Sometimes you need a project that goes quick! You may have some special event you need to make a quick quilt for or you may be like me and need something fun, fresh and quick to give you a break between those projects that require intense piecing over a lengthy bit of time. Maybe you have some fabric you just love and want to see it worked up. Oh there are a million reasons to purchase Amy Smart's book Fabulously Fast Quilts!
Amy Smart's book, Fabulously Fast Quilts plus 2 Layer Cakes of Miss Kate by Bonnie & Camille for Moda, a little Kona Cotton White and we are off and running!
I endeavor, like many of you, to work out of my stash of fabrics, but once in a while (pretty frequently actually) I am tempted by the bright bits that are out there...this was one of those times. I had to snap up these two layer cakes. No particular project in mind, just fell in love.
Amy's book give you instruction for flat fold fabric, but I wanted to use these. Her pattern is also designed to be pieced rapidly and so she has duplicated certain colors in certain areas throughout her pattern to make it quick. I wanted to change it up a bit with random colors and placement. The blocks are simple enough so I just jumped in. Cutting the fabric for the first block...worry about the others after. There is plenty of fabric (with enough left over for another quilt!)
June Taylor makes a 1/4" ruler that is great for rapidly cutting the squares that you need for this or any other quilt. Take a long strip, folding it in half, place the ruler on top and make your quick cuts...you can place a little sticky or a mark where you want to cut, so you don't accidentally cut smaller or larger than you need.
Remove the ruler, toss the selvages and you have 12 perfectly cut squares!
A tip for quick piecing, is to fold your fabric in half, press and use that line for your stitching line. Stitch just a thread or two to the right of the line for perfect piecing. Now go back and stitch a generous 1/4 inch away from that original stitching line and you will give yourself instant bonus Half Square Triangles to use in another project!
This is where I deviated from Amy's inspiration...Lay out the snowballs to find a pleasing order...take a picture for reference to figure out what colors need to be in the 9 patches and where they need to be. Still Fabulous but not as Fast as Amy's version.
Tip #1 - make sure you have cut your pieces all the same size and that they are cut perfectly. Don't be slap dash about this part of the process, you will pay for it every time you try to put two pieces together. Take your time, make your cuts accurate. Just like building a house, measure twice, cut once and make sure that cut is accurate. There are tons of videos on YouTube that will help you perfect your skill in this area. Take a moment, take a breath and learn the proper way to make your cuts. The benefits will be worth your investment of time. Fabric is expensive. Quilting is an expensive hobby. Don't waste your time and money...Right! Lecture over...
Lay out your block next to your machine, in the order that you want to see it finished.
Starting on the right side, flip over that row to the center and chain piece those bits, you don't need to pin at this point, unless you feel that it helps you, just keep your edges even as you feed it through your machine, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Chain piecing is when you feed one piece into your machine after another without clipping the threads as shown below.
Press your seams in opposite directions, press the top row to the center, the next row to the outside and the bottom row to the center. In this particular case you would press all your seams to the dark side. This is another important step and you will see why shortly. To properly press your seam, first set the seam with the two pieces still together by pressing, then open your fabric out and from the right side, finger press your seam to the correct side and then press with your iron again. This ensures that you have your fabric pieces fully pressed open.
Now do the same for the other side. Make sure that you have your pieces in correct position by laying them back out on your table next to your machine, check the position of all your bits. Repeat the process of flipping the squares from the left side over onto the center row, again chain stitch. (I clip my chain apart, some like to leave it together. It's your own personal preference here, for me it just gets a bit fiddly)
Now you should have three rows stitched together as shown below. Place them on your table next to your machine and again check the position of your fabric bits, making sure everyone is where you want them.
I have flipped my rows over here to show you how the seams should be pressed. Top row to the inside, Middle row to the outside and Bottom row to the inside. This is important as you will see in the next step.
Take the top row and flip it to your center row, now we pin! You will be able to feel the seams "nesting" together because you have pressed them in opposite directions. It will make a tiny ridge for you to snug them up to each other. As you do this over and over again, you will become familiar with the "feel" of that seam and you will know when you have it just right.
When you first start doing this, you may be a bit uncertain, you can roll back the top layer and see those seams lined up perfectly as shown below!
That's right! See how they match up?! Yes! That is what you want to see!
We will place a little pin now. But not in the seam, we will place it in the seam allowance next to the seam. Placing a pin in the seam will distort your seam and you risk not having them match properly. Place your pin in the seam to hold the piece beneath in place. You can control what is going on top of the fabric, it's the part beneath that can fold the wrong direction if you are not careful. A little pin will save you from that and makes everything wonderful!
Do not stitch over your pins! Hard on your machine, even if they tell you you can. Stitch right up to it, take it out and continue on.
Again, set your seams with your iron, finger press open, pressing from the center row to the top. Don't "scrub" your fabric, press. If you have finger pressed first, you will know that the seam is open all the way and you won't have to wrestle it.
Your Reward...Perfectly matched seams! Ahhhhhh...Hear the angels singing?
Benefit #2 of taking your time. Less struggle to square up your final blocks! They are going to be pretty much right on the money!
I hope this little tutorial on matching up your seams in a 9 patch block will be helpful for you going forward in your craft. Enjoy yourself, you will master this technique, it just takes a tiny bit of effort at first and you will love the results! Squeal Worthy!!!