Quilt Along 1 - Needles and Irons

Okay, now where we? Oh that's right, we were making a quilt together.

At this point you've hopefully picked your fabric and cut it in to strips. Finally, we can start sewing.  And really, how hard can it be to sew strips together?  It isn't hard, but there are some things we need to pay attention to as we sew.

Get Ready to Sew

Pick a neutral thread.  Usually, I piece with a grey thread if I am using colours or medium and dark toned fabric. 

Separate your strips with the background pieces in one pile and your accent pieces in another.

Take one strip each of all your background pieces and set aside. 

Turn on your iron and get it hot.

Start Sewing

The first step is to sew all your strips (minus the ones set aside) together in pairs, right sides together. Match up the tops of the strips. Don't worry about the bottoms because all your strips will vary slightly in length.

Grab randomly! Sew together different background strips and sew background strips to accent strips. Do not sew accent strips to accent strips. Do not put an accent strip on the bottom of your pairs as you sew.

I find it easy to just sit and chain piece all these strips, one after the other. That means you sew one set together and without lifting your needle or cutting your threads you start sewing the next set of strips. And so on and so on.


I am a firm believer in pressing and pressing well. Really, you can't make this design work well without pressing. But keep in mind that pressing is not ironing the life out of your fabric and stretching it out.

One of my quilt mentors taught me that you should be able to press with one hand.  We have a tendency to pull on fabric when we use two hands.  The hand we are supposedly using to hold the fabric often pulls on it without us even thinking about it. Try taking your iron and pressing while holding your other hand behind your back. It will feel awkward, but it is a good exercise to see if you have a tendency to pull.

You will also see that this method really only works when you press to one side, not when pressing your seams open.  I'm not a fan of pressing seams open, so this works for me.

To press your strip sets I recommend pressing the seam flat, right out of the sewing machine. Then nose your iron in between the fabrics, on the right side of the bottom strip. Slowly nudge the iron forward and to the side, pressing the top fabric to the side and down. When you've reached the end of the strip give it another full press.  Set aside and repeat for the other strips.

When you were sewing you matched up the top of your strips, right? So all your pressing should be to the strip on the right.  For the first set of strips (the pairs) this will mean you will always press towards the accent.  If you have darker accents then this is what you want.  If you have a darker background then you will press to the background pieces.

As you progress through sewing sets together keep trying to press to the right, unless you have a dark accent/background combo.  Then always press to the dark.  This conscientious pressing will ensure that your accent pieces will really pop.

Continue Sewing

Now that you have your first pairs of strip sets, you need to sew the pairs together.  Again, grab randomly.  And again, match up the tops of the sets.  Depending on how you sewed your first sets together some typical examples of the order of fabrics when you sew pairs together might be:
background - background - background - accent
background - accent - background - background
background - accent - background - accent


Depending on the final size you want your block, at this point you may be adding a single strip or another strip set as you progress. The final size of your strip set should be at least an inch and a half  to two inches larger than the desired block size. Keeping sewing strip sets together until you get the desired width.

The one thing to keep in mind when it comes to sewing your strip sets together is that you do not want an accent piece on the ends.  In other words, do not have your strip set start or finish with an accent piece.

This is the part of the process that might seem pretty boring at first, but as your strips sets come together you will get the first true glimpse of how your fabrics will look together.  Note whether fabrics are standing out in a good or bad way.  Your accents should really pop from the backgrounds.

And remember to refer to week 1 instructions to know how many strips sets you will need if you have a specific quilt size in mind.

We'll see you next week, to create our blocks and create the layout that makes the design pop!