Pressing quilt seams is a crucial step of any quilt-making process – not only will it make it easier to join your blocks, it will also make your finished creation lie flatter and look so much more polished. Some quilters might prefer to finger-press, but pressing quilt seams with an iron is really your best bet. But should you press your seams open or to the side?
Like many of you, I took many quilting classes that taught me to press my quilt seams to the side – actually to the dark side. For those of you who are new to quilting, that simply means that your seam should lay on the wrong side of the dark fabric you are using.
I was told this was so your seams wouldn’t show through the lighter fabric and that pressing it this way would make your seam stronger. Being a good little student I did not question what I was being taught! However recently, there has been a debate on social media and in guilds as to which way is actually is preferable.
The Case for Pressing to the Side
Pressing quilt seams to the side is faster than pressing open and makes it easier to lock seams in place, sort of like a puzzle.
It gives you that little added help in a clean seam intersection. This occurs because seams are pressed to opposite directions when sewing sections together. The front of the finished block shows you how precise the seams and corners are at the intersection – that is due in part to being able to interlock those seams.
Pressing seams to the side also makes your seam flatter. Seams that are pressed open make your thread more vulnerable to damage due to threads being exposed. That lip of fabric protects your threads from pulling as well as shredding from stress or catching on something that could rip the seam. This puts you at risk for unraveling fabric.
One reason many quilters like to pressing quilt seams open is that they feel the pieces lay stronger. Unfortunately, if you were to stitch in the ditch, you would not catch fabric but threads. And doing so could actually weaken that seam. Fabric plus thread equals strength.
And of course there are always exceptions to every rule. For example, I always press my border seams open, as well as my binding seams and my backing when I load it on my long arm. Quilting is a personal journey so you need to do what feels right for you. It just helps to know the “whys” and “hows” of your decisions. If you chose to press your block seams open, you may want to consider not doing stitch in the ditch.
Now, I am going to steal something I once read: Efficiency, Accuracy, and Integrity… those are the things we need to strive for. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let’s start a discussion.
Related Video: Pressing Quilt Seams
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