A very efficient and time-saving piecing method for a project with many similar blocks is chain-piecing. In this technique, multiple centers are stitched to one long strip of log fabric, cut apart, and stitched to the next long strip of log fabric. Chain-piecing is a more efficient technique than traditional piecing because it requires fewer stops and starts and uses less thread.
- First, put a center square on a long log strip, right sides together. Stitch the pieces together just as you would in regular piecing. Then, when you’re near the end of the seam, place another center, and sew. You can keep adding more center squares until you have the number you need, or the strip runs out.
- Using a rotary cutter and ruler, carefully cut the joined pieces apart between the blocks and press the seams in the appropriate direction. Set up your second log strip, and place a joined center/log piece over it, right sides together. Stitch as before, adding joined center/log pieces the same way.
- Continue in the same manner to build the third and fourth logs onto your blocks. When you reach the end of the first tier of logs, press all seams well. Your block will look just like one that was individually pieced.
- Continue chain-piecing additional tiers to the block as necessary for your log cabin pattern. The piecing will become more challenging as the seams (and logs) get longer, but gently hold them in place and slow or stop your sewing if necessary to align the seams neatly. If chain-piecing large tiers becomes too unwieldy for you, simply sew the remaining logs following the Building a Block strategy, page 28.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SEAM
The standard ¼” piecing allowance works well for quilting cottons and other light- and medium-weight fabrics and for closely pieced designs. However, for some fabrics, or for truly large-scale piecing, I recommend a 3/8″ or ½” piecing allowance. For heavy fabric like denim, a 3/8″ allowance lets the pressed seam lie flat a little more easily. For joining very large pieces, such as those in the Winter Woolens Quilt (page 49), a ½” allowance provides much-needed support. A ½” seam allowance is also ideal when piecing knits, such as T-shirt jersey material, to accommodate the stretch and the tendency of the edges to roll. As always, the width you lose in your seams will factor into your final measurements, so plan for the seam allowance when cutting (page 27).
Double Fold Hem
This is a simple and versatile sewing technique you can use for everything from pockets to pillow backs. Simply fold the raw edge of your fabric to the wrong side and press. Then fold it once again, press, and pin it all along the fold. Stitch along the folded edge with a straight or zigzag stitch to finish the hem.
The simplest method of joining blocks is two- and four-way joining. To use this method, simply line up two blocks, matching edges and seams with right sides facing, and stitch them together with a ¼” seam allowance. Press them on the back and the front. I generally don’t use pins to sew the length of a single block, but you may find it helpful.
Joined pairs of blocks can be sewn into larger squares (as in the Modern Crosses Quilt, page 65). Simply align the pairs along a long unfinished side, right sides together, matching edges and seams.
Pin the blocks where the seams meet to prevent the blocks from shifting during sewing. Stitch the pairs together with a ¼” seam allowance.