Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Strip Chain Piecing

Here's my next new project, which I'm calling "It's Warm Inside." This is one of my randomly selected projects from a couple weeks ago. The concept is that we are looking out at the snowmen through window frames, while cozy inside. I was inspired by a photo of this project that was posted on Sew Mama Sew, but made by Shruti from And yes, it's just taken me half an hour to track down those links! project will be a log cabin lap quilt with several "new-to-me" techniques, including a version of quilting in sections and the strip chain piecing that I used to make the framed snowmen above. Judy Niemeyer uses a variation of this with paper piecing, which I'll be using when I get back to Riviera Star as well. So it was good to get some easy practice first!

Strip chain piecing is a fun technique that I will definitely use again. But, I made a couple of wrong moves, so I can share a few tips so you can learn from my mistakes! Plus, I'll give you all the measurements in case you want to make it yourself.*

I started by fussy cutting the 16 snowmen into 2.5" squares from two suitable fabrics I found in my stash. I had another fabric with snowmen too, but they were too small for the frames and it didn't look good. The white strips are cut 1" wide by the width of the fabric (WOF). For the 16 blocks I only needed 5 strips.

I started the strip chain piecing by putting just the white strip in the sewing machine and taking a few anchor stitches 1/4" from the edge. My fabric is a solid, but if yours is printed put it right side up. Then, with the needle down, lift the presser foot, lay one of the squares face down on the strip and right against the needle. The square and the strip should be right sides together and lined up along the right edge. Lower the presser foot and continue sewing your 1/4" seam. Once you've sewn down the square, keep the needle down, lift the presser foot, lay down the next square, and repeat to the end of the strip.

Benefit #1: No pins are needed, because the presser foot holds down the top of the square, and you can just keep a finger (carefully!) or a stylus on the bottom edge until it's sewn.

Benefit #2: All my snowmen were cut on the bias, but the strip underneath stabilizes the seam so it doesn't stretch at all.

Tip #1: Iron the seam open before you cut apart the blocks, it is more accurate. I didn't do that for the first strip, and some of the edges came out a little wonky.

Also, make sure the seam allowance is pressed away from the centre, which you can see is wrong in the photo. I had to go back and re-iron all these after I cut them apart!

Once you have cut apart all the blocks, you can start another strip and sew as before, laying each block in face down and sewing them to the strip one at a time. When you work clockwise around the block, and you iron the seam allowances away from the centre, all the seam allowances will be "down hill" as you sew, so no pins are needed.

Tip #2: Use a ruler to cut the strips apart, and keep squaring them up as you go. The next raw edge should be 2 1/4" from the opposite seam. I tend to sew a scant seam, so I often trimmed away a sliver of fabric from the centre while I was separating the pieces.

Once the four sides were sewn on, I gave all the pieces a final trim to square them up to exactly 3.5".

The next step will be to cut the rest of the outer strips, which will be in flannel, and finish the blocks. I'm hoping the contrasting fluffy and smooth fabrics will be interesting on the finished quilt. It's a lot of cutting...

...but, working with flannel like this is also "new to me," and it's been fun too, so far!

*Everyone is welcome to make this quilt for personal or charity use only.  Design, photos and text are copyrighted. Please contact me in the comments or via my profile with any questions.


  1. Those are great instructions. I have never strip/chained pieced blocks like that before, but I'm going to remember this technique for the next time. Great fabric choices for a winter quilt, and with the flannel, it will be very cozy too.

    1. Thanks very much! It's definitely easier than cutting and sewing endless tiny pieces! :D

  2. What cute fabric! I love it. Thanks for the tips, I will definitely keep this in mind.

    1. Thanks, Emily! It's hard not to like snowmen, isn't it?

      I'm always happy if people can learn from my mistakes!

  3. loke the fabric for this project, yes I like to strip piece, makes things happen so much more quickly

  4. Its looking fantastic Monica. Love the way the snowmen are framed.

  5. Interesting post. I have always cut the chained pieces apart before pressing, but maybe they would be more consistent if I did it as you have described. Anyway, cute snowmen and glad you are back!

    1. Thanks, Mary Ellen! It's nice to be back to normal.

      I tried it both ways, cutting the blocks apart before or after ironing, for me it was more accurate to iron first, then cut.


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