To find the other Polaroid Sew-Along posts and tutorials, please head over to the Polaroid Sew-Along Page!
In my last post I gave you a very thorough run down on the pieces needed to make individual blocks. Although this is a great way to use up scraps and various cuts that you may have laying around, it isn’t the most efficient way to piece these blocks. Not only does it take more time to individually cut the strips and piece the polaroids, it also creates a lot of waste. If you know that you are going to be making a lot of these blocks (and by “a lot” I mean more than say… 5 or 10), then you may want to consider chain piecing them. Be aware, this is not your average chain piecing! I recommend chain piecing them on an uncut strip.
I know what you are thinking. “What is this magic that you speak of?! Uncut strips?”
It isn’t really anything too spectacular, but it will allow you to squeeze one or two more blocks out of each strip of fabric!
Strip Piecing Explained
One of the first things we learn when we tackle a larger quilting project that works with yardage is efficient cutting. We take our yardage and cut it into strips of a certain width, and this width is determined by the size pieces that you need. In our case, the sides and the top of our polaroids are 1″ wide, so we would cut out a bunch of 1″ strips. Once you have your strips cut, you then sub-cut these strips to create rectangles, squares, or whatever type of unit you’ll be working with to create your block. In our polaroid blocks, we have 1″ strips that are both 2.5″ long and 4.5″ long, so we would then sub-cut those 1″ strips down to those sizes.
For the method I am going to be describing today, we are going to skip the step where we sub-cut. This means that we are going to cut 1″ strips, and then we are going to sew our fussy cut blocks to those nice and long 1″ strips. If you are using Fat Quarters, you will be cutting 1″ x 22″ strips. If you are using yardage (a 1/2 yard or larger), you will be cutting strips that are 1″ x WOF.
How many strips you cut is determined by
- How many polaroids you can squeeze onto your strip
- How many polaroids you are planning on sewing for your project
Strip Piecing with Polaroids
Piecing with Strips
First, decide which side of your fussy cut squares you are going to be sewing. For the sake of this guide, I’m going to be sewing onto the right side of my squares. We are going to call the polaroid that you are sewing on the “active polaroid.”
Note: For some reason, I just feel more comfortable with my strip on top and my fussy cuts on the bottom, as the whole system just runs more smoothly this way for me. If you feel more comfortable having your strip on the bottom and the fussy cut squares on top, then go for it!
Step 1: Cut a 1″ strip the width of your fabric. Head to your machine.
Step 2: Take one of your fussy cut centers, and line it up so that the edge of your 1″ strip is nice and straight with the right side of your square. Begin sewing, back stitching as desired.
Step 3: Before you get to the end of the block, stop sewing with your needle in the down position on the active polaroid. Grab another one of your fussy cut squares, and line it up as you did with the previous step. Note: You can get the bottom edge of your active polaroid preeeeeetty close to the top edge of the polaroid that is next in line to be sewn. You want to make sure that these squares are not overlapping, and that you have enough space to cut when you are finished sewing the strip, so you be the judge of how close you want them!
Step 4: Continue sewing on the active polaroid, back stitching when you get to the end. As it is being fed through your machine, guide the next polaroid along until it is under your needle and it becomes the active polaroid! Make sure to back stitch after the transition from one polaroid to the other.
Step 5: Continue in this manner, stopping with your needle down on your active polaroid, adding the next polaroid in line, sewing, and then back stitching when you transition to the next in line.
So by using this method, you can sew one strip and see how many polaroids you can comfortably jam on to it. Count up how many polaroids you have left, and divide that number by how many you fit onto your first strip. Round up! Then add one more strip to use for the other side of your test strip.
For example: Say I can fit 17 fussy cut squares on one strip, and I have 25 more fussy cuts to sew. I know that I will need 2 more strips for the rest of the fussy cuts. That is just for the right side, so I’m going to double 2 to 4 in order to have enough strips for the left and right side of each fussy cut square.
Separating the Polaroids
Now you need to separate your polaroids off of the strip. It is important to do this step before you head to your ironing board. When your pieces are unpressed, you can trip the strip using an already existing square edge by lining up the ruler with that straight edge. If you press your piece open first, you run the risk of pressing the strip out of shape and causing the strip to get a bit wonky on the block. Also, it is more difficult to cut a square line on the side of the block like this because you are extending the line off of an already cut piece, which happens to be pretty tiny, if that makes sense? It may save time to press that seam first and then separate the polaroids, but from experience I know that I have a higher chance of having nice straight and square lines by cutting first (and using the already existing line of the fussy cut block) and pressing second.
Step 1: Lay your newly sewn strip onto your cutting table so that the strip is on the table and your fussy cut squares are facing up.
Step 2: Take your ruler and line it up with the edge of the first fussy cut square. Use the edge of the square as your guide and cut the strip in line with it. This will separate the first polaroid from the strip.
Step 3: Move on to the next polaroid.
TIP: You are going to have a little bit of fabric on the left side of your block – this is the fabric that was between the first and second block. I like to ignore this little tab of fabric for now (see above) and cut all of the same sides of my blocks in one go. This makes things go nice and fast as it is a repetitive motion. I pile all of my blocks to the side as I go down the line, which allows me to only have to turn the pile once to remove the remaining tabs, instead of doing each block one at a time.
Trim the right side of the fussy cut square in the same manner as the first polaroid you separated (image below).
Move the squares into a pile as you work down the line.
Step 4: Continue down your strip until all blocks have been trimmed.
Step 5: Flip your pile around and begin trimming any overhang on the other side of the block.
At this point, I then return to piecing as apposed to pressing. I like to do all of the same action in groups to save time. So I will flip my block and begin sewing the side opposite of the side I just sewed to strips using the same piecing method as above.
Once all of those sides are sewn in place, I will once again trim the blocks, first cutting the right side and piling up the squares, and then flipping the whole pile and trimming off that extra little tab that is left over.
Pressing the Polaroids
Once both of my sides are sewn, I press my block with my seams towards the outside frame. I pressed my seams this way more for aesthetics than anything else, as I think the loft from pressing the seam to the side adds a little bit of dimension to the block and makes it look more like the fussy cut center is framed by the border.
TIP: Start by pressing your polaroids with the fussy cut square facing up. Gently open up each side and push down with your iron with steam.
TIP Con’t: At this point, flip your polaroid over, and press it one more time with the right side of the fussy cut block facing down. After you press it with steam, let it cool in place on your ironing board. Doing this will help keep the sides from flipping back up!
When my sides are nice and flat, I need to sew another 1″ strip to the top.
I’m going to use the same method as I did above, sewing along the strip and adding the next polaroid as I near the end of the active polaroid taking extra care to make sure that the seams I pressed are being sewn to the correct side when I pass over them. Once I get to the end of my strip, I can see how many polaroids I have left and calculate how many more 1″ strips I will need. I know that the number of strips I needed all together for the 1″ strip at the top is the same number of strips that I will need for the 1.5″ strip at the bottom!
Before I return to my ironing board, I make sure that I have all top and bottom strips sewn onto my blocks, and all of the extra bits of overhanging strips trimmed off. Now you properly trim your polaroid to size.
If you need guidance on trimming your blocks, refer to the detailed instructions in this post! Feel free to ask any questions here in the comments, on Instagram, or in my new Tea & Brie Community Group Page on Facebook!
Happy Sewing, Friends!