Tips on Pinwheels

Pinwheels – a quintessential building block in quilting!

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I thought I would share a few things I do to get the pinwheel points to match up!

#1.  I use Aurifil cotton 50 wt thread for piecing.  The finer weight helps me tremendously in achieving precision when I piece!  With this thread, I am able to get the fine thread with the strength to holdup the seams.

#2.  In constructing the half-square-triangles, I always (always!) make them bigger, and then trim them to size.  For example, for a 3″ finished HST unit, instead of the conventional measurement that would have me cut my squares at 3 7/8″, I would cut mine at 4 1/2″.  The resulting HST units would be a bit larger than 3 1/2″ — which allows me to trim them to exactly 3 1/2″x 3 1/2″ square without the unit being wonky!

I also press my seams open – that way, I can treat my HST units as it they are squares after they are trimmed to size.

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In the picture below, the goal is to trim my HST units to 4″ x 4″ (raw edge to raw edge).  So, I will line up the diagonal seam of the HST unit to the 45-degree line on the quilting ruler, as shown in the sequence below.

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#3.  Now, I am ready to sew the top two HST units together to make one half of the block.

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The key is good pinning for this step — I make sure the diagonal seams of both HST units match perfectly before pinning.  This is how I check to make sure the diagonal seams.  Once I am happy with how the diagonal seams match, I place a fine patchwork pin where the seams match.

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To keep the seams keep matching when the HST units are sewn, I kind of have to let my machine “sew over” the pin — which they tell you is a no, no!  But I do that really carefully, and only with the finest patchwork pin I can find (made by Clover).  [Disclaimer: You are free to NOT sew over the pin if you aren’t comfortable doing so.  And if you do, always be very cautious, and not to sew ON the pin.] Then, I press the seam open — and on the right side, you see that the points at the valley match up quite nicely.

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#4.  After I get two block halves made, I am ready to sew my pinwheel block together.  Again, I match up the V’s at the seam, place a fine patchwork pin to hold the matching-up point in place.  Sew, and press my seam open again — and watch the point meet up at the block center!

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I had the chance to teach precision in piecing quilt blocks at a Craft Festival last year.  To my surprise, 85% of the students who signed up hardly had any piecing experience.  I did have to do an improv block because of the needs of the students being a bit off-course.  However, I learned a very important lesson.  Even beginners can achieve accuracy in piecing when they are shown simple and careful tricks!  I am proud to say all the ladies left the class that day with VERY impressively accurate blocks!

And that’s what this post is about — sharing a few tricks I use that might be helpful to your piecing (if you aren’t already using these tricks yourself).

Nosy mind wants to know… Might you have any tricks you use when you make pinwheels? I should dearly like to know, and try them out myself.  Thank you for visiting!  Hugs to you all!

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21 thoughts on “Tips on Pinwheels

  1. My method for sewing pinwheel blocks is to sew VERY carefully!!! I really don’t like to remove stitches and do over if the points don’t meet correctly. Thanks for your detailed instructions!!

  2. Thanks for a wonderfully clear tutorial, Wendy. I’ll remember to try your tips, especially about pressing the seams open. I have lots to learn :-) [Di J @darlingdi]

  3. Excellent instructions. I was very happy that you “showed” the work instead of just talking about it. Now I want to try your method. I’m pride myself on precision points… And could never get them to lay flat. Now I see how it’s done. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pressing the seam open is something new I will try. Instead of pinning I use a dot of elmers school glue, touch with a hot iron as taught by Sharon Schamber. Love to glue!

  5. Thanks for some great tips! I like to press seams open. One thing that I do–on bigger pieces-is to start sewing at the center. Sew from the center to each side. This seems to keep my center points “right on!”

  6. Wendy,
    Loved your tips. I like the idea of cutting it bigger and then squaring it up to exact size. Also pressing seams open on this block is a new idea. Will try it soon. Have a wonderful day!
    Respectfully,
    Barbara Johnson

  7. Excellent tutorial. Very clear, easy to see and follow. I have used parts of this method on blocks and it works well. You have to be willing to try different tings to get different results. I am all for that. THANKS Wendy.

  8. Thank you for a great refresher course! I recently started using the Aurifil 50 and pressing my seams open, and what an amazing difference it makes. I used to use the “precision” measurements, but the results were less than stellar. I decided to make them a bit oversize and trim them… after all, in the scheme of things, how much fabric was I really going to waste, and how much better would the results be if I did waste a tiny bit with the trimming. I’m much less frustrated now. I have always purchased the thinnest pins I could find even if they were a little pricier. I have those Clover pins and love them.

  9. Great tips for precision piecing and pinwheels. I definitely plan on doing this exercise and adopting your approach. Thanks. I’d also love to take a precision piecing class with you. Makes me wonder if that would be a good subject for another class on Annie’s platform?

    QuiltShopGal
    http://www.quiltshopgal.com

  10. My suggestion for pinwheels is to try out the Quilt in a Day ruler to ” square up” a hst unit. This would fit into your demo between # 2 and 3. It would save time because you only need to make one cut, using your original diagonal line, before you open and press, rather than the four cuts to square up using your stitch line for your 45degree angle. I find it much more accurate

  11. Love reading your posts. Yours is the first blog I have ever followed. What can I say, it appealed to me.

    Your tip, in this post about pressing the seams of your HSTs open? Is that just when using them for pinwheels, or for anytime that you make HSTs?

  12. I also make my half-square triangles larger and then trim them down. Instead of pins, I use a dab of water-soluble glue to keep my seams matched up.

  13. Wonderful tip Wendy. I’m going to give it a try. Your work is fabulous, as usual.
    Hope you and family are all well, I haven’t “chatted” with you for ages.

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