With every quilt I make, I learn something new. My latest quilt, which will get its own post in a day or so, is no exception. I had a true duh! ah-ha! moment while piecing the top.

I discovered that my pinning technique has been insufficient. I have been unknowingly slacking on an important step in the piecing process. I did not realize until now what an impact that little step could make if I did it correctly.

Now, I am only outing myself and admitting that I was clueless in how to properly pin in the hopes that my former ignorance will benefit someone else. I am a self-/internet-taught quilter, so I must have skipped over the pinning instructions in the tutorials I read. Or maybe this is just common sense and I truly am clueless!


In the past, when I was piecing together two long rows of blocks, I would align the center seam of both rows and pin on each side of the center seams. This insured that at least this set of points would match up and I thought that was good enough. Then I would smooth out the fabric and pin along the length of the rows, about one pin per set of blocks. At this point, I was basically crossing my fingers and hoping for the best that my blocks and points lined up. Lately they have been pretty close, but not always right on. I figured that if any of my points were off it was because my cutting and/or sewing was not exact or perfect, which is to be expected, being human and all.



The light bulb went off this last time and I decided to try and match-up, align and pin all of the matching block seams along the length of the strips, not just the center blocks’ seams. Immediately I discovered that sometimes the seam matching creates a little bulk of fabric on one side when two blocks are not exactly the same length (does that make sense?). When that happens I treat the block edges like I am pinning a curve. First, I pin the middle of the blocks together (distributing out the extra bulk all along the block edge). Then I continue to find and pin the middles of the next areas of the block needing to be pinned. I keep pinning the ‘middles’ until there is no extra bulk in that particular block. The bigger the difference in length between the two blocks, the more extra bulk there is which means more pins are needed to evenly distribute the difference.

I do not know how clear I am being with my how-to description and to anyone who already knows how to pin blocks, this all seems overtly obvious. However, I am adding pictures to hopefully clarify what I was describing above.

Pinning: My ah-ha moment
Blocks aligned at seams and pinned on either side of each seam to secure in place so points will match.
Pinning: My ah-ha moment
Any fabric bulk is distributed along block edge and a pin added to the middle.
Pinning: My ah-ha moment
Again, any fabric bulk is distributed along block edge and pins are added to the 'middles'. If your blocks are exactly the same size (or very very close to the same size), this is probably all of the pinning that you would need for a 12" block.
Pinning: My ah-ha moment
Once again, more bulk distribution and more pins added to the middles. By this point, most any bulk should be absorbed and the fabrics should lay flat against each other.

After sewing the rows together, I make sure to give the new seam a nice press (not iron) and use a little starch-alternative spray when needed for any particularly stubborn areas.

– – – – – – – – – – –

I had not realized that I could *force* my seams to match. How about that?! I cannot believe it has taken me this long to realize this.

Since I now have a way to consistently get my points to match (or be really close), it makes me want to trash a UFO with a lot of mismatched points (it is a leaders and enders project (that I have abandoned) with 2.5″ squares). I have maybe 20 blocks done and many, many more in various stages of being constructed. When so many of my points do not match it is not much motivation to finish it up now. Hmm…

Anyway, I hope that explanation is of help to someone. Surely I am not the only clueless one out there?! And if I am missing out on anything else with pinning, please do let me know. I would not doubt that I am skipping some other step in the process!

5 thoughts on “Ah-ha!

  1. Oh don’t trash the UFO! Now that you know better, do better. We learn as we go. 20 blocks is a lot of work and your girls will love that quilt despite a few mismatched seams, which they won’t even notice in the first place. 😉
    I pin block seam to block seam and “stretch” as I sew to fit in any bulkage for long seams. More often than not I don’t pin if I don’t have to!

    1. Laura — you are right, the girls won’t care one way or another! I just need to change it from a WIP to a completed quilt and be done with it.

      I’ll have to try your pin and stretch method. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Like Laura said, don’t trash the UFO. ;D You’ll like looking at it years later and seeing the difference in your work. It’ll make you smile. If it doesn’t make you laugh out loud like I did last week when I was examining the workmanship (or lack thereof) of a forgotten 15yo UFO I found in a closet.

    Oh! And I’m really digging the colors in the circles photos!

    1. Lynette — Ok, so you and Laura convinced me not to trash the UFO. 🙂

      I am still very much a newbie quilter (have only been quilting for two years) and I am really surprised by how much better my workmanship is in such little time.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I’m a fairly new quilter, and think what you’ve been doing is just fine. But if you elect to trash your “leaders and enders” blocks, please send me an e-mail. I’ll be glad to pay postage if you want to mail them to me. I can always use them for practice. My stash isn’t that big yet, and I would certainly be appreciate of your cast-offs. I think your quilting is awesome, so please don’t put yourself down. And remember me if you decide to trash those blocks.

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