8 September 2014

Top 10 Tips for New Quilters - Pressing Seams

This is Week 4 of the Top 10 Tips for new Quilters -  Pressing Seams
For the complete line up of tips, please see this page.

Just what does it mean to press the seams?
  • Because your fabric pieces are sewn together with right sides facing each other, it is necessary to press the seams to enable those right sides of the fabric to both face up, like opening a book to see the pages.

What is the difference between pressing and ironing?
  • Ironing is used to remove wrinkles.  Ironing yardage before cutting helps you to make more accurate cuts.  Pressing allows the fabric to hold in the position you have placed it, such as when you want a crisp line in a pleat.  Pressing the seams helps them to lay in the direction you want them to stay.

  • When ironing, you slide the iron across the surface of the fabric.  When pressing, you don't push the iron.  You must lift and press.  Lift and press. Let the heat and the weight of the iron do the work.

How do you set the seam?
  • To set the seam, you will first press the fabric as it was sewn.  This is said to help the line of stitching sink into the fabric and aid in giving a smooth seam line. 

What does it mean to finger press the seam?
  • Finger pressing is mainly used to help when pressing seams open.  You use your fingers to press the seam open before using the iron.

Should I press quilt seams to the side or press seams open?
  • When using a pattern, you should always follow the instructions given.  However, there are advantages to each method of pressing seams.  Some prefer to press seams to the side.  This helps to nest the seams and allows for Stitch in the Ditch quilting.  Some prefer to press the seams open.  It is still possible to match the seams and the finished quilt top lays nice and flat.

  • Try both methods and then decide which suits you better.  Experience will help you to know what decision to make when working on your next project.  When my project calls for a lot of matching points, like a checkerboard patchwork, I am more likely to press my seams to the side.  But when bulk is an issue, such as in the center of a pinwheel block, I will press my seams open.

  • When seams have been pressed to the dark side of the fabrics, this aids in the nesting of intersecting seams and prevents stray threads from the darker fabric showing through the lighter patches.

  • If you must press toward the lighter fabric, consider trimming the darker seam narrower to avoid it peeking through from the right side of your patches.

View from the front.  The seams have been pressed to the dark side of the fabrics.

View from the back.

Pressing seams to the dark side will help your seams to "nest" when you sew your units together......

Resulting in perfect points at intersecting seams.

Should I use water in my iron?  Should I used steam to press the seams or a dry iron?
  • I don't use water in my iron.  We have extremely hard water, which leaves a calcium deposit or scaling on the elements in my kettle.  So I never use water in my iron.  This calcium build up can damage your iron and cause the steam vents to plug up.

  • Steam can aid in removing wrinkles when ironing yardage.  So I use a water bottle with a spray nozzle to mist the surface of fabrics while ironing.  However, steam can also relax the fabric to the point of stretching it.  So be careful to be gentle when ironing.

  • I use a dry iron and never mist when setting seams.  Because steam causes the fabric to relax, avoid using steam or misting your blocks while pressing seams.  This can sometimes result in a wavy effect on the pieces made into your block.

Three things to consider when making your next project.....

  1. How will I be quilting this piece?   If I press the seams open. I will not be able to quilt in the ditch.

  2. How many points are meeting at the intersection of my seams?  Should I press some or all seams open?

  3. What is more important?  Easily matched, accurate points?  Or a smooth, flat quilt top?

SUPER TIP:  Press seams as you go.  Never sew a unit to another unit without first pressing your seams.

SUPER TIP:  Use the side edge of your iron, not the point, when pressing long seams.  Keep your iron perpendicular to the seam.  This will help prevent the strips from curving.

Have you got any pressing tips? 
Let me know in the comments!

Keep On Quilting On!


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BillieBee (billiemick) said...

Great post. That is the neatest block I've ever seen. Not a thread hanging. The backs of my blocks are a mess.

Lara B. said...

Great explanations Lorna!

Vicki said...

I love reading all your tips and tricks. Thanks so much for sharing.

margaret said...

thanks for this info, I use a dry iron, do have a steam one but it rarely comes out of th cupboard. I did not know that steam causes the fabric to relax and maybe stretch, Can always guarantee to learn something from your tips. thanks once again. I also have a mini iron with a tiny head and that is very useful when doing poky bits etc

Vickie said...

Great tips Lorna.......some I do, some I don't.....some I better start doing....Thanks !

Unknown said...

Loving this series, I am a FIRM believer in pressing every seam between steps. Everything just comes out better and easier it quilt.

Glinda ♥ said...

Top tips from a top lady! Can't stop using steam - some bad habits are hard to break! But I have learned the difference between pressing and ironing. Thanks for sharing :)

Susan C. said...

You never stop learning! Seriously I am ##coughcough....a certain age and I still can learn about ironing who would have thought? I hate ironing and my long suffering husband does his own shirts but I will press seams now and again.

Lynn said...

Thanks for sharing your tips. But I'm a steam girl and always will be. Don't have issues with my blocks.

Maryse said...

I always press as I go. I set the seams, I finger press the seams open, then slightly press the seams open with a dry iron ( I find that if I skipped this step, sometimes I end up with seams that aren't fully open and create a pleat) then flip and press the seams to one side. I always use a bit of controlled steam at the end.
Loving the series. :-)

Pam @Threading My Way said...

Thanks for this post, Lorna. Now I now how to set a seam and I'll try using the side of the iron instead of the point.

Zenia Rene said...

Great info! Thanks.

Jo Ferguson said...

Great tips and wonderful info. I can't think of a single thing to add.

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