Partial seams

Thanks for all of your kind comments about the quilt top I just finished. After Googling around a bit I realized that I was using the wrong term – I didn’t use a lot of Y seams (you can see what those are here), I used a lot of partial seams. Meaning that I had to inset pieced portions into other pieced portions.

I put together a straight forward little tutorial to explain what I mean. A lot of you might already know how this works, but in case some of you don’t…

One thing before we get started – it’s key that you use a uniform 1/4″ seam allowance for all of this piecing or else it won’t all line up correctly.

So let’s say you want to piece together this little bit of plaid:


It’s pretty clear how you sew together most of it…


But what to do with the center bit that falls right in the middle of all four portions?


First sew it onto the lower corner of the upper left portion – but leave the top of the seam unsewn (hence partial seams!)


Then sew on the bottom left portion and then the bottom right portion. Three portions are now sewn to the center piece and now you’ll use that unsewn part of the seam to sew on the final portion.


With the top right portion placed on the lower right portion, right sides together, sew them together. (BTW – think that it’s time for me to get myself a new cutting mat?!?)


When you’re done, your piecing will look like this.


Finally, finish up by folding your piecing down the middle, right sides together, and sew the remaining seam until you get down to the already sewn part of the seam. You’re all done!


See? Easy enough! It gets more involved when you have a ton of these partial seams in your quilt top (there were a LOT in the top I just finished), but I find that having all the cut out pieces displayed on my design wall, thinking it through, assembling it piece by piece, and then portion by portion, works well for me. I don’t think I could think it through if I didn’t have it all laid out in front of me though. I’m  a visual person.  I need to see it to get it.  This is just one more reason I think that a design wall is one of the most valuable things you can have in your sewing space!

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  • Ruth

    January 12, 2012 at 6:32 am | Reply

    I love the colours in this block – and a great tutorial – thanks!

  • Debbie-Esch House Quilts

    January 12, 2012 at 7:00 am | Reply

    Great tutorial. I ended up with a lot of partial seams in my RKNPA challenge. As you say, I worked section by section to figure it all out.

  • Jill@NorthStarQuilting

    January 12, 2012 at 7:13 am | Reply

    Great instructions! I love the woven look and now know how to make one of my own.

  • Cristina Schweitzer

    January 12, 2012 at 9:15 am | Reply

    Great tutorial! I was wondering how you did it. I really love the design. Thanks Alissa!

  • lindaroo

    January 12, 2012 at 11:02 am | Reply

    Thank you so much for explaining this!

  • Katie

    January 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply

    I love the look of plaid quilts and I definitely like the way you made yours! Thanks for such clear instructions.

  • Mary Ann

    January 12, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Reply

    This is one of those techniques that takes your quilts to the next level…at least they look very complex!

  • Arita

    January 12, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Reply

    Thanks for the tutorial….I will have to try this on some placemats I’m making

  • Wendy

    January 13, 2012 at 6:02 am | Reply

    That you for the tutorial. I need to try this.

  • liberty

    January 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Reply

    that’s a great tutorial, alissa. Thanks for sharing that.
    I think i have done it to some extent in small projects, but not with the repeated effect that you did here. I think to wrap your head around this technique would really open up lots of creative avenues.
    Thanks for sharing this!

  • Jennifer @ Ellison Lane Quilts

    January 21, 2012 at 6:34 am | Reply

    This is so helpful. Thank you so much sharing this and just when I needed it too. 🙂 Congrats on the new book- so exciting. I can’t wait to see it.

  • Sandy Rowe

    February 17, 2012 at 8:16 am | Reply

    I just got your book yesterday in the mail. I love it! I just have to decide which quilt to start with. Thank you!

  • Karen Alexander

    March 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Reply

    No need to grind around on youYube or Google for questions like that! There are plenty of experienced old quilters around to answer “Modern” gals questions about the difference between “partial piecing” and “Y” seams…fell free to email anytime! Been quilting since “Modern” was Janis Joplin and Patchwork,
    Bellbottom pants…just ask – us old quilters don’t bite ya know! Can’t wait to see you next year in Austin, with the rest of the old quiltin’ hippies…Keep on Quiltin’!

  • Elnora

    November 23, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Reply

    What a great tutorial! Heck, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a partial seam! You explained it absolutely perfectly, and knowing it opens up new possibilities in the world of piecing. Thank you very much!

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