OPQA: Tips for Assembling The Top!

Orange Peel Quilt-Along!

Hey, remaining quilt-alongers! How are you doing with your quilt tops??? I’m sorry I left you hanging for a while – we had another loss at Christmastime when our gorgeous and funny Mr. Winston got suddenly very sick and then passed away. Sigh. I miss him so much.

So I didn’t get much / any peel stitching done over the holidays, and since then I’ve been trying to catch up. I’ve now finished hand-stitching ALL ONE-HUNDRED-AND-NINETY-SIX PEELS. Yeah, boi. And you know what? I totally miss them. I’ve gotten so used to them as my evening project, I don’t quite know what to do with myself now! I’ll catch up on some knitting projects I’ve been wanting to do, but then I have another idea for a hand-stitching project – but more on that in time.

Anyway, so my peels are all stitched, and trimmed (oh, the humanity. That was definitely the crummy part of this project – though I didn’t help myself by powering through it and trimming them all in two afternoons):

OPQA: Tips

(The photos in this post are mostly from Instagram, where I’ve been posting as I work, with a few unedited ones in between. I’m sorry they’re not the best, but I’ve been sewing at night and taking quick snaps as I go.)

Now I’m working on assembling the top, and as I work, I’ve noticed a few things that might be helpful to share, for anyone still to assemble theirs. This is how I’ve gone about mine:

First, I laid out piles on the table, based on peel fabric. (You could do it with background fabric too, I suppose, it depends on your selection, really.)


From those piles, I made pairs of peels, as randomly as I could, trying not to repeat pairs too often and keeping directionality of print in mind (where applicable). Once I had a massive stack of pairs, I chain pieced them, which saves both time and thread. If you aren’t familiar with chain piecing, it just means you feed one pair of fabrics in one after the other, without removing the fabric or trimming the thread. They will be all sewn together in a ‘chain’ when you’ve finished, then you can clip them apart. It’s pretty awesome.

One note about sewing your peels: I don’t have a walking foot on my Featherweight and sometimes she wanted to swerve around the peel corner bumps (this will totally make sense when you sew them, I swear), making my seam wonky. If you have a walking foot on your machine, this probably won’t be a problem. To adjust for this with Bettie, I raised the foot pressure just a touch, and added a little pressure from the side as I got to that point in each block –


– to make sure she took that little step up over the thicker area. Again, I know this won’t make so much sense now, but I’m sure it will once you start joining your peels.

When I had a stack of peel pairs, I divided them into pairs containing a directional print, and pairs without. This might not be an issue for your fabrics, but I had quite a few that would look silly upside down. I matched directional pairs (right, below) to non-directional pairs (left):


And then set the pairs aside with a pin in them. Once I had a stack of matched pairs (aka soon-to-be ring blocks), I pressed the seams of each match like so: seam of top pair pressed to the right, seam of top pair pressed to the left. Then chain pieced those pairs, same as before …


… which left me with a stack of ring blocks!

At that point, I could have finally laid them all out and placed them just so, but two things stopped me. First, I would seriously have to move a lot of furniture to lay out a top this big – I wan’t prepared to do that last night, but I wanted to keep sewing!

Second, I wondered what I would really gain by nitpicking over the layout at that level. Yeah, I might’ve made it perfect – but I’m trying to question what ‘perfect’ really means in this context. Who says a layout obsessed over will really end up more ‘perfect’ than a random one? Maybe it’ll be exactly the same. Or maybe it’ll look overworked and less interesting! Mom was always trying to teach me this, but I think it’s just something that has to come on its own with your own confidence in your craft. But that’s probably a post for another day – the point is, I decided to just wing it and see what happens! Of course, my quilt is so large, it’d be so difficult to really fine-tune so many peels into a ‘perfect’ layout. It was always going to be pretty random. And I only have two colors, so I don’t need to worry about creating a balance in that way – depending on your fabrics and quilt size, you may really need to have a look before you start putting them together.


Anyway, so now I’m putting together quadruple-ring-blocks. :) Then I’ll lay them out. I ordered my batting from Doughty’s today, so that should get here just as I’m finishing up. I’ll share more about how I baste quilts as soon as I get there!

How’s your quilt going? These are just tips and whatnot, so I won’t add a link-up, but let us know in the comments!

7 Comments on OPQA: Tips for Assembling The Top!

  1. Robin Wilkinson
    January 30, 2015 at 18:13 (3 years ago)

    I am still hanging in there too. My 144 blocks became 72 double blocks and now are 36 quads. All that is needed now is time and space to lay them out “randomly” so final assembly can begin. So exciting to be nearly done!

  2. Andrée
    January 30, 2015 at 19:57 (3 years ago)

    Hi Julie, way to go. It’s going to look awesome!
    I have sewn about 100 peels so far. Last weekend I finished cutting the last 44 peels. I’ve been listening to books on CD – which is really helping me sew these together. I’m really looking forward to trimming them (not because I’m a masochist but because it’s the next step!)

  3. Andrée
    January 30, 2015 at 19:59 (3 years ago)

    I’m really sorry to hear about your Mr. Winston – we lost our Bandit just before Christmas – it sure makes the season less merry :-(

  4. Dani
    January 31, 2015 at 12:31 (3 years ago)

    So so sorry about Winston, Julie. What a tough year. I really hope it gets better for you.

    It is funny how different people see shapes in different ways – I have always looked at orange peel quilts and seen the sort of flower shape, rather than the ring. So if I had been doing the same tutorial, I would have said “put together your 4 blocks into a flower”. They are both the same, just funny how the eye sees things differently

  5. sam
    January 31, 2015 at 13:20 (3 years ago)

    So sorry for your loss. These furry family members take big spaces in our hearts.

    The quilt blocks are looking amazing.

  6. Amanda M
    February 1, 2015 at 07:16 (3 years ago)

    Your blocks are looking fantastic! I’ve had to set mine aside for a bit to focus on a few projects that need to get done. Seeing your progress makes me excited to get back to mine! All hand-sewing is done and my layout is figured out. Just need to trim blocks and start assembling! Thanks for your tips, I’m sure they’ll come in very handy!

    So sorry to hear about your sweet pup. Sending hugs and warm thoughts your way.

  7. Robin Cassady-cain
    February 6, 2015 at 08:16 (3 years ago)

    Way to go! It’s looking great! As you know, I’ve finished my 252 blocks, and my complete top! Just need to finish piecing the back and it’s on to quilting! Wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I think I’ve settled on hand quilting around the peels in 4 blocks in a petal arrangement. Haven’t quite decided if I will also stitch in the ditch along the block lines….it’s been fun, but I don’t think I’ll miss it when it’s done!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *