Chain what? What's up with all these weird quilter terms. Here are the deets on what and how exactly to chain piece your quilt top.
What is Chain Piecing? Chain piecing is an assembly line style of sewing together quilt blocks, where you continuously sew the quilt block rows together one after another without cutting or snipping the thread or lifting the presser foot. This technique is a huge time saver when piecing a quilt top together.
Why Should I Chain Piece? Chain piecing is one of the best ways to save time when piecing together quilt blocks. How does it save me time you ask? Instead of starting and stopping your sewing machine while you cut the threads to every block, you simply keep feeding the paired quilt blocks through the machine in an assembly line style.
If you have a chain piecing thread cutter, you can save additional time by using it to trim the threads when you are ready to separate the blocks. Chain piecing additionally helps you stay more organized as you assemble the quilt top because your blocks are organized into stacks that are ready to feed through the machine and you will not have to travel back and forth between the cutting table or your design wall.
What is a Chain Piecing Thread Cutter? This handy little sewing tool is only the most useful way to quickly cut all those quilt blocks attached by tiny threads. Once you have finished chain piecing, you will have a long row of quilt blocks that have a very narrow space between them and are attached to one another by tiny threads. Although you can use regular scissors to cut them, it is far quicker and much easier to use a chain piecing cutter, which sits on the table and allows you to use both hands to hold the fabric pieces while you place the threads over the blade and press down as it cuts the thread.
Chain Stitching Quilt Block Supplies
- Charm Squares or Mini Charm Squares
- Chain Piecing Thread Cutter
- Machine Quilting Needles
- Quilting Thread
How to Chain Piece Quilt Blocks
- Step 1 - To begin the chain piecing process you will want to organize your quilt blocks into small stacks of columns. This means that you will want to lay out your quilt first and then you will stack the first block of each row together starting with the top row on the top of the stack and ending with the last block of the row on the bottom of the stack. Then you will create a second stack in the same fashion for the second block in each row. You will repeat this, making a stack for the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, etc. quilt block piece in every row forming stacks that will become the columns (vertical layout) of the quilt.
Step 2 - Place the second block of the first-row RST over the first block of the first row. Stitch 1/4" seam allowance down the right side of the blocks. Sew a few more stitches after the end of the first set of blocks and now add the second row, placing the second block of the second-row RST over the first block of the second row. Continue sewing 1/4" seam allowance down the column of blocks as you add blocks without cutting the thread or lifting the presser foot. Repeat this for the rest of the rows in the column as shown above.
Step 3 - Continue by adding the third block in each row and sewing continuously down the column as shown above.
Step 4 - Add the fourth block in each row by continuously sewing down the column as you add each block. Repeat for all the blocks in each row.
Step 5 - When you have added all the blocks of each row now you will have a neat little hanging where all the rows are connected by threads to the row above.
Step 6 - You can now cut the threads of the rows and press the seams of each row in opposite directions, or you can leave the threads in place and finger press the seams in opposite directions or use a mini iron to press the seam allowance in opposite directions.
Step 7 - Place the first-row RST over the second row and pin in place.
Step 8 - You will want to be sure to nest the seams of the first row and second row. To do this line up the seams of a block on the first row and second row. The seam allowance of each row will be facing the opposite direction and when they lay together will form a groove that makes them lock into place. Then pin the rows together at the seam.
This photo illustrates how the seam of each block is facing the opposite direction of the one before it in the row.
Step 10 - Sew all the rows together using a 1/4" seam allowance. The seam allowance of the rows should face a different direction with each row.
***Tip - The photo above shows how I finger pressed the seams as I sewed them and they are mostly facing in opposite directions. Occasionally they flipped directions as they passed under the presser foot. If I had used an iron to press, the seams would have been more likely to not flip when passing under the presser foot.
Step 11 - Press the finished quilt top! You have successfully chain pieced your quilt blocks.
More Quilting Tips and Tutorials
- How to Use a Rotary Cutter and Mat
- How to Choose the Right Machine Quilting Needle
- How to Use Half Square Triangle Paper
Free Quilt Patterns
- Swiss Cross Quilt Pattern
- Simple Squares Quilt Pattern
- Ribbons and Bows Quilt Pattern
- Four Square Quilt Pattern
- Safari Party Squared Quilt Pattern
- Heart Block Mini Quilt