • Begin stitching as before. When you reach the end of the seam line, take one backstitch and park your needle in the seam allowance. 
  • Re-pin the inset piece, take one stitch, backstitch over it, and proceed to the end of the seam line, finishing as before.


For a Continuous Seam:

  • Backstitch at the end of the seam line on each piece.