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Machine Minute: Quick and Easy 9-Patch Block

Strip piece your way to a quick and easy 9-patch block!

Hi, I'm Jennifer, here with another Machine Minute brought to
you by Baby Lock and the Crescendo machine. Making nine-patch
blocks is a staple for making quilters. But making them
quick and easy is something that I think every quilter
needs to know. Now you could, of course, cut nine
small squares and sew them together one at a time.
And if you have lots of time, that's a great
way to do it. But I'm going to show you
a quick and easy way to strip-piece your nine-patch blocks
that makes it so simple to make several in a
hurry. Now to begin with, my blocks have a finished
size of 1" square in the center. And so I
cut strips of fabric at 1.5" wide. You could cut
them 42 inches across the width of the fabric. I've
cut mine from a fat quarter, so they're about 22"
long. And I've got them right sides together. I'm going
to sew down one long edge of those strips. So
to begin sewing, you can either use your regular presser
foot or if you have a quarter-inch presser foot with
a guide, that could be helpful as well. I like
to position my fabric along the edge of a presser
foot and move the needle so I get that perfect
quarter-inch seam. I always start with a little leader strip
in there so I get a nice, smooth start at
the edge of my fabric. And then sew at a
medium speed, trying to keep your seam allowance as consistent
as possible for a quarter inch. Now I'm using the
side of my foot as my guide. And I like
to sew without pins when I'm doing this because I
think the more you're manipulating your fabric, the more chance
you have to swerve off of your quarter-inch seam allowance.
But if I needed to stop and readjust my fabrics,
I could just have the needle down in the fabric,
realign my edges here, and start again. So, I'll sew
all the way down that strip, then I'm going to
press my seam allowance to the darker of the two
fabrics. Once that seam is pressed, I'm going to add
another strip of the blue color to the opposite side,
so it'll be blue, orange, blue once I press it
open. I'll align that edge, and again, using my little
leader to get started, adjust and make sure my edge
is right along my quarter-inch and start sewing down that
edge. Once you've pressed that strip with the seam allowance
going toward the darker piece, then it's time to measure
the accuracy. And you want to do this before you
sew all your strip-sets together to make sure your quarter-inch
seam allowance is accurate. So when you measure the center
strip that was cut at 1.5" in this case, once
quarter-inch seam allowances are taking into account, you have a
1" strip in the middle. So, one common problem after
you've pressed, is you'll go to measure this and see
that your center strip doesn't equal what it should. In
my case, it should be a 1" strip, because I
cut it at 1.5". So, what's the problem? Often it's
not where your seam is set (you have a quarter-inch
seam), but you'll miss pressing it all the way open.
So you can see here that there's a little fold
in the fabric that didn't get pressed all the way
open, and that accounts for the difference. So careful pressing
is important. And you can use your fingers to open
that seam before your iron gets to it, or you
can use the tip of your iron to make sure
you press that seam nice, open, and flat, so that
you're getting an accurate measurement when it goes to testing
to make sure that you've got your quarter-inch seam allowance
set accurately. Now you're ready to make multiple strip sets.
You'll make some with two darks and a light in
the center, and others with two lights and a dark
in the center. And that's how you get the variation
needed in a nine-patch. So when you cut those into
smaller pieces (if you're strips were 1.5" wide), you'll cut
segments from that strip 1.5" wide, as well. And you'll
pair two of one with the opposite one in the
center, and those are the three pieces you'll use to
complete your nine-patch. We'll first start by sewing two pieces
together. And you want to line up those seam allowances,
and that's why it's important which direction you've pressed them.
So you can see when you've put these pieces together,
the seam allowances, because they're pressed toward the dark fabric,
go in opposite directions. So when I give it a
little tug, you see how those seam allowances will nest
right up against each other and give you a nice
intersection where the two meet. Then it's time to sew
those two pieces together. Again, I like to start with
a leader cloth and just guide the pieces in, being
careful to keep that quarter-inch accurate. Now you can chain-piece
here -- you don't have to lift your presser foot.
You can just have the next set of pieces ready
to go and keep on stitching pairs together. Once you've
sewn those pairs together, I've pressed the seam allowance toward
the piece that has the most dark pieces. So in
this case, I'm going to press the seam toward this
row. Then I'll be ready to add the remaining piece
to the opposite side. And again, I'll line up my
seam allowances so that they nest, and be ready to
sew the final seam. It's just that easy and quick
to sew a nine-patch block using the strip-piecing method.


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