When I was sewing together the blocks for the two Crooked Rail Fence quilts, I was thinking about the various ways that this could be done. You could sew all of the blocks in a row together, row by row, and then sew the rows together one by one. Or you could piece blocks together into ever larger units, until finally you were sewing the large units together into the finished top. Or you could do some combination of these approaches.
I prefer to build units of blocks, starting small and building up to large. My main reason for this is to avoid long seams. I’d rather work with smaller seams, and only have to do the minimum number of seams that are the whole length or width of the quilt top. It’s just a personal preference. I also find it a bit easier to keep track of which way to press the seams when I am working in smaller units. I try to press the seams in opposite directions, so that the next seam will have seam allowances nestling in with each other, as in the photo. It makes it a bit easier to get the corners to line up.
So, as I was piecing together the second of the quilt tops, I took pictures as I went, so I could write about how I assemble a quilt top. And if you persevere through the post, there is a Very Helpful Tip near the end.
Organization is key, especially in a quilt top in which the blocks aren’t all the same. Once I had the layout of the quilt up on my design wall, I pinned these quilt markers onto every alternate block (alternate because once the first seams were done, the other tags would have been unnecessary anyway). They are numbered by row and block. You can do the same thing by pinning on little pieces of numbered paper, or by using stickers with numbers on.
These are thin mylar squares called Tag-a-Quilt, manufactured by Quilt Dance. These ones are numbered, but you can also get blank ones that you can write your own numbers on – handy for larger quilts.
So, here are my blocks, with the numbered tags pinned on them.
Step 1: sew blocks together in horizontal pairs. Seams are pressed to the right in odd numbered rows, and to the left in even numbered rows.
Step 2: sew the pairs together into 4-patch blocks. Seams are pressed alternating up and down along the row.
Step 3: sew the 4-patch blocks into horizontal pairs. Seams are pressed to the right or left in alternating rows (the same as they were in Step 1).
Step 4: sew the new units together to create blocks of 16. As in Step 2, seams are pressed alternating up and down.
Step 5: you guessed it – sew the blocks of 16 together in horizontal pairs, and press to the right and then left in alternating rows.
And finally, step 6: join the rows.
And it’s all over but the shouting.
And now for a Very Helpful Tip: numbered tags only work if you ACTUALLY LOOK AT THEM!
See this picture? Can you spot what’s wrong?
No? Well, maybe this close-up will help:
Yes, when putting the stitched components back on the design wall, it helps if you put them back in the right order! I didn’t notice this mistake until I had completed the next step, and removed some of the block tags. Then I noticed that things weren’t lining up to form the right pattern. Thankfully, I had this photo to go back to, to figure out where I went wrong. This is what happens when you have the hubris to think you can write a blog post to show people how to do something!