Last week we covered piecing shortcuts to make lots and lots of half-square triangle squares and flying geese units. Now that you have all those pieces, it’s time to put them into blocks. When piecing these units, sometimes it’s difficult to keep points sharp and seams aligned. It’s something most quilters work to achieve so their quilt design shines. That’s why I have made this the focus of my post this week. Let’s get started!
Sharp, Crisp Points
First up, let’s cover the tips on achieving sharp, crisp points. When joining pieces like HSTs or flying geese into a block, the goal is to keep those points from disappearing into the seam allowance. Here is an example of what can happen to your points:
The point on the left is cut off by the seam. It’s frustrating when it happens. Now if you only have a few cut-off points in a large quilt, they may not be noticeable to anyone but you. But if it’s a smaller quilt, like a wall hanging or table runner, it may be easier to notice. So, here’s some tips to practice getting sharp, crisp points.
Tip #1: When you are joining a piece with points to a plain piece, stitch with them together with the unit with the points on top. This way you can make sure your stitching doesn’t cut off that point.
Tip #2: If you measure the seams as you go when you are piecing flying geese to make sure the top of the point is 1/4″ from the edge of the unit, it saves you from headaches later!
Tip #3: As you are stitching the piece with the point to another unit, watch the point to make sure the stitching line passes just above the point. This guarantees the point will not be cut off when you press open the unit. See the photos below and where my pointer is:
In the photos below, you will see how the finished seam passes above the point and how the point is not cut off when the unit is flipped over and pressed open (photo on right):
Now, what happens when you have to join two units that both have points and you need them to align to create the design you want? Here are my tips on how to match up these units so the points align.
Tip #1: When pinning the units together, you want to start by lining up the points of each unit and placing your first pin there. Here are my steps (photos below illustrate): I lay the units right sides together and then pull the top unit down to get the point lined up with the point of the unit below. I slowly inch the top piece back, eyeing the points the whole time to make sure they stay lined up. Then start by pinning at that point before pinning the rest of the unit.
Then you simply follow the stitching tips from above to keep your seam line above the point. When the unit is pressed open, the points line up. The first two photos below show the seam passing over the point on both sides.
Aligning seams is important to create a design in a block and a quilt. If too many of your seams are not lining up, it will effect the impact of your design.
The steps to aligning seams are similar to aligning points except when you are piecing together two blocks or an entire quilt, you may have a lot of seams to line up accurately to keep your design flowing. For example, when joining these two Jacob’s Ladder blocks (below), I have squares and the diagonal lines of the half-square triangle blocks to match up.
Start by lining up the center of the blocks, like you did when aligning the points above.
Pin the center so those seams don’t shift away from each other while you are pinning the rest of the blocks together. Once that seam is stitched and the blocks pressed open, see how everything lines up in the photo below?
The corners of the squares and the diagonal seams of the HSTs of each of the blocks match up, all because you carefully lined up the center seam. Perform these seam alignment steps for as many seams as there are in the blocks you are joining. A challenging design could have many seams and points to align at the same time, so it’s a good idea to practice this skill.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: pin in place what you want to align before pinning other areas to keep things from shifting, especially while stitching. If you follow that one tip, you should end up with blocks that have no cut off points and all the seams aligned!
That’s all for this week.