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4 tips for keeping your quilt pieces in order

by Jennifer Houlden

Wow, it’s April already and spring is here but I’m afraid that I’m still working on a winter project so no spring colors this week. Back in January, I started a piece that had lots of 4½″ squares with ¼ circles added to them, I was having fun playing with the Carefree Curves circle templates. Now it’s time to put these squares together but keeping track of them could be a challenge. So today I’m going to talk about 4 tips for keeping your quilt pieces in order as you sew them together – no reverse sewing today!

When I pulled out the project to continue working on it I realized I still had a lot of work to do. My original layout has gone and I have come up with a new layout that I like better and it uses up more of the shapes I made last month. I tend to like symmetry in my designs and this one will be no exception.

The new layout

The new layout

First things first I need to finish putting bias strips around all of the ¼ circles before I can sew the squares together.

Here the bias strips are all sewn in place. Doesn’t that Sulky rayon thread just shine on the dark teal fabric? I’m very happy with how the light thread contrasts with the dark fabric.

TIP 1 – Design Wall

Lay out all the pieces on a design wall.

Working off a design wall means that you can work on sections at a time but still see the whole project and keep track of where everything goes.

At one time I used a bed to lay everything out on but it’s hard to see the whole picture on a bed. The design wall that you stand back from and look at from a distance works a whole lot better to see the whole picture at once.

Project pieces laid out on the design wall

Project pieces laid out on the design wall

TIP 2 – Camera

Take a picture. A picture is worth a thousand words and it tells you where each piece is supposed to be when you can’t remember.

More times than not I have mixed up the pieces and since I took a picture it was easy to see what I had done wrong so the fix was quick. Without a picture, it takes a lot longer to see where the piece was turned the wrong way.

TIP 3 – Labels

Label your pieces. Use numbers, letters or a combination of each.

Use small sticky labels to write the row number and position letter on. Masking tape works but I found that if ironed too much it’s hard to peel off the fabric and leaves a sticky residue whereas the sticky labels don’t.

Or use flower head pins with numbers and letters written on in marker. You can also purchase already numbered pins from your LQS – I, unfortunately, do not have any so I made my own.



TIP 4 – Arrange by machine

Layout the block you’re working on in order by your sewing machine when sewing it together, this will ensure that each piece is placed in the appropriate spot when sewn together – well unless the little gremlins who hide in the closet come and mess them up when you aren’t looking.

Note I have sticky notes on mine as well. I tend to use all 4 methods to keep track of my pieces that way I shouldn’t have to do any reverse sewing because nothing gets mixed up.

9 patch block laid out in order at sewing machine ready to sew together

9 patch block laid out in order at sewing machine ready to sew together

All those 4½″ squares are sewn into either 9 patch or 12 patch blocks waiting for the center to be decided upon. I’m going to put one of the wagon wheel designs in the center. But oh no, I ran out of the pre-made fusible tape that goes with the Clover fusible bias tape maker. What to do?

No worries, I’ll use the bias tape maker to press the strip of fabric into the right shape and size. Then cut a piece of Heat ’n Bond Lite and iron it to the back side of the bias tape.

Heat 'n Bond, bias tape maker and bias strip

Heat ‘n Bond, bias tape maker and bias strip

It worked like a charm and I’m back in business.

Heat 'n Bond strip fused to back of bias tape

Heat ‘n Bond strip fused to back of bias tape

The center of this quilt is done and isn’t the symmetry of the design wonderful. As you can see I added the circles which are going to flow into the border but that’s for tomorrow along with some tips on quilting.

Quilt center complete

Quilt center complete

Today I had an easy time sewing all the 4½″ squares together with no reverse sewing and no mix ups thanks to using those 4 tips for keeping your quilt pieces in order. Happy Quilting.

This is part 1 of 5 in this series.
Go to part 2:  7 critical questions before quilting a quilt



Rhonda Martin January 4, 2020 - 7:24 pm

Now you can use alphabetties which are flat alphabet and numerical markers. You just use clips so they stay on. It helps with organizing as well. Amazon has them.

Melanie Gray October 28, 2016 - 10:46 am

I am always so terrified to start big quilting projects because in the past I’ve had major headaches associated with misplaced/ out of place pieces. How ridiculous is it that I never thought to label my pieces?? I would layout my pattern (loose) and take a photo with my cellphone before taking that apart and sewing my blocks in. Also – this quilt is stunning!

Carla A. Canonico October 28, 2016 - 11:40 am

Photographing your layout is a great idea!

sop.hie.s April 14, 2016 - 4:45 am

Very interesting!!

Jennifer Houlden April 14, 2016 - 6:38 am

Thanks Sophie. Happy Quilting Jen

Cheryl Sorensen April 13, 2016 - 11:51 pm

I also take pictures to check my quilts for any mistakes I have made when laying it out before and after I sew rows together. I have been surprised several times when I have found a mistake I can see clearly in the photo but not when just looking at it laid out or on a design wall.

Jennifer Houlden April 14, 2016 - 6:41 am

Cheryl, I once made a storm by sea quilt and had it all done when my dad said that piece is in backwards up there. I didn’t fix it I just said well it is what it is but if I had taken a photo I would have seen it before the quilt was totally assembled. The recipient noticed it right away. Happy Quilting Jen

Kristy April 13, 2016 - 4:08 pm

I love the camera idea! I don’t have space for a design wall, so this would work great for me! Thanks!

Jennifer Houlden April 14, 2016 - 6:44 am

Yes, Kristy the camera does work great when there is no room for a design wall. Happy Quilting Jen

Vicki H April 12, 2016 - 10:38 pm

Wonderful tips. Another great tip for Heat n Bond.

Jennifer Houlden April 13, 2016 - 11:00 am

Vicki, the Heat n Bond worked perfectly for this. Happy Quilting Jen

Sandy K April 12, 2016 - 10:34 pm

Great tips. I like the suggestion to take a picture of the layout.

Jennifer Houlden April 13, 2016 - 11:01 am

Sandy, a picture has saved me many times. Happy Quilting Jen

Linda Webster April 12, 2016 - 7:55 pm

Great post. Thanks for all the tips.

Jennifer Houlden April 13, 2016 - 11:05 am

You are most welcome Linda. I know they keep me organised when having to put lots of pieces together. Happy Quilting Jen

Rosemary Gregoire April 12, 2016 - 1:55 pm

This is so beautiful I could stare at the light blue circles and pretend they are sky or water.

Jennifer Houlden April 13, 2016 - 11:06 am

Rosemary, yes the light blue does look like sky or water – very soothing to look at. Happy Quilting Jen

Quilty April 12, 2016 - 10:11 am

Great tips! I like the fisrt one, a design wall is such a necessity! I have to build one…

Jennifer Houlden April 12, 2016 - 10:19 am

Yes, the design wall is a definite necessity and they are so easy to make. It has definitely prevented many mishaps for me. Happy Quilting Jen

anna Brown April 12, 2016 - 9:42 am

ty for your tips and ideas this quilt is very very pretty ty for sharing…. [email protected]…….

Jennifer Houlden April 12, 2016 - 10:20 am

Thank you Anna, glad you like it. Very different for me as I am not a brown person but I really like this design and the color combo. Jen

Lisa O. April 12, 2016 - 4:21 am

Taking photos makes so much sense now that everyone has cell phones with cameras. Too bad for me that I overlooked the obvious while making my last quilt!!! I discovered too late that my “Super Sticky” post-its weren’t so sticky! I am going to follow your lead and use at least two methods….it is always a good idea to have a backup plan!

Jennifer Houlden April 12, 2016 - 10:24 am

Lisa, having a photo has saved me in the past when I couldn’t remember exactly which way the pieces were to go – you think you will remember but not always. Yes, the sticky notes do fall off as do the stickers but the pins usually stay put. Using 2 methods is pretty much fool proof. Happy Quilting Jen


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