Moda Bake Shop Basics: Matching Points

Our celebration of National Sewing Month continues with another great Moda Bake Shop Basics tutorial today.

Hi Moda Bake Shop readers, it's Amanda from Material Girl Quilts and I'm back today to share a few tips on what I do to create perfectly matched points in my piecing.  Now we all know that none of us are perfect, so don't expect your quilts to be either!

Two of the most important things to do when you want matching points is to make sure that you (1) cut accurately and (2) maintain an accurate 1/4" seam in your piecing.  I cannot stress to you enough how important these steps are and how they will make your sewing life much more enjoyable :)  If you struggle in these areas, I suggest you practice here first.

Ways to improve your cutting:

  • Purchase and maintain a quality rotary cutter (this means replacing your blade frequently!)  
  • If you use multiple sized rulers, I suggest you find the ones you like the best and stick with that brand.  Some of the brands can be off just a bit from each other and that will make a difference in your piecing.  My choice in rulers is Omnigrid.  I have all different shapes and sizes.
  • Measure twice and cut once!
Ways to achieve an accurate 1/4" seam:
  • Use a 1/4" foot on your sewing machine.  I have one and it makes all the difference in the world for me.
  • If you don't have a 1/4" foot, try placing blue painter's tape along your machine marking the 1/4" line.  
  • Take it slow!  If you can't seem to maintain a straight seam, just slow it down a bit.
Now that we've covered these two fundamentals, let's talk about matching up those points.  I almost always press my seams to the side (usually toward the darker fabric).  This helps tremendously in matching points when sewing rows together.  You want to make sure that each row's seams are pressed in opposite directions as shown below.

This will enable you to "nest" your seams together.  As you place the rows right sides together, you can actually feel where the seams are and they will just fit snugly right next to each other and almost lock into place.

Here is a shot of the two seams nesting together.

Now that they are locked together, place a pin on the front side of the seam (the side that will be going into your sewing machine first.  Some people find it helpful to pin on each side of the seam lines and if that works for you, great!  Once you sew your two rows together, you will end up with beautifully crisp matching points.

Now you may be thinking, okay that's easy enough, but what about matching up points when you are piecing half square triangles?!  Well, let me help you with that too.  One key step in matching up points when piecing half square triangles is to make sure they are all squared up and trimmed to the appropriate size (here I go with the accurate cutting again).  I know it can be tedious work, but the end result is so very worth it.

When piecing half square triangles together, it is wonderful if your seams are pressed in the opposite direction, but that doesn't always work out once you start laying out your design.  If you can't "nest" the seams like above, here is what I do.  First match the seams up perfectly and make sure your blocks are square with each other.  

While keeping a firm hold onto the matched seams in the corner, I start sewing from the opposite end of the block.  This works better for me than starting with the matched points.  My machine is happier when I do it this way because it doesn't seem to like the bulk of the matched points when I start at that end. 

Keep a firm hold on those matched points all the way until they slide nicely under your 1/4" foot.  If just holding them doesn't work for you, pinning is always a good option.

 Now that you have some half square triangles sewn together into rows, you will once again press the rows in opposite directions to nest the seams together while piecing.

I ALWAYS pin the seams when piecing half square triangles.  If I don't, they just don't match as well.

There may be two ways that your half square triangles will meet up between rows.  One is when the points are on the same side of the seam as shown below.  Just take care when nesting your seams that those points line up and pin in place.

The result can be seen below.

The other way your half square triangles may meet between the rows is when the points are on opposite sides of the seam.  Once again, take care to match the points when nesting the seams and pin in place.

And you will end up with beautiful points like this...

I hope you found these tips to be helpful.  If you have any questions let me know and if you want to see what I have made with these blocks, head over to my blog to find out.  

Happy piecing!


tracy_a said...

Thanks for the tips! One thing it took me a long time to realize on my manual machine is that I need to check that I set the stich width back to 0 after doing a zig zag at some point - otherwise, my 1/4" tape did nothing for me!

Createology said...

Thank you for taking the time to explain and show just how to match points and seams. I have lots to learn and this is extremely helpful. Stitching Bliss...

sophietucker said...

Great tips, but it would be nice if you were to make them a PDF so they could be saved/printed for future reference!
Keep up the great work!

Anjeanette said...

Wonderful tips, Amanda! There is something wonderful about matching seams.

Elaine said...

Love the pdf idea!!!!!. Great for my notebook.

Can you do a tutorial on how to square up a quilt? and/or even squaring up blocks.

Happy Quilting said...

wonderful informative post...these are definitely the tips I use :-)

Sarah J said...

For those looking for PDFs, look into Evernote. It's a program with a web clipper that lets you save blog posts as pdfs on your computer in folders with searchable text. I've been using it to keep all the bake-shop patterns I want to do organized!

Sandy D said...

Thanks for some good tips.

Carol said...

Also check to make sure your 1/4" foot really sews 1/4". Some machines are off. You might be able to adjust needle position to make a small adjustment.

Nanci D. Byers said...

Thank you so much. What a great tutorial. I am really new and your pictures as you go along are very helpful. I do wish that there were more detailed info and pictures of exactly how to pin. I do appreciate the ones you do have and they are very helpful.

Thank you again! This is super helpful.

Randi Daeger said...

What about when you are told to sew a "scant 1/4 inch seam"? This often makes me crazy and I end up with seams that come apart the first time I wash my quilts. This leads me to believe that my "scant" 1/4 inch is closer to 1/8th! What do you suggest?

Randi Daeger said...

What about when you are told to sew a "scant 1/4 inch seam"? This often makes me crazy and I end up with seams that come apart the first time I wash my quilts. This leads me to believe that my "scant" 1/4 inch is closer to 1/8th! What do you suggest?

Stephanie said...

How do you press complicated blocks that have a gazillion points? The blocks often seem to end up with lots of mountains of points.

MaterialGirlQuilts said...

If I have a lot of points coming together at one intersection, then I will most likely press the seams open to help with the bulk. I hope that answers your question.

MaterialGirlQuilts said...

When a pattern calls for a scant 1/4" seam, I usually just adjust my needle position one space to the right and keep using my 1/4" foot to align as I stitch. This makes a good scant 1/4" seam for me. I hope that helps!

SewCalGal said...

Thank you. I'm looking for all the tips and tutorials I can find to help with Precision Piecing. This will definitely go into my favorites list.


Mimi said...

you pin from the outside and I tend to pin from the inside....I am going to try your way hoping there will be less bulk....

CrazyAboutQuilts said...

I noticed some of the cuts were precuts (with zig zag edges) and others were straight edge. I am more accurate when sewing straight edges, but LOVE using precuts. I assume the tip of the zig zag precuts should be at the 1/4" mark. Do you have any suggestions?