For some, quilting is a great way to de-stress. There is nothing like the calm, relaxed feeling you get when stitching row after row of patches, knowing that when you’re finished, you will have a beautiful quilt to show for all your hard work. Sometimes, though, you just don’t have the time to meticulously sew each side of every square together one by one, and you’d like to use a shortcut!
This is where chain piecing comes in. Chain piecing is simple, fast, and a great way to save time without losing quality. According to Carolina Moore of Craftsy.com, it is not only more efficient than other methods, it is more accurate too. And it saves thread to boot!
To get started chain piecing, first gather up all the square and/or rectangular patches that you will be using on your quilt (Jeni Baker of In Color Order has some great suggestions for keeping your pieces in the right order!).
Next, put your first two squares together face-to-face, with their right sides together (you can also put a square and a rectangle together, as in the above image. Just make sure that their right sides are the same length!). Follow suit with the rest of your patches.
Once your squares are arranged in sets of two, you are ready to start sewing. Sew the first two squares together on the right side, being sure to keep a straight seam. As Melissa Burt explains on ConnectingThreads.com, it is important to use a “leader fabric” or a scrap piece of material at the beginning of your chain, to make sure that the stitching on your actual first piece doesn't get bunched up!
This next step is where sewing officially becomes chain piecing. Once you have reached the end of the first set of squares, allow your sewing machine to sew a few extra stitches without any fabric. Then, pick up your second set of squares and feed them into the machine without cutting the thread between them. Continue feeding your sets of squares through the machine without stopping to cut the thread until you come to the end of your stack.
Once you are finished, you should have a long string of squares all neatly sewn with a few extra stitches between them. Simply snip the extra thread in the gaps to separate the squares, cut off the leader fabric, and you’re all set to press the pieces and move onto the next steps in your quilting process!
This video from Quiltmaker Mag shows you each of the above steps in detail, along with some tips and tricks for making your chain piecing go even more smoothly. Once you've mastered the technique, you'll be surprised by how much more quickly you can quilt!