It seems like I would have posted about this before, but if I did I'm doing a better job this time 🤣 Most quilters will be familiar with the first couple of parts of this tip, but of course I add my own twist!
Here we go: most quilters know about chain piecing, where after each seam, you immediately butt the next piece up to that one and stitch. This saves tons of time and thread, and maybe more importantly, bobbin winding! 😅 It also eliminates the need to hold down your threads at the beginning of every seam to prevent the needle from coming unthreaded...
You may even be familiar with well known quilter Bonnie Hunter's 'beginners and enders' technique. It's the same as chain piecing, except when you get to the end of your batch, stitch onto a folded piece of fabric, so it's ready to go for next time.
She then takes it a step further, and says why not keep a pile of squares or pieces from another quilt project by your machine, and stitch two of those together instead of just onto a piece of fabric. Brilliant! I made an entire quilt top this way, which was in progress for years, because I kept forgetting about it, but it's done! Except for cutting the squares before hand, the hand applique, and adding the borders at the end, I never spent any dedicated time on this quilt, the whole thing was done as 'beginners and enders' during maaany other projects. Definitely the way to do the tedious tiny squares border!
But here's where I add my twist to this idea. While my above lap quilt used up some dark batik scraps, the majority of this is the background fabric. I have waaaaaaaaay too many scraps to use them that slowly 🤣😅 So, I decided to pull out a bunch of coordinating scraps, usually one color family even, and use this concept to do some improv piecing. This has a couple of extra benefits. One, it uses lots more scraps! And two, and probably more importantly for me, is that there is far less prep work to be done. I just dig through a tub for colors I like, then maaaybe iron them, but that's it. And these can be used for lots of things! They make really great borders for panel quilts, or any quilt, and in that case, you just choose a size you are aiming for, and just keep it a little bigger than that, like 4-5 inches wide, and trim it to size later. But they also make great potholders, journal covers, or even a whole quilt background.
To improv piece, just start stitching fabrics together! They don't even have to be cut straight, as long as you sew straight. You can trim after. No accuracy in seam allowance required. Just don't sew two pieces of the same fabric together. After stitching a few, you can recut, like a chunk off of a strip set, and stitch that to another piece.
I started this batch to use on my 2020 exclusive Teresa Ascone panel, Shadow Patterns. I decided I was not happy with the chunk on the right, pieces were too big, and too similar, so I cut it up and I will stitch it back together a different way.
Here are a couple of other improv pieced quilts I have made. On the iris one, I decided the hot pink fabric was contrasting enough that I did choose more carefully where it landed, but otherwise it's pretty random! On the fireweed blossom quilt, even the dark green border and binding are pieced if you look closely!
I hope you will try the beginners and enders trick, you will be hooked! In addition to saving so much thread, time, aggravation, and bobbin winding, could end up with a project done in barely noticeable nooks and crannies of time! Maybe I'll do another post with more details on improv piecing, of course I have tricks for that too.
Happy sewing! Beret
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Beret Nelson's On The Trail Creations Blog Page
I am a homeschooling mom of three fun kids, who are now old enough that I have a little time to pursue my passion for sewing! After several years of making quilted cards and art quilts, I'm now designing kits and patterns. Some of them have even been in Keepsake Quilting! I teach classes at local quilt shops, and am starting to do more traveling and teaching. I also have many tutorials, including some on YouTube. I am blessed to live in Alaska where I am surrounded by the inspiration provided by the beauty of God's creation!
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