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4 Tips for Machine Piecing

''Quilting is easy!'' exclaimed someone who had never quilted before. Although quilting may look simple from the outset, accurate piecing requires patience and skill. It also helps to start with the right equipment and a few helpful tips. Keep reading for advice on both…
 
Make sure you have the right equipment.
The right equipment can make a world of difference in many fields and the same is true for quilting. Accurate piecing begins with accurate cutting. A rotary cutter, self-healing mat and quilting ruler are the ''holy trinity'' of quilt cutting. Another great piece of equipment for accurate piecing is a ¼'' presser foot: use the foot as your guide for the perfect ¼'' seam, not the nearly invisible guide on the throat plate. The type of thread you use can make a difference in your piecing accuracy. Consider a fine thread such as Aurifil 50 weight 2-ply cotton. This finer thread will avoid ridges in your seams, which don't feel nice and can also distort the size of the seam allowance. One final tip for equipment is more subtle. The use of a clear spray starch, such as Mary Ellen's Best Press can help your fabric feed easily through the machine and avoid being stretched. Apply the starch lightly to the back of your fabrics before you start sewing.
 
Perfect your skills.
Once you have filled your sewing space with the right equipment you will need to work on your piecing skills. The first piece of advice, hinted at with the suggestion about the spray starch, is not to stretch your seams as you sew them. Let the machine's feed dogs do the work to feed the fabric through the machine. A walking foot is also a helpful tool the help with this problem. One great time saving technique is chain-piecing. When you have sewn two pieces of fabric together and you need to move on to the next two, don't pull the thread and break your stitching. Simply line up the next two pieces at the front of your presser foot and continue to stitch. You can chain stitch many pieces together. This also makes it easy to bring your work to the iron because then it will all be attached to each other in a long ''chain''. You can cut the pieces apart as you press.
 
Focus on your pressing.
This brings us to pressing. Unlike conventional sewing, where you press most of your seams open, with quilting you press your seam allowances to one side (usually toward the darker of the two fabrics). Note that we use the word ''press'' and not ''iron''. Your fabric should have been ''ironed'' before you started sewing. What we do with our seam allowances is PRESS. From the front of the fabric, push the seam allowance in the appropriate direction and hold the iron in place over it. Sliding your iron to and fro over your work can cause your fabric to stretch and distort. Keep your seam as straight as possible as you press.
 
Check for accuracy
One final tip is to continually check for accuracy. If you quilt consists of many blocks that are all meant to be the same size, measure them as you go to make sure that they will all fit together nicely when you are sewing them all together.
 
''Quilting CAN be easy!'' exclaimed the novice quilter who was prepared with the right equipment and some great advice.
 
Happy Sewing!

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