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When pinning a seam for hand piecing, poke the tip of a straight pin in the far corner of one piece and then into the mating corner of the second piece. Place another pin near the center of the seam. Use your needle to pierce the corner points nearest you and begin stitching. Check the underside often to be certain you are sewing accurately.
Are you trying to machine piece two quilt pieces that don't quite match up? As long as the difference is not more that 1/8", try this technique--place a pin at each end of the seam and stitch with the larger piece facing the feed dogs of the sewing machine. This will "ease" in the extra bit of fabric. Practice first on scrap fabric to get a feel for the technique.
Cardboard makes a fine template if you don't have plastic material available. Be sure to make several identical copies of each template and discard any that get worn down from the pressure of your pencil against the cardboard. Any flaws in the template will be carried over to your quilt pieces, making it impossible to have perfectly matching seams.
A simple technique for accurate machine sewn seams involves a ruler and masking tape. Lower your machine's needle at the 1/4" mark. Leave the ruler in place and place several layers of tape one on top of the other butted up against the ruler's edge. This will leave a build up of tape that can be used to guide your pieces under the needle at just the right spot. Check the tape periodically to be sure that the mark has not shifted.
Speed up your machine quilting by using a technique called 'chain piecing.' Match the first two pieces to be joined, stitch them together and stop the machine. Do not cut the threads. Match the next two pieces and place them under the pressure foot leaving a small gap after the first unit. Continue in this manner for as many units as you'd like. Snip apart, press, and you are ready to move on to the next step.