Shapes and units that once were only possible by template piecing are now often achieved through stitch-and-flip techniques. Stitch-and-flip, sometimes called quick-corner or fast-corner piecing, is a distinctly modern technique: it’s tailor-made for rotary cutting, it’s meant to simplify your cutting and piecing, but it also assumes you have access to more fabric than you actually need as it creates a certain amount of waste (though that doesn’t always have to be the case, as we’ll see later).
For a great example of a stitch-and-flip pattern that would have been made with templates only 20 years ago, take a look at Dreamcatcher by Denise Russart, which is included in the September/October 2017 issue of McCall’s Quilting. There is not a single template or triangle in the cutting list, only squares and rectangles, making this pattern—and many like it—accessible to confident beginners with a good grasp of basic quiltmaking skills.
If you’re new to the stitch-and-flip technique, well, it’s done exactly the way it sounds: you stitch a patch across the diagonal to a larger patch, trim the excess, then flip the smaller patch open to take the place of the fabric you trimmed from the larger patch. Most of the time, it’s used to end up with a triangle joined to a non-triangular shape.
Figuring out how big to cut your patches is easy with stitch-and-flip. With this technique you stitch directly corner to corner of your small patch, not 1/4″ away from the diagonal such as when making fast triangle-squares or half-square triangle units. Therefore, you only need to add standard ½” seam allowances to the finished dimension of the short side of the triangle you’ll end up with to find what size to cut the patch you’ll flip.
Below are videos showing various uses of stitch-and-flip units followed by patterns made with those units so you can see the variety of designs that can be created with the technique. And be sure to scroll to the bottom to learn about a great tip for making stitch-and-flip units even more quickly.
To start with, “My First Quilt” host Sara Gallegos did an entire episode covering how to stitch-and-flip. The full episode is available to view for free on QNNtv.com.
The focus of this “Quiltmaker’s Lessons in Creativity” video with Jenny Kae Parks is on making a square-in-square using stitch-and-flip. With large square-in-squares you’ll save a lot of fabric by cutting triangles and joining them to the sides of a smaller square, but with small units, stitch-and-flip certainly makes things easier.
In this “Quiltmaker’s Block Network” video, Shayla Wolf demonstrates a snowball block. It’s similar to a square-in-square except the corner triangles don’t meet in the middle of the square’s raw edges. Using stitch-and-flip saves you from having to join triangles to the sides of an octagon.
For an adorable crib quilt that’s made with snowball blocks, nine-patch blocks and stitch-and-flip setting triangles, take a look at My Only Sunshine by Carolyn Beam. This scrappy, charm square-friendly pattern is included in the McCall’s Quick Quilts August/September 2017 issue.
In a different “Quiltmaker’s Lessons in Creativity” video, Jenny Kae shows how to make flying geese units using stitch-and-flip (as opposed to the no-waste fast flying geese technique or the traditional method of cutting and joining triangles).
The scrappy star points in Very Merry by Diane Harris are similar to flying geese except that they are more widely spaced and don’t meet in the middle of the unit, which means they are perfect for using stitch-and-flip. You can find the pattern in the October/November 2017 issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts.
In this “Quilty” Blocks-a-Go-Go episode, Marianne Fons joins daughter Mary to demonstrate the 21st Century Snail block, which entails joining squares to ends of rectangles to make units. Marianne and Mary also share a tip for putting those trimmed triangles to use to eliminate fabric waste.
Colleen Tauke demonstrates smaller rectangular stitch-and-flip units (she calls it the diagonal seams technique) to create the star points in the Four-Patch Star Quilt in this “Quilting Quickly” tutorial.
Here are a couple of additional patterns that take full advantage of the ease offered by stitch-and-flip techniques.
Skittles by Melissa Corry is a terrific example of creating unusual and even wonky-looking shapes using a combination of square-in-square and rectangular stitch-and-flip units. The pattern was included in the McCall’s Quick Quilts August/September 2017 issue. (It’s also perfect for using a layer cake or other package of precut 10” squares, so it’s a win-win on the fast-and-easy front).
All of the techniques and patterns shown above require a certain amount of accuracy in terms of cutting patches and stitching corner to corner. Stitch-and-flip can also be used more improvisationally, though, such as for making the pumpkin stems in Punkin’ Patch by Bonnie Hunter.
The pattern includes step-by-step photos; you can find it in the September/October 2017 issue of Quiltmaker.
So now that you’re familiar with this easy technique and the different types of units and blocks you can make with it, how about making them even more quickly? A nifty no-mark technique from Donna Ramos was shared on the Quiltmaker blog over five years ago and has remained popular for good reason. Click here to learn all about it.
We certainly have nothing against the quiltmaking techniques of days gone by, but when given a choice between making templates versus creating a few extra scraps by using stitch-and-flip techniques, we’re pretty much always going to choose stitch-and-flip. It’s an innovation that became popular for good reason and a technique that’s here to stay.