It has been great to see how many people are turning to hand piecing and enjoying the process.
I received a photo from David S, who recently took my hand piecing class. David has only been quilting for a little more than a year, but he has completely embraced hand piecing and has finished many quilts already.
He sent me a photo of the pieced border of a quilt, Columbia, that he is currently working on. A pattern for it is in my book Quiltmaking by Hand.
What struck me was how David was piecing the border. I realized that that was how I would have done it when I began quilting too. But that method requires all of the second set of triangles to have a set-in seam. Many people flinch when they hear that term. Obviously, it doesn’t phase David because he executes them brilliantly. When sewing by hand, set-in seams are very easy. Watch this video here.
But when sewing by hand, I like to have straight seams, if possible, and a continuous line of stitching without breaking the thread. While David was able to use a continuous thread, his method did require a lot of set-in seams. I turned to my book to see how I recommended sewing that border (see diagram 1) and realized I would do it differently today. The method in the book has all straight line sewing , but it involves starting and stopping after each seam.
Today, if I were doing that pieced border, I would sew units of one square and two triangles as shown in Diagram 2. Following the arrows, I would sew a triangle and square together up one side of the square, and in a continuous line without breaking the thread, pick up the next triangle and sew down the adjacent side of the square.
I originally designed Columbia for a beginners’ hand piecing “Mystery Quilt” class. Students were not shown a photo of the finished project. The class ran for several weeks and each week they were given a task. For instance, the first week they just sewed squares and triangles together and they had to complete “x” amount of them before the next class. Each lesson was another learning skill and they just kept making sections of the quilt. In the end we put all the sections together and they were amazed. Almost everyone in the class said if they had seen the photo of the finished project, they would have never taken the class because it looked too hard. They were all excited at how much they had learned just taking it one step at a time.