Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Joining modules

About a year ago Amy Pabst, one of my blog readers, wrote to say she was inspired by my striped fine line quilts and wanted to make one.  She said, "I am a fairly traditional quilter who tends to follow patterns rigidly and I find your improv-looking blocks and grout to be somewhat of a challenge when I try to think how I would make it myself.  Any info at all would help!"

We've been corresponding back and forth and recently she sent me photos of her design wall full of little striped modules.  She wrote: "I have quite a few modules now, and they all have square edges but very few are the same size. Do you have any tips on how to get them to all fit together?  I'm a little worried about this part."

Yes, this is the hard part!!  Making modules, whether in my fine line technique or in any other piecing approach, is easy, but getting everything to fit is tricky.  I thought maybe a fast tutorial would be helpful not just to Amy but to others.

The first step is to pick low-hanging fruit, if you want.  Assuming you don't have a specific way you want your modules to go together, spread them all out and see whether you have any two edges that are the same size.  If so, sew them together.

If not, or if you want to join two particular modules that are not the same size, here's how.

These two are almost the same size.  You could simply sew them together and chop off a half-inch from the right-hand module to make a straight bottom edge.  But a half-inch strip isn't big enough to be re-used, and if you're a frugal (cheap) sewist like me, you hate the thought of throwing away any of your precious pieced work.

So  let's make them both the same size by addition, not subtraction.  Sew a relatively narrow strip onto the larger module.

Now add an extremely wide strip onto the other module.  Sew the two modules together and trim straight across.  This leaves you with a wide enough leftover bit to incorporate into another module, and you don't have to waste any fabric at all!

To  use this approach with strip set "fabrics", such as those I'm using, you should not cut your entire batch of fabric into narrow strips to begin with.  Sure, cut some narrow strips to sew together into modules, but leave some wider chunks to use for filling out modules.

Eventually, of course, the modules are going to keep getting bigger and bigger, because every time you join two modules you'll add strips.  You'll then have to make your strip sets wider so you can get long enough bits to sew to your larger modules.  And your ever-increasing chunks of sewed-together fabric are going to grow quickly toward the end.

But that's OK -- the whole point of this construction method is to start with small bits and make them bigger and bigger until you get a whole quilt out of the deal.

I hope this inspires some of you readers to go spend some time at the sewing machine and be alone with yourself and some nice music -- excellent therapy to recover from the hectic holidays.

Next week: update from Amy.


  1. great tutorial and tips
    from a sunny northern ireland

  2. tutorial is great but better yet is the coloration of these strips, peaceful, restful, love the colors

    from cold Port Townsend, WA

  3. Yes, it is fascinating to see how you do it.....that making bigger trick is going to come in handy when I start putting together one of my improv pieces as I hated the thought of shaving off any dabs to make them fit. Brilliant!!!! Thank you!!!!!