I have been sitting behind my sewing machine this week piecing my next creation and thinking about what makes a quilt successful. The first in a long line of things is piecing accuracy. Here are my tips for piecing by machine.
1. Gray and beige thread; most of my piecing is done with either dark gray and beige or light gray and beige. I put the gray thread in the top and the beige in the bobbin. I find that should I need to reverse sew I know right away to cut the top ‘gray’ thread and pull the bottom ‘beige’ thread.
2. Sew with smaller thread; I use a machine embroidery thread or one of the newer threads made for piecing like Superior Threads ‘Masterpiece’.
3. Use a sharp needle and change it often; I prefer to use a smaller needle Sharp/Microtex size 70/10. Other good choices are Sharp/Microtex size 80/12, a size 75/11 quilting needle or a Jeans/Denim size 70/10 or 80/12.
4. Press seams open; I press as many seams open as possible. Now I’m not totally crazy, if it is easier to have seams pressed one way or the other I do so, but I press seams open most of the time.
5. Use ¼” foot with guide if possible; Many machines have a ¼” foot available. I prefer the foot with the guide. I need a ‘wall’ that allows the fabrics to ride along. If you want to try the guide idea, use either layers of masking tape or moleskin and place it exactly ¼” from the needle.
6. Use the single stitch throat plate; The normal throat plate has an oblong hole which allows the machine to eat the thread tails or fabric.
7. Change needle position; Even though I use a ¼” foot, I still feel that in order to get a scant ¼” seam, I move the needle one very small step to the right. Be sure to check and make sure the needle won’t break.
8. Chain piece; I piece as many pieces as possible one right after another. Saves time and thread.
9. Even seam width the whole length of the seam: Use a stiletto to guide the last little bit of a seam if necessary to get an even seam width.
10. Starch: I starch a lot. I prefer the old fashioned liquid starch that I find at a big box store. I mix it half and half starch and water for heavy use. The hardest part of doing this is finding a bottle that likes to spray facing down at the work lying on the ironing board. I prefer this to aerosol cans because it never flakes!
11. Press not iron: I do not want any distortion, so I carefully press and lift, not rubbing back and forth as in ironing.