Monday, May 2, 2011

Seams... The Burning Question... Press Open or To One Side?

Hello Everyone,

This weekend I was working on a project that required me to make strip sets. While doing this, I instinctively pressed the seams open. But then I thought, "Wow, this is a great topic for the blog!"

So here goes...


Here is what my seams look like pressed open. They lay very flat and there is no worrying about a dark or light side.


I am sure you are wondering why I press them open. If you recall this quilt that I made last year, it is modeled after a quilt pattern from Bill Kerr And Weeks Ringle. There are tons of strip sets.

When I was at Fall Quilt Market 2010, I went to a lecture with Bill Kerr and he spoke about this very subject. Here are a few things that he said:

1. The quilt top will lay flatter than if pressed to one side.
2. This helps in alleviating any of the wonkiness or distortion that you may get when pressing to one side with a strip set.
3. It is easier to quilt through, hand or machine.

In using this technique, I have found all to be true. However, that doesn't mean that I don't ever press seams to one side. In fact, that is what I do most of the time, with this as an exception.


Now, I am not saying that this is the right way to do it, but for me it works. It would be great to hear from some of you who use this technique and hear your thoughts. If you currently don't use this technique, give it a go and let me know your thoughts. If it doesn't work for you, that is okay, you need to do what works best for you.


Until Next Time...

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42 comments:

Elzaan said...

I am very new to quilting - been doing it for two years, when I have the time. In the classes that I attended, we were always instructed to press seams to one side. The main reason was that there is less tension on the thread to hold the fabric together than when seams are open. (I am not sure how true that is, but it makes sense to me).
I have no problem with my quilting when seems are to one side - it actually helps me keep my work straight when doing patchwork, since it serves as a reference point and a guide to keep my fabric straight under the walking foot of the machine.

Stephanie said...

Great topic. I find I mostly press to one side but lately I'm finding it better to press open. When I first got started quilting in the 90s we were told to press to one side. Funny how I used to think there were quilting rules!

Melanie said...

When making half square triangles I always press opened seams-- the bulkiness gets difficult for me to quilt--- especially making pinwheels. Straight seams I usually go to one side-- always to the darker side as I don't want fabric showing through.

maddy said...

Extremly nice post,thats very interesting!

Cv Example

polyquats said...

The press to one side rule is an artifact from the days when quilts were hand pieced with running stitch. It isn't necessary for machine piecing. You may need to press to one side if you want a ditch to quilt in. These days, I am increasingly pressing seams open. It makes for a flatter surface for free motion quilting.

jednoiglec said...

I'm quite new to quilting and this is a great topic!
When I've started quilting I was keeping all my seems open, but after one disaster (small whole in quilted pillow) I've started to keep them on one side.
But I'm still not sure which way is more accurate and which way should be used.

Sel's Quilting Blog said...

polyquats, that's a fascinating bit of quilting history! I never knew that!

I do both, somewhat randomly from quilt to quilt. I pressed the seams of my first three quilts open, but have done one sided pressed seams for many other quilts since then, which has worked out quite fine.

code "sewhylon"!

A.J. Dub. said...

When I first started quilting, I started with a block of the month. I took my first block in to show the shop owner (Seams to the side and) and she said if I tried pressing the seams open it would make the seams easier to match up.It was easier for me and I rarely press to the side now. But I have wondered if in the long term, you would get bearding through the seams. Has anyone washed a seams open quilt enough to know?

pcflamingo said...

I'm a press-the-seams-open kind of gal. But in taking some quilting classes, when the teacher says to press seams to one side, I do so. Sometimes it seems to make a difference in how the block goes together.

LynCC said...

Yeah, this is a popular pressing question. One of those things in quilting that is a personal decision, not a hard-and-fast "has to be this way" rule. :)

I tried pressing seams open, and decided I much prefer the "old-fashioned" pressing to one side.

Why:

1) Less pull-apart tension on the sewing thread.

2) For me, it is far easier to get perfect intersections when the fabric ridges "kiss".

3) BIGGEST REASON: I like stitch-in-the-ditch on most of my custom quilting to make elements pop. Pressing seams open leaves only the sewing thread to be quilted upon for SID, and that's asking for problems down the line.

If you never SID, no prob. If you want flatness at busy intersections (such as pinwheels), simply spin the allowances - this creates no more bulk than you get with open-pressed seams.

~Carla~ said...

LynCC, thanks for sharing your knowledge, I'm new to sewing & quilting so learning little tips like this helps so much! :)

Linboose said...

I just started a quilt this week with seams open. I have not done this before but I wanted to try it out. So far it looks good. Although, While reading this blog I did get a little nervous about seams coming open. I imagine this would be less of an issue if the thread is really good quality. Hmm, what is your favorite thread to use?

Nedra said...

I'm really glad you did this post, because it gave me thought. I had always heard that you press to the dark so the seams don't show through on the light. Or that you press open when you have many intersecting seams, and need to cut down on bulk.
But now... I feel more choices!

karenfae said...

I have done it both ways, press open and to one side. I always thought you had to press to one side but then realize rules are meant to be broken. I have hand pieced and machine pieced normally on all my hand piecing though I have pressed to one side - force of habit? I'm not sure it is is just what I do.
Karen
http://karensquilting.com/blog/

Exuberant Color said...

I press my seams open on most of my strip piecing too. For stitch in the ditch, like others have said, you need the seam to one side and I do love SID when I am using my regular sewing machine for quilting. Also seams between blocks usually get pressed to one side for a better match at corners. So with all of that said I'm just about 50/50 in all of my pressing.

Anya said...

I've done both. And I find that I'm pressing seams open a lot more lately.

Tina said...

I have been pressing seams open much more often recently to allow blocks to lie flatter. For me, pressing to one side is much faster, but I'm getting better at pressing open. I think it really depends on the block and quilt layout. It's always good to have options!

Helen said...

I had always pressed to one side until I had a class with Dierdre Amsden who made watercolor quilts. With all those little squares that were machine-pieced... and looked best hand quilted... and never went into the wash, pressing open was much nicer. Now I do whatever suits the project. But I think that pressing is a very important topic and often overlooked. Glad you asked!

Linda said...

I am currently working on the BQ Quilt Pattern (from Maple Island), so I decided to try pressing all the seams open. To my surprise my block pieces didn't seem to match when I sewed the final piece (6-1/2" sq) in place. Tried this with 4 blocks not just one. When I pressed seams to one side all worked well. Maybe it's just me. Anyone else had this problem?

Mimi said...

I am leery of open seams for the integrity of the quilt. Open seams make the seam much more vulnerable to a break in the sewing thread. I sew with a group that makes small quilts and hangs them on walls. I still like to make big quilts and use them on beds. Sure open seams make for "flatter" lay - but at what long term cost?

ktquilts said...

I have found, the hard way, that if I am going to quilt by stitching in the ditch don't press open!! The needle slips down in the seam, so that only the thread is holding the quilt together, and the quilting doesn't show. Bummer. The solution once you have this problem is to quilt with a decorative stitch that catches fabric on both sides of the seam!

Stitched With Prayer said...

I took my first quilting class 3 years ago. Early last year, I read on someones blog that they were having great success pressing their seams open so I tried it and have been using the method every since the first block I used it on. My points and intersections all match up so much easier. There is less bulk on blocks with lots of small pieces and to me, it seems like the blocks lay much smoother and nicer. I love this method. I am seeing it more and more on other blogs too. Hugs...

Stitched With Prayer said...

I meant to say on my first post that in my first quilting class, I was taught to ALWAYS press the seam to the side, ALWAYS. All the same, I didn't hesitate to try the open seam idea as soon as I read about it. I think too that on pinwheel blocks for instance or blocks with lots of bulk at the center, you will see a big difference with the open seam method. Hugs...

krisgray said...

I press to the side unless I am doing an intricately pieced small block or mini, then I press open to reduce bulk in small area.

Annette said...

Great post! I think I mostly have a habit of pressing to the side. I need to play around with that a little more. My machine quilter wants seams pressed to the side...she says if the needle hits the pressed open seam it can break the thread and damage it.

Linda said...

I've done both and as a dressmaker first it's instinct to press open. It leaves a clean fresh seam, but there are time when pressing to one side is the only option.

Poppyprint said...

I'm having a twilight zone moment - I was composing a post on this very subject in my head yesterday on the way home from a quilt show.

I still believe that seams are more stable if pressed to one side and the threads are protected. When a seam is pressed open, each tiny thread in a stitch is exposed to snags, breakage during quilting and friction in the wash (if you wash your quilts). Now, for a wall hanging, I'm not so worried, and would be more inclined to press open.

When making a 4-patch, for instance, if all your seams are pressed open, you essentially have a wee hole in the middle where the 4 seams meet.

I think it's really interesting that people press the crap out of their blocks until they are flat as a pancake, then rave about how much they love their quilts after they've been washed and get all crinkly!

Another reason I like pressing to one side is because it can highlight features in a block, especially when quilting is planned to give block elements some relief. I love the texture!

It's a hot topic, that's for sure. And so it pressing open. I always seem to burn my fingers.

Thimbleanna said...

I'm definitely a seams to one side girl. Grandma always knew best. Even though we machine stitch now, it's still less stress on the fabric and thread if the seams are not open -- which may not matter for most quilts, but if it gets a lot of wear and tear (and washing and hanging) then it might matter. And someone already brought up the stitch in the ditch reasons!

Dianne said...

My thoughts on this subject: I think it depends on how the quilt will be used. If it is purely decorative then it really doesn't matter. If the quilt will be used and laundered then I would press to one side it just makes the seam less susceptible to wear and thread breakage. The other consideration is quilting. If the quilt is stippled to death it really doesn't matter if the seams are pressed open or not.

Cathi said...

Being a hand piecer, I always press to the side. When there are multiple seams converging, it's easy to twirl the seams so that there's not a lot of bulk in an intersection.
I think if I machine pieced more often I'd be tempted to try pressing seams open -- but do wonder about wisps of batting escaping.

Kathleen C. said...

Jackie, thanks for today's topic. I nearly always press to the side, for stability and to stitch in the ditch (I hand quilt).
I've made strip sets only twice, to make a pattern from Gwen Marston's Liberated String Quilts. I pressed the seams open and cut the strip sets. Then many of the cut seams began to "unsew" themselves because I didn't put the blocks together immediately.
I recently used up the leftovers from those old strip sets, and had to restitch many of the seams. Thnaks! Kathleen in Torrington

Stormy Days said...

Coming to quilting from sewing clothing, I pressed my seams open, then I read that as the quilt ages the batting can come up through that seam, they even have a name for it but I don't remember. So, now I iron to a side and really let the seam decide.

Diane said...

I've pressed to one side for the longest time and only recently started to press some seams open ... I like open :) just got change my thinking!

Char said...

I do whatever I think works best for each quilt.

Barb said...

great subject. I do both depending on the bulk. Your strip sets look great. Nice and straight and open seam pressing works great here.

Hey! I saw a quilt at the Somers show quilted by Canton Village Quilt Works. It looked great.

Kristen said...

I don't seem to have a preference. I don't open a lot because I have a personal fear of batting popping out, but with lots of bulk I do. Am I weird? Most days it's to the sides and I like how the seams lock with each other to make decent points without pins.

Apple Avenue Quilts said...

I always used to press to one side, but then one day I asked myself why and the reasons I came up with didn't really justify this. Now I press most of my seams open except for borders. My start in sewing was with clothing and I figure if seams used in clothing can stay together when pressed open, it will work with quilts. I've had no problems yet.

Sharon said...

I think every situation has been covered. I just did a 6" block, card trick, and I pressed seams open. It just needed it. BUT I know how I'm going to quilt this top and it won't be SID. That's a huge consideration when pressing seams open. Can't wait to see what you are making with these strip sets. love the colors

PamKittyMorning said...

AWesome topic, this is kind of a 'thing' with me. I see lot of pictures with seams open and wonder how that got started. For strength I press to the side. Sure, some situations do call for open seams, but mostly side pressing. Most of my quilts get used a lot and those seams that pop open under stress would be heartbreaking!
For strip sets I sew in opposite direction every other strip and that keeps my sets nice and straight. Its fun to read the comments!

Kim said...

I always thought it put more stress on the thread to keep the quilt together when the seams are ironed open instead of the fabric taking some of the stress. Is that something I learn long ago in a quilting class or is that something I made up?

I do like the results of ironing the seams open but wonder about the longevity of the quilt.

Thanks Jackie and Happy Sewing

AnnieO said...

It is a great topic! I am consistently inconsistent with my pressing to one side or not (choosing instinctively as you say), and have mixed open and to the side pressing within blocks. I just finished a quilt top that had square in square blocks with the centers pressed out, and when stitching them into rows, were too bulky to press open so I actually clipped the seam allowance to allow the points of the square in square blocks to lay flat. Now there's a real combo!

Andrea, the little collector said...

Well, I've always been a press to the side gal. When I've thought of why, it's all the reasons mentioned above (taught it, seems to be more stable, afraid of bearding). I am curious to try the open pressing after reading other's opinions, but don't feel like my fears are resolved.

Do you press open on a quilt that's going to be washed and loved and washed some more?

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