8 Tips for Precise Piecing

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Happy Tuesday! Today I'm going to be sharing some tips and tricks for improving your piecing accuracy. Once you've got the basics down, it's the little things that can push your project to the next level. These are my favorite techniques for achieving precise piecework in my projects.

This was originally posted as part of the Workshop Tote Sew Along. Want to make a tote too?
Find all the posts here: Workshop Tote Sew Along
Pick up a copy of the pattern here: Workshop Tote Pattern
Share your progress here: #workshoptote on Instagram

1. Proper Fabric Prep

Precise piecing starts with a good foundation. Spending some extra time getting your fabric ready for cutting can make a big difference. Press your fabric well before doing any cutting. If you're working with stretchy fabrics, use spray starch or a pressing spray like Flatter by Soak, to stabilize your fabrics. Trim away any loose threads that could get in your way. Finally, clear off your mat so you have plenty of room to cut!

2. Square Up Fabric

It can be tempting to use a straight-ish edge on your fabrics to line up your first cut. Taking the time to square up all of your edges before cutting out your pieces will help ensure that everything is square. I like to start by using the selvedge and factory fold edge as a general guide for making my first straight cut along the edge of my piece. Then I line that fresh cut up on my mat or up against my ruler to cut my strips. When cutting strips down into squares, I trim off the selvedge and start cutting my squares. Now each square has a nice clean edge to work from!

3. Over cut Half-Square Triangle Squares

The common formula for making half-square triangles is to cut squares 7/8" larger than the finished half-square triangle size. This leaves almost nothing to trim off, which can result in some slightly out-of-whack blocks. I like to cut my squares a full 1" larger than my finished half-square triangle size to give a little extra room to trim them square. All of my patterns, including the Workshop Tote give you that full 1". If you're new to half-square triangles or want even more wiggle room, you can always cut your squares even larger and trim to size. Just know you may need a little extra fabric.

4. Use a 1/4" foot or Stitching Guide

Make it easy to maintain a consistent seam allowance by using a 1/4" foot or a stitching guide for your machine. This may mean investing in a new foot or tool, or can be as simple as a piece of masking tape on your machine bed. I love using my 1/4" foot, but those little edge guides can get in the way when half-square triangle piecing. Thankfully the guide on mine can be removed with a small screw. If you make a lot of half-square triangles, a guide-less 1/4" foot can really come in handy!

5. Complete Piecing on a Single Machine

This may seem silly if you only have access to one sewing machine, but try to complete your project all on the same machine if possible. Every machine is a little bit different, and your seam allowance and tension may be slightly different between machines. Sticking with one machine throughout piecing a project will help ensure that everything stays consistent! Same goes for thread too, not all threads are the same weight, so using the same thread for all your piecing in a project is a good idea.

6. Keep Your Machine Clean

Speaking of machines, keeping your sewing machine in fine shape will help you avoid hiccups while working on your project. Make sure the bobbin and feed dog areas are free of dust and stray threads. If your machine requires oil, give it a little before you start a new project. It's probably time for a fresh needle too! Make sure it's an appropriate size for your project.

7. Pressing Matters

When it comes time to press those half-square triangles or newly constructed rows, make sure not to over press. Use your fingers to gently press your seams before hitting them with an iron. Avoid sliding your iron around room much so that things don't get stretched out of shape.

8. Plenty of Pins

I'm an advocate for using lots of pins when piecing. It may sometimes seem like time wasted, but if it keeps you from having to rip out a few seams, it's worth it! No matter how small, I like to place a pin at every seam intersection. I place my pins on the diagonal through the intersection, with the pin going through both pieces of a pressed-open seam. This makes them easy to remove and keeps both squares (or half-square triangle blocks) secure.

I hope these tips will be helpful to creating your tote bags, or in any of your current projects! Tune in on Thursday for a detailed tutorial on adding an interior pocket to your tote!

Happy Sewing!


  1. Today's post is filled with all the best information for quilters. It is so important to do things correctly. As a quilt instructor, I begin each new class with the same information. I feel that developing good habits is so much easier than bracken, or redirecting, old habits. I too, have learned the advantage of making HST larger than the pattern. Just remember to add the extra fabric needed to your purchase. Thanks for a wonderful blog and post. D. Weeks aka Momma Llama

  2. Excellent tips! Thanks, Jeni ~ say Hi to George for me!

  3. I'm currently working on my 3rd quilt, but it seems I'm constantly learning something. This is the first time I'm going to do a workshop, so I look forward to all your instructions!

  4. Good advice. I think starching fabric heavily can be really helpful for beginners. My granddaughter loves to sew but the starched fabric is easier fir her to handle.

    Love those glass head pins! I do minis and “fat”pins actually distort but the 04 mm ones are crazy thin! They look so pretty in that magnetic bowl too.....


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