Tag: Quilting Tips

Chain-piecing a Quilt Block

When piecing a sampler quilt (like the current River Heritage Block-of-the-Month Mystery Quilt), chain piecing individual blocks can save you time and help you stay organized.

Since we have all levels of quilters participating in the mystery, I want to share a technique which would help our newer quilters down the road. Chain-piecing.  It’s something I take for granted now, but I remember the lightbulb going on when I was first taught to chain-piece. Here’s how I approach chain-piecing an individual block (which might just show up down the road (river?) in your mystery quilt).

Have you ever given road directions to someone and said, “It’s not nearly as confusing as it sounds.”? That’s how describing chain-piecing is. Hand’s on, it’s easy to grasp. In words, it seems confusing. Take it a step at a time the first few times and soon you’ll be chain-piecing without even thinking about it.

*Cut and prepare your block pieces. In the example I use here, the block is made from all half-square triangles (HST).


*Arrange your block pieces according to the block design. (I like to use my ironing board surface.) If it’s a complicated design, I like to check myself by taking a black and white picture (to see value) to make sure I’ve arranged the pieces correctly.

Image of Quilt Block

This quilt block is made of four rows and four columns.


*Notice that there are four rows (left to right) and four columns (top to bottom). Turn each HST in Column 2 over onto the HST to the left, in Column 1, right sides together (RST) as shown.

Image of Chain Piecing a Quilt Block

Turn Column 2 onto Column 1, RST.

Likewise, turn each HST from Column 4 over onto the HST to the left, in Column 3, RST.


Layer the sets in order, starting with Row 4 on the bottom, offsetting them to keep them distinctly separate as shown below.

Image of Layered Block Sets

Layer the sets from the bottom up to take to your machine.

Carry them to the machine, keeping them in order.


Starting with the top set, stitch along the right edge. 

As you get close to the end of stitching the first set, have the next set ready to slide under the presser foot. (I love using my knee bar for this step.) Stop stitching for a moment before you come off the edge of the first set. Slide the second set just under the foot so that it catches the feed dogs, but isn’t touching the first set and continue stitching. It is okay to have two or three “air” stitches between sets. Repeat this for all the sets.


Trim the threads between all the sets, keeping them in order. (Your first set is from Columns 1 & 2 in Row 1 and your last set is from Columns 3 & 4, Row 4.)

Press according to block instructions and arrange them in again, only now you have two columns.

Image of Chain Piecing Technique

Now you have two columns.

Turn Column 2 onto Column 1, RST, for all four rows. Again, layer the four rows with Row 4 on the bottom and Row 1 on the top. Take to the machine and chain piece along the right edges.

Image of Chain Piecing Technique

Turn Column 2 onto Column 1 and stitch.

Clip threads, press, and arrange the rows in order. With the columns complete, you only have four rows left to piece.

Image of Block Rows

Rows 1 is at the top and Row 4 is at the bottom.

Continue by piecing the rows together, turning Row 1 down onto Row 2, RST. Nestle and pins the seams. Repeat for Row 3 and Row 4. Stitch along the top edges.

Trim and press. Now lay the two remaining rows in order. Turn Row 1 down onto Row 2. Nestle and pins the seams. Stitch along the top edge. Trim and press.

Remember to square and trim your block according to instructions.

If you are a new quilter, what techniques are you wanting to learn? If you are an experienced quilter, what are your favorites to share?

Month Four in the River Heritage Block-of-the-Month Mystery Quilt will be revealed on Monday, April 9 at 9 a.m.!Image of Three Quilt Blocks



Heading to AQS Quilt Week in Paducah? How about stopping in Hancock’s of Paducah? You’ll see TEN #usebothsides hanging there with patterns during the show!

Image of Three Quilts

Phoebee, Belle, and Lily

Image of Three Quilts

Rose, Emily, and Kate

Image of Cauldron Wall Hanging

Something’s Brewing

Image of Seahorse Quilt

Sally Quilt Pattern

Image of Flamingo Quilt

Fiona Quilt Pattern

Image of Poinsettia Quilt

Pepita Quilt Pattern

The Tricky Traits of Value in Quilts

Determining fabric values isn’t hard, but it can be tricky.

I have long thought I understood the value of value in quilts. It’s what makes a simple, two-color quilt have bold areas of light and dark or it is what makes those cool secondary patterns in your multi-color quilt design. Easy, right?

Light. Medium. Dark.

Then (more than) a few years ago, Blended Quilts became popular. They threw me under the bus with value! I would study and read about fabric choices and how to combine fabrics to work together and yet be not so obvious. Not such an easy thing to do, successfully!

My Grandma Emma Wichern’s lavender and white embroidered quilt is precious to me. I love seeing crazy-quilts. Modern is fun, bright, and happy…or sometimes calming and simple. I have some appreciation for all types of quilts. But what really gets me excited about a quilt is when it is successfully splashed with all kinds of colorful and different fabrics. What makes that work is value.

To see the value of fabrics, you have to remove the color.

You can do this numerous ways, but the simplest trick for me is to take a picture of fabric choices or my blocks on my design wall with my phone and change the picture to black and white (mono).

Values change depending one their surroundings.

The fact that my neat little piles (okay, not neat) of lights, mediums, and darks can change their values depending on what is around them was a V8 moment for me!

Take Lily, for example:

Her background is made of all fairly light neutrals (scrappy) plus a couple of accent, color strips. When compared to the focus fabric, the background is light, the flowers (reverse side of focus fabric) are medium and the dragonfly (focus fabric) is dark.

When you are just working on your background, those strips of color can look quite bold and may seem too dark to be part of the background. But when looking at those same fabrics in black/white WITH the focus fabric laying across them, they all fall into the light category and they work!

Image of dragonfly quilt in black and white.

Even the colorful accent strips disappear in this black and white photo.

I knew that choosing the backgrounds for Lily, and her sister quilts, Phoebee, and Belle, might be a little out-of-the-box for some quilters because they call for mixing white-white fabrics with seriously beige fabrics while they combine mini-prints with batiks and more, all in one background setting. So when describing how to choose those fabrics, I even refer to the “darkest lights” as “light medium”. My intention is to encourage combining a variety of background fabrics which on another quilt might not work, but gives this quilt an interesting base for the bold winged-girl made of a dark focus fabric.

Just take a picture.

Image of Dragonfly Quilthttps://www.etsy.com/listing/537263774/

When compared with your focus fabric and its reverse, in the case of the Colorful Wings quilts, do your background fabrics appear light? If so, they work!

What tricks do you use for determining value in your quilt fabrics?

When did you first realize the value of value?


More than forty designs now available in my Etsy Shop: Creative Bee Studios