Pixelated Heart Quilt: Whole Quilt Chain Piecing Technique

Pin this! - Whole Quilt Chain Piecing - Pixelated Heart Mini Quilt

I always ooh and aaahh at all the Pixel Heart Quilts that pop up around this time of year. I'm so happy I finally made one of my own because it was FUN! I figured out a way to chain piece it so all those little squares would stay in order without me having to think about it as I sew. Today I'm going to show you how I did it! 

Quilted Pixel heart quilt

Pixelated Heart Mini Quilt

I have to admit I sometimes get overwhelmed by the idea of making a quilt. I prefer smaller sewing projects like pouches, bags, or clothing. So many moving parts in a quilt and the time commitment make it hard to keep track of and hard for me to commit to. A few years ago I made a "pixel quilt" of the Honey Bell Tree in my backyard and I knew this heart was going to be a challenge to keep track of all those little squares getting into the right place. So, to make it more tolerable in my head I decided to try to sew the whole quilt together using chain piecing. Traditional chain piecing is when you lay out all your squares and take all the blocks in 2 lines at once over to the machine to sew together one right after another without cutting the thread in between pieces, to make a "chain".

 It saves so much time walking back and forth and so much thread too. I've had a lot of practice at this but I usually cut each block apart and my sewn rows can easily get flipped around as I press the seams open. I have to spend so much extra time figuring out which end is the right one to sew to the next piece. It's easy to keep track of if you are at a color border but it's harder when you are in the middle of the red section and trying to keep the same fabrics from being right next to each other. 

Whole Quilt Chain Piecing - Pixel Heart Mini Quilt

 Chain Piecing - Sew a whole quilt top without cutting a thread! 

 This time I wanted to see if I could keep all those rows together so I wouldn't have to think which end belonged to  the next piece. I call it Whole Quilt Chain Piecing. You may have seen my process on my "saved" Instagram stories originally. I grabbed the pictures from there and today I'm giving it a home on my blog.  Follow along and see if my process makes sense to you. Maybe this will help minimize your overwhelm and help you want to make more quilts too!! 

Whole Quilt Chain Piecing - Pixel Heart Mini Quilt

Whole Quilt Chain Piecing technique

1. Lay out all the squares

Start by laying out all the squares in a big grid so that they look the way you want them to.  Label the top squares of each column with a number using a sticker dot or pinned sticky note. 
Quilt diagram

2. Pair up the columns

Take the 2nd square, flip it, and lay it on top of the first square so that the right sides are together. Continue in the same fashion with all of the squares from  the 2nd column. These are all ready to sew. Pair together the squares from the next two columns and so on. 
Sew the columns together

3. Sew the column of pairs together to create a chain.

Stack up the pairs from the first 2 columns starting with the numbered pair on the top of the stack. I like to offset the stack so that the pairs stay separate. Take them take them to your sewing machine and sew each pair together creating your first chain. Do not cut the threads in between each pair. Do cut the threads when you start sewing a new column of pairs.   Once you gain confidence you can stack more columns up at once and bring them all to the sewing machine (pictured below). Remember to label the column number at the top of each column and sew in order from top to bottom. And don't forget which side to sew. ;)
Chain piecing set up

4. Press the seam allowances

Lay a set of sewn pairs on the ironing board and press the seam allowance to one side alternating sides to on each  pair. I like to lay them out in a flip flop manner and open them up to press from the top.  Don't cut the threads!  Press the seam allowances on the next chain in the same direction as the first. 
Press the seam allowances.

5.  Sew the columns or "chains" together.

Sew column 1-2 together with 3-4 placing right sides together.  Make sure the seam allowances are going the same direction in each row and make sure that that direction is opposite from the row above and below. Keep all the rows sewn together. Don't cut the threads between each row. 
Continue to add the sections and press in the same fashion. I like to use a pin or a binding clip to hold each section in place as I carry it to the machine. 
Sew the columns. Don't cut the threads
From the pictures it may seem cumbersome but trust me, this method save so much time. 
Whole Quilt Chain Piecing - Pixel Heart Mini Quilt
Pretty soon you will have all the rows sewn together. See how my threads are all still uncut. and my seam allowances are pressed in the opposite direction in each row!

6. Sew the rows together.

 Fold one row over to match the next row with right sides together. I like to line up each seam line just before sewing instead of pinning before hand. The alternating seam allowances help to 'lock' the seam line in place for perfect corners. Sew each row in the same fashion.
Sew the chains together

Pretty soon your quilt top will be all done!
Pixelated Heart Mini Quilt

I love using this method. I hope you give it a try! Let me know in the comments if there are any other tips you have. I haven't tried it on  a really large quilt yet and I'm guessing this isn't the greatest idea if you are sewing larger sized quilt blocks together, but it's perfect for minis and baby sized quilts where you have a lot of little pieces to keep track of.

And this is how I finished my Pixel Heart Quilt! It hangs above my piano in February and in my sewing room the rest of the year round. Let me know if you are familiar with this method and have more tips to share. If you try it out I'd love to see!!  C
onnect with me on Facebook or Instagram. Tag me @bluesusanmakes ! 

P.S. This type of quilt is a great way to use up some of those extra scraps if you are joining me in my Sew 15 Minutes a Day Scrap Challenge! 

Happy Sewing!

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