by Irena Swanson
I like to make beautiful quilts accurately and with streamlined methods. To this effect I have been developing a very accurate and fast technique for many quilt patterns: for all-over parallelograms and all-over triangles, for long or multitudinous rows of parallelograms and triangles, and for many other designs. I call my method tube piecing.
In comparison to strip piecing, tube piecing is faster and uses fabric and time more efficiently.
New in May 2018: I finally tested my efficient method of making rows of odd numbers of triangles in them. This is for advanced users of tubes only. Beginners should try my methods for making half-square triangles, four patch blocks, rows of triangles, all-over parallelograms...
I started this web site in September 2015.
The better photographs are by Alex Krafcik.
My name is Irena Swanson. I have been developing tube piecing for several years, and I have used it to make many projects very fast, efficiently, and accurately: all-over triangle quilts, zigzag patterns with triangles and parallelograms, flying geese, pinwheels, double pinwheels, ocean waves, LeMoyne stars and other stars, sawtooth border, bear's paw, lady of the lake, square in a square, square in a parallel square, diamonds in rectangles, 3x3 diamonds in a square, 2x3 diamonds in a rectangle, 2x5 parallelograms in a square, ... hourglass blocks, seamless double and triple hourglass blocks, hexagons in halves, hexagons in triangles, tumbling blocks, paired peaks (my own design), Roman stripes, milky way, Indiana puzzle/snail's trail, Japanese puzzle, hearts and flower buds, rail fence, ... . Since January 2014 I have been writing a book about my tube piecing method and since late 2017 I have been focusing on another book with emphasis on mathematics and streamlining in quilting. (It is likely that I'll finish the latter book first, I keep adding projects to the former.) Click here for a current table of contents of the first book. Most of all, I am having lots of fun!
You can find several of my mathematics-related quilts at http://www.reed.edu/~iswanson/quilts.html.
Tube piecing is an enhanced version of strip piecing; it is to strip piecing as strip piecing is to traditional piecing: more efficient and more accurate. You get to experience quilting from a new point of view: it is often about cutting large constructions down rather than building from small pieces up.
Tube piecing allows any angles, not just the standard 90, 60, 45, 30 degrees, it minimizes seam starting, it minimizes inaccuracies inherent in seam starting, it avoids corner discards of strip/row piecing, it minimizes the number of seams needed for the constructions, it manages the numerous small pieces more sanely, it reduces the amount of thread clipping, it speeds up the quilt-making, it makes the final product more accurate, it handles bias edges with their proneness for stretching more appropriately, and it allows for exploring new pattern possibilities with successive stages of wide and narrow tubes, and of pre- and post-tubes.
You do not need to buy any new gadgets —- scissors, a rotary cutter, cutting mat, ruler, sewing machine, iron, fabric, and thread will do. For a few projects I also use a seam ripper: not to correct mistaken seams but as part of streamlined design.
Tube piecing is accessible to any quilter who is comfortable with the rotary cutter and accurate measurements.
Tube piecing means that much sewing gets done on tubes, but the final product is still a flat piece. The two photos on the left above show examples of (small) tubes with a good view of their holes. The two tubes above eventually became (parts of) rows of parallelograms in the final quilt on the right. Each row in the quilt contains twenty symmetric parallelograms, and each parallelogram has horizontal girth equal to three inches. Twelve grey-pink tubes as on the left above were used to make two rows in the quilt, and these particular two rows of 40 parallelograms with 80 side- and corner triangles were made with only 20 seams (total, not per row).
For more details on the method, click The tube piecing method. For more examples, click on Examples, go to my links on the page Social Media, or directly: YouTube channel (please subscribe), my Instagram feed (please follow), and my Tube Piecing Facebook page (please like the page). One YouTube video is below. Make sure to check out my very first video on making rows of half-square triangles very fast (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmCsxMFV2Qg)! Or check out the one for making rows of arbitrary triangles (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOAbxMbUCyU).