Quilt Blocks – Matching Seams and Points

To me, part of the beauty that makes a quilt a quilt, is the amazing way the quilter was able to match points and seams. When I first began quilting about 2 years ago, this drove me bats. No matter how precisely I’d measure and cut, sew the exact seam, press perfectly, etc. there is nothing…absolutely nothing to ensure my seams or points match the way I’d liked them to. Here’s my first major fail from the Fall of 2011. I haven’t even been able to bring myself to even have this quilted yet. Without realizing the effect less-than-perfect points would have, I managed to “tip” most of the star blocks in this Gallantly Streaming quilt.Gallantly-StreamingWInset

So I learned to fudge it.

I’m in a Block of the Month club and I have to tell you, my skills have greatly improved from my first ambitious attempt at quilting – my Fudging skills, that is. Here’s a few of my secrets to get those seams and points to match.

This is the August block I’m about to finish. I’ve got to perfectly line up not only the seams of the 9 patch, but also ensure the points of the angles don’t get either tipped or have the seam too far from the point. I want all the lines and points to match up exactly.IMG_1398

I do the hardest ones first – the tips of the points. Turn the block RSU and measure to see how close you actually are to a 1/4” seam. On this edge, one of the points ended up with a 3/8” seam. This will give you an idea of what you’re up against. If I sewed this with a perfect 1/4” seam, the lower point wouldn’t meet up where it’s supposed to.pointsSeams

The first thing to do is to identify on the back of the block exactly where the points are on the front. This is difficult to do through pressed seam allowances. So place a pin, going from front to back exactly on the tip of the points.IMG_1401

Flip the block over with the heads of the pins to the outside. Then using a fabric marker, draw a line parallel to the edge of the fabric and make sure to go EXACTLY over where the pin exits the back of the fabric. This is your stitch line.IMG_1402

On the adjacent piece, put pins into the points.IMG_1403

Now line up the edges of the two pieces. Trim any obvious excess or dog ears. Here’s the piece with the drawn line over the adjoining piece with the pin.IMG_1404

Now place your thumbnail on the center of the stitch line at the point and fold back the top layer to align the seams and pin entry point on the adjacent piece.IMG_1405


Place two pins on either side of the seam line to securely hold into place. Don’t worry that the fabric goes all wonky. You can fix that later. Repeat for the other points.IMG_1407


For the straight seams that need to meet up, match the edges of the two fabric pieces together like before and put your thumb 1/4” from the edge on the seam. Fold it back to align with the bottom fabric.IMG_1409

Match the seams and pin. Do for remaining seams.

This is what the back side looks like when it’s ready to sew. What a mess!!IMG_1412

You don’t absolutely need a 1/4” seam foot, but if you have one, use it. Otherwise, find a visual point of reference between your needle and presser foot that is 1/4”.IMG_1413

Now begin sewing with a standard 1/4” seam allowance and when you get to where the points need to match up, be sure to sew directly over that line you made. If there is a serious difference between the 1/4” seam allowance and where the line is, do a very gradual slope to the seam line until you get to where you need to be. It’s important to stick with the 1/4” seam allowance as much as possible so the block will be as close to the correct finished size as possible.IMG_1414

Yes, I sew over my pins, especially on the points. I don’t want any shifting of the fabrics. I sew slowly and these pins are very fine. See how the red line I made is exactly in the groove of the 1/4” seam foot? And you can see the fabric is just a thread or two outside of the edge of the presser foot. That’s OK.

As I go over the final set of points, look how FAR the fabric is from where it should be butting up against the wall of the 1/4” foot. But that’s OK because I sewed exactly over the red line. Because of when I measured where the points were in relation to the edge of the fabric, I’m not freaking out about this…at all…really.   (breathe….)

Here’s the final result! I pulled the fabric off the machine and finger pressed it open. All tips and points are where they should be, seams align, and life is good! It looks a little off here but don’t forget to iron. You can always fix minor imperfections with an iron.

My secret weapon? Faultless Spray Starch with the blue cap. Lookin’ good!IMG_1419

Here’s Jan – Aug from Amy Gibson’s 2013 Sugar Block Club from StitcheryDickoryDock
UPDATE:  A few more blocks are complete.   The October block had a fail and I had to piece the four corner blocks with scraps of my background fabric and turn the squares with the red stripe to the outside.  I simply don’t have enough background fabric left to re-cut the two-5″ squares needed to fix it correctly and still have enough left for the Nov & Dec blocks.  Lesson learned:  Buy an extra 1/4 yard of background fabric for the next BOM series.   It’s OK though, nobody will know but you and me!


2 thoughts on “Quilt Blocks – Matching Seams and Points

  1. Great tips, Becky! These are great ideas for getting that perfect block! Mind if I share a link to your post on my Facebook? I think others could benefit from your tips! 🙂 take care! Amy 🙂

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