HOW TO CHAIN PIECE
By Dawn Wade
So what is Chain Piecing? Chain piecing is a sewing technique that is basically an assembly line for your quilt, sewing block after block without cutting your thread in between each set. Not only saving you time, but thread as well!! YAY! More thread and time to make more quilts! Sometimes it’s harder to explain a simple concept than a harder one. So get out your sewing machine and follow along. Chain Piecing is WAY easier than you think!
For our first chain piecing, we are going to work on a simple 9 patch block. It’s called a 9 patch because it has 9 squares of fabric. When it comes to fabric, I like to start with pre-cuts. Not only are they already cut but they also offer an array of colors and patterns from the same collection, taking the guess work out of color and pattern combinations. The pre-cuts that I am using for this tutorial are 2.5” Charm Squares from Moda Fabrics.
Step 1: Layout your Fabric
First things first, lay out your block to your liking. I find it easiest to use a felt backed tablecloth that is hung on the wall to lay out your block. Don’t forget to look at composition of color and patterns when laying out your fabric. There were a couple of patterns in my block that are the same but for the sake of the tutorial, I am OK with it.
Step 2: Pick up in order
Once your blocks are laid out, start picking up the squares starting in the top left corner. Pick up the first two (left to right) with the right sides of the fabric squares together.
Next, pick up the next rows first two squares (left to right) and align those right sides together.
Continue picking up the first two blocks of the last row making sure to work from left to right.
Pick up all the blocks in the third row starting from top to bottom.
Step 3: Organize your Squares
Make sure to label your blocks along the way. You can use just a plain old scrap of paper and a pin. I tend to lose these little bits of paper so I rely on one of my favorite notions, Alphabitties by It’s Sew Emma. These little pieces of plastic have printed letters and numbers on them that help you keep your cut fabric pieces together, organized and looking cute to boot! Attach them with a Clover Wonder Clip and you will be ready to take on chain piecing like a pro! I like to attach my labels as I am working so there is no guessing which square goes where.
Step 4: Chain Piecing
Now that you have your squares in order, it will make chain piecing them together super easy.
Sew the first two sets together with a ¼” seam. Without cutting your thread on the sewing machine, thread the next two sets together and repeat for the next set. Cut your thread from your sewing machine and you will see that a chain has been formed. This is the ‘chain’ in chain piecing.
Use scissors or snips to cut the thread chain in between the squares.
Continue sewing on the last row of squares to the sewn square sets. Repeat the same chain piecing process and clip.
At this point you should have three rows of three squares each.
Step 5: Press your Seams
It is now time to bust out your iron. Make sure to press the seams every other row in the opposite direction. This will help with nesting your seams and having accurate corners and matching points.
Step 6: Nest your Seams
Nesting your seams is the easiest way to get accurate piecing. If you have pressed your seams in the opposite directions, then nesting your seams should be a breeze. Lay two rows right sides together. Match the seams up so that the fabric literally nests inside the other seam. It’s a little hard to see here but you will feel the two seams lock inside of each other. Pin the rows together and sew.
Pin the rows together, taking great care to nest the seams and sew into place. Repeat for the last row and press.
Your first block is now complete and you have learned a brand new technique. It may have looked intimidating but just go through the steps and try it. You will be glad you did. Now that you have mastered one 9 patch block, go ahead and make a few more, sew them together using the same chain piecing method above to form a whole quilt top. Easy Peasy!