I’m often asked how I’m able to make to many quilts so quickly, and chain piecing is a key part in that. It’s truly the quickest way to piece together a pile of quilt pieces!
What is chain piecing?
Chain piecing is when you sew your quilt pieces together one after the other, without stopping or cutting the thread in between pieces.
I think of it as sewing assembly-line style and it can be used almost always. This technique is most helpful when you are making the same block multiple times, but it can be used any time you’re sewing multiples pieces together at the same time.
How to chain piece
Before you start chain piecing, lay out your pieces in the correct order. For some blocks, it’ll be as easy as putting pieces right sides together in a pile next to your machine. For other blocks, you might need to layout your pieces first, then pick up the pieces in order as you go.
Most of the time, I lay out my pieces in two ordered piles next to each other right next to my machine and put them right sides together as I go.
To start chain piecing pick up your first pair of pieces and feed them through your sewing machine. When you get to the end of this pair, don’t cut your threads! Instead, start feeding the next pair of pieces, and then the next, and the next.
When all your units are sewn, cut your thread. You’ll have a long chain of pieces. Now you can go through and cut the thread between the pieces and move onto the next step, usually pressing your seams.
Chain Piecing Tips
Using a lead. For some piecing, using a lead can be extremely helpful. A lead is a piece of scrap fabric that you feed through your machine at the beginning of your row. This can be especially helpful when piecing triangles or any pieces where you’ll be feeding the pointed end of pieces first through the machine so those points aren’t swallowed by the feed dogs.
Test first. Before you go into a long chain piecing session, especially when piecing complicated blocks or ones with specific fabric placement, make one full block first to make sure you understand the block construction fully and to use as a visual reference. Chain piecing can save you loads of time, but not if you make a mistake times 15 or 20! I especially like to check my seam allowance and fabric placement.
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Become more efficient. Chain piecing can help you become more efficient by making the most of small pockets of time. As a mom of two small kiddos, sometimes all I have is 15-30 minutes at a time so chain piecing is invaluable to my sewing. During one session, I’ll cut and prep as many pieces as I can. The next session I’ll chain pieces until my time is up or I’m all done. The next session, I’ll press all my pieces. Then, I’ll square my blocks or do the next portion of my sewing. On and on until I have a completed top!