Why Pressing Seams is Important

I’m sure somebody enjoys it. I mean, there are even people who like pineapple on their pizza. But we persist in pressing on, because we know what happens when we don’t. However, I’ve notice more and more beginners lately who aren’t pressing their seams at all. Maybe you’re even one of them, reading this with a skeptical eye.


The reasons for not pressing range from not having an iron to ‘no one sees the inside of a quilt’. It’s not a cardinal sin to leave your seams askew, but pressing will take your quilting to the next level or help you get to level one (your first finished quilt) without making you shove your quilt top into the back of the closet for years. In fact, I have even included an iron as one of the 7 essential things you need to start quilting. But why do we do it?


Pressing seams can change the look of your quilt

If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you’ll know I’m on a mission to take my quilting to the next level. The first step to advancing your quilting is to get crisp, straight seams. But how does pressing help this?


Pressing does a few things. First, it sets your seams. Setting your seams allows your thread to sink or form into your fabric. This makes a smooth, crisp finish.


Second, pressing, either open or to the side, will help ensure the seam allowance isn’t flopping around on the back of your quilt. And even though you are never going to ‘see’ the back of your quilt top again, you’ll actually still be able to see the seam allowance through thinner or lighter colored fabrics.

Pressing seams: to the side
The horizontal seam is pressed to the side and the diagonal seam is pressed open.

And third, pressing seams sets you up to get pointy points.


Pressing seams makes pointy points

Points that perfectly match up are the crown jewel of piecing.They’re a sign that you know what you’re doing, or that you spend a lot of time redoing it. But after 10 years, I don’t want it to take forever anymore.


How you press a seam changes how you sew together your points. If you press your seams to the side, you can nest your seams together. This makes it super easy to get perpendicular seams nice and pointy. Pressing seams open can lessen the bulk in a seam. It can also make it easier to pin seams together to get that perfect pointy point.


Pressing seams, nesting


If you leave your seams floppy and unpressed, you are just taking a gamble as to how the points will align. As you sew your unpressed fabric (and sometimes even if you press it…), your machine will chose if the seam sits to a side, open, or askew.


Not being aware of your seams and where the bulk of your fabric is will lead to more problems if you sew additional points through the seam. The bulk of 6 fabric coming together at the back of your fabric might not be even something you notice, but as you go to quilt, you’ll run into my last big reason on why pressing seams is important.


Pressing seams keeps quilting speed bumps flat(er)

I didn’t even think about it with my first quilt. I was honestly just so happy to finish the quilt top, I hadn’t given any consideration to the quilting. But, my dear friends, quilting is the hardest part. It’s super visible and absolutely dreadful to rip out. You’ve got one chance to make it right, but then you hit it. The Lump. It’s the intersection of too many fabrics that makes a spot in your quilt that your machine may or may not be able to push through.


My first experience with ‘the lump’ was the point of Gandalf’s staff in my On the Plains of Gondor quilt. We’re talking 10 different fabrics coming together at one little point. I’ve made due by finding alternative routes or cranking the needle through with the wheel on the side of the machine.


Pressing Seams on the Plains of Gondor
On the Plains of Gondor massive fabric intersetion


After these early experiences, I’ve been super congnisant about my designs and reducing how many points come together. Of course, this only helps if you design your own quilts. If you’re working off a pattern follow their directions for how to press your seams. If they don’t give directions, press your seams open, to help distribute that fabric more evenly around the intersection point.

Pressing seams: the intersection


pressing seams: intersection


The pressing advice

While it’s not level 100 vital that you press your seams, taking the few extra seconds to press your seams is a good habit to get into early in your quilting. It will not only make the piecing and quilting easier, but it will help you achieve a more polished quilt. I highly recommend setting up a small pressing mat right next to your sewing machine to make it easy to press a piece right off the sewing machine.


Now that we know to press all of our seams, check back next week for my opinion of open vs side pressing.

Sew on!

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