Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Week 3 of the Launch Status Quilt Along has arrived! We're halfway there! Did you get your fabric cut out last week? I'm totally OK if you join late! You can sign up here. This week we're sewing Block A. The main technique here is strip piecing.
START YOUR SEWING WITH A LEADER
Have you ever heard of a leader? I only recently learned about Leaders and Enders. A "leader" is a scrap piece of fabric that you start your sewing on and without lifting the presser or cutting the thread you feed in your next block. Basically it like chain piecing with an extra block to lead out. Why would that be helpful? Ever had your fabric just not move, or a nest at the start of a seam, or better yet, seams that you missed a few stitches on at the start? Leaders are a great way to ensure your seams will be accurate and tighter from the very beginning of a block. You can also Enders in much the same way, but I have found the most significant change come from the leaders.
Strip-piecing is an amazing time-saving technique. When you have a lot of the exact same piecing to do of the exact same fabric this technique saves you time. Some things to be careful of as you strip piece:
Trim the selvages off. If you haven't been told yet: do not include selvedges in your quilt. The fabric on a selvage edge is tightly woven in order to prevent fraying. It doesn't have the same stretch and give as the rest of the material and will be a likely source for wearing as the quilt ages. You can trim before or after you sew. Just don't include them.
Be careful to make sure you keep a 1/4" seam allowance. A lot of quilters like to use painters tape or washi tape as a guide on their machine to get an accurate seam allowance. I have a 1/4" quilting foot and that has made a huge difference for me.
When you go to cut the strip pieced blocks square off the ends as little as possible. If you feel like you aren't getting the right amount of blocks the designer estimated from the strips, this could be part of the problem. You can use some washi or painters tape on your ruler to mark your cut width so aligning goes faster.
If you have not chain pieced it is another time saver. I wish I had understood just how often you can chain piece when I first started out quilting. I had it in my mind that once all the blocks were assembled is when you chain pieced them all together. But chain piecing can start in block assembly. I even chain piece my strip piecing! Chain piecing means you feed the next piece in as you finish sewing the last one. Then the next and so on. You don't have to lift your presser foot, you don't have to cut threads you just chain the pieces together!
I like to stack everything for all of the blocks together as it will be assembled. Then I start working my way through the blocks top to bottom or left to right depending on the block. So for Block A I chain piece all of the E/H strips to I. Then would start at the beginning of that same chain and piece the G/H strips onto I. In the end you have all the A blocks chained together. That's when you cut them apart and press them! I made a video of these two steps for those of you just learning to chain piece.
*You can still chain piece for color pattern variations. Just make sure you have the correct colors in the same layer. For Block A it's not a big deal unless your rocket flares are varied as well.
The pattern suggests pressing the seams open. I press open so that the seams lay flatter and no part of the quilting pops up above the other. It's also easier to get multiple seams to align if they are all pressed open. But you can press according to your personal preferences. Just please don't forget to press! It's so important. Press every seam before sewing over the seams. It will help prevent bulky seams and seams that pucker.
I use a wool mat and a clapper to get my seams as flat and open as possible. They both make a difference in the finished look. But I would put those in the "nice-to-have" tool list. Add them to your Christmas wish list if you don't have them and keep on pressing with what you have in the mean time.