Precise Piecing Tip

Mom and I shopped at garage sales over the weekend and we scored a sentimental treasure. A shoebox of vintage hexagons ready to be pieced and a stack of hexagon blocks caught our eye. As we shifted through the box, looking at all the fabrics, Mom commented that the scrappy assortment of fabrics made this a quilt in the Grandma Mary tradition.

Grandma Mary was my dad’s paternal grandmother, and she’s the one who taught my mom how to quilt. When Grandma Mary made a quilt, she’d throw all the pieces in a basket and pull out each piece without looking. If the pieces clashed, who cared? Scrappy and random was the only way to do it, in Grandma Mary’s opinion. When my parents started dating, Grandma Mary heard my mom could sew, so she asked if my mom knew how to use that “newfangled rotary cutter contraption.” (Sorry to carbon date you like that, Mom!) Before the rotary cutter, all quilters used templates and members of quilt guilds or sewing bees would trade their templates with each other.

In this shoebox, we found a template of Grandma Mary’s. It’s been 22 years since Grandma Mary passed away and she’s still finding her way to us.

1a Happy DiscoveryThese vintage hexagons reminded me of one of my favorite precise piecing tricks. It comes from hand piecing, and you don’t hear much about it for machine piecing because it takes some time and patience, but the results and versatility can be so worth it for those trickier projects.

In hand piecing, one never crosses seam allowances with stitches. Knots at either end completely secure the seam. This hand piecing technique allows quilters to nest every seam as they sew without ever committing a seam to pressing in any given direction. (I know I’ve been guilty of clipping a seam while machine piecing because a seam was pressed the wrong direction for nesting.) It’s also relatively easy to sew challenging angles and Y-seams with hand piecing because of this technique.

1Hand stay stitch collageUsing ¼” quilter’s tape, take a stitch at the corner where the seam allowances meet, and then go back over that stitch to “lock” it.

2 Hand SeamI use a tailor’s stitch, which is a running stitch with a backstitch every inch or so. This makes the seams stronger throughout time. I also took a backstitch at the end before tying off to lock the stitch like I did at the beginning. The seam begins and ends ¼” from the edge of the fabric.

On the machine, there are a few more steps to assure the same level of precision.

3 first pin collageMark your seam allowances on the wrong sides of every piece. Layer the first two pieces right sides together, then use a pin to pierce the fabric at the exact corner where the seams meet. With luck, the pin will come out the other side in the corresponding corner. Just kidding, that never happens! Keep trying until the pin is going through both pieces of fabric at the exact corner. Repeat for the other corner, and for any stabilizing pins.

Quick note on the pins themselves: I’m using Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Pins because they are almost excessively thin. I prefer a very, very thin pin for this technique because it’s the least likely to warp the fabric and thus hinder my precision. I’d rather warp a needle than warp my block. Although I’ve had no problem with these pins warping, proof that their name isn’t an unearned brag

4 Stay Stitch collageThis is the trickiest part! Get the fabric under your sewing foot and line your needle up with the first corner pin. Carefully remove the pin and take the first stitch beginning at the exact corner. Reverse and stitch back over the first stitch to “lock” it and then sew along the rest of the seam. Repeat this at the end of the seam by sewing to the exact corner and reversing over the last stitch to lock the seam. Remember to never sew over pins.

6 Finished

So, when is this somewhat time-consuming technique called for? Any Y-seams like in this hexagon block. This technique is a lifesaver when joining sections of a foundation pieced block to ensure all the points match. It can also be the answer to any quilt that needs points to match but is proving impossible using other methods.

Happy creating!

Emily

No-Headache Metallic Embroidery

Who doesn’t want to add some shine to a project now and then? A great way to accomplish that extra little sparkle is with metallic embroidery, but anyone who’s worked with metallic floss for handwork can tell you it’s kind of a headache. There are lots of great tips out there for working with metallic floss, but I’ve sworn off floss for 80% of my projects after discovering the glittery product of my dreams.

Quilt Highlights by YLI Metallic Braid

Meet Quilt Highlights – Metallic Braid and Metallic/Rayon by YLI. This product is made for couching, bobbinwork and other embellishment, but I’ve found the metallic braid is great for hand embroidery. Pinky promise, this isn’t sponsored content, this product has just totally changed how I approach embellishing my projects! Like this paper pieced unicorn I took from drab to fab.

unicorn

I love that the braid reduces the splintering that drives me so nuts with metallic embroidery floss. For fine work, there’s no getting around the need for floss as the metallic braid is best suited for medium to large images, but like I said, that leaves about 80% of my projects perfect candidates for metallic braid.

While working on one such project, I snapped some shots of the little tricks I use to make working with metallic braid all the dreamier.

length

Cut the metallic braid in approximately 12” lengths. This is shorter than I use working with cotton embroidery floss or thread, but the shorter length is essential. Every time the braid is pulled through the fabric, the fibers are stressed. This means that with each stitch, the likelihood of splintering and wear increases. The shorter length reduces stress on the braid fibers.

star stitch collage

Be conscious of whether you want a flat or rounded look to the stitch. For a rounder stitch, twist the braid. For a flatter stitch, straighten the braid. For instance, I preferred a rounder look with these stars, but with the unicorn horn from before, I used a very flat stitch to cover lots of space with relatively few stitches.

back knot collage

Use a quilter’s knot at the beginning of the braid to prevent fraying. If working areas apart from each other, travel the braid to reduce stress and knots. Finally, weave the end into the previous few stitches and tie off, using an overhand knot at the end to lock the braid and prevent fraying.

backstitch

Keep to simple stitches to reduce stress on the braid fibers. I like to use backstitch for line work, staying away from seed or split stitches.

Finished top

Voila! Check back soon for a tutorial on how to make a little pillow with an inspirational message like this one.

Happy creating!

Emily

Just Do It!

My name is Emily. A little over a year ago, I graduated college. Many of my friends and classmates have reflected recently on what it means to graduate and the year that has passed since we crossed that stage. Some described the year as a roller coaster of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Others described it as a series of opportunities and decisions strung together like a necklace with each pearl carefully chosen. When I look back on my year since graduating, I see a needle moving and in and out of fabric over and over.

I started planning Lynn & Rosie Designs with my mom, Betsey, and sister, Sara, long before graduation via Pinterest boards, brainstorm texts, over hot chocolate during winter breaks and margaritas during the summer. Together, we came up with a vision for a quilt and crafting company that offers beautiful designs and a creative ethos to carry you anywhere in life. We all have roots in traditional quilting and various crafts, but with Lynn & Rosie Designs, we’re excited to update classics both in style and technique.

Quilting, crafting, and building Lynn & Rosie Designs has filled my year since graduation. And yes, there have been ups, downs, opportunities and choices. It’s all built up to this. The day I hit publish on our first blog post.

Every Tuesday, one of the Lynn & Rosie Designs team will offer a tip. Many tips will be techniques and tricks to try, but some, like this one, will be motivators. Today’s tip is to just do whatever it is you’ve been planning. There’s always more planning and preparation that can be done, but if you never start doing what you’re planning, it may never happen. So this is your permission to stop planning and start doing.

Happy creating!

Emily