Yes, it’s true. I was 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.
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.
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.
2. When you flip the patch open before trimming, sometimes it does not cover the patch underneath, as shown below.
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.
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.
Here are the solutions that I’ve come up with through trial and error, with an emphasis on the error part.
1. I mark the diagonal line even on very small patches. Nothing else works as well for me.
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.
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.
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.
You 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.
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.
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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.