Sunday, May 15, 2011

Seams... Part Deux

Hello Everyone,

Wow, Wow, Wow... Since my first post on this subject of pressing the seams open or to one side, it has generated a TON of chatter and quite a debatable topic. I read every single comment and appreciate all the input. So I thought it would be great to revisit and talk about some of the views on this issue.

For the most part, we all press seams to one side and were taught to do this from our first quilting class or lesson. I know that is how I was taught almost 18 years ago. And by far, that is how I continue to press, with a few exceptions.

I thought I would show you the back of my silk twister quilt. As you can see, ALL the seams were pressed to one side. This is a quilt where there was little in the way of seams crossing paths, so not a whole lot of bulk.

A lot of talk was brought up about quilting when the seams are pressed to one side versus open. In this scenario, it is quite easy to accomplish a stitch in the ditch and the seams maintain their integrity.

However, stitching in the ditch when the seams are pressed open may not serve as the best quilting alternative. Mostly because you are not quilting the fabric but the thread holding the seam together.

So when you do press the seams open to reduce the bulk, the quilting design should be over the surface of the fabric and not in the ditch. This way you will insure that the quilt will wash and wear well for years to come.

Here is an example of me using a combination of both pressing to one side and open. The quilting will be over the surface of the fabric. But you can see in this example there are many seams meeting all up at the center, therefore this block now lays quite flat as they are pressed open. This (for me being a long arm quilter) is a dream.

Just a close up of the seams in both direction.

More seams pressed open. As said in the previous post about pressing seams open on strip sets, it does help in relieving the wonkiness that could occur. I would not advice to stitch in the ditch, definitely quilt over the surface.

One other thought had come up about the seams being pressed open was that the batting might come through over time. From my experience, having done this on several quilts and have washed them over and over again, the batting has never come through. But I suppose that could differ with quilts depending on the batting that you might use.

In the above photo, you can see a combination of open seams and seams pressed to one side. The reason for this is that in paper piecing, you generally will press to one side. When I joined the four quadrants I opened the side seams.

A last thought on pressing of seams open, in garment making this is how we were always taught... press those seams open. Now we wear our clothing and there is lots of stress on those seams all the time. So it is my belief that the strength of the seam is not that different from pressing it to one side. Just my humble opinion.

I hope that this post helps give some more insight into this subject matter. Click here for the previous post on this subject. So go forth and press on!!

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Until Next Time...



Vivian said...

Great post Jackie! Like you, I primarily press to the side but will press open if it reduces bulk or seems to be "what the block wants".

But funny you should mention sewing garments. Back in the day when I did that I used to press most of my seams to one side! That was because I used to "serge" them closed using a regular machine and zig zag stitch (sergers were way out of my price range back in the 70's/80's). I did it then because I liked having finished seam edges inside the clothing. And even then there were some seams that still had to be pressed open for construction reasons (like side slits on skirts). Whoo, you brought back memories!

Cathy @ CabbageQuilts said...

Fantastic post Jackie, very informative. I agree with you about the quilting of open and closed seams too. Thanks for the work you have put into this post! xo

Melinda said...

Good comments on pressing seams. I tend to do some of each way like you do.

Sorry you had to miss Quilt Market - I was looking forward to meeting you.

Jean said...

I also press most to one side, but press open when it will relieve bulkiness, especially on blocks like yours shown with all seams coming through the middle.

I think the idea that the batting will work through pressed open seams was valid many years ago when battings weren't bonded,and broke apart if not heavily quilted. But now most battings are bonded so that isn't going to happen.

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I have pressed both ways and the only time I had trouble with batting coming through was years ago when I used a cheap polyester batting - when started using Quilters Dream about 10 years ago I never had that problem again. Love your quilts!

Heather said...

Good post. I am with most of the other commenter. Usually press to one side, though will press open if the fabric or the block design demands it.

connie said...

Thank you so much for this post. I have always been a bit confused. I learned to sew in 4-H and made clothes and was told to always press seams open so I always have that in the back of my head. Thanks for making it OK to chose what works best. :-) Have a great day!

Barb said...

I misssed that post but so enjoyed this one. Good reading and alot to think about...thanks!

Laura lok said...

this was a great post thanks

Janet said...

I find myself agreeing with you, I make a decision as I go along depending on all those variables. I do try to use a stitch length that's not too large if I press open the seams.

Em said...

You are such a dear to take the time for the tutorial when I can imagine how busy you are!!!! Even seeing backs of your quilts is inspiring!!!

Jessica said...

Hi Jackie,
I really enjoyed your post. I just became the editor of (, so I have jumped headfirst into making my first real quilt (disregarding one I made as a child with my mother's help). I'm making a bunch of nine-patch blocks, cutting them into quarters, and then scrambling and re-piecing them; the seams have been a nightmare and I have no idea how to press them properly! Thanks for letting me know that there's no right or wrong way to press seams!
- Jessica

Hi! My name is erica. Would you be my friend? said...

Hmm, I missed the last post. I find pressing seams open rather difficult. Sometimes, if I get in a bind, I'll even have one end if a seam going one way, the other end the other...what do I care? :) Perfection is NOT my middle name! ;D

Nanette Merrill said...

Just working on the dresdens in Lori's Cherry Cheesecake She suggested I press them open. It felt wrong! But it did make the project lay flat. So I can see how at times I will want to press them open. Coming from clothing construction it took forever for me to be comfortable with pressing quilt seams to one side. Now I'm having the opposite problem!

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