Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Tute: Keep Track of Your Quilt Layout

Nicole of Mama Love Quilts recently posted How Do You Keep Track When Piecing?  I made a very long comment, trying to explain how I keep my blocks in order when putting together a quilt top.  I'm not sure anyone would be able to understand the method based on my comment, so here is a tutorial on The Barb Shie Method, or "Keep Track of Your Quilt Layout."

Barb used to own a shop here in Colorado Springs called the Nine Patch; she now teaches classes at Ruth's Stitchery.  Since she explained The Barb Shie Method, I never have trouble mixing up my block layout between the design wall and the sewing machine!

1.  Arrange all the blocks on your design wall, floor or tabletop.  My quilt is 9 rows across by 7 down (because my design wall is wider than it is long). 

2.  We will be picking up (in this case) columns of seven from the left.  Flip each block of the second column on top of the block to its left in the first column. 

3.  Starting at the upper left, pick up each set of two blocks and put it on top of the next set of two blocks below it.  Be sure you don't rotate the blocks as you pick them up.  Carry the stack to the sewing machine, holding fast to the top side of the blocks.  I recite "top top top" as I walk to the machine.

4.  Pick up the two top blocks (they should already be right sides together) and sew them together along the right-hand side. Do not cut your threads at the end of the block. Chain piece, sewing each set of two blocks together without cutting your thread between until you reach the bottom of the stack.

5.  Return to the design wall and pick up the next column of blocks -- singly this time.  Starting at the top of the column, place each block on top of the next one down the column.  If you put a pin in the top of the blocks, it will be less likely that you'll forget which is the top edge.

6. Again, starting at the top of the column, sew the first block on your new stack to the right hand block at the top of the already-sewn column of two.  Continue to add a new block to the previous two sewn-together blocks until you reach the bottom of the stack.

Here are the first three columns sewn together and opened out.  Notice the threads between blocks are not cut!

7.  Here is the fourth stack of blocks ready to sew to the previous three columns.  I usually don't cut the thread at the bottom of the column until I have brought the next stack of blocks to the machine.  That way I don't get confused as to which block is the top of the previous column.

8.  By the time four columns are sewn together, the quilt is starting to get unwieldy.  I "accordion fold"  the rows back-to-front on top of each other so they don't get twisted, then unfold the stack as I add each new block to end of the row.

9.  Continue until all columns are sewn together. At this point, we've chain-pieced all the vertical seams only.

Here's a closeup so you can see the threads still are not cut!

10.  NOW we can cut the rows apart.  Start with the top row and cut the threads that join it to the second row.  Press the seams on this row to the right. Place this row face down on your cutting table or next to your sewing machine.  Continue clipping threads and pressing rows in alternate directions to the bottom row.  Place each pressed row face down on top of the stack of previously pressed rows.

Remember:  Odd numbered rows press to the right, even numbered rows press to the left.  

This will make the seams nest together as you sew the horizontal rows. I don't usually pin the rows together, but with a quilt this big it might be easier.

11. Flip the stack of rows right side up.  Pick up the first two rows and sew the horizontal seam all the way across.  Continue for all rows . . . .

And . . . ta da, finished top #18 for 2012!  Shortcake by Cluck Cluck Sew, Fabric is Moda Strawberry Fields.


  1. Thanks for mentioning my post, Marti!
    It was great to see your photos of your technique. Great idea!

  2. I love that quilt too. im getting so inspired looking through all your quilts, i may be lockd in the sewing room shortly


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