Precision sewing with small pieces.

I recently taught a class on my Fall Leaf Table Runner at a local quilt shop. It was super rewarding teaching a class. I sure just wish the LQS wasn’t so blasted far away.

           table runnerCharm_Leaf_from capital quilts class list

As I was preparing for my class, I made a list of my favorite tips for precise sewing, specifically with small pieces. That little leaf has some teeny pieces! When you are sewing with lots of small pieces, accuracy is very important. Being the slightest bit off, over and over, can really throw off your entire block. Some of these tips you may know already, some you may not.

Sit directly in front of your machine, specifically the needle. You can line things up more precisely if you are sitting square on.

Use a 1/4 inch foot if you have one.

Use needle down if you have it.

You can stick a piece of washi or masking/low tack tape straight from your needle towards you on your machine. As you sew, you can line up your fabric with the line to keep it straight.

Use small scrap of folded fabric as a leader and ender when you sew. Start sewing onto the scrap before you sew on your project fabric can help keep threads from getting sucked down into your machine. And finish again on the scrap.

When you are sewing small pieces, make sure you are holding the fabric the entire time it passes all the way through the presser foot. Use something like a stiletto, or a dull chopstick etc, or even your finger to hold the very last bit of the fabric you are sewing. If you let go before the entire piece goes through the presser foot, your fabric can move and the end your seam will be off.

If you are chain piecing, I suggest you lift your presser foot before you put any new piece of fabric under the foot, drop the food and then begin sewing. Chain piecing by letting the fabric be pulled under your presser foot can make the top piece of your fabric shift as it goes through the machine.

With small pieces, if you are sewing an angle, and you lead with the smallest part of the angle, your machine may want to suck the piece into it and eat up the end. Leaders can help with this. But also, try starting with your least pointy/ biggest end first. It may seem a little awkward, but having a larger surface going into the foot can help from getting it eaten up.

If you use starch, starch your fabric first. Starching after you have cut, can shrink the fabric and make your measurements off.

Take care when pressing. If you push or use steam, you can really distort a small piece.

Set your seam first. Press the stitch line before you open it up. Then open up your seam carefully and press along the seam first. Set the iron flat on your piece to press. Don’t push the iron back and forth.

My favorite way to make sure you have all your points still intact, for example for this leaf shape, is to place your fabric with the points on top. Before you send your fabric through the machine, make sure you know where the points are. If you can’t see them, say the seam is pressed over them, use a pin or make a mark with a disappearing pen to mark the points. As you are sewing, make sure that you are stitching to the right of the points you have marked, by at least one or two threads. No more clipped points!

My girlfriend Linda took my class with another friend of hers. I love seeing the different ways they were able to customize their runners to their own likes.  Linda’s is on the bottom. She used the same fabric to bind the runner, which made the background blend in with the binding. I think sometimes matching your binding can make your project look bigger. Linda’s friend, framed her runner with her darker binding. Both are wonderfully lovely!

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Linda mentioned a few tips that I didn’t share here because I think they need a post of their own.

photo 2

Look at her perfectly intact points on her leaf!

What are your favorite tips for precision sewing small pieces?

6 thoughts on “Precision sewing with small pieces.

  1. Great advice. I love the way my blocks turned out after taking your class! You taught me and listed here so many good things to remember when working on something small like this.

  2. I love seeing all the different incarnations of your design. Linda’s with the dark background came out just smashing, and hey, I think I was there when she bought some of those fabrics! Congrats on a successful class!

  3. I love, love, love this table runner. I made 6 different leaves and they came out great with your directions but I can’t figure out how to put them together in a runner. I’m fairly new to quilting and I’m not sure quite what the next steps are. I see how you have them going in all different directions but I can’t figure out how to do the spacing. I think you added sashing to 2 sides? I would welcome just a little guidance. Thanks so much.
    Susan
    My finished leaf blocks are approx 5 1/2 inches square

    1. I made two different runners and they each were done just a little differently. The beauty is that now that you have the blocks done, you can decide how you want to finish them. It depends on how large the space the runner will need to fit into. Good luck. I’d love to see a picture of what you end up doing.

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