While piecing the strip sets for the Bargello Quilt Along, I was pondering why some quilters struggle with piecing straight strip sets and I do not. Straight strip sets cause a wonderful sense of inner satisfaction and joy, and I can't help but smile and giggle to myself when I see them. The true satisfaction, though, comes when the quilt blocks are assembled and are so spot-on, so square - all because the strip sets started out straight.
I began to pay attention to exactly what I was doing that could be making the difference between bowed and nearly perfectly straight strip sets, and this is what I came up with, and it doesn't involve sewing from opposite ends of the strip set each time!
Of course, the strips themselves must be straight. An Accuquilt Go! makes perfect cuts every time!
Place two strips right sides together (RST), lining up the edges. Do not pull on either strip; simply lay them together without tension. Place your index finger on the edge of the strip set a few inches from the presser foot as shown below. Leave this finger in place and begin sewing, allowing the finger to move with the fabric toward the presser foot. Do not pull on the strips at all. The finger is just holding them together so both strips go through the feed dogs at the same pace. When the presser foot bumps into your finger, stop sewing. Do not take your finger off the strips until the sewing machine is completely stopped.
Line up the edges of the strips and once again place your index finger on the edge of the strips a few inches from the presser foot. Sew again as before, making sure to leave your finger there until the presser foot bumps it. Repeat this step until the strip is sewn.
Don't worry - with practice this method becomes super fast!
These instructions are for right-handed quilters; reverse for you lefty's.
After a strip is sewn to the strip set and before adding another strip, open the strips and aim the seam allowance in the direction you want it to go. In the picture below, the seam is facing to the left. Begin working at either end of the strip set. Place the left hand on the strip set, holding it open, and run the nail of the right hand index finger down the seam. Be sure the seam is fully opened. If it's not, gently open it fully and run your nail along the seam again. Move down the strip set and repeat this process until the entire strip is nail-pressed open. I learned this tip in Craftsy's Strip Your Stash class. See below for how to get this class at a great price today!
Lay the strip set on the ironing board. Gently smoothing the strips to make sure they are straight and fully open. Do not force the edge of the iron into the seams; rather, set the iron on top of the strips. Iron gently. Step back and admire your work!
A few clarifications after feedback in the comments:
- An inset table is not required; I've tried this out on three different machines, one inset, one with a large table space, and one with a small space, and it worked on each machine.
- I sew all strips from the same end and do NOT alternate the direction I sew, i.e., top to bottom then bottom to top.
- If you have a method that works that is unlike mine, we can still be friends, really!! Find a method that works for you even if it's different than mine.