I learned about chain piecing in a Quilt in A Day class years ago and it’s still one of my favorite tricks for speeding up sewing. I used it recently when I made a set of pocket hand warmers and took photos as I went along so I could share a quick tutorial.
Chain piecing works best when you need to sew several sets of similar items. For the hand warmers, for example, I needed to sew three sides each on six sets of squares. I started off by matching up all my sets, right side together, and sewed the first one as normal.
When I got to the end of the first set, instead of lifting the presser foot, pulling out the sewn squares and cutting the threads, I just slid the next set under the front of the presser foot and kept sewing. The feed dogs naturally grab the edge of the new fabric and pulled it right along with just a little gap in between the two sets. I repeated the same process down one side of each of the six sets.
When I got to the end of the last set, I lifted the presser foot but still didn’t pull the fabric out. Instead, I kept it close to the needle and flipped it over, then started right back down the same side to zigzag all the edges. I continued down all six sets and THEN pulled out the (now joined) string of squares and cut the thread.
I left the sets joined together, flipped them over and repeated the same process on the opposite side. When I was done, they looked like this:
I snipped the little threads between each set, took them back to the sewing machine and repeated the process for the third side of each square.
I sewed all six sets in about three minutes, and only had to trim off long threads once for each chain pieced seam. You not only save time with chain piecing, you waste far less thread and (my favorite part) on large projects like a quilt you have to re-thread the machine less often.
Do you have any favorite time-saving sewing tricks?