Even though I have been quilting for over 15 years, I consider myself a hobby quilter and still a beginner.  So I would like to learn from those of you who I am sure have encountered this problem many times.  I cut out my pieces to the best of my ability and carefully, to the exact size.  I take care to handle the pieces without stretching them.  I try to sew carefully to an exact 1/4 inch seam and still I find that when I am putting blocks or rows together, one inevitably comes out a tiny bit longer than the other and causes a pucker when I sew them together.  I have read that one solution is to trim the larger piece, but what if that causes a ripple effect for the next joining I do with that piece?  When does it end?  Am I to re-measure all the pieces before joining them?  Please help!!! What do you do to solve this puckering problem?  Sherryl

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I do not consider myself a "precise" piecer, but to solve your problem, the one that is just a tad bit longer I trim down.  No, it will not cause a ripple effect for any other piece if it is the only one that seems to be the issue.  We can be so precise and measure twice, cut once, measure again, sew again, but sometimes there is just the one that is the issue.  I find when this happens to me, it is generally because I did not get it right by just a slight movement of the ruler or I did not match my seams up somewhere and they are uneven.  Also, on my older Singer, I found that if I did not pin every piece, yep every piece, that the feed dogs would pull the bottom fabric faster than the top.  With my new Bernina, that is not an issue.  Something to look at also.  Pinning is not something I like to do, but it can save headaches as well.

Thanks so much for the reply.  Unfortunately, on my latest quilt it was not just the one piece.  In fact in some rows it seems like it is most or all of the blocks!  Sometimes I think I need to take a beginning quilting class (I am self-taught using a very good book.) to see where I am going wrong.  I do pin when I am joining blocks or rows, but often not when I am assembling individual block pieces since they are usually just a couple of inches long.  Could that be it?  Does it matter how you would pin small pieces together?  Horizontal to the needle or vertical?  Thanks, Sherryl

it's all in the piecing. sometimes fabric slips or crawls during seam line stitching. i pin, in fact in one of the quilt groups i am in, i am the only one who pins as i sew. i really think it helps a lot w accuracy. i measure every block before i join together into a row. that helps w too long issue also, you'll know right away if you have a block that might be a little oversize. redo it or trim it down if that won't interfere w points etc.

Thanks for your reply.  I do pin except when I am joining two pieces of a block.  When I sew together rows or blocks I put two pins on either side of a seam.  That makes almost 100% of my points/corners meet where they should but also leads to the puckers.  I guess I will just have to measure and re-measure!  Sherryl

Your description sounds like me--quilting for 15 years and still a beginner.

Here are four ideas for you:

  1. Keep your outer edges on the straight of grain. I improvised a design one time and ended up with bias edges on the outside of my blocks, which made them stretchy. Be sure you are using the straight of grain the right way when you cut fabric.

  2. Check that you are actually sewing a 1/4-inch seam. You can find lots of ways to do that online, and this one explains why to check it every time you sew: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvmX8hBbgug. For example, even changing the position of your chair can throw off that measurement.

  3. Measure at every step. Measure that your cut pieces are the right size and that each block has finished at the proper size. That will help identify where the problem may be.

  4. Adjust for tiny variations. If I'm sewing two rows that ended up a little different in length (not by whole inches), I pin any key intersections (where seams or points should meet. Then I sew with the longer piece on bottom so the feed dogs help take up the difference. "Baggy on bottom" is the way I've heard this fix described.

One more thing I recently learned about making seams line up perfectly is a bit challenging to describe, but I'll try. You have two pieces with seams pressed in opposite directions and "nested" together, perhaps even pinned to keep them lined up. Feed that into your sewing machine so the one on top has the opening (seam allowance) toward the needle, and the one underneath has the opening toward you. Apparently that helps those seams lock together. Also, if you don't do it that way, sometimes the seam allowance underneath gets folded over as it feeds through the machine.

I hope everyone's answers help you. We'd love to know if something works to solve the problem.

Thanks so much.  I'll just have to try harder to keep everything sized correctly. Sherryl

Hi Sherryl,

It sounds like you have a pretty good system started. The only thing I can contribute to what everyone has already said, is to square up your blocks after you have finished piecing them. I've found that many people skip this step and end up frustrated due to the problems you've noted. To square up your blocks, do the following:

1. After you've pieced all the blocks for your quilt, measure each individual block. They should all measure the same but are usually within 1/8" of each other. If you have blocks that are more than 1/4" off, I suggest checking your seam allowances.

2. Take the most consistent measurement and square up all the other blocks to that size. A square ruler is best for doing this. You may need to re-sew any rogue blocks that are smaller than the rest.

3. Sew your blocks into rows using a consistent 1/4" seam. Your rows should fit together nicely.

Ex. 25 Block Quilt with 10.5" unfinished blocks.

- 5 blocks measure 10.5" (desired size)

- 18 blocks measure 10.25" (consistent size)

- 2 blocks measures 10" (rogues Ugh)

10.25" is your most consistent block size. First, I would square up the 10.5" blocks by taking a sliver off each side until it measures 10.25" (use a square ruler). Next re-sew the two 10" blocks, then square them to 10.25" to match the others. Lastly, sew your 10.25" blocks into rows using a consistent 1/4" seam.

I hope this helps, there are YouTube videos that probably explain this better. If you already do this, please disregard my impromptu squaring session LOL Happy Quilting!

Thanks for the info.  I am sure this will help.  If I want it perfect guess this is what I'll have to do:)  I just thought maybe there was something I wasn't doing or doing correctly when I first made up the blocks, something I was missing about putting it all together.  Looks like its just plain ol' human error even though I think I am being so careful when I cut and piece.  Sherryl

The only thing I can add to all this excellent advise is always press your fabric before you cut any pieces. I have also found starching to be very helpful on some fabrics.

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