Hi there. I’m Nicole Gilbert and you’ve joined the stop scrolling and start sewing podcast. Are you new to sewing and want to start quilting, but have no idea where to begin each Wednesday? Join me as I share the ins and outs of that quote life. If you don’t have a sewing machine, have no idea how much fabric you need, or you’re just trying to figure out where the heck to stick that Bob in. This is the podcast for you.
Folks, Nicole here, and you have joined episode 22 of the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. On today’s episode, we are talking quilt top construction. That’s right. All things piecing. We’re going to hit some hard and fast rules as well as go over the various types of quilt, top construction that you will see in your travels. But first, a quick word from our sponsor today’s episode is sponsored by my fast track to quilting masterclass. You can register for the firstname.lastname@example.org slash fast track to get in on it. We have several coming next week and it is going to be a blast. I’m looking forward to teaching you all things quilting next week. All right, guys, let’s get sewing.
Okay. So first of all, I guess we have to start at the top. What is piecing? So piecing is the process of taking all of those cute little squares and triangles that you just cut up and sewing them back together. Yup. It’s that simple piecing is just putting together your quilt top, but there are different types of quilt. Top construction. Most quilters will start with a, um, I guess you want to say most pattern writers will refer to it as like a block construction, but there are various levels to the complexity of blocks. So in the sassy pants, herringbone quilts that, um, I do alongside my students in the modern quilters Academy, we do a very basic block. It is one element and it is a half square triangle and that’s the whole block. And so they do a whole series of them and by their strategic placing, it creates a herringbone pattern and it’s super cute and just the right size for beginners, but it is a very basic construction.
Now, a slightly more complex version of a quilt block is where you do several elements and we sew them together. So, um, one example I could give you would be, um, what I’m calling the COVID quilts. And it is a quote made up of all of the scraps from the masks that I have made through this crazy little thing we call 2020. So it’s super cool. It’s a really basic construction. It will end up being queen-sized though. So it is a larger quilt. So what each block consists of is four half square triangles where one half of the half square triangle is a cool color. And the other half of the half square triangle is a warm color. And I situate the half square triangle so that all of the cool colors are towards the center creating a diamond. Um, so I have all these like kaleidoscopes of diamonds of blues and greens, um, that are pretty cool.
And, uh, I like it. It’s kinda, kinda crazy looking, but I really enjoy this quote, but the blocks are pretty simple. They’re just four half square triangles, but again like four times as complex as my dress, one half square triangle. So you can see where it can build on itself. Now my next quilt that’s going onto my cutting mat is actually, um, following a pattern written by Emily Dennis with Quilty love. And it is her North star quilt. I just fell in love with it. It just looks all sorts of cozy and cool. So I want to do it, but the blocks on this, they’re not complicated by any means. Um, they do just use flying geese half square triangles, quarter square triangles, and some basic, you know, square and rectangle construction. So, you know, they’re the centers of these blocks are Sawtooth stars. So pretty straightforward, not crazy.
However, there are a lot of pieces. Does that go along with it? And these star centered blocks, um, tend to be a little bit, um, kind of fussy there. It’s not going to be difficult. None of the techniques that are included are going to be difficult and yet it can be considered way more complex than, you know, the examples that I gave previously, my COVID quilt and the sassy pants, herringbone pattern that I do with my quilters Academy students. Now, those are your different types of, of quilt construction. Um, and then you could always have like things that are kind of in the middle, like a nine patch where you can do a nine patch where it’s super scrappy and you’ve got nine individual squares of fabric that you’re sewing together into three little rows, and then you’re sewing those into a block, or you could do it via strip sets.
So, you know, you’re sewing together, three strips, cutting them up into individual sets and sewing those mixed up back together to create a nine patch. There’s all sorts of different things that you can do. But overall piecing and quote construction usually comes down to how to create quilt blocks and then take those blocks and sew them into rows. And then, so all of your rows together to create your final quilt top, that’s like the base six of quilt construction. Now there are some rules that go along with piecing quilt tops, and let’s go, let’s dive in. I really think there’s like three rules. Everything else is pure creativity, which I love. So rule number one is the maintenance of your seam allowance, preferably quarter of an inch. So you will see the quarter inch seam allowance referred to pretty consistently throughout quilt patterns, regardless of the pattern maker, because it’s kind of like the gold standard of seam allowances.
For those of you who are not familiar with what a seam allowance is a seam allowance is the distance from your stitch to the raw edge of your fabric and quilters like to maintain a quarter of an inch. Now, the reason why a seam allowance is so important is that it really adds to the integrity and stability of your quilt top. Um, you are less likely to have gaps and holes when you have a nice sized seam allowance. Um, and the seam allowance creates, um, a little bit of a foundation on your backing, especially when you’re piecing, uh, lots of pieces together. They will kind of be almost like a railway system for your quilts to lay upon. Now, you will often see somebody referred to it as a scant quarter inch seam allowance, which means just shy of a quarter of an inch. So just inside and now there’s two really big benefits to sewing a scant quarter-inch seam allowance, a scant quarter inch seam allowance will allow for some size to be maintained with your quilts.
You will notice, I mean, a quarter of an inch over, you know, 15 across quote blocks, you lose a lot of things fabric and your seam allowances, and you will see your, your quilts shrink. And sometimes people don’t want to see that shrink. And so by taking a scant quarter of an inch, so just inside a quarter of an inch, you really will see that exponentially in your final product. Um, however, another reason why people like the scamp quarter of an inch is that it allows for your seems to be a little bit less bulky, a little bit less prominent, which can make quilting your quilt top a lot easier in the long run, if there’s just a little bit less bulk on the back. So there are definitely some benefits to maintaining a quarter of an InterStim allowance. Now, every once in a while, you will also see a five eighth seam allowance, a five eighth seam allowance, one, you’re going to see it a lot.
If you’re like me and you were cranking out face masks because of top stitching. So when you maintain a five and seam allowance, five eighth seam allowance, I’m sorry. I’m like stuttering over here. Um, when you turn your work inside out and you go to, or right side out rather, and you go to top stitch it, you can then do a quarter of an inch, top stitch, and it catches the whole seam allowance. So now your seam allowance is firmly tucked against that fabric and super neat and crisp. So that’s one reason why to maintain a five eighths. If you know that you’ll be top stitching. Another thing that people like with five eight, five eight is just that they, it feels hefty. You know, that that sucker stay in where it’s supposed to stay. And so I can appreciate that. I don’t personally use five eighths unless I’m top stitching, but I can see where the draw is for some people.
And some patterns are written with a five eighth seam allowance, but 90% of your patterns that you will find, at least when they are written by a quality pattern maker will say, you know, this pattern assumes a quarter inch seam allowance or five eighths, excuse me. Um, and so you’ll be able to kind of maintain that. Now, once you’ve chosen your seam allowance, please, please, please remain consistent. So if you decide you’re doing a quarter of an inch, please do a quarter of an inch throughout the entire project or a scant or a five eighths, whichever you so choose be consistent. If you are not, if you change your mind halfway through what will end up happening is some of your blocks will be larger. Some of your blocks will be smaller and it will be a nightmare to square your quilts. Things will not line up.
Things will look all cockeyed and cattywampus like don’t do it. So consistency, consistency, consistency, please maintain a consistent seam allowance, whichever size you so choose. Okay. The next rule of quilt, top piecing, press your seams. Oh, you know, I love me and I earn, uh, I love irons and I love pressing seams and for the last 10 years or so, I have been firmly in the press to the dark side camp. It’s what I have always done. It’s what I teach my students in the quilters Academy to do. I love pressing into the dark. I do. I really, really do. And there’s some great benefits to pressing to the dark. But first, before I get ahead of myself, let me explain exactly what pressing to the dark means. When you have sewn two pieces together and you lay the fabric out flat. So your seam allowance is actually like sticking straight up in the air.
You are then going to fold it over to the side so that it lays flat behind the darker of your two fabrics. This will allow it to not be seen on your, like from the right side, when you turn your fabric over, especially important. When you’re using like a light color, like a white next to a dark color, like Navy, you don’t want all that show in through the white. Another benefit of it is that it actually creates even more stability for your seam. Now you’re seeing is like in a little cocoon because you’ve pressed that down flat. And then there’s one of the fabrics is going flat across that stitch. So it’s really holding it in there. It’s really great. Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret, I have recently been, um, listening to quilt buzz, which is a, another quilting podcast and the weekend quilter loves pressing her seems open. And so I tried it this week. Um, the quilt that I was making, I pressed my seams open and guess what, guys? I kind of love it. It’s awesome. So, um, when we’re pressing our seams open, instead of folding them over to the dark side, you spread that seam allowance open so that you can see the stitch line. And each part of the seam allowance is laying flat behind it’s piece of fabric. So it’s totally open. It’s flat. You can see the right side, if that makes sense And I have obviously heard about pressing your seams open for forever. Um, and it’s just never has been my thing. I really liked the integrity and the stability, and maybe it was a little bit of, I know, definitely in the beginning of my quilting journey, I just never did it because I was like, well, what if my stitches aren’t solid enough to really hold up? What if there’s gaping? I’m not, I’m not going down that road and get it. And I feel like there’s a lot of you out there who feel the same way, but obviously years have gone by my stitches have gotten much, much, much better alum along the way. And so I tried it and they’re amazing. My one thing that I did love the best is just how flat my car top lays. I no longer have those little nubs where all my seams come together.
I mean, they’re still there. You could definitely feel where, you know, four or five different fabrics are intersecting, but it’s so much less bulky. So I would say that is number one, advantage, really flat and less bulk. I really do enjoy it. So I will probably be telling my students, um, that you can do either way and tell them why I like them both. But I think for now, I’m probably going to say too, pressing my seams wide open. Okay. And now my last, last rule, this is my last hard and fast rule that I think that you guys really, really, really need to stick to. And that is stay. They organized. I recently completed a so long quilt. That was a scrappy nine patch. And, um, I included a gradient of color. If you head over to my Instagram, um, at the Nicole Gilbert, uh, you can see examples of it cause I’ve, I’ve been posting along the way as I was making it.
Um, but it is a gradient that fades from lime green to pink, to turquoise, to purple to blue. Um, and what I did to organize myself while I was putting all these scraps together, cause sometimes it can be really difficult to stay well organized. Um, when you’re doing something really scrappy, what I did was I set up the stacks of the different types wraps in the order that I wanted them to lay in the quilt. And so that way I knew like, as I got to certain parts, I was looking to use certain, um, of the scrap, certain ones of the scraps. And so that was one way organized, definitely on the lower end of organization. But I still, I still had a method. I had a pattern that I was working with in order to like keep myself sane. Now I’m plan on starting, um, this North star quilt, which has a lot more moving pieces per block.
And so what I’m going to be doing with that is I am going to cut up all of my pieces and there’s a large variety. There’s five and a half inch squares. There’s some rectangles, there are a quarter square triangle, like there’s a lot going on here. And so what I plan on doing is cutting it all up and then counting out exactly what I need for each block and in its own Ziploc bag place, all the pieces for each block. And so then when I, so I’m just going to make a complete block and I’m going to do that over and over again, I’ve done, um, the star kind of quilts. So that one centers around a Sawtooth star, which is a classic, but I have done a lot of these different star quilts and I’ve done them different ways. Um, and I just find that by doing it block by block, it’s so much easier.
I have previously done it step by step. So all of the four patches for the center, then all of the flying geese, then all of the quarter square triangles and you know, and so doing like one stage at a time, I don’t like that method. I think it’s definitely a method. I think you’re going to see it quite a bit in various quilt patterns. What I don’t like for it is that I need forward progress. I need to feel like I’ve accomplished something. And unfortunately, when you are doing that kind of method of construction, you’re doing a lot of work and you still feel kind of like, you just got a bunch of pieces until the very end. And then all of a sudden it’s like, you go from this like stack of pieces to a finished quilt. I don’t like that. I like to be like, Ooh, I finished one block. Oh, I finished 10. Oh, I finished 20, Oh, look at that. Now it’s time to put together my Rose. I like that feeling. Maybe that makes me simple. I don’t know. But it’s just like, it’s what keeps me going through the process, especially with our more complicated.
So, Um, definitely, uh, like to do it through the blocks and that is how I’m going to stay organized when I’m doing that. Now everybody’s different and what keeps me organized, doesn’t keep others organized. And I’m sure there’s others out here who don’t like the block by block method. And we prefer to do it stage by stage and I get you everybody’s different. And that is totally okay. But what I really want you to take out of this is that I just need you to stay organized, whatever that method of organization is for you do it because I just finished a nine patch, which I’m obsessed with, but it had over 1100, two inch squares. Yeah. 1100, two inch squares. I had two inch squares coming out of my yang. And if I did not stay organized, it would have been a hot mess. I would have had leftovers.
I would have messed up and lost some. It would have it just look. I just, I could have nightmares thinking about that being so unorganized and terrible. So a quick recap rule, number one, maintain your seam allowance. Whether it’s a quarter of an inch, a scant quarter of an inch or five eighths press, you were seams. You can press to the dark side, but please make sure that we are keeping track of the direction that our seams are getting pressed. So we have nice, neat nests in the back. You can press your seams open. It’s kind of what I’m liking right now. I feel like this is like, like some secret I’m giving away. Like, Oh my gosh, I totally switched teams guys. I’m an open, I’m an open seam guy now. Um, but it’s great. I love it. And RA number three, stay organized.
And I actually just got to teach all of this over in the quilting one-on-one experience group. Um, and I had a blast talking to the ladies about it. Um, I’m just having so much fun in quilting one Oh one. And if you are listening to this episode in real time, the quilting one-on-one experience is still open. So please go over to, uh, the modern quilter circle.com/q E one Oh one, and you can log in and sign up. You can get all of those informative emails and view the videos and you can catch right up on your own time because all of that information lives there for you. Um, we’re having so much fun in there and I hope that you join us. And for those of you who have Mark your calendars, don’t forget. We have the fast track to quilting masterclass coming at ya on September 8th, September 11th and September 13th.
So keep an eye out for that. Um, and, uh, have a great day guys. I’m excited. I’m, I’m heading into a busy season here and I, I am really, really excited to just kinda keep, keep giving you guys all of the things. So you have just completed another episode of the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. You can find today’s episode and all past email@example.com slash podcast. Please subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts and leave me a review. If you feel so inclined, I truly appreciate them. Now you guys, you know what I’m going to say. It’s time to stop scrolling and start sewing. Have a good one. Bye for now.