The Basics


The instructions for the daily block patterns will assume you are competent with the following quilting basics. Use the time before the 365 Challenge begins to ensure that you are up-to-speed. If you have problems, ask the Facebook Page group; there are many experienced and knowledgeable quilters working right along-side you!

Istruzioni Italiano
kindly translated by Lilliana Soli of Fantasy Quilt.

Follow the links for additional information.

Technique Description
Rotary Cutting Using a rotary cutter and cutting mat safely and effectively
Your Sewing Machine You need to be able to use and troubleshoot your sewing machine; I can offer no assistance with this
Pressing Matters Pressing vs ironing; ‘setting’ seams; pressing seams towards the dark fabric; using an ‘ironing plan’; using starch; blocking
The ¼” Seam Producing a perfect scant ¼” seam
Using Strips Cross-cutting joined strips for fast piecing
Butting Seams Butting seams to ensure your “points meet”
Chain Piecing Piecing without cutting the thread between units to save time and thread; and prevent ‘mangling’ by your feed dogs

Rotary Cutting

Information about the safe use and care of your rotary cutter and mat is available at Follow the links to specific information:
Rotary Cutter Use and Care
Rotary Blade Safety, Use and Disposal
Rotary Mat Use and Care

Consult the instructions for your particular brand of rotary cutter for information about changing the blades.

Just a note on ruler care: make your cuts towards the corner of your rulers (see the arrows in the diagram below). This avoids chipping the corners of your rulers and keeps them sharp and accurate.

ruler care
Chipped Ruler

The ¼” Seam

All the blocks in the 365 Challenge use the standard quilter’s scant ¼” seam. This means that seams are sewn one thread’s width less than ¼”, to allow for the fold in the seam.

As the blocks increase in difficulty, and the number of seams escalates, the accuracy of your scant ¼” seam will make the difference between a block that finishes the correct size, and one that doesn’t. There are hundreds of blocks to join; you want them to go together with minimum angst.

I highly recommend using the special ¼” seam foot that comes with your sewing machine, or can be purchased as an accessory. I have found, though, that even using the specialty foot, the seams can diverge from ¼” quite a bit. It’s worth getting to know your particular foot, and exactly where to guide it.

Check your seam:
From scrap quilting fabric, cut two strips 1″ x approximately 6½”. Join them with your seam.

Cut approximately 2″ units from the pair of strips (you might want to look at the next section if you are unsure how to do this). Now join them:

seam test

After joining, the width of the unit should be 3½”. Adjust your seam until you can reliably produce the correct seam.

Other notes:
1. Stitch length: choose a stitch length of about 2.2 – 2.5mm. Too tiny and it’s too hard to unpick!
2. There is usually no need to reverse over the beginning and end of a seam (or use a lock-off stitch), as you would in dressmaking. Seams in patchwork are oversewn later, usually perpendicular to the original seam, and then secured with quilting. Also, they don’t have to withstand the rigours of day-to-day washing, and they lie flat, without the stresses of wearing. However, if a seam is not oversewn, it is a good idea to reverse over it at the beginning and ending: see mitred corners for an example.

Stripping Off

If you have a lot of similar units to produce, it’s often easier to do some of the joining before the cutting! It is a fast technique for repetitive joining, used to quickly piece Four Patches and Nine Patches, or any block with rectangular or square units.

Cut strips of each fabric:

Join them along the long edge with a scant ¼” seam.

Press the seam towards the darkest fabric. Tidy the ends of the pair of strips, so that you are starting with a right angle.
Cut units across the strips:

strips 2

cross cut

A selection of units, ready to piece

Butting Seams

To obtain perfectly matched points and corners it is necessary to “butt” seams as you sew over them.

Iron the seams so they lie in opposite directions for the two units to be joined. Bring the seams together:

butt seams 1

Press the seams together with your fingers, you will actually feel them “lock” together. If you are new to quilting, secure the two units with a pin.

butt seams 2

Although every sewing machine manufacturer will hate me, I sew the new seam with the pin in place.

Sewing in the direction of the arrow will “force” the seams together. The feed-dogs of the sewing machine will hold the bottom layer, and the direction of sewing will drive the top layer up against the “butted” seam.

Chain Piecing

This just means that you insert the next units to be sewn under the presser foot of your sewing machine as soon as a unit already in the machine clears the needle. The photos explain it:

chain 2

string 3

This technique has the following benefits:
* it saves time
* it saves thread

Additionally, there is no need to hold the threads behind the needle taut, as you would when starting a normal seam. Holding the threads taut prevents the fabric being caught in the feed dogs and ‘mangled’.

In fact, whenever you are sewing, especially with tiny pieces, you can use the principle of chain piecing. A good friend uses a piece of ‘waste fabric’ to begin every seam; she butts the ‘waste fabric’ against the seam, sews across the ‘waste fabric’ and directly into the seam.