Strip Piecing Tutorial for Beginners

Strip piecing is a useful quilting technique that will help you finish your quilt tops quickly without spending hours cutting and piecing. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to do strip piecing to get the best results.

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Don’t you wish sometimes there would be a fast-forward button when piecing your quilt tops? We all love to sew, but there’s always the next project waiting, so we will never say no to speeding up the process, right?

Well, strip piecing is kind of just that – a great little quilting technique that can really help you piece your quilt tops quickly and accurately.

There are some really awesome classic quilt blocks and amazing patterns you can create using strip piecing. We’re actually just working on a new pattern that will be using lots of strip piecing. You’ll get a little glimpse of it in the tutorial below. 

So what do you say? Ready to go? Let’s dive right in!

What is Strip Piecing?

Strip piecing is a quilt piecing technique used in patchwork and quilting to speed up the process of creating quilt blocks.

Basically, when you do strip piecing you sew together (at least two) long strips of fabric to make a ‘strip set’. Next, you cut the strip sets apart into segments. Finally, you arrange the segments into layouts to form the desired quilt blocks.

Sounds complicated? It really isn’t, but there are some things you need to look out for to get the best results. We’ll look into that in a minute.

How to do Strip Piecing?

In this strip piecing tutorial for beginners, I will guide you through the basic steps of strip piecing. These steps are the same regardless of the pattern you are making. 
The difference between different patterns is in the width of the strips you will be using, the number of strips you need to sew together, and the size of the segments you will need to cut. However, the actual process is the same.

To show you the steps, I will be using a pattern that we came up with for a quilt a while ago. We used strip piecing for basically the whole block assembly. We used 2.5’’ fabric strips. Each block is made with two different fabrics, in this case, pink and white.

Required Tools for Strip Piecing:

– Sewing machine
– Rotary cutter
– Quilting rulers (preferably one large and one smaller, but whatever you have should do)
– Self-healing cutting mat

Required Materials for Strip Piecing

– Fabric (yardage or precut fabric strips)
– Thread

Strip Piecing Step By Step

Step 1: Choose Your Fabric

Depending on the design you are making, choose your fabric carefully. The patterns that use the strip piecing technique often work best with contrasting fabrics which really make the design stand out. Think about whether that is the case in your project and choose accordingly.
Decide whether you’ll be using yardage (which will require you to cut your strips before sewing them together) or precuts. Precut fabric strips, for example, jelly rolls and honey buns, can be a great time saver in this case, as the fabric is already cut into strips. If you’re following a specific pattern, make sure it calls for strips the exact width of the precuts you want to use.

Step 2: Cut Strips From Your Fabric

If using precut fabrics, skip this step, as you already have your strips ready to be sewn.
If using yardage, it’s very important to pay special attention to cutting your fabric strips from yardage. If you cut the strips unevenly or wonky, you’ll end up with uneven strip sets and ultimately, inaccurate quilt blocks. And we don’t want that.

Step 3: Sew Strips of Fabric Into Rows

Now that you’ve got your strips cut, it’s time to sew them into rows. These rows are also called strip sets.
You don’t need to worry too much about the beginnings and ends of the strips matching perfectly, because you will cut the uneven edges away. However, there are a few things you should look out for when sewing strips into rows to ensure you get even and straight rows.

Tip #1: Reverse the starting point for each new strip (for strip sets of three or more rows)
Alternate the starting point when you’re sewing each additional strip. For example, if you sew the first seam ‘from left to right’, sew the second one on ‘from right to left’. 
This will minimize the ‘bowing’ of the strip set. The bowing can happen because the sewing machine may feed the fabric just a taaad unevenly, which adds up along the long seam. If you reverse the starting point with each new seat, this will even out more or less.
Tip #2: Use a consistent scant ¼’’ seam
This is always important in piecing, but probably even more so in strip piecing. If your seam is too large (or too small, for that matter) or inconsistent, your strip sets will not be the right size, which can turn into a hot mess once you start cutting and assembling your segments.
The best way to ensure your seam is the right width is to make a test piece. Sew together a short strip set using the same width strips you need for the actual pattern. Press your seams (I always press to one side), and turn the strip set so the right side is facing up. 
Now, take a ruler and measure the widths of your strips. The very top and very bottom strips should be exactly ¼’’ narrower than your starting strip width. And the middle strip(s) (if you have three or more rows) should be exactly ½’’ narrower than the starting strip.
In my example, I am sewing together three 2.5’’ strips to form my strip sets. My top and bottom strip must be 2 ¼’’ wide and the middle strip must be 2’’ wide.
If your strips are narrower than needed, your seam is too wide. If they are wider than needed, the seam is too narrow. Adjust your seam accordingly and make another test strip to ensure it’s now just right.

Tip #3: Sew first, press last
I don’t really know the science behind this, but I promise you, you don’t want to press the seams after sewing each row. This can produce some serious bowing. Instead, sew all the rows you need for your strip set first, and then press all the seams in one go.

Tip #4: Working with pinked edges on precut strips
If working with precut strips, read our tips for working with pinked edges on precut fabrics in this article on precuts.

Step 4: Cut the strip sets into segments

After you’ve made your strip sets (or rows), it’s time to cut them into segments. Starting at one end of the strip set, first cut off the selvage edges of the rows. This will give you a nice straight edge as a starting point.
Now, cut the strip sets into segments of desired lengths. Place the ruler on top of the strip set and align the desired length mark on the ruler with the newly cut straight edge of the strip set. For additional accuracy, align the perpendicular lines on the ruler with the seams on the strip set. Cut using your rotary cutter.
Repeat to get the desired number of segments.

Step 5: Assemble your blocks

Here comes the fun part. Assemble your quilt blocks by putting together the cut segments as instructed in the pattern. Sew using a scant 1/4” seam.
Note: Very often, the pattern will call for additional fabric pieces to finish the quilt blocks. (Apart from the segments you just strip pieced and cut).
In my case, the pattern builds on the traditional 9-patch quilt block. By adding a few additional elements, it creates a whole new block.

Voila, dear friends! We’ve come to the end of this beginner strip piecing tutorial. I hope the steps are clear and you feel confident to try strip piecing on your own project.

And just in case you were wondering, how this quilt turned out, here it is. Strip pieced all the way!

Further Reading

Finish a Quilt in 5 steps

If you’re new to quilting and you’re overwhelmed with how to finish a quilt, here are the 5 basic steps with useful links:

  1. Choose backing for your quilt (we also show you how to calculate yardage here).
  2. Choose batting for your quilt.
  3. Baste the quilt.
  4. Quilt the quilt sandwich (either machine quilt it with a walking foot or hand quilt it).
  5. Make quilt binding and bind your quilt.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small comission if you make a purchase on any of the affiliated sites (with no additional cost to you). Learn more here.

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