Mosaic Piecing Tutorial

First off on this Monday morning, I wanted to tell you that I’m *definitely* participating in Project Selvage.You’ve heard of it by now I’m sure, but Spoonflower and Michael Miller are teaming up to find the next fabric designer for Michael Miller fabrics. It’s very exciting, but I think the theme (Baby Boy) is pretty challenging! I already have ideas swimming around in my little brain.

What I really want to talk to you about today is the mosaic quilt that I’ve been making. I actually have it AND it’s partner quilt — a second quilt based on the same photograph — ready to have the binding hand-stitched to the back. I don’t have any photos to share with you right now, but I thought it might be nice to post a tutorial on how I did the piecing.

I spent HOURS arranging all these little 2″ squares, and I was concerned that I would make myself crazy trying to keep them all straight as I was piecing the quilt, so I devised this little plan and wanted to share it with you.

Mosaic Piecing Tutorial

In order to keep the order and orientation of the pieces straight while I was piecing them, I used a masking tape system that worked out great. I put a tiny piece of masking tape on each of the 20 squares in the first row. Each piece of masking tape had a little folded over tab at the top that made it easy to take off later. I put the labels in the centers of the squares (approximately) to keep them out of the way of the stitching. I could easily tell which way was right-side up, because the little tabs were at the top.

Masking tape works great because 1) it isn’t very tacky so it doesn’t leave weird residue on the fabric, 2) it’s tacky enough to stay put for the time you need it to stay put and to reuse multiple times, and 3) it’s cheap.

Here’s a close-up of the masking tape labels.

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And here’s the first row all labeled up.

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Once the row was labeled, I moved it over to my ironing board that sits next to my sewing machine.

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I sewed all the squares for this quilt together using chain piecing, which requires you to just keep sewing between the pairs and not cut the seams. You should check that your machine is okay with this before you do it (my Viking doesn’t mind a bit). Also, I always start and end on a scrap so that I only really start sewing one time. This saves a lot of time and eliminates a lot of problems that can occur at the beginning of your stitching.

Here you can see my starter scrap in the back — the little yellow piece with multiple lines of stitching on it — followed by the first pair of squares.

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I chain pieced pairs together for the entire row — square 1 to square 2, square 3 to square 4, etc. Here they all are laid out on my ironing board, still attached to one another with the starter scrap on the left. The scrap I used at the end is still under the presser foot on the sewing machine.

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Keeping them all in order, I clipped them apart. (By the way, I could not live without these 4″ Gingher snips. So wonderful!)

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Here they are all cut apart.

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Then I opened up the pairs and sewed pairs of pairs together. So, I sewed the 1/2 pair to the 3/4 pair.

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Then the 5/6 pair to the 7/8 pair, and so on. I continued chain piecing throughout.

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At the end of this round of piecing I had 5 sets of squares. Here they are still attached to each other and the starter scrap.

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Opened out they look like this. Note that I haven’t pressed any seams yet! This makes the sewing way faster and lets me keep all my labels on without having to worry about avoiding them with the iron.

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Next up, I sewed the first two sets together and the third and fourth set together. The fifth set had to wait out this round.

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Then I sewed what are now the second and third sets together (squares 9-20). The reason I didn’t just attach the two larger sets to each other is that I think piecing goes more smoothly if the two parts you are sewing together are closer to the same size. If I piece the 1-8 section to the 9-16 section, I would have ended up with one section of 16 pieces and one of 4 pieces. The way I did it keeps it slightly more even.

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Then, I pieced the very last seam. Note that I am still doing the chain piecing at this point, with a starter scrap, my single pieced seam, and an ending scrap.

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Once I had the row finished, I transferred all the masking tape labels to the next row on the design wall. You shouldn’t need the labels on the pieced row any longer because you’ll be able to double-check the proper orientation for it against your photo of the quilt laid out (you do always take a photo when you’ve decided on your layout don’t you? I refer back to these photos often to make sure I haven’t switched anything around).

It’s finally time to press. I decided at the beginning of this that I was going to press all the seams open. That’s because 1) the pieces were such different values that I didn’t want them showing through light fabrics in places, 2) I had already developed a quilting plan that meant I was going to be quilting across all these open seams multiple times to help reinforce them, and 3) it would allow me to save all the pressing to the end!

I recommend first either finger pressing all the seams open…

Mosaic Piecing Tutorial 15

…or using a hera marker to do this. I chose the hera marker because my wimpy fingernails would never have made it through the entire quilt finger pressing! I don’t usually do this step before pressing with the iron, but I thought it would make the iron pressing go a lot more smoothly because all these little tiny seams are so close together.

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Then, I pressed all the seams with an iron on the back side…

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…and flipped the finished row over and pressed it from the front.

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Once I completed sewing each of the individual rows together, I switched all the labels to the first square in each row and assembled the rows. I’ll admit to you that I did not pin this quilt at all. I just matched up each of the seams as I went. It turned out pretty well!

I opted to press the longer seams to one side, because I wasn’t going to be sewing across them. When pressing to one side, I find it easier to press as I go, so after each seam. Since you’ll keep the masking tape labels on throughout this assembly (or at least one label per sewn-up section), be sure when you press these seams that you do not press the masking tape label on that first block, as it can get very yucky when you do that!

Questions or anything you think is unclear? Let me know!

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