3 top tips for perfect strip piecing

Strip-piecing usually means sewing long strips of fabric together, usually width-of-fabric (WOF), and then rotary cutting across the strips to create smaller, uniform units that are already pieced. You can use this technique to make simple 4 patch or 9 patch blocks or much more complex ones. The beauty of strip piecing is that you can make blocks with small pieces without a lot of intricate cutting. There are lots of patterns out there that use strip piecing and many more that could be adapted to use it, so today I’m going to share my 3 top tips for perfect strip piecing.

Fabric requirements for the Drunkard’s Path table runner

If you’d like to work along with me and make your own table runner, here is what you’ll need:

  • focus fabric – one fat quarter
  • tone on tone neutral – one fat quarter
  • five accent fabrics – one or two strips of each fabric cut 3/4″ to 1 3/4″ wide x 20″
  • sashing & border – 1/3 yd
  • binding – 1/3 yd
  • backing – 1/2 yd
  • batting – 20″ x 40″

Tip #1 – Accurate rotary cutting is essential

Although I’m not going to go into depth with this topic today, your rotary cutting skills can really make or break your quilting experience so take your time when cutting and, if you haven’t already, take a class at your local quilt shop that focuses on rotary cutting skills. You’ll use those skills repeatedly and be glad you learned the correct way from the start!

There are many online tutorials and blogs that talk about rotary cutting, and making sure that you’ve got great tools is important. Check out Jennifer’s post from a few weeks ago to see how she uses the True Cut System for her rotary cutting.

For my table runner, I have cut one or two strips from each of my accent fabrics in widths ranging from 3/4″ to 1 3/4″. When cutting your strips make sure to square up the side of the fabric before cutting your first strip.

Squaring up the edge of my fat quarter

My pile of strips

Tip #2 – Sew your strips in opposite directions

If you sew multiple strips together starting at the same end each time, you’ll see them begin to arc or “bow” slightly as you sew them . This is because the top and bottom fabrics experience different resistance from the feed-dogs and presser foot. One way to minimize this “bowing” is to alternate the direction the seams are sewn. For example, sew the first strip to the second strip going one direction, then change and sew the third strip to the second strip starting at the opposite end and sewing in the opposite direction.

For my table runner project I’m sewing pairs of strips together. After pressing I’ll sew these pairs together sewing from the opposite end which accomplishes the same thing.

If at any time you find yourself stitching a bigger or smaller seam allowance than 1/4″, rip the seam out and stitch it again.

Sewing the strips together into pairs

Tip #3 – Press your seams OPEN

Once your seams are sewn, finger press them open, then press seams again with a hot, dry iron. Using a dry iron will decrease your chances of distorting the seam while you press. Pressing the seams OPEN increases your accuracy, all of your seams will match much easier, it will be easier to cut across your strip set because it will be flatter and there will be less bulk at your seams when they are sewn back together.

Pressing a seam open

Once the pairs of strips are sewn together, I’m going to lay them out in a pleasing arrangement and then sew them all together into one strip set.

Laying the pairs out in a pleasing arrangement

Squaring the end and sub cutting the strip set

Once all of the pairs of strips are sewn together and pressed, measure your strip set to make sure that it’s at least 8″ wide. Mine only came to 7″, so I’ve added another strip onto the end.

Trim up the ends using a rotary cutter, making sure that the lines on the ruler are aligned with the seams in the strip set.

Squaring off the end of the strip set

Sub cut the strip set into four sections that are 4 1/2″ wide, making sure at each cut to align the lines on the ruler with the seams in the strip set.

Cutting the strip set into 4 1/2″ sections

Here’s a little video that explains everything that I’ve talked about today.

Beginning Quilting Block 1 Split Rail Fence-Strip Piecing by Barb Sackel for QuiltWoman.com – YouTube

Join Barb Sackel as she gives you tips and tricks on completing the Split Rail Fence block in the Beginning Quilting Pattern. Visit us at http://www.quiltwoman.com.

3 top tips for perfect strip piecing

If you’re looking for more strip quilting inspiration check out Canadian designer Susan Purney Mark’s book Accent on Angles – Easy Strip-Set Quilts.

Now that our strip sets are cut into four sections we are ready to start the next part of the table runner. Tomorrow I’ll show you how to sew the Drunkard’s Path blocks. I hope that this post has helped you gain some confidence in your rotary cutting and piecing skills and that you’ll use these 3 top tips for perfect strip piecing in your own quilting!

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