Web Piecing Tutorial
Do you love chain piecing as a time-saving quilting technique? What if I told you you could piece a whole quilt block, and even an entire quilt, in the same manner?
Yup, you can.
No messing up the order of the pieces (or much smaller chance of it, anyway), and you can just lay out everything beside the machine and keep sewing instead of getting up to press and grabbing the next set of pieces to join.
If chain piecing is an efficient quilting method, then web piecing is the ultimate for saving time. And it's a super easy quilting technique even beginners can use.
I especially love the web piecing technique for block based quilts, where you are making a number of blocks that are all the same. You can put them together in this way one block at a time, or take it up a notch and make all your blocks in one go.
How web piecing works - the basics
Web piecing is basically just taking chain piecing to the next level. In chain piecing, we have multiple pairs of units that need to be sewn together. Instead of cutting the thread after each seam, we simply add the next unit and keep sewing, leaving the thread uncut between units. Once they're all done, the threads get cut, the units pressed and laid out again in their proper order. Rinse and repeat.
In web piecing, these threads between the units don't get cut. Instead, the units are sewn in the order they appear in the block, and are left attached to each other. When you sew the next squares to the units you just created, the threads between those are also left intact. Soon you will have rows of squares that are attached to each other, creating a web.
But, enough of the theory, let's dive into the step-by-step of how to web piece your quilt block.
Step-by-step guide to web piecing
Grab your pieces and let's get set up. I'm using the Star Gems quilt block pattern for this tutorial. The pattern is available in the shop as a PDF.
1. I like to lay out my block right beside the sewing machine, so I can easily grab the next squares to add to the rows. If you like to get some movement in and not sit the entire time, lay it out on a cutting table or ironing board.
If you have multiple blocks to sew, you can even stack the all the squares on top of each other, and either make them one block at a time, or create a giant web of all your blocks. And I noticed I keep saying squares, because the block I am showing you here as an example is made up of squares. If yours includes other shapes, just mentally change the word.
2. We're going to sew the block together in rows first, so we're attaching squares to each other from left to right.
For the first step, I like to pull aside the first two squares that will be sewn together, but leave them in the block order so nothing gets messed up.
3. Sew them together by chain piecing them, but do not cut the threads between the blocks.
Lay them out again beside the rest of the block, where they came from, and make sure you have them in the right order from top to bottom and you didn't accidentally flip them.
4. Open up the units you just sewed (no need to press them just yet) and sew the next squares in each row to the units. To do so, place the next square in the first row where it will be sewn to. In my picture that's the turquoise and white HST that's face-down on the square beside it, ready to be sewn. Then take it and its attached rows of squares to the sewing machine to start chain piecing again.
If you pin your pieces, you can pin all of them in row three before sewing the first one on. If you don't pin, like me, just place the first one and start sewing. As you reach the end of the first square, grab your next square and place it on the next row. Since all the rows are still attached to each other, the squares would fall off if you placed them all without pinning.
Sew all column three squares to their respective rows, and again don't cut the threads between the rows.
5. Lay your rows out again beside the block and open them up, but don't press them yet. You can see how they're starting to look like actual rows, not just a bunch of squares twisting and turning.
Keep repeating step 4 to add all the squares across the block, until you have all your rows completed.
6. Take your completed web to the ironing board, and press all the seams open.
This can be a bit tricky when you're working with small squares, so just take it slow. Or use a smaller iron if you have one of those travel irons.
7. Congratulations, you have completed the web part of the technique!
Remember how I said in the introduction that this technique helps you keep your blocks from getting messed up? Well, it does, but not 100% :-) As you can see, I managed to sew in one of the yellow HSTs upside down, despite all the careful laying out, and I didn't actually notice it until after the block was sewn together completely, so I had to go and unpick a bunch of seams, turn the block and sew it back together.
8. Now that all the rows are made, it's time to sew them together. Start by laying the first row on top of the second one, right sides together. Pin to make sure all the seams line up.
9. Sew the two rows together. Open them up, but don't press them yet, and then place the next two rows right sides together, pin and sew. Continue across the block until all the seams are sewn.
10. Before pressing these seams open, you'll need to cut the threads that were left between the rows from the original web. Some people like to leave them long enough that they don't need cutting, but I find even if I do that, I tend to catch them with the tip of the iron, so I take the extra minute to cut all the little loops that sewing the rows together created.
11. Press the block well from both sides, and give yourself a pat on the back.
Tips and troubleshooting
A few things to keep in mind when web piecing:
What shapes make up the quilt block?
Web piecing works best for blocks that have the same size pieces throughout. It doesn't matter whether they are squares or rectangles, but it won't work quite as well for blocks that have some squares and some rectangles, unless shapes of the same width and/or height are in the same column or row.
So, for example, a Sixteen Patch or a Plus block can easily be done this way.
Keeping things straight
The rows really shouldn't twist while you're sewing them together since they're held in place by multiple little threads between them, but it can sometimes feel a bit tricky on the very first chain. To make sure everything is where it needs to be, make sure you place the first chain back beside the rest of the quilt block and double-check that you didn't accidentally flip it upside down. Once the third column of pieces is sewn on, it gets easier and it's pretty clear what goes where.
Making more than one block at a time
If you are making more than one block, you can stack all the squares for each block on top of each other, and lay out the design in small stacks. Either sew one block at a time as I've shown above, or continue to chain piece right through each stack. As in, sew the first two columns together like I did in the example, and then instead of cutting the thread there, go back to the top of the column and start sewing together the squares from the next block in the same way, creating one big long chain.
Cut the chain into individual blocks and stack them again beside the laid out pieces, or leave it all together and keep adding the next column of pieces, creating a web of multiple blocks attached to each other. Cut them apart into individual blocks before pressing the first seams and sewing the rows together.
Web piecing a whole quilt
This web piecing method works for sewing together the blocks of a quilt, too. Instead of sewing individual squares into blocks, simply lay out your quilt blocks in order, then sew them together as if you were making a giant block.