Friday, May 29, 2009

How To Hand Sew a Rail Fence Block

I like handsewing. It's portable. It goes with me to softball games, orthodontist appointments, car rides. It calms me down. It helps me sit still and listen in meetings. It's social; I can do it while sitting with a group of people.

This is for dear Rosemary, who perseveres.

Rail Fence Block, 6" finished


Strips of fabric, each 2.5" x 6.5"
A good needle. I love John James needles.
A few pins.
Cotton thread.

Mark a sewing line:

Draw a scant 1/4" seam allowance on one strip. Use a sharp pencil(mechanical is best)to draw a line that is almost but not quite 1/4" from the edge.

Tip: Make one block, measure it, make sure it is finishing at 6.5". If it does not measure 6.5", adjust your seam allowance to be smaller or larger, as needed, and then mark more pieces. Sometimes a very small adjustment in the seam allowance makes all the difference!

Sew a seam:

Next, pin two of these strips together, right sides together. You will only see the wrong side of the fabric.

Using no more than 18" of thread, thread your needle and make a knot in one end. It's best if you make the knot in the end that you just cut. The twist of the thread flows smoothly, and there are less snaggles that way.

Sew along the line, with a running stitch. Simply push the needle through the fabric, bend it or rock it slightly, and bring it back up to the top again. Try to stay on the line as much as possible. Make your stitches as small as you can. As you get comfortable with this stitch, put the needle through the fabric two or three times before pulling the thread through.

Tip: Be careful not to pull the thread so hard that the fabric gathers.

My grandmother's tip: Every few inches, make a small back stitch before sewing forward. This makes an incredible strong seam.

Make a knot at the very end of the seam. Take a very small stitch, bring the needle to the top, and pull the thread until there is a small loop left. Put the needle through the loop and pull tight. Repeat.

Next, add the third strip to this unit:

This is what the wrong side will look like:

From the top side of the block, press the seams to one side. This is what it looks like on the back:

Check Block Size!

Take the time to do this step. Measure the block from side to side, across the seams. It should be 6.5" wide. If it is not, adjust the seam allowance on your next block.

This block did not measure 6.5"! It's too small. My seam allowances were drawn at exactly 1/4", and they are too large. The next block needs to have scant 1/4" seam allowances.

Tip: You don't need to get too obssessive about this. 6 and 3/8" works just fine, but 6 1/4" makes for a very small seam allowance that is not very strong.

This all matters when you start to sew all of the blocks together.

Sew two blocks together:

Mark a scant 1/4" seam allowance on one edge of a block, as shown:

Pin two blocks together, right sides together, perpendicular to each other, as shown.

This is what the blocks will look like when they are pinned together and ready to sew:

Sew the seam. As you are sewing across a seam allowance, lift up the seam allowance, and sew only on the block. Take a small stitch before crossing the seam allowance, shown below in a blury photo:

When you get to the other side of the seam allowance, take a small backstitch, as shown below: Continue sewing. This process makes the seam strong.

Here are two blocks sewn together:

Continue sewing rail fence blocks until you have a lovely quilt! Each block will be 6" x 6" after all the seams are sewn.

1 comment:

Stef said...

Testing, testing, testing 123!

About Me

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Sewing since I was 8...a friend of my grandmother's sent us a large box filled with fabric scraps. That was all it took!