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How do I add sashing to my blocks?

A beginning quilter wants to add sashing to her work. Wendy Hill tells her how.

Answered by Wendy Hill

How do I put sashing on? I want to put it vertically and horizontally.

- A Quilter’s Review reader

Wendy Hill

The desired end result of setting your blocks with sashing is to have all the blocks and sashing strips line up. You’ll probably find as many ways to do this accurately as there are quilters. After you get advice from a variety of people, try it for yourself — and find your own way of doing it through your own experience.

This is a case where accuracy is important. The blocks should be squared-up and all the same size. Squared-up blocks have right-angle corners and so are genuinely square. Fabric is forgiving (unlike, say, wood) but the blocks should be very close to the dimension (within about an eighth of an inch).

Learn more about perfectly square blocks in this expert tip

The sashing, too, should be cut very accurately, adding the seam allowance to the finished width. When rotary cutting strips, take the time to square-up the cutting edge after every three to six strips. No matter how accurately you think you’re cutting, this edge gets a bit out of whack with each cut.

Learn more about cutting perfect strips in this expert tip

Read Sharon’s review of a great strip-cutting tool here

Most people put small vertical sashing strips between the blocks in each row, then put long horizontal strips between the rows. Some people will advise cutting the sashing strips ahead of time to the exact measurements, but that’s not how I do it.

I sew the vertical strips to the blocks with a little left over on the ends, which gets trimmed off later. However, this approach requires careful pinning so the sides of the blocks line up with each other.

I do the same thing when sewing the horizontal sashing to the rows of blocks — I let a little hang over on the ends. Again, you must line up the sides of the blocks on the ends with this approach.

Whether you use pre-cut sashing strips or not, the tricky part is sewing the rows of blocks to the sashing. You need to make sure the blocks are lining up correctly. This is how I manage this trick:

1. Sew the sashing to the first row of blocks, right sides together. Iron the seams toward the sashing (or iron open).

2. Extend the line of the blocks into the sashing, and mark the line with a pin. You’ll have two pins for every vertical sashing strip.

3. Place the next row of blocks right sides together with the sashing, lining up the block seams with the pins. Pin and sew together. Iron the seams toward the sashing (or iron open).

4. Continue in this manner until all the rows are connected.

To make the quilt top easier to handle, most people assemble the quilt top in parts. For example, assemble half the rows at a time, or if there are a lot of rows, assemble a third or a fourth of them at a time.

Always practice step-by-step ironing! You’ll be amazed at how much better your quilts will look at the end if you do step-by-step ironing from start to finish.

Learn how proper ironing can improve your quilts in Wendy’s expert tip

At some point you might want to have setting squares in your sashing at the intersections. You’ll need to pre-cut your sashing strips and squares to do this.

Finally, don’t forget to add color and texture to your quilt by choosing a print, plaid, or other visually-textured fabric for the sashing. Nobody says you have to use a solid or neutral color!

Read Sharon’s review of Setting Solutions, an exciting book on sashing, here

Read questions that Wendy Hill answered

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7 Responses to How do I add sashing to my blocks?

  1. Thank you for this post. Your directions are clear, concise and accurate. I, too, sew with that little extra fabric which is trimmed later and I cut my strips as I sew them onto my blocks.

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