Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Free Form Piecing Tutorial

The long awaited free form piecing tutorial on how I put George together is here! 

So many have given George the Alligator tremendous amounts of love! 

And he sends it right back!

The first time he surfaced, I explained how his spiky spines, eyes, and eyebrows were stitched in. It's taken a bit of thought to explain how I pieced him into the background, and I've had re-create the process because my original pictures were terrible. Now I've got lots of visuals for everyone to follow. 

To start this project, I made paper pattern pieces of his tail, body, and head.

The pieces were cut with straight seams in mind, no curves. Hopefully those would land in the background's pieced seams, but if they didn't, well, I just dealt with it. I was more interested in getting George's proportions correct.

In the following pictures, I'm using George's body pattern, and scrap pieces of fabric to demonstrate the piecing.

His body is cut out with a 1/4" seam allowance all around.

and positioned onto the background, so that the top of his body is stitched into the background seam.

For this technique, I'm using 2 1/2" squares in the background, which helps when lining up seams, and stitching short seams. I have not tried this piecing technique with larger background pieces.

The background above his body has already been pieced together, but the sides around his body are free. This is what the background looks like if I remove the body piece.

Now I can stitch the top of the body to the background, but only in between the backgrounds' two outer vertical seams.

It's important to not stitch in this area at this time.

The side pieces are attached by sewing only an inch, starting from the outer edges and stitching toward the body.

Left side with vertical seam free.

Right side with vertical seam free.

Seams are pressed because it helps to line everything up in the next steps. The body and background now look like this, with some wings flapping at the top side of the body.

Now starts the fun part! 

The background gets taped down to a rotary cutting mat, with edges and seams lined up with marks on the mat. 

The body stays free.

When I was making George, the biggest issue I faced was having the correct angled piece in the background to sew the body to. Then it dawned on me - seams are 1/4" which means there is a 1/2" overlap between raw edges. So, using a ruler, I laid it on top of the background with the body overlapping onto the ruler by 1/2" inch.

Taking note of the change in angle before flipping the body up and out of the way, that spot is marked with a pin. 

The background is then cut from the pin to the top, using scissors to cut the last bit to avoid the rest of the background.

The same steps are done on the left side, before removing from the tape.

The left fabric edge at 1/2" line.

The pin mark for the angle change.

And the cut from pin to top.

After matching up the edges of the body and background on the sides, those seams are stitched.

On the right side, I stopped stitching 1/2" away from the angle change.

On the left side, I stitched to the angle change point, back stitching a couple stitches.

Why the different end treatments? I wanted to see which was easier to deal with for the next seam. Personally, I prefer stopping 1/2" back, because it allows for easier trimming later.

Now the unit looks like this, with sides seams sewn but gaps at the top. 

The body is flipped up and over, and those gaps stitched closed.

One part done!

The rest is treated the same way. The unit is taped down to the mat, with seams lined up. The ruler is used to find where to cut the background. Here, the right side is shown.

Since the prior seam was not sewn all the way to the point, that needs to be stitched, stopping with the needle down.

After pivoting the top fabric to match up the fabric edges, the seam is stitched, with a stop before the next angle change.

And that's more of the body pieced in!

Continuing on using the same technique finished the rest.

Awesome technique, isn't it? Using the ruler at the 1/2" mark to cut the same angle on the background has rocked my piecing world. It makes so many more ideas possible. Maybe I've invented something new! 

Happy Quilting!


  1. That makes so much sense! Thanks for explaining the process, and for your excellent pictures!

  2. Thanks for sharing the process with us! Pretty cool!!

  3. Very clever technique...love the 3-D effect! Thank you for sharing your process, as it is ingenious!!

  4. This is a really amazing technique!


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