Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Part 6 How to Pin Properly...How to quilt from the very beginning

Done is better than perfect.

There are a couple more things you need to know so you can make a quilt with real precision.  The above saying is a quote on the wall at the quilt shop where my quilt guild meets. This is a really good motto to live by.  Done is always better than perfect....but, perfect is pretty nice too.  I love it when my seams match up perfectly.  I love it when I get perfect points.  I love it when my lines are straight and neat...but, I am not going to drive myself crazy to achieve all of these.  I will try my hardest and to my best ability, but if something's off just a bit...ehh.  I'll live and be happy when I have a finished piece.  Pinning is a big part of getting your quilts as perfect as possible.  If you pin correctly, you will reap the rewards.

I will confess that for a long time I never pinned anything. It didn't bother me when seams didn't match up.  But now I am older, wiser and am not in such a hurry to have a finished piece, so I pin.

This post is going to show you how to pin your pieces correctly before sewing.

Proper Pinning

I pin everywhere two seams line up.  In the above picture you can see I have made two strips of half square triangles.   I have pinned on each of the vertical seams (the seams that separate the squares).  Place your pieces front sides together, line up the seams on the front piece and back piece so they are matched up, then pin.

What about if there aren't many seams, but a long stretch of fabric.  How do you pin that evenly?

If you'll notice in the above picture, it doesn't matter how accurately you cut, you can be off as little as 1/16" and you're still off.  Quite often pieces become a touch shorter or longer depending on how accurately you've sewn the seams or how accurately you've cut your fabric.  This is where pinning comes in.  You can get your piece to be even by pinning and easing the fabric.

So, the strip above is a bit longer than the piecework.  Let's pin.

1.  Line up the left sides, right sides together.  Pin.  Line up the right sides.  Pin.

2.  As you can see in the middle, the fabric is sagging a bit, this is because the strip is a bit longer than the bottom piece.  You want to pin it evenly across the entire row so you don't have spots that are too loose and spots that are too tight after you've sewn.  You want even give across the entire row.

3.  So, grab on the left and right sides and just tug ever so gently and evenly.

4. The top and bottom pieces of fabric should just match up perfectly along the top.  Pin right in the middle. If there's a large discrepancy between the fabric sizes, they might not meet up perfectly along the top, but you will at least have them lined up pretty well so you can just slide the larger piece up and then pin it.  You want this to be as even as possible.

5.  Depending how large the piece of fabric you are working with is, you will have to repeat the pinning process again and again.  I typically put a pin every 4 inches or so.  So, for the above piece, I would hold onto the far left pin and the middle pin, tug lightly and then pin between those two.  Switch sides.  Hold onto the middle and the far right pin, tug and pin in the middle of those two. Keep tugging and pinning in the middle of pins until all your pins are approximately 4 inches apart.

If you have one piece of fabric that is significantly larger than the other, it is wise to pin more.  Every 1" or so.  By doing this you can slightly stretch the shorter piece of fabric to match up to the larger piece when you are sewing. It's called easing.

So, that is how to pin.  Just remember what is most important is that your fabric is pinned evenly.  You don't want the left side of your piece to be really tight while the right side is loose. As long as you do this, your seams will match up nicely and things will be straight and even.

Other posts in the series:
Part 1: The Basics
Part 2: Measuring and What Kind of Fabric to Buy
Part 3: How to pick your fabric
Part 4: How to cut your fabric without cutting off a finger
Part 5: Let's start cutting fabric to measure
Part 7: Let's Press
Part 8: Leaders and Enders

Thanks for reading!



  1. Heather .. I love this . YOU give such awesome instruction . I will be getting me some material and trying this. I love that fabric with the map on it . TOO cute .. hope that you and your family have a blessed Easter

  2. I I never pin but I really should its just lazy. Awesome tips heather

  3. Heather I am so far behind in my blog reading and I'm trying to catch up a little here! I need all the tips I can get when it comes to sewing!!


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