Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tube UNsewing

Have you sewn tubes of strips together that you then need to slice into some magical number and then unsew a seam in each slice to create your design? I've done this many times when making bargello and other strip quilts. Every once in a while my brain will leave the building and I open the wrong seam and have to re-sew it back together. This just happened to me recently and I thought you might enjoy my process of where the unsewing should be done.

I had a lot of 2.5" strips leftover from sewing bindings on the million quilts I have made. I had filled three shoe boxes with them. I'd use some of them for scrap projects or make scrappy bindings but the pieces just kept growing and growing. I decided to use Bonnie Hunter's scrappy trips around the world pattern to get rid of a chunk of them.  They'll make great quilts for some of my family.  So I sat down in front of the television and cut strips approximately 16" long.  Those too short were placed back into the box.  After all the sorting, I now have one shoe box that's not appropriate for this project.  I'm happy already.

Once I sewed my fabrics into tube I cut them into slices.  The photo below show slices I cut from the sewn tubes. (Not originally part of this demonstration, but notice that I pressed the seams open except where I sew the top and bottom seams to make the tube. The purpose is to keep it flat while I make my cuts.) The first thing to do is to grab your seam ripper and take a seam apart. For this project, it doesn't matter which one.

Here is one unit where the seam has been opened. Note the arrow by the seam line between the first and second fabrics. On another slice locate this seam and take it apart with your seam ripper.

When you do that, this is what you now have. The fabric at the top of the first slice is now at the bottom. Notice that the pieces are forming a stair-step design up and to the right. Go ahead and note the seam between the first and second fabrics on the 2nd unit as shown by the arrow. On another slice locate this seam and take it apart with your seam ripper.

Now you have three slices that look something like this, still stair-stepping up and to the right. Continue unsewing the slices by taking apart the seam between the first and second fabrics of the last slice opened.

This photo shows five of the pieces opened and the pattern is still emerging correctly. Go ahead and tackle the last slice.

Now here are all the unsewn slices. The dark blue fabric is dominate as it stair-steps from bottom left corner to top right corner. What if I wanted the snowman fabric to be in the center?  You'd simply move the left two slices to the end on the right.

Walla, you have a different arrangement. Any fabric chosen could be in the center with only a little rearranging of the slices.  I like my snowman in the center so I'll sew these units together.  Before pinning, finger pressed the seams open, you know the ones not pressed prior to cutting and the ones that were unsewed.  YES, pinning does takes time but I'll explain why at the end.

Here is my sewn block, made without any UNsewing mishaps that needed fixing.

 Here are four blocks sewn using chain piecing while working on other projects.

Here is the answer to the question in your head...I know it's there.  Why did I press the seams open instead of as instructed in the pattern?  The pressing options in the pattern works efficiently for piecing the slices into blocks.  Abutting the seams is great for this task.  I found that when I put four blocks together, too many of the seams were facing each other instead of going in the opposite direction.  This is very difficult to plan, especially if you want to randomly arrange your blocks prior to sewing them into a quilt top.  That would have taken too much thinking and planning ahead.  I like my seams pressed open (which I do on the majority of my quilts) because it makes for a smoother quilt top which is very beneficial in the quilting stage with so many seams.  Try it, you might be surprised!

I hope this will be useful.


  1. I loved making this pattern and I also like to press my seams open if I'm not doing stitch in the ditch quilting. It's a great stashbuster!

  2. That is so true about the seams always ending up facing each other when you want to randomly place blocks!! Your solution is perfect....duh, don't know why I didn't come up with it myself!

  3. Oh my, but I like what you have going on there. I have a drawer like that, instead of shoe boxes. It's filled, to overflowing with leftover binding bits, and 2 1/2 inch strips cut from leftovers. I've seen this on Bonnie's website, but I'm glad you reminded me. I just might have to add this to my never ending want to do list.


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