I’m forever in search of getting the most crisp seams and perfect points in my quilts. This has lead me to try a lot of new techniques and gadgets. One of these techniques was glue basting. I’ve now done two of iterations of perfecting the method, but when I was researching what other quilter’s have tried, I ran into glue basting seams. Apparently a common technique for paper piecing, glue basting seams uses Elmer’s glue to hold seams together when you sew rather than pins or clips.
As I like to press my seams open to spread out the bulk of the seam allowance, I was hesitant of the idea, but then I started sewing my newest quilt pattern. Contrails is an airplane quilt pattern that uses massively long strips of fabric, like 80+ inches long strips. I was running into a lot of issues with the fabric stretching and creating ripples in the seams. So, I had to try something new.
Now, a walking foot can help with this, but when your seam allowance is only a quarter inch, (my) walking foot only catches one side of the piece’s seam and can create wonky sewing. I tried the lovely sewing clips ever few inches, but I still wasn’t happy with the outcome. So, I threw in the towel. Contrails would be the quilt I tried glue basting seams on.
The game plan
The glue bottle
The plan was simple. I got these fancy little glue bottles with a fine tip. You can also find fine tips that screw directly on to your glue bottle, but these were cheap on Amazon, ~$5-6 for 5. However, now that I’ve actually glue basted the seams, I think you’d be able to get away just using the regular orange tip. You might get a little more glue all over the place, but it washes right out! I’ve also read things online about using glue sticks instead of the bottled washable glue, but I haven’t tried that. So, please do your own research before attempting!
Glue and clip
Add a small dribble of glue on one of the piece’s seam allowances.
Then align your other piece on top and press the seam allowances together. Don’t worry about glue getting everywhere. It’s washable, so it will come off everything (the fabric, the counter, your fingers, your shirt…). And if you get it on the ‘seen’ part of the fabric (ie not the seam allowance), you can just tug the fabric open after sewing. You’ll be able to see the glue, but, again, it will wash out no problem and no one will need to know!
Now, I used super duper long pieces, so I chose to use sewing clips to help keep the pieces from slipping as I transferred the pieces to the pressing board. I’d also recommend them if you’re trying to align perfect points. The glue is still very wet and slippery at this point. You’ll want to hold the pieces in place.
Press and clip
Use your iron and press the glue until it dries–which only takes a couple seconds. I pressed on my wool pressing mat and didn’t have any trouble with the glue residue. But if you’re heavy handed with the glue, you may want to lay a towel down over your pressing mat for easy cleaning.
After I pressed my seam, I placed the sewing clips back along the seam allowance. I don’t think you need to do this, but I found it helpful to make sure everything stayed together just in case the glue didn’t dry all the way (or I hadn’t put enough glue down in the first place…). Then transfer the pieces to your sewing machine.
Sew, sew, sew
Sew your seams as normal. You should have no trouble sewing through the glue, and it shouldn’t gunk up your needle. I would just recommend sewing slowly over areas where lots of points are coming together, because now on top of lots of fabric, you also have glue to sew through. When you’re done, transfer everything back to the pressing mat.
Press to the side
Because you’ve now glued your seams shut, you’ll have to press your seams to the side. It was a first for me, but I think it came out well! Stay cognizant of the direction you’re pressing. You should press to the dark side, because if you have light fabrics, you’ll be able to see a shadow of the seam allowance through the fabric. But because fabric is semi-translucent, make sure you stay consistent with the direction you press. You want an even look throughout your quilt.
Also, if you were more liberal with the glue or someone who likes to ‘color outside the lines’, you can tug the fabrics open to the seam allowance. No harm, no foul!
Once you’ve finished all your piecing, you’re ready for basting, quilting, and binding. No other adjustments are necessary. You’ll just need to wash the quilt when your all done to remove the glue. I wash on cold delicate and dry on low. I recommend washing in white vinegar alone, that has gotten all the glue out for me. If you have a stubborn patch still there after washing, soak in white vinegar for few minutes and then message the spot with your fingers.
Thoughts on Glue Basting Seams
As you can see below, glue basting seams really helped my piecing look more slick and together. Most of the rippling was gone, and of what’s left, I’m sure I can get it to iron away. I was very happy with the outcome.
I now look forward to trying this method on a quilt with more finicky piecing. I’d love to see if it can help me achieve more perfect points. Luckily, I have a very heavily pieced quilt coming down the pipeline, so I’ll make sure to touch base again once I’ve complete it.