Whether you’re making multiples of the same thing for charity (like pillowcases, bags, etc.) or creating hundreds of blocks for a quilt, chain piecing is both fast and efficient. This assembly-line sewing technique is used in factories, but it can be equally at home in your sewing room.

chain on machine

How does it work? Stack up the pieces for whatever you’re making in quantity. If it’s quilt blocks, place the adjacent pieces right sides together in a pile for easy retrieval. Pick up the first pair of pieces and put it under your presser foot. Stitch the seam, stopping at the edge of the pieces. NOW, don’t cut the threads or remove the stitched piece from the machine…simply feed in the next pair and continue seaming.

front view chain

Leave just a bit of space (the thread chain) between the pieces, and keep going through your entire stack. But, there’s no need to stop there—pick up another stack of pieces that need seaming and keep going. You’ll see a chain of pieces exiting the sewing machine behind the presser foot.

chain on table 2

When you’ve gone as far as you can, cut the thread at the end and take the pieces to the ironing board for pressing. Then, snip your pieces apart. Voila—quick and easy piecing with much less time and thread than if you sewed each set of pieces individually.

But, what if you’re not a quilter? Chain piecing still works! You can save time with garment sewing as well—sew the facing seams together one after the other, stitch a dart, and then another dart, sew the sleeve seams, join both garment side seams and perhaps a cuff or two before you stop sewing. Challenge yourself to see how far you can go before you cut the thread.

About the Author


Linda Griepentrog is a writer, editor and designer who lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband (a long arm quilter) and dog, Frank. She loves all things fabric! Linda also leads fabric shopping tours to Hong Kong. Contact her at gwizdesigns@aol.com.

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