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Pressing Issues When Piecing Your Quilt

Summary

When piecing quilts you can either press seams open or to one side (nesting). We explore the best times to use each of these methods.

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Pressing Issues When Piecing Your Quilt

When piecing quilts there are two schools of thought on whether to press seams open or to one side (nesting). Let’s explore the best times to use each of these methods.

Pressing Issues When Piecing Your Quilt

 

When creating a pieced quilt there are usually many seams involved and how you treat the pressing process can make a great deal of difference in the final look and strength of your quilt. When choosing your pressing method, you really need to consider how the quilt will be used. Will there be lots of stress on the seams like a bed quilt that will be used nightly, or is your project going to be a wall hanging that is hand quilted? The bed quilt will have a “harder life”, so when possible, the best construction is to press the seams to one side and nest them for support. In the case of the hand quilted wall hanging, the least bulk at the seam possible will make for a much more pleasant hand quilting experience and since the quilt will be more gently handled over its lifetime the seams being pressed open will not really affect its lifespan.

 

Nesting Your Seams When Piecing

Predominantly quilters like to press their seams to one side so that when they put their rows together for stitching the seams will “nest” or butt up to one another so that they will line up nicely. This practice helps to keep the seams from “walking” and is very helpful, especially for new quilters. The general rule will be to press row one to the right, row two to the left, row three to the right, etc. It has also been found that antique quilts that were made in this way have stood the test of time when it comes to longevity since the fabrics are literally folded over the stitching which protects the stitching a bit more from breaking.

Nested Seams

 

One instance in which you will always want to press to the side is when piecing a quilt backing, especially if the quilt will be long arm quilted. Remember that this seam will be under a certain amount of stress just from placing it on the machine and thus should be made in the strongest manner possible and placed on the quilting frame in the direction that will help to keep it true and strong. This seam also will be under a bit more stress when being slept under, so this one simple pressing decision can help to save you from a repair in the future.

 

Pressing Your Seams Open When Piecing

Some people like to press their seams open when making a pieced quilt because they feel it helps to reduce bulk in the seams, which is particularly helpful if you are hand quilting. I have to agree that for specific patterns this is the preferable way to press. For instance, if you are making a 3D flying geese block where you use two squares and one rectangle to create the block and you have the two ends of the rectangle as well as the two edges of the squares all meeting, the seam is bulky, and in this case the best practice is to press your seams open. When you purchase a pattern and see the suggested pressing method is to press the seams open, consider why the designer is suggesting this pressing method. If you are concerned about the construction and pressing method, it is always a good idea to make a practice block or two using the method suggested to see how you like it. If the method proves to not be the most pleasing for your use, you will see that quickly and be able to make a change prior to diving in to your larger project.

Seams Pressed Open

 

Press on, quilters!

 

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Glossary

Backing
The fabric on the back of a Quilt Sandwich (Top, Batting and Backing).

Same As: Lining
Block
The basic unit of a quilt top, usually square but can be rectangular or other shapes. Blocks can be pieced, appliqued or plain.
Flying Geese
One of the most popular of the small shape groups that exist in quilting. It consists of a center triangle and two right angle triangles attached to it on either side.
Hand Quilting
A running stitch that is made through all three layers of a quilt to hold them together.
Long Arm
A special quilting machine that is used for machine quilting a quilt. The quilt is held taut on a large frame while the machine arm moves freely to perform a manual or preprogrammed quilting design using free motion. The machine is very expensive, so many owners will rent out time on their machine.
Pieced Quilt
The most commonly seen quilt type which is made up of many small pieces of fabric sewn together by hand or machine. Often called Patchwork in some countries outside the USA.

Same As: Piecing Quilt
Piecing
The process of assembling quilt blocks from pieces of fabric sewn along their edges to form a whole.

See Also: English Paper Piecing, Assembly Piecing, Machine Piecing, Chain Piecing, Paper Piecing, Hand Piecing
Press
Method of using an iron to press seams and blocks. This means simply pressing downwards on the seam with the iron from above and not moving the iron back and forth which can distort the block or seam.
Pressing
Picking a hot iron up off your fabric or quilt top and then putting it down in another place to remove the wrinkles. When you press your fabric, you do not slide the hot iron.

See Also: Ironing
Quilting Frame
A large free-standing floor apparatus made from wood or plastic pipe that holds the layers of a quilt together during quilting.
Author
Quilting Contessa
Quilting Contessa is a collection of various authors around the world that have submitted articles for the QuiltingHub 'How To' quilt wiki.  These are authors that do not write enough to have their own authorship, yet provide valuable content for the site.  If you wish to submit an article, contact us on QuiltingHub.
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