How to Sew a Tic-Tac-Toe Board
Once you work through the steps to make a bean bag, it doesn’t take too long to make a bunch of them. The process of making a bunch of bean bags is even more efficient if you do one step for all the bean bags before moving on to the next step.
But what in the world can you do with a bunch of bean bags?
You can play Tic-Tac-Toe!
Sewing the bean bags was fun and I love the gingham fabric. I had enough fabric to make several bean bags so my mind started to think about what exactly I would do with a bunch of gingham bean bags.
Eventually, I remembered a tabletop checker game we had. The checkerboard, woven out some type of fiber, was easily folded and stored when we weren’t using it.
That sparked the idea of making a Tic-Tac-Toe board out of fabric.
Super excited about this idea, I made 10 bean bags out of 2 different colors of gingham. At the same time, I let different ideas percolate in my mind while I tried to figure out the best way to make the game board.
When I finally decided on how I wanted to make the Tic-Tac-Toe board, I became even more excited.
From a sewing point of view, the construction of the Tic-Tac-Toe board includes basic sewing skills in addition to some knowledge and skills used by quilters.
As a result, after making the Tic-Tac-Toe board you’ll have an idea if quilting is something you want to learn more about.
How to Sew a Tic-Tac-Toe Board
After following the directions in this lesson, you’ll have a Tic-Tac-Toe board you can use with bean bags you sewed yourself!
Tip: Read all of the steps before you begin so you know what you’ll be doing.
Gather the Supplies
- cotton or cotton type fabric
- 2 different fabrics for the Tic-Tac-Toe squares. You’ll need enough fabric to cut 5 – 6″ squares out of each fabric
- a little more than 1/2 yard (or a piece big enough to cut an 18 x 18-inch square) for the back of the board
- 1/4 yard for the binding
- rotary cutter, mat, and ruler – I used an 18″ x 24″ mat and a 6″ x 24″ ruler
- sewing gauge (not pictured)
- marking pen (not pictured)
- needles for hand sewing binding (not pictured)
Get Your Sewing Machine Ready
First, attach the presser foot.
- If you have a 1/4-inch presser foot, use it when you sew the 6-inch blocks together and add the binding. The 1/4-inch presser foot is what quilters use when piecing quilt blocks. Since the Tic-Tac-Toe board will basically be a nine patch block, using a 1/4-inch presser foot allows you to try out a different presser foot than you normally use.
- If you don’t have a 1/4-inch presser foot, no worries. For this project, all steps can be done with the all-purpose presser foot, too.
Note: You’ll be using the edge of the presser foot as your guide. There isn’t that much of a difference between the 1/4-inch presser foot and the all-purpose presser foot when using the edge as a guide. However, if you decide quilting is something you want to learn more about, you WILL NEED to get a 1/4-inch presser foot. That little bit of difference adds up over multiple quilt blocks and can mess up the machine piecing and quilt top construction in a big way!
Now, wind thread on the bobbin. Insert the bobbin and thread the machine. Set the machine to do a straight stitch (a width of 0 and a length of 2-3 for a medium length stitch).
Prepare the Fabric
- Prewash the 100% cotton fabrics in warm water and dry in the dryer. Press to get the large wrinkles out and square up the fabrics.
- Cutting the Fabric
- Tic-Tac-Toe squares – cut 5 – 6″ squares out of each fabric
- Back of the board – cut an 18″ x 18″ piece of fabric
- Binding- cut 2 strips 2.5 inches wide. Each strip should be 42″ to 44″ long depending on the width of the fabric. After cutting, you should have a total of approximately 80 inches of fabric.
A stand-alone tutorial is available for Steps 1-5 on How to Sew a Nine Patch Block.
Tip: Read all of the steps before you begin so you know what you’ll be doing.
Step 1: Lay out the fabric squares in a grid with right sides up
Put the darker fabric in the middle of the top row. Alternate the fabrics in the other two rows to make the Tic-Tac-Toe board. This is the nine patch, a commonly used block in quilting.
Step 2: Sewing the nine patch together
- Label the first square in each row. Use a pin so the label doesn’t come off.
- Place the middle square on top of the first square in each row. Right sides should be together and edges lined up. Pin in place along the right edge.
- Use the presser foot edge as the guide and sew the squares in each pair together. You don’t need to backstitch.
- Lay the pairs of squares you just sewed next to the third square in each row. Right sides should be up.
- Place the last square on top of the middle square in each row. Right sides together. Line up the edges and pin in place along the right edge.
- Again, use the presser foot edge as the guide and sew the squares in each set together. You don’t need to backstitch.
- Lay the rows out in order and check the placement. Make sure you have a tic-tac-toe pattern.
Step 3: Pressing the seams
There is a certain direction the seams need to be pressed. You’ll be pressing the seams toward the darker fabric. This will help when you sew the rows together.
- Press the seams in the first and third row toward the center square.
- Press the seams in the second row to the outside squares.
Be careful not to press over the labels that identify the rows. You may want to remove the label when you press, but put it back when you’re done.
Step 4: Preparing and sewing the rows together
- Lay the rows out in order with right sides up. Make sure the first square in each row has the label on it.
- Place the first row on top of the second row with right sides together. The edges of each row that were next to each other when they were laid out, should be together.
- Align and snug the seams together. If the seams were pressed correctly, you should feel them butt up against each other. They should fit together easily. Make sure the raw edges of the rows are lined up. Pin the rows together.
Step 5: Press the seams to the middle
Press the seams toward row 2. The finished Nine Patch should be approximately 17″ x 17″.
Step: 6: Squaring up the nine patch block
A stand-alone tutorial is available for Step 6 on How to Square Up a Nine Patch Block
Chances are the edges of the nine patch are not perfectly straight. Therefore, you will need to square up the block. To do this, you will need to use rotary cutting tools.
- Lay the nine patch on the rotary cutting mat. Line up the bottom edge of the block with one of the horizontal lines on the mat. The edge may not be straight but line it up the best that you can.
- Now, adjust the block so the right edge of the nine patch block is just over one of the vertical lines. The bottom edge of the block should still be aligned with the horizontal line on the mat.
- Place the rotary cutting ruler along the vertical line that is closest to the right edge of the fabric. You’ll use the rotary cutter to trim just enough off so the edge is straight.
Step 7: Adding the back
When you connect the back to the nine patch block, you’ll be using a technique called Stitch in the Ditch which means you’ll be sewing in the seam space on the right side of the nine patch.
Tip: Use a neutral color for the top thread and color that matches the back fabric for the bobbin thread. This way if you stray out of the ditch it won’t be as noticeable.
- Get the 18″ x 18″ fabric piece and lay it right side down, the wrong side up.
- Place the nine patch on top with the right side up. The wrong sides should be together.
- Center the nine patch and smooth out any wrinkles.
- Pin the back and the block together.
Tip: When you pin the back and the nine patch block together place the pins where you won’t need to remove them as you sew. It’s better to have too many pins then not enough to help hold the fabric in place as you sew. You want to minimize any movement of the fabric as you sew in each seam space or ditch.
Another Tip: Begin pinning from the middle and smooth out the fabric as you go. This will help eliminate any bunched fabric on the back.
A stand-alone tutorial is available for directions 5-11 on Stitching in the Ditch.
5. To be able to see the ditch as you sew, use the all-purpose presser foot. Put the pinned pieces under the presser foot so the nine patch is facing up. Line up the needle with one of the seam spaces and lower it in the fabric.
6. Slightly pull the fabric on either side of the seam to open up the ditch.
7. Sew along the seam line. This is one time when you WANT to watch the needle as you sew so you keep it in the seam or ditch. You don’t need to back stitch.
- Tip: Sew slowly to better control where the needle goes.
- Another Tip: Don’t remove the pins. Keep them in while you sew so the fabric stays in place.
8. The next ditch you want to sew is the one parallel to the first one.
9. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have stitched in the ditch on all four seams.
10. Remove all the pins and press lightly.
11. Trim off the excess back using the rotary cutting tools. The back should be the same size as the front now.
Step 8: Make the binding
The directions below are a simple tutorial on how to make binding to go with the Tic-Tac-Toe board project. So, the binding measurements in the directions go with that project.
If you’re making binding for another project, use those binding measurements.
For a comprehensive tutorial to make binding for quilts, see A Beginner’s Guide to Double-Fold Binding.
A binding is a piece of fabric that covers the raw edge of a quilt. While the Tic-Tac-Toe board isn’t a quilt (it doesn’t have batting), it is a quilt block sewn together with another layer of fabric by Stitching in the Ditch, a quilting technique.
Like a quilt, the raw edges of the Tic-Tac-Toe game board need to be covered. Before you bind the raw edges together, you’re going to make the binding using the 2.5-inch strips of fabric.
- Take the two 2.5 x 40(ish)-inch strips and place them with right sides together.
- Line up the edges.
3. Pin close to the short end.
4. Sew a seam on the short end using the end of the presser foot as the guide.
5. Press the seam open.
6. Press the binding in half lengthwise with the wrong sides together. The prepared binding for the Tic-Tac-Toe board should be 1 1/4-inches wide x 82ish-inches long.
Step 9: Attach the binding
- To keep the edges from shifting on the quilted Tic-Tac-Toe board when you sew the binding on, they need to be sewn down. To do this lay the board flat and smooth out the squares. Move from the inside of each square to the outer edges and pin in place about an inch from the edge.
2. Use a basting stitch (a straight stitch with the longest length) to sew around the outer edge of the game board. You want to get as close to the edge as you can. I used painter’s tape aligned with the edge of a feed dog hole as my guide.
3. Set the stitch length back to a medium-size stitch.
A stand-alone tutorial is available for directions 4-12 on Step 9 and all of Step 10 on How to Attach the Binding.
4. The right side of the quilt should be facing up. Align the raw edge of the binding to the raw edge of the quilt. You’ll start sewing in the center of one side. But don’t sew the first 8 to 12 inches of the binding.
On the Tic-Tac-Toe board, place one pin in the middle of one of the center squares and a second pin about 3 inches from the corner to hold the binding in place to get started.
You won’t pin the rest of the binding. Instead, you will line up the raw edges as you sew.
5. Using the edge of the presser foot as your guide, start sewing in the middle of the center square near to where you placed the first pin. Pay attention and make sure the raw edges stay lined up as you sew toward the first corner. Stop sewing about a 1/4-inch from the corner edge.
6. Lift the presser foot, pivot the fabric so the needle is aimed toward the corner, lower the presser foot, and sew to the corner.
7. Remove the fabric from the sewing machine.
8. Fold the binding up, using the diagonally stitched line for the fold line.
9. Fold the binding back down so the binding fold lines up with the edge of the fabric and the raw edge of the binding lines up with the perpendicular raw edge of the game board. Insert one pin to hold it in place.
10. Start sewing at the edge of the fabric to attach the binding on the next side
11. Repeat steps 3-7 until you’ve sewn all four corners. Remember to stop 1/4-inch from each corner so you can pivot the needle and sew into the corner.
12. Stop sewing the binding on the last edge about 2 inches past the last corner. There will be a gap between where you started and stopped sewing.
Note: On larger projects than this Tic-Tac-Toe board, leave about a 12-inch gap between where you start and stop sewing the binding.
You should have several inches of binding left on both sides.
Depending on how much binding is left, I sometimes trim each side so they’re each approximately the length of the remaining space and easier to work with when connecting the ends of the binding as described below.
Step 10: Connecting the Ends of the Binding
Caution: Double check your measurements on directions 1 and 2 before cutting so you know they’re correct. Otherwise, the binding won’t lay down flat.
Important: The amount you measure in step 1 needs to be equal to the width you cut your binding.
- The binding in this tutorial has a width of 2.5 inches, so 2.5 inches is measured and marked.
- For a binding that has a width of 2.25 inches, 2.25 inches would be measured and marked.
- Measure and mark 2.5 inches from one end of the binding.
2. Lay the other side of the binding on top and trim it at the 2.5 inch mark.
3. Open up both sides of the binding, overlap them slightly with right sides together, and lay them together at a right angle. (See photo in step 4.)
Tip: The area you are working with is pretty small but it is possible to get the binding to lay flat. If the binding doesn’t lay flat, you may need to remove some of the stitches on the left-hand side with a seam ripper.
4. Pin the binding (right sides should be together) and draw a line from corner to corner.
5. Sew on the line. Take your time as you sew to make sure the fabric is laying flat.
6. Remove the pins and fold the binding to make sure it will lay flat in the remaining space.
7. Once you are sure the binding is sewn correctly and lays flat, trim off the excess fabric so there is about a 1/4-inch seam allowance.
8. Press the seam open, lay the binding flat, and sew it down. Make sure the raw edges are aligned. Overlap a few stitches at the beginning and end of this last seam to secure it.
To see how to attach the binding from start to finish in action, you can watch Jenny from the Missouri Star Quilt Company execute my favorite way to bind quilts starting around minutes 5:10.
Step 11: Hand stitch the binding to the back
A stand-alone tutorial is available for Step 11 on How to Sew the Blind Stitch by Hand.
You’ll be hand-stitching the blind stitch to finish the binding and attach it to the back of the game board. Use a thread color that matches the binding.
- Fold the binding over to the back side and pin in place. It should be snug along the raw edge. Tip: Tuck the end of the pin back into the binding so you don’t stab yourself when you are sewing the binding down. If you have binding clips, you can use those.
That’s It. You’re Done!
The Tic-Tac-Toe board and bean bags can be used inside and outside.
Store the bean bags in a fun bowl or container. I collect vintage Pyrex bowls and like to use those when I can. The Tic-Tac-Toe board can be folded and used as a placemat for the bean bag container until someone is ready to play a game.
If you prewashed the fabric, cleaning the game board is easy. Just pretreat any stains, then toss it in the washing machine. You decide if you want to use the dryer or hang it up to dry.
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Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at email@example.com and we can work together to get it figured out!
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