Monday, November 5, 2018

Hand Pieced QAL - Marking Stitching Lines

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Are you getting excited for our Hand Piecing QAL which starts in January?  Kristin and I are busy finishing our quilts for the big reveal and we thought it might be helpful to share a bit about the process.

Today we are talking about how we prepare our units for hand piecing.

First, I use a rotary cutter and mat just as I would to cut blocks to sew on my sewing machine.  Pieces are generally* cut to the specific size needed - no two at a time construction methods here.  (* Some of my block construction involve stitch and flip - more on that later.)

Second, as with machine sewing, all seams are 1/4''.   When I piece by machine, I have a wonderful 1/4'' foot that helps me keep my seams accurate and consistent. When hand piecing, I mark my stitching lines with pencil on the wrong side of the fabric.

I mark my stitching lines as I go - Krisin does all her prep work ahead of time so check out her post to decide which method you'd prefer.

Pictured:  Thread by Aurifil,OLFA Cutting Mat  & Ruler

Line your ruler along the edge of your unit and draw a line that starts and stops 1/4'' from each edge.  I use an ordinary pencil to mark my lines.  (For illustrations purposes, I used my computer to make the line dark and dashed in this photo.)

Pictured: Perfect Piecer by Jinny Beyer

While you can certainly use a ruler, the Perfect Piecer is an ideal tool for marking the stitching lines.  Line up the ruler your fabric and you can make perfectly placed dots in both corners and then connect the dots to draw out your stitching line.

For units like an hourglass block, I'll mark both of the stitching lines that I need for the basic shape.  My marks only go on the wrong side of the background fabric.

Pictured: Perfect Piecer by Jinny Beyer

Once all my basic units are sewn, I lay out the units following the block diagram and then mark the next stitching line.  Stitching lines always start 1/4'' from each edge. In the photo below, the stitching line is going to start right at the spot the prior seam ended.

And remember, seams are stitched through and not over.  (We have more information including a video coming on how to do this.)  As I get ready to join two 4-patches together (for example), I mark just one of the units with the stitching line and pin.  When I get to that existing seam, I will sew through the seam and then continue to the end.

Pictured: Thread by Aurifil, Snips by FamoreRobot Mom Sews Thread Conditioner
Can you see my stitching line? It is just a faint pencil mark.

Bottom line - I mark just the stitching lines I need at each step of the process.  I only mark the fabric that will be on top - that I will actually be stitching on!  All you need is a pencil and a ruler to keep your seams at 1/4'' by drawing out those stitching lines.

Need more visual demonstration?  Check out this awesome video from Kristin!

Most of the items featured can be purchased at Fat Quarter Shop, one of the awesome sponsors for the Hand Pieced QAL! Read more about the products we love to use in our What's in my Sewing Bag post! and more about our awesome QAL sponsors here.

Please note this post contains affiliate links which means I will earn a small commission if you purchase an item.  This does not increase your costs in any way.  

Have a wonderful day! Patty


  1. I'm really looking forward to this QAL! I tried hand piecing when I first started and it didn't go well, I'm interested to see how it goes with some coaches helping me from the sidelines! One question on marking after reading both your post and Kristin's: am I understanding correctly that you are NOT sewing into the seam allowance in each seam, the way you would when machine piecing? You are starting and stopping your seams a 1/4 inch from the edge?

    1. That would be correct. With hand piecing you do not sew into the seam allowance.

    2. Emily, exactly right! We'll have a tutorial on this coming up later this month but you sew through, not over seams.

  2. I love all the tips you are sharing to help get everyone excited for the QAL!

  3. Thanks for the tips and the info and the link to Kristin's video. I'm mulling the Perfect Piecer.

  4. When I did this before I think we sewed all the way through so I'm interested in trying out this different method.

  5. Very informative, thank you sew much for taking the time to show how! Yes, I’m looking forward to the QAL! I love handwork.

  6. Nice tips. Thanks for advance advice!

  7. I actually cut mine just as I would for machine piecing, and still do the 2 at a time method with hand piecing.

  8. Thanks for all the great tips. I'm anxious and nervous about the QAL. Hand piecing is not something I do, but I want to give it a try.


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