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To hand piece, or not to hand piece

I have a confession to make.  I'm a perfectionist when it comes to my sewing.  Which is surprising given I'm not at all a perfectionist when it comes to my house.  I guess I'm kind of like my kids - I love making messes, but cleaning them up?  Not so muchMyers-Briggs blame it on my personality type.

Being the fussy sew-er that I am, I enjoy hand stitching when its results are superior to stitching by machine.  For example, my machine-sewn quilt bindings are awful.  So, I hand stitch them.  Most Oliver + S patterns call for some hand stitching on the finishing and the results are perfection.  I'm a stickler for good finishing, maybe because I learned to sew on Oliver + S patterns.  I also like hand embroidery to add special detail (like here and here).  The irregularities in the stitches add that charm  Dan talks about, and I prefer this look to the perfect stitches of the machine.

This said, I was not at all happy with my hand stitching on my storm at sea blocks.  When I saw the crisp, sharp, machine-pieced versions on the class Flickr group, I wished I knew how to machine paper piece.  I mentioned that when I commented on this gorgeous block, and its designer suggested I check out YouTube.  Brilliant, I tell you!  I could not figure out machine paper piecing based on written tutorials.   If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this video is worth 10,000.  As it turns out machine paper piecing is easy.  And it's a lot of fun.  It reminds me of putting a puzzle together.  (I like puzzles!).  When you cut away the excess fabric and the block is revealed, it's a pleasant surprise every time.  (I love surprises, too!).

I showed Dan the two blocks - one machine pieced and one hand pieced - and we compared them side by side.  He agreed that the machine pieced one looked much nicer and more precise than my handstitched version. 

 Hand pieced block -

wah wah 

Machine pieced blocks -

I asked if I should re-do my hand-pieced blocks.  He said yes.  That's one of the reasons I love this guy.  I can count on him to be truthful with me, even when it means I have to start over.

My quilt now looks like this.

I think I'm about half way done.  Now I'm going to break for some garment sewing.  I mean it this time!


  1. I really like the colors you've put together. They look really great! And it's so great to have a second opinion that's totally honest. Even though it means a do-over. It looks wonderful!

  2. Thanks so much! Yes, it's great. I have to admit, I was holding my breath a little when I asked him about redoing my blocks. I was hoping he'd say my hand piece blocks were okay. But I'm glad he was honest and in the end was very happy I re-did them.

  3. I am trying to machine piece my blocks, too. I can get the first individual book pieced, but once I go to piece the diamond block, I start to have issues. I you piece the four individual blocks that make up the larger block separately, or did you do them all at once. How did you do them? This is my first paper pieced project, and I'm getting confused!

  4. Amy, it was my first paper pieced project, too! :) I first pieced each of the four blocks separately, before sewing them into one larger block. The machine piecing you tube video tutorial I watched said to cut a 1/4" seam allowance around each block. (I linked to this awesome video in my post above. It was the only thing that made machine paper piecing make sense to me!) When it came time to piece the larger block, I pinned two of the smaller blocks together (the diamond + the small square, for example), matching seams and points as best as I could, using a scant 1/4" seam allowance and taking care to preserve the points as my machine passed them. When I had two pairs of two blocks pieced (one diamond and one small square + one diamond and one larger square), I then joined them together to create the one larger block, again using a scant 1/4" seam allowance and trying my best to match seams and points. Does this make sense? If not, I'm happy to clarify. :)
    Good luck! Once you get the hang of it, it's super fun... and impressive, too! :)

  5. I am not that much of a perfectionist, so I would probably go with machine piecing, but I have to admit, your hand piecing looks absolutely perfect - it even has a slightly different texture and appearance, it's softer somehow. Beautiful.

  6. Thanks so much. You are right that the look is much softer. The machine pieced version is sharper, crisper with more dimension. Hand pieced is definitely softer - that is a great observation!

  7. WOW! You are a perfectionist as I think your hand stitched blocks look great! But there is a difference and the machine pieced blocks look so crisp and clean. Too late to redo mine! : )


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