Strip-quilt tutorial: sew straighter strip sets with this one trick

Quilting 101: sewing straighter strip sets

If you’ve made a quilt that relies on strip piecing, you know the technique is a wonderful time-saver.

But have you ever noticed that, as you add strip upon strip, your seams—which started  straight as Cupid’s arrow—begin to bend like an archer’s bow?

Fabulously Fast QuiltsBowing, bending strip sets can often lead to trouble down the road in the form of wavy seams, curvy edges, and wonky measurements. So quilter Amy Smart—famed blogger at Diary of a Quilter and author of one of Martingale’s TOP FIVE best sellers of 2014, Fabulously Fast Quilts—came up with four good habits to practice that will help your strip sets stay stick straight.

Tip #3 is such a simple but smart trick; try it the next time you’re strip piecing!

Easy trick for straighter strip sets

from Fabulously Fast Quilts
by Amy Smart

Strip piecing is a great technique for saving time. Here are four important tips to help you make the most accurate strip sets:

How to sew straight strip setsCut the strips accurately.

Use consistent scant ¼" seam allowances.

Where possible when piecing strips together, sew successive seams in alternating directions. For example, sew the first two strips together top to bottom, but stitch the third strip from bottom to top (see right). Alternating your stitching direction decreases bowing (curving into an arc) and stretching out of shape within the strip set.

Carefully press the seam allowances to one side. I prefer pressing to one side, rather than pressing seam allowances open, because opposing seams will nest nicely at intersections. And those nested intersections will make it easier to keep seams aligned in your patchwork. After you’ve pressed to one side, press (don’t iron) the seams again from the right side, to make sure the pieced strips are fully open and flat.

Check out the quilts you can create using all of Amy’s smart sewing tips in Fabulously Fast Quilts. Projects are categorized by four—you guessed it!—fabulously fast techniques.

Moroccan Tile quilt Technique #1: strip piecing
“Moroccan Tile”

Using lots of negative space and turning blocks on point gives this variation on a Four Patch block a new look. It’s perfect for precut 2½" strips (aka Jelly Rolls).

Make “Moroccan Tile” plus 2 more strip-pieced quilts in Fabulously Fast Quilts >
Roundabout quilt Technique #2: quick corners

This pretty-in-pink quilt is easier to make than it looks! Create this design with classic Snowball and Nine Patch blocks.

Sew “Roundabout” plus 2 more quick-corner quilts in Fabulously Fast Quilts >
Crossing Guard quilt Technique #3: slick slicing
“Crossing Guard”

Construct just two repeating blocks in this fresh quilt; let your fabric placement create various design illusions.

Create “Crossing Guard” plus 2 more slick-slicing quilts in Fabulously Fast Quilts >
Modern Buzz Saw quilt Technique #4: stack, slice, and shuffle
“Modern Buzz Saw”

This version of a traditional Buzz Saw block works great with precut 10″ squares (Layer Cakes) and produces no waste.

Make “Modern Buzz Saw” plus 2 more stack, slice, and shuffle quilts in Fabulously Fast Quilts >

Get a dozen of Amy’s fresh quilt patterns for just $16.99 (or $11.99 for the eBook).

Want more strip-friendly quilts?

We’ve got more. Lots more!

Strip Savvy All About Strips Remarkable Rectangles
Scrap-Basket Beauties Scrap-Basket Sensations Scrap-Basket Surprises
Scrap Quilting Strip by Strip Strip-Smart Quilts Strip-Smart Quilts II

How often do you use strip piecing in your quilts: always, often, sometimes, or haven’t had the chance yet? Tell us in the comments!

21 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I have used strip piecing quite often in my quilts. It is very beneficial when I make miniature quilts.

    —Patricia D. Roberts on February 16, 2015
  • I haven’t tried strip piecing yet, but it intrigues me and fits my persona; therefore, I intend to do so. Thank you. Gale

    —Gale McGaughey on February 16, 2015
  • I use strip piecing a lot. It is a very rewarding process.

    —Nancy on February 16, 2015
  • I am making my first quilt with strip piecing and was glad to see your tips, they will help me a lot.

    —Nancy W on February 17, 2015
  • I use strip sets often. Quick and easy!

    —Vicky on February 17, 2015
  • I use them as often as possible and strip pieces almost exclusively when I started quilting. Lately it seems that most of my current endeavors don’t include strip piecing. Maybe I should change my style!

    —kraftykc on February 17, 2015
  • I almost always do some strip piecing in my quilts, even if it’s for a small part of a quilt. The exception is sampler quilts where every block is different.

    —Theresa on February 17, 2015
  • I belong to a scrap club and we use a lot of patterns that are strip pieced. We try to use fabric that we already have, even piecing the backings. People are so creative with their color choices.

    —connie b on February 18, 2015
  • I love using strips for so many patterns! They are so easy to use and there are lots of wonderful patterns out there!

    —Danette on February 20, 2015
  • I strip piece whenever possible. It goes so much faster.

    —Joanne on February 20, 2015
  • Another help is starching your fabrics. This gives stability in cutting and sewing. There are lots of products out there whether you shop in your local quilt store or your grocery store.

    —Shar on February 20, 2015
  • I’ve used strip piecing but have never used a jelly roll (yet – I have bought a couple to use in future).

    —Susan Meredith on February 20, 2015
  • I use strip piecing whenever I recognize at the outset that it can be used. Sometimes when I get mid-project I realize that it could have been strip pieced, but I didn’t recognize it in time….perhaps I need to focus more on the planning phase.

    —Pearl on February 20, 2015
  • I love strip piecing and have used the alternated sewing strips method for years. I discovered it on my own when my strips started to curve and I grabbed a strip and sewed it opposite to the others. What a difference it made!

    Shirt Sizing can be bought at a grocery store and Best Press; one only needs a little bit for smoothing fabric and giving it some "body". If you go to, you’ll find a recipe to make your own. I don’t use spray starch because of the white leftover residue.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on February 22, 2015
  • I have used strip piecing for several quilts, sometimes it doesn’t work for what I’m making. However, I think it’s a great method and time-saver!

    —Norma on February 23, 2015
  • Whenever possible I strip piece, it makes all my cutting and sewing a fast pace.

    —Chris on March 10, 2015
  • I strip piece whenever possible; it makes the construction so much faster and easier. And it’s a must for checkerboard or bargello quilts.

    —Linda Towers on March 13, 2015
  • I am a huge fan of strip piecing and use it whenever I can. It is a huge time saver and we all can use that to our best advantage.

    —Marge P on April 14, 2015
  • Love strip piecing..the possibilities are endless!

    —Linda P in IL on February 24, 2016
  • I have a bargello quilt kit. I’m sure the instructions are not complete. After you cut your strips and make your sleeves and cut them into pieces like bracelets, there are no instructions to stagger the colors to make the wavy design. Also there is a picture of the strip sets, do you use the strips long or do you use half of each and then place them to make part of the design. I really need more instructions as I only made one bargello table runner years ago in a class. I know this is not a comment but a PLEA FOR HELP. Hoping someone can help me, I will pray and hope for any help. That you Ellen Mulcahey Dec. 23, 1916

    —Ellen Mulcahey on December 23, 2016
  • Hi Ellen,
    There are several techniques for bargello. I’m not sure what yours calls for. You could see if there is contact information on the pattern for the designer, or check out one of our bargello books for complete instructions. Karen at Martingale

    —Karen Johnson on December 24, 2016

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