How-To: What is Strip Piecing?


By Erin Gilday
Hi Craftzine! It’s me, Erin from Patchwork Underground. I’m writing to you as part of Day 3 of my book tour for Stripped Down Patchwork: 12 Modern Projects Featuring Seminole Patchwork. Thanks for having me!
My topic today: What is Strip Piecing?

Well, let me put it this way: have you always wanted to try sewing patchwork but were scared away by the idea of all those little fidgety pieces? I mean, have you looked at a quilt lately?! That is a LOT of little pieces, a lot of little seams and a lot of little opportunities to screw up! Kinda scary.
OK, I feel your pain. Enter your friend, strip piecing.
Strip piecing is a systematized sewing trick for producing patchwork that says “no” to lots of little pieces and “yes” to easy.
There are many “takes” on strip piecing out there: some folks just sew strips together and call it a day, some people consider log cabin-type blocks to be “strip pieced,” and then there’s this thing called Seminole patchwork. I don’t have time here to cover all the different types of strip piecing (or get into a philosophical debate on what is and what is not technically “strip piecing”), so I’ll just tell you about my favorite kind of strip piecing. Surprise! – it’s Seminole patchwork, the technique I used for all 12 of the projects in my book.
Alright. You wanna know how the Seminole technique works and I wanna tell you. I’ll use a super-basic pattern for my example. Here’s the idea:
what is strip piecing1.jpg
Step 1: Sew long strips of fabric together length-wise.
what is strip piecing2.jpg
Step 2: Slice across these strips cross-wise to make little compound strips, aka “strip sets.”
what is strip piecing3.jpg
Step 3: Sew these strip sets together again in a new order or arrangement to form the final piece.
And, Ta DA! Now you’re ready to insert that puppy into a project.
That is the whole pioneering concept behind Seminole patchwork, the only traditional sewing technique that was always intended to be executed on a sewing machine.
See, seamstresses of the Seminole Tribe of Florida invented this paradigm-shifting technique directly after they gained access to some of the first hand-crank sewing machines at the turn of the century. Historians can cite no precedent for the technique – these ladies just thought it up out of thin air, which, to me, is very, very impressive. (Who says nothing’s new?)
You can learn more about the history of the Seminole technique and all the fun modern projects you can make with it in my book, which contains 12 patterns and super-detailed instructions on how to make a tank dress, a pair of slippers, a backpack, a couple different bags, and some other stuff you probably can’t live without.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out the other blog-tour stoppers for more chances to win your very own free copy!
P.S: If you want to know more about traditional Seminole designs and the history of the Seminole Tribe, check out their website here.

About the Author
Erin Gilday is a sewing pattern designer, crafty author and 4th generation seamstress in Portland, OR. Her book, Stripped Down Patchwork: 12 Modern Projects Featuring Seminole Patchwork, is available through Leisure Arts.

6 thoughts on “How-To: What is Strip Piecing?

  1. m8888888 says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve always wondered about the seams coming out since you haven’t backstitched at the edges of every piece like you would have if the piece stayed uncut. Is that an issue?

  2. Erin Gilday says:

    Hi there! Good question. No, you don’t have to backstitch because in step #3, when you sew over the open (unbackstitched) edges of the strip sets, you effectively secure the seams you cut into in step #2. Does that make sense?
    Now, if you weren’t going to insert the final piece into a project, you would have to back stitch at the beginning and end of each seam you make in step #3. But, because most Seminole bands are destined for insertion into a project, you can even leave those seams un-back stitched. When you intersect them in the final insertion seam, you’ll lock those in place, too.
    I promise this makes a whole lot more sense when you have it in front of you. =)
    Thanks for your question!
    <3 Erin

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