Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

Yes, it’s true. I was a Stitch & Flip flunkie.

fail 279x300 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

I have had the hardest time making friends with this technique.

Don’t you hate it when every quilter you know talks about a technique as if it’s the easiest thing ever, when you know that it is, in fact, not? I think Stitch & Flip is a technique that works great when it works, but if you don’t know the little secrets, it can be a real mess.

QMMP BTS Northcott 5001 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

Playground in Stonehenge fabrics from Northcott. Made by Marijke Vrooming Durning.

Since the Back to School Party pattern for Playground features Stitch & Flip units, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about making Stitch & Flip work.

Just so we’re all on the same page, here is how S&F is supposed to work.

Align a B on the corner of the A right sides together, as shown in the Unit 1 diagram below. Mark a diagonal line on the B from corner to corner and sew on the marked line. Trim the seam allowances to 1/4″, flip the B patch open and press.

BTS13 unit1 115x300 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

The problems I have had with Stitch & Flip are these.

1. I don’t like marking the patches diagonally, but trying to eyeball it when sewing across the patch is harder than you’d think.

flunkie1 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

Even a patch as small as 1.5″ is difficult to eyeball. I wish I could do it unmarked, but haven’t had a lot of success when I’ve tried it.

2. When you flip the patch open before trimming, sometimes it does not cover the patch underneath, as shown below.

flunkie2 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

Sometimes the patch doesn’t cover as it should.

3. Sometimes the flipped open patch is not the tidy shape that it should be. It’s wonky, and not in a good way. See #3 photo below.

flunkie3 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

Sometimes the patch is wonky, which is another word for crooked.

4. If the diagonal seam is very short, sometimes the stitches at one or both ends come out. You can see in the photo below that the stitches at one end are gone. It happened with the force of pulling the unit away from the machine to cut the threads.

flunkie4 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

Some of the stitches came out when I pulled the unit away from the machine to cut the threads. This will never last.

Here are the solutions that I’ve come up with through trial and error, with an emphasis on the error part.

markedline 300x265 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

I mark the diagonal sewing line. The extra accuracy is worth it to me.

1. I mark the diagonal line even on very small patches. Nothing else works as well for me.


short3 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

See Donna Amos’s method of No Mark Stitch & Flip by clicking on the image.

However, Donna Amos, a Scrap Squad member from 2011, shared a technique that works for a lot of people, so you might give that a try if you really don’t want to mark. It’s called No-Mark Stitch & Flip.


flunkieredo Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

Mark the line closer to the corner by just a few threads, as I’m about to do here.

2. Instead of marking and sewing exactly on the diagonal, scootch the line over just a hair closer to the corners you’ll trim off, as shown above, where I’m about to mark the line slightly to the left of center. Below you can see that now the patch covers nicely, with a little to spare.

flunkie8 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

Scootching the line over gave me plenty of fabric covering the patch. In fact there’s a little extra.

That little bit of extra has helped the patch to cover its underling just fine. Below you can see that the green fabric even extends past the pink just a bit.

flunkie9 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip FlunkieYou can trim this green off. I leave the base patch in place, untrimmed, because I get greater accuracy that way than if I trim the base patch away. I do trim away the middle layer of the green patch to reduce bulk.


flunkie10 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

The default stitch length on my machine is 2.5mm. For short seams, it’s best to shorten the stitch length to 1.8mm, which about 14 stitches per inch.

3. and 4. The last two issues are both solved by shortening the stitch length on your machine. The default stitch length on my machine is 2.5mm. For piecing in general and for short seams in particular, it’s best to shorten the stitch length to 1.8mm, which is about 14 stitches per inch. The shorter stitches won’t come loose at the ends as easily as long stitches will. And when your machine is making shorter stitches, the patchwork has a reduced chance of wobbling.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

k4384193 Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

To really understand stitch length, see my past blog post called Understanding Stitch Length.

One more Stitch & Flip tip: After you flip the patch open, press it gently. Mashing it will only make things worse. Using steam or not is a discussion I’ll save for another time.

For me, successful Stitch & Flip has taken time and practice. Try these little adjustments and see if they work for you, too.

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email:
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42 Responses to Confessions of a Stitch & Flip Flunkie

  1. Thanks a lot for the blog post. Really looking forward to reading more.

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  3. Yvonne says:

    Are you pressing toward the dark fabric and do you press the center seam open ? Thanks!

  4. Carol Vickers says:

    I think I’ve read most of these before — just didn’t remember to use them! Thanks for the reminder. I think sewing slightly off the line will help me a lot!

  5. Diana Jean says:

    OK, you convinced me to give marking the patches one more try.

  6. anne marsaw says:

    on Bonnie Hunter’s web site she suggests marking the line and when you sew, sew just to the right of the drawn line and this will make it so the flipped triangle will meet with the edge of your square

  7. Oh I really needed this! I was doing stitch and flip yesterday. All of the issues you had are exactly the problems I have had. I can’t wait to do it right the first time : )

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  9. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for this!!! I found this by way of your bitty bow ties post. But I’ve been working on a different project using this technique, and it’s been causing problems that have had a kind of bad ripple effect on on the whole project. Looking forward to trying these tips out.

  10. Ecarp says:

    Thanks you!!! Glad I found these instructions BEFORE I started.

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  12. Maria Nogueira says:

    Obrigada pelas dicas. Adoro as suas aulas

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  14. Patty Moffitt says:

    I like the speed of this method, but I use a no-mark method. I put a piece of scotch tape on the sewing machine in front of the needle plate to the edge of the machine case. Then draw a line from the needle to the edge of the machine case. I then put another piece of scotch tape on top so the ink won’t smear. I then have a line to guide my corners with and don’t have to use my time drawing on each square, or pressing each one. It works really well with smaller squares.

  15. I stitch and flip like a madwoman, hundreds in one quilt :-) You can take a few minutes and lightly press your small squares in half diagonally rather than marking each one. Or you can use a long post-it note and lay it on your square then sew along the edge of it.

    Orrrr, you can just “wing it”. The important thing is to be in the correct place at the beginning and the end of your diagonal seam – the center can be pretty wonky, as long as you ‘veer’ toward the outer corner, not the center of the base block you’re sewing it to. After sewing, just fold open and line up the edges of the little square with the big square and press well – don’t push the small square past the edges of the base block, even if there’s a little fold along the diagonal edge.

    Cut out the center layer of the small square, don’t re-press that block until it gets sewn to other blocks so you don’t distort the diagonal.

  16. Corky says:

    I love shortcuts, but this one will only work if each block doesn’t have to be the same to line up with another. Just be aware of that.

  17. Michal says:

    I really love using this method because not only does it get the job done, if you sew a second seam, you’ll have another HST to use later in a scrappy project. This is brilliant advice. I will be sure to remember it. Thanks for sharing. :)

  18. QuiltinGram says:

    I use this method all the time and sew an extra line 1/2 inch over (towards the outer point) then cut between s the stitching. You instantly have created a HST to go in another quilt!

  19. Wendy Elliott says:

    I have avoided using this method as i have heard a lot of failings, thanks to your instructions and diagrams, i feel now i am ready to do this quilt pattern that i have had a long time

  20. Wendy Elliott says:

    i have avoided doing this S&F as i have heard so many failings, Thank You for these instructions with diagrams now i’m ready to give this quilt pattern a go

  21. Pearl says:

    The thickness of thread is also a factor in S&F. The thinner your thread, the flatter your piece will press and you’ll be more accurate. Moving your machine needle over by 1 also makes a difference. I think the major problem with this technique comes is when you stitch on the drawn or folded line. It’s a given then that you top and sides won’t match up.

  22. Jo says:

    I am SO glad I’m not the only one who has difficulty with the stitch n flip! Thank you for your tips!!!!!

  23. Pamela Montague says:

    I love the bright colors used, as they really appeal to me. Thank you for the examples and tips.

  24. Susan Carver says:

    I just love all the different examples of fabrics used to make this quilt. When I look at the pattern, the first thing I see are wreaths. I have so much Christmas fabric, I think I will try and make this quilt using it. Very excited to get started!

  25. Jennifer says:

    That was done very well. I especially like the fact that you pointed out all the mishaps we have all had and then the solutions.
    Thanks for a great explanation.

  26. janice says:

    thank you for the tip, I think I didn’t pass stitch & flip either :(

  27. ANNE says:

    You can also fold the small piece in half and finger press the fold.

    When you open it up, there will be a line to sew on.

  28. vickie blose says:

    I have had same issues too. now I have a machine that I can move the needle just a “hair” and am more accurate. I do use a chalker to mark my line though it is a narrower line to follow

  29. Susan Slovinsky says:

    It’s so great that quilters share how they’ve overcome “challenges”. It’s comforting to know that others face the same ones and wonderful to learn new techniques. Thank you for sharing.

  30. I’m about to make a huge snowball design quilt and there will be lots of stich and flip. I will certainly try this method. Thanks for the tips.

  31. Debbie Thompson says:

    Thank you for the tip! I would like to add that I use an open-toed foot on my machine which helps me SEE the line and be able to sew exactly on it.

  32. Patricia Hersl says:

    I may be out of line here, but there is an easy way to mark. Just press the line in, wrong sides together. It gives you a ditch in which to stitch, just those 2 threads towards the corner. As far as lining up, when they don’t you may develop a problem if the corner needs to match up in an adjoining block. It is difficult to learn accuracy and keep trying. Call me.

  33. Terri says:

    I thought it was just me….thank you for sharing your tips! I’ve actually tried the “scootching” and now I will reduce the length of my stitches. Cool!

  34. Thanks Diane! I’ve always thought this should be easy, and didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Simple changes – I’ll definitely implement them next time!

  35. Karee says:

    We are of one mind on the solutions! And so easy. I ALWAYS mark just 2-3 thread widths from the true diagonal toward the outer corner. And 1.8mm is my go to stitch length (it is a bugger to ‘unstitch’ but I have not had seams coming apart since I increased the stitches per inch.) Zip Zap Snip Snap!

  36. Brenda Joyce Cloud says:

    I am so happy for the tutorial on these as they are a pain in the keester… will sure be trying your method

  37. Deborah says:

    Good info makes a lot of sense

  38. Joyce says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’ve fought with this to the point I just wanted to give up triangles completely. I’m excited to give this a try, it looks like it will work great!

  39. marjorie says:

    I love doing things the easy way—-I use the No-Mark method, using post-it notes and the sticky provides enough stick so I don’t have to use pins. (Sometimes, I use whatever is handy–subscription cards, etc.)

  40. Jennifer says:

    I, too, had a hard time with the stitch and flip. Sewing right on the marked line ended up with a corner that was just a hair short when pressed out. I didn’t like all the marking as well. I found that pressing the patch on the diagonal, then stitching just to the right of the pressed line made a world of difference for me.

  41. Claudia says:

    Dearest new member of the Flip Flunkies: Welcome to the club. I did all the same dastardly deeds last weekend. I have finally given up, taken note of the error of my ways and marked the diagonal, stitched about 1 mm to the right of the line so it folds correctly, used two pins to hold things in place as I go, and finger pressed. I’ve ruined too many things with the iron.

    Now are we going to talk about those speedy flying geese that need to be stitched twice, so they really aren’t speedy after all? (the one where you stitch two smaller squares to the diagonal of a larger square, split them and then add two more smaller squares to the new big triangle/little triangles? Yeech–it would be better to do them the hard way, once!

  42. Jeannie Rasmussen says:

    Thanks for the tips, Diane! I am currently making a flag quilt with over 300 little squares and each has a corner in a contrasting corner using the Stitch and Flip method. I intend to keep stitchin’ and flipping’ until I conquer these things and your tips will sure come in handy!

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