Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Assembling Your Quilt: Cutting, Measuring Margins, Ironing, and Piecing

So you've figured out your quilt design and bought your supplies. Now, it's time to assemble it all together. You can buy an expensive rotary cutter and board to cut the fabric, or you can use a ruler and mark out patches yourself. Then measure and mark 1/2-inch margins.

Line up the fabric's sides, where it tends to be straight and not where the store cut the fabric, which is not as reliably even. Then place your block on top and mark where you need to cut. You'll get a long strip. Just lay your paper pattern on top of the strip again and mark off the side seams. This gives me pretty straight and even blocks.

After you've cut all the blocks you'll need, it's time to figure out where to sew it all together. Fold your paper pattern where the 1/2-inch mark is and trace it with either a pencil or pen. You can buy special fabric pens that fade in the wash. I've used black ink pens on light colors and since it's on the inside, it doesn't show anyway.

Trace each side of the block. Then when you piece two blocks together, you only have to line up where you've traced the 1/2-inch margins to figure out where to sew. The 1/2-inch margins comes in handy when you have to iron the seams flat. The typical 1/4-inch margin means lots of burned fingers. I work horizontally, stitching two entire rows at a time before ironing them. Then I stitch the two rows together. Iron again. Also iron the topside to make sure the fabric and seams remain flat.
So as you can see below, I have my plain inner border, a row of sashing, and my first row of blocks.
Pin them together by lining up the seams, don't worry too much about whether one block may be slightly bigger than the other. I just pinch in the fabric of the blocks a little bit when I'm sewing so that the seams are still aligned.
This is what the backside looks like. Notice each row has been ironed flat, and as you start piecing together several rows, you need to iron it flat again.
This is what it looks like in front. Notice the even seams? And the black pen marks don't show on this light fabric so no need to buy special fabric pens either.
As for pinching in the fabric a bit, just as long as the seams line up? On the right side of the blue flower, you'll see where the fabric was pinched in to keep the seams straight.
Here's the zoomed out shot. That pinched fabric is beside the acorn-looking corner block, beside the blue flower. See? Barely noticeable.
Here's more as you piece everything together.
Work horizontally and then vertically to make sure your seams line up.


  1. The dim sum piece is quite cute.

  2. Hi there, I love your lil quilting blog here. I've looked everywhere it seems and for a tutorial for sewing I'd have to pay like $20. I found your blog and I'm so glad! I did TONS wrong on my boys quilt so I'm hoping this next one I'm starting will be a pretty as the one you have here (ha!). I didn't know ANY OF THIS STUFF! And thank you for keeping it simple and not using a bunch of huge words...I love the whole thing! I can't wait to get started!!!! THANK YOU! So much!
    Jenna, Ca.

  3. Jenna,
    I'm so glad you found this useful. I didn't know if anyone cared about this stuff since it seems like pretty basic info to me. I'm sure your quilt will turn out wonderfully no matter what you do.


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