When piecing a sampler quilt (like the current River Heritage Block-of-the-Month Mystery Quilt), chain piecing individual blocks can save you time and help you stay organized.

Since we have all levels of quilters participating in the mystery, I want to share a technique which would help our newer quilters down the road. Chain-piecing.  It’s something I take for granted now, but I remember the lightbulb going on when I was first taught to chain-piece. Here’s how I approach chain-piecing an individual block (which might just show up down the road (river?) in your mystery quilt).

Have you ever given road directions to someone and said, “It’s not nearly as confusing as it sounds.”? That’s how describing chain-piecing is. Hand’s on, it’s easy to grasp. In words, it seems confusing. Take it a step at a time the first few times and soon you’ll be chain-piecing without even thinking about it.

*Cut and prepare your block pieces. In the example I use here, the block is made from all half-square triangles (HST).

 

*Arrange your block pieces according to the block design. (I like to use my ironing board surface.) If it’s a complicated design, I like to check myself by taking a black and white picture (to see value) to make sure I’ve arranged the pieces correctly.

Image of Quilt Block

This quilt block is made of four rows and four columns.

 

*Notice that there are four rows (left to right) and four columns (top to bottom). Turn each HST in Column 2 over onto the HST to the left, in Column 1, right sides together (RST) as shown.

Image of Chain Piecing a Quilt Block

Turn Column 2 onto Column 1, RST.

Likewise, turn each HST from Column 4 over onto the HST to the left, in Column 3, RST.

 

Layer the sets in order, starting with Row 4 on the bottom, offsetting them to keep them distinctly separate as shown below.

Image of Layered Block Sets

Layer the sets from the bottom up to take to your machine.

Carry them to the machine, keeping them in order.

 

Starting with the top set, stitch along the right edge. 

As you get close to the end of stitching the first set, have the next set ready to slide under the presser foot. (I love using my knee bar for this step.) Stop stitching for a moment before you come off the edge of the first set. Slide the second set just under the foot so that it catches the feed dogs, but isn’t touching the first set and continue stitching. It is okay to have two or three “air” stitches between sets. Repeat this for all the sets.

 

Trim the threads between all the sets, keeping them in order. (Your first set is from Columns 1 & 2 in Row 1 and your last set is from Columns 3 & 4, Row 4.)

Press according to block instructions and arrange them in again, only now you have two columns.

Image of Chain Piecing Technique

Now you have two columns.

Turn Column 2 onto Column 1, RST, for all four rows. Again, layer the four rows with Row 4 on the bottom and Row 1 on the top. Take to the machine and chain piece along the right edges.

Image of Chain Piecing Technique

Turn Column 2 onto Column 1 and stitch.

Clip threads, press, and arrange the rows in order. With the columns complete, you only have four rows left to piece.

Image of Block Rows

Rows 1 is at the top and Row 4 is at the bottom.

Continue by piecing the rows together, turning Row 1 down onto Row 2, RST. Nestle and pins the seams. Repeat for Row 3 and Row 4. Stitch along the top edges.

Trim and press. Now lay the two remaining rows in order. Turn Row 1 down onto Row 2. Nestle and pins the seams. Stitch along the top edge. Trim and press.

Remember to square and trim your block according to instructions.

If you are a new quilter, what techniques are you wanting to learn? If you are an experienced quilter, what are your favorites to share?

Month Four in the River Heritage Block-of-the-Month Mystery Quilt will be revealed on Monday, April 9 at 9 a.m.!Image of Three Quilt Blocks

 

 

Heading to AQS Quilt Week in Paducah? How about stopping in Hancock’s of Paducah? You’ll see TEN #usebothsides hanging there with patterns during the show!

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