March 16, 2016

Tips for Piecing Straight Strip Sets {a Tutorial!}

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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!

Step 1

Of course, the strips themselves must be straight.  An Accuquilt Go! makes perfect cuts every time!

Step 2

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!

Step 3

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!

Step 4

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.

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Shannon said...

Great tip, Myra! I think I may apply just a little too much tension when I sew strips. But it's nothing a little iron doesn't usually fix. I'll try less tension and see what happens though. Thanks!

Rosa said...

Thanks you.Sure I`ll use it.

Mara said...

Great tips, I do tend to pull my fabrics, but it probably also helps that you have your sewing machine inset into the table, to make for a flatter surface.

Gale Bulkley said...

I love the colours of those strips Myra. Great tips, and thanks for the Craftsy class discount link. I took advantage of it.

Anja @ Anja Quilts said...

Beautiful colours!! Thanks for the tips.

Lisa J. said...

Thank you for these tips. I'll try to remember them next time.

Paige said...

Great tip and oh, the beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

Gwyned Trefethen said...

I've never started by pressing a seam open with my nail. Must give that a try. Ditto for not running the iron along the open seam. Thanks for the suggestions.

Jenn @ A Quarter Inch from the Edge said...

Great tips and some lovely WIP. That said, I think this post would work so much better linked up with Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays or perhaps Let's Bee Social.

AlidaP said...

Thanks for the tip! I am also participating in the Bargello QAL! It is fun to use up strips that I had in my charity stash with a fun design like that. Your fabric choice is amazing, I am looking forward to see how the final quilt turns out! thanks for sharing

Susan said...

Great tips! Thanks for the tut!

Julie S said...

I'm curious if you sew each strip starting at the same side or do you alternate the sewing?

Kristin said...

I bought this fabric from Massdrop - I love it! I'm still not sure what I'm going to make, but I thought I would have white in between all the pieces. Seeing yours, I know that won't be necessary!

Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

Thanks for the tips! I have a lot of strip sets to sew together from a jelly roll, and I will certainly put these to good use!

Connie Kresin Campbell said...

Great tip Myra!! I have been having fun with bargello quilts too!

Maker Joy said...

Thanks for sharing the tips. Off to find an excuse to make a few strip sets. (Not that an excuse to sew is ever really needed. :)

Louise said...

I'll definitely have to try this! I've noticed that all my blocks are more accurate since I started finger pressing before ironing. It never occurred to me to do that right after sewing the seam, though.

Gorgeous rainbow strips; that's going to be a spectacular bargello!

jan said...

Great tip Myra! My strip sets are sometimes a little wobbly. I will definitely have to try this. Thank you for linking up! xo jan

Unknown said...

Thank you for the tip,I've never thought of having the pressure foot hit my finger.
I have the big kick cutter from scrap book days, wonder if the fabric dies will work with it. May have to try one.