Chain piecing, also called continuous stitching, is a simple technique that many quilters use to save time when putting together quilt tops.
(There are other times when chain piecing comes in handy when sewing but for today we are only talking about chain piecing as it applies to quilting.)
First off all what is chain piecing?
Chain piecing is a method of sewing together blocks of a quilt one right after another in a long chain, with a continuous stitch, without lifting your pressure foot or cutting the thread. Think of it as assembly line sewing!
So how do you chain piece?
First of all you need to cut out all your block pieces…or at least the first batch you would like to sew. Next you pair up all the pieces that need to be sewn with right sides together and aligning the edges. Then you take this pile neatly over to your machine for stitching….and this is when the magic happens.
You can begin with a leader cloth or your first unit…either way you are going to stitch from end to end the first seam of the unit you are creating but when you get to the end of the seam do not stop!
Continue stitching off of the fabric for several stitches.
Next insert your next unit to be sewn. Do this by gently sliding your fabric unit underneath the pressure foot as it is stitching.
Do not lift the presser foot or cut the thread! Stitch from end to end and repeat unit you have stitched together the entire stack you have prepared.
When you have stitched together all the units you have prepared simply snip the thread connecting them, press, and continue assembling your quilt top!
*NOTE: Some quilters like to leave their units “chained” together while pressing for assembly line pressing…I personally do not…but many quilters swear by this technique.
How does this save me time?
Chain Piecing saves you time because you don’t have to start and stop your machine and clip your threads with every block. It also helps you be more organized and limits trips back and forth to the cutting table.
*It also saves you thread..those few stitches in between units is less thread than is used starting and stop each block….and it also helps to keep you in a consistent pace with a consistent seam allowance as you sew!
When should I Chain Piece?
I always chain piece when I have multiples of the same block.
It also comes in handy when making stacks of half square triangles, four patches, snowballs, flying geese, etc.
Once you start chain piecing you will always be looking for ways to incorporate chain piecing in ways and with blocks that work best for you!