Bright Sisters: Nine-Patch Units

There are 80 nine-patch units (3.5″ unfinished size) in the Bright Sisters quilt. I used a traditional strip-piecing method to create them:

Strips cut for strip-piecing
1. Cut the strips from each pair of colors.
Three strips, two sewn together
2. Sew pairs of strips together and press toward the darker fabric.

The strips (and most of the units and pieces photographed here) are lying on my beloved Magic Pressing Mat. It’s a compressed felt mat that sits on my ironing board and gives me a firm, flat surface for pressing seams. Mine is 12″ x 18″. I really recommend it.

Sewing the third strip to a pair
3. Add the third strip. You can see the metal seam guide, the washi tape guide, and the Curve Master presser foot here.

I have always had a terrible time getting an accurate 1/4″ seam. Since this quilt has so many horizontal and vertical seams, I knew that if I didn’t get this right, the quilt would be all wonky and wouldn’t be properly flat. I looked up advice on how to get accurate seams (there’s lots… take your pick) and in the end I put together a set of tools to help.

Since I know I’ll need to switch feet for this quilt, I want a way to make sure that I’m getting the same seam with each foot even if I swap them in and out. In the picture above, I’m using a Dritz magnetic seam guide placed right on the machine. You can also see some blue checkered washi tape that I’ve lined up to give me a nice long straight edge for guiding those strips. I used the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide to figure out where to place both the seam guide and the washi tape. I love using the seam guide because it means that everything will be back in the right place when I change feet.

I’m also using the Curve Master presser foot in this picture because it has a 1/4″ fabric guide that can be used for straight seams as well as curved ones. I’m not accurate enough to just use that, which is why I’ve got the seam guide and washi tape too.

The other foot that I use doesn’t have a 1/4″ guide at all, but it’s better for sewing across the middle of a fabric square (like for the half-square triangles) when you can’t line up the fabric edges with the edge of the foot. In the end I found that I got a better seam if I used the regular foot plus the metal guide/washi tape for straight seams, and reserved the Curve Master for the curved seams on the drunkard’s path units. More on that later.

I also found the Craftsy class Quilt Faster: Accurate, Streamlined Piecing by Lee Chappell Monroe to be really helpful. It’s full of great tips and it’s where I got the washi tape idea.

Three strips sewn together
4. Press the completed strip, seams toward the darker fabric.
Ruler on sewn strip
Measuring the width of the middle strip — yay! It’s one inch!
Ruler on completed strip
Measuring the width of the completed strip — yay! It’s 3.5″!
Matching strips, all pressed
5. Press the set of strips, ready to subcut.
Pink strips being subcut into units
6. Subcut the strips. Obviously this is from a different color set 🙂

See the washi tape on the ruler? That’s from Lee Chappell Monroe’s class too. Another great tip.

Units being sewn together
7. Chain piece pairs of subcut units.
Sewn units still chained together
8. Leave the units chained together for pressing.

This is another tip from Lee Chappell Monroe’s class and boy does it save a lot of time!

Units being pressed
9. Set the seam and press toward the center unit (units are still chained together).
Partly completed nine-patch units
Partially completed pressed units
Pressed units clipped apart and chained units still to be pressed
10. Clip the pressed units apart. Continue pressing remaining units.
Units being sewn
11. Chain stitch the units to complete the nine-patch.
Completed units, chained together and ready to press
12. Leave the units chained together for pressing.
Pressed units ready to be clipped apart
13. Press the seams toward the middle unit and clip the pressed units apart.
A completed nine-patch unit in two shades of blue
A completed unit!

The nine-patches went pretty fast once I solved my 1/4″ seam problem. It’s such a pleasure to work with units that are the right size!

 

 

What do you think?