Chain piecing is a simple way to use the stitching to keep pieces, and blocks, in order as you work from single units to blocks and eventually to the quilt top.
If you haven’t chain pieced a block before a nine patch block is good way to test the method.
Simply set out the parts of a block, or quilt, in the placement order in which they need to appear in the finished work.
First set the parts of the block out in the correct position.
Stack the units up in the order of stitching and place the piles on a ruler, or small cutting board, so that they can be moved around with out displacing the order.
Stack the units, in order, in piles so that the bottom row is at the bottom of each pile and the units in the top row end up at the top of the pile
Start by picking up two adjacent pieces from the top row of columns one & two.
Place them right sides together, with the piece from column two on top, so that the seam that will join them together is along the right hand edge.
Stitch the seam
Without stopping to cut the threads pick up the two pieces immediately below, and in line with the first set, and stitch these together.
The middle units are stitched to a partner unit that was sitting to the left
Continue stitching until all the pieces that were in the first column have been stitched to the adjacent piece in the second column.
Ready to attach the units from the third pile
Press the seams to one side, in alternating directions, before joining the units from the third pile to their partners.
All the units are joined by a thread chain. Press the seams in alternating directions so that they lock together as the two vertical seams are stitched
Now that the units are all attached to each other in the correct order, sew the remaining seams to complete the block.
Sounds easy doesn’t it … but …. there are some tricks to successful chain piecing.
Sewing machines are designed to stitch two pieces of fabric together, not to stitch a chain of threads, so the chains can break if you are not careful.
Keep the chains between each set of units short
If you have a clever machine that cuts the bobbin thread make sure that it is set correctly so that it does not automatically activate as soon as you stitch off the fabric
Match needle size to the thread being used to avoid an over large needle breaking the chain
I prefer to piece with Cotton Mako’ 40 so my all purpose piecing needle is a size 80.
However I know that many other people use Cotton Mako’ 50 as their “go to” thread for piecing. This fine thread should be matched with a finer size 70 Microtex needle when chain piecing.
This same method can be used to join the blocks in a quilt.
However, it can become unwieldy if you try to piece the entire quilt in one go so break it down into smaller groups of blocks.