The WWQP How-To's

Speed Piecing Basics

Speed piecing is a technique in which larger pieces of fabric are first sewn together then cut to the size required for quilt block. By using this technique, and rotary cutting, the quilter can piece blocks more quickly and with greater accuracy.

Speed Piecing Squares and Rectangles

The easiest speed piecing involves involves piecing blocks or block sections composed of squares or rectangles. The general procedure is to calculate the finished width of a square and add 1/2" for seam allowances. Strips of fabric of this width are cut and are sewn together using a 1/4" seam allowance and the seam is pressed to one side. The edge of this pieced strip is squared, then the strip is cut into pieces that are the same width as the original strips. These pieces are now rearranged as indicated by the block pattern and are sewn together using a 1/4" seam allowance.

Four Square Speed Piecing Example

This example demonstrates the piecing of a 4", finished size, four square block section.
  1.  Calculate the width of the strips to cut. 2" finished square size + 1/2" seam allowance = 2 1/2" cut strip. Cut one strip of this width from each of the fabrics.

  2.  Sew these two strips together using a 1/4" seam allowance and press the seam allowance to one side. The strips should be 4 1/2" wide.

  3.  Square the end of the sewn strip being sure to remove the selvedge from the fabrics. Now, cut the strip into pieces 2 1/2" by 4 1/2".

  4.  Take two of the cut pieces and turn one of the pieces over so the different fabrics are opposite each other. Sew the pieces together using a 1/4" seam allowance and press the seam to one side. The finished block should measure 4 1/2".
To create blocks or block sections containing rectangles, calculate the finished length of the rectangle plus 1/2" for seam allowances and cut the pieced strip into pieces of the measurement. More than one strip can be joined initially to create other block patterns such as Nine Patch. The quilter should analyze the block pattern being pieced to see if the technique is appropriate and, if so, how to implement it.

Speed Piecing Right Triangles

  Right triangles, also alled half triangles, are composed of a square cut in half on the diagonal. Many quilt block patterns call for two right triangles to be joined together to form a square.

Steps for Right Triangle Piecing

  1. First calculate the finished size of the pieced square. To the measurement, add 7/8" for seam allowances. For example, 4" finished sized + 7/8" = 4 7/8" width of strip to cut.

  2. Cut one fabric strip this width from each fabrics.

  3.  Square one end of each fabric strip being sure to remove the fabric selvedge. Now, on the back of the lighter fabric strip, draw a line the same distance as the width of the strip from the squared strip end. In the example this would be 4 7/8". This should create a perfect square. Continue drawing lines the distance apart down the the fabric strip until the required number of squares has been drawn. Note: Each square will result in TWO pieced squares so if the pattern calls for four right triangles in each color to be pieced together, the quilter must draw two squares on the fabric strip.

  4.  Next, draw a line dividing each square in half on the diagonal. Draw the dividing line so that they are in opposite directions on each square.

    Instead of drawing on your fabric, you can also use Easy Piecing Triangle Templates

  5.  Carefully place the lighter colored strip on top of the darker colored strip with the right sides of the fabic together and the edges in alignment. Sew 1/4" away from each of the diagonal lines.

  6.  Cut the strip apart on each of the marked lines. In the example, this will result in four squares composed of two right triangles measuring 4 1/2". Press the seam allowance to one side.

Speed Piecing Quarter Triangles

  Another common piece used in quilt block construction is the quarter triangle. A quarter triangle is formed by a square cut in half twice on the diagonal. Many blocks use quarter triangles joined together to form right triangles in their construction. The steps to speed piece quarter triangles is very similar to those of speed piecing right triangles with the following exceptions:

There are many different way to speed piece quilt blocks than those described here. The quilter interested in speed piecing techniques should check one of the many books on this technique currently available.
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