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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