Chain-piece your patchwork

Chain-piece your patchwork Patchwork & Quilting Tips
Chain-piece your patchwork

You old hands will probably already be familiar with our Tuesday tip this week but for all you patchwork newbies, let us introduce you to the magic of chain-piecing!

Chain-piecing is simply where you stitch a series of separate seams in one continuous run without stopping to secure or snip the threads in between. Later on the 'links' in the 'chain' are snipped apart.

How close together you stitch the links is a personal choice but we recommend somewhere between 1/2" and 2"; any less is a bit tight when it comes to snipping, and any more is a waste of thread and effort!

(If you're worried about the seams coming undone, don't be. In a patchwork quilt, all the seams are stitched across by another seam at each end, and ultimately enclosed in the quilt sandwich as well, so they're unlikely to come apart.)

Here's how chain-piecing can help your patchwork :

  • it saves a LOT of time when you don't have to lockstitch/backstitch and cut at the beginning and end of each seam – just stitch straight off the end of one and onto the next 
  • it also saves a LOT of thread when you've only got an inch or so between seams instead of the several inches needed to pull through when sewing them individually 
  • it saves frustration because you'll never lose the ends of your thread, or have it shoot back out of the needle or disappear through the footplate when you start to stitch 
  • it helps with accuracy and consistency of seam allowances as it allows you to get into a rhythm while you sew 
  • it keeps you organised, keeping all your pieces together; no more looking for that one tiny four-patch that's mysteriously disappeared between the sewing machine and the iron!

Chain-piecing is most useful for small pieces, but you can also use it when sewing blocks together – in this case if you join blocks in the right order and then keep them attached as you lay out the rows, you'll never accidentally rotate anything!