Saturday, January 4, 2014

Set-in Piecing Simplified

Yes, you read that right -- set-in piecing (you know, y-seams) simplified.  I now offer a downloadable PDF teaching guide so you can learn this technique in the comfort of your own sewing space!

For those of you who haven't already heard the story, let me give the background of this convergence of tools, desire, and a great technique!

For the past 8 years, I've been working with Marti Michell as a certified educator for her wonderful line of rotary cutting templates and tools.  In the spring of 2011, I taught a set-in piecing workshop in Watertown, NY for 20 gals from the local quilt guild.  The project was my Jelly Stars tablemat and the tool for the workshop was a new set of Marti Michell's templates, the 2 1/2" Stripper Set, designed to use with "jelly roll" strips. 

This popular class introduces students to how Marti's templates improve accuracy with set-in designs.  At the end of my first stitching demo, I confessed that the most challenging part of set-in piecing for me was all the "start and stop" stitching but there was no other way and so one must learn to be patient and look forward to good results.

It was a large group and I was on the move constantly, making sure everyone was staying on track, clarifying the fine points of matching, and enjoying their progress and fabric combinations.  I paused at the machine of one student -- it appeared that she was "chain-piecing" and of course, we all know one can't chain-piece with set-in seams. 

Well, I was wrong and boy am I glad that Mary O'Keefe was in my workshop because she shared her discovery with me and it lit a fire in me!!  Her technique (which I think occurred to her during the workshop) and my enjoyment of teaching with Marti's templates and all the current interest in hexagons and 60 degree diamonds have converged to ignite a firestorm of activity for me.  Just look at some of the pieces I've done since that workshop as I perfect and teach this technique to quilters.

First there was the scrappy tumbling blocks -- I've always loved this design and now piecing it is as simple as making 4-patches (no kidding).

Then I decided to try the technique out on a pile of hexagons -- these are 2" and used the large hexagon in Marti Michell's Set G.

Now I was ready to teach the technique (with Mary's blessing) and designed this large scale piece using the Multi-size Diamond and Multi-size Hexagon tools to make 4" tumbling blocks and hexagons with a great focus fabric.

At that point, I discovered Kerry Dear's now famous Candied Hexagons which is inspiring so many quilters around the world -- she did that with Marti's first set of hexagon and companions templates in 2005.  So I went to work with Set H playing with 6-pointed star possibilities. 

It's bright and busy, but it was so much fun to make!  I scored the border fabric on a teaching trip to Colorado in August of 2012 and it inspired the fabric pull from my stash when I got home.  By January of 2013, it was ready to enter in the regional quilt show (where it won a ribbon - yeah!!) at Lake Farmpark in Kirtland, Ohio. 

I'm currently finishing up this more subdued sampler of 6-pointed stars and relatives.  As I finished each phase of this quilt, I'm still amazed by how much easier set-in piecing has become for me thanks to Mary's insight.  Plus the accuracy I achieve using Marti's templates is remarkable.

And this is my current "sew-off" project as I work toward reproducing the old mosaic quilt in the photographs using 1" hexagons pieced by machine with the technique included in my teaching guide, Set-In Piecing Simplified.

The Set-In Piecing Simplified teaching guide is based on a year and a half of teaching and testing the best way to teach it to all levels of quilters -- beginning to advanced.  In it, I cover cutting and marking the pieces with Marti's templates (there are a half dozen options).  The demonstration project is tumbling blocks and I cover the sewing from piecing the basic units to setting them together in a quilt.  (You can order a downloadable PDF from my Etsy Shop by clicking on my face up there at the top of the right side column!)

If you love the look of hexagons and 6-pointed stars, tumbling blocks, and 8-pointed stars (the technique works for those just as well) -- you need to learn this technique.  And if you need more ideas for working with those shapes, you can follow me on Pinterest.   Once you view the video and practice the technique, you'll soon be wondering why you thought it was difficult to stitch y-seam blocks.

Because piecing should be fun!!

Mary Huey

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