Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Part 7 Let's Press...How to Quilt from the Very Beginning

The thing you need to know in quilting is that you press...not iron.  This is an important distinction.  As a newcomer to quilting, you might not be aware that there's a difference, but there is.  When you iron, you move the iron back and forth and probably use a lot of steam to get the wrinkles out.  When you press, you simply lay the iron on the seam and hold it, applying gentle pressure...no wiggling about.  Then you lift and move it to the next spot you want to press.  Repeat.  I do not use steam either, when I press.  Why?

Water causes your cut fabric to stretch.  Stretching is bad in sewing because it makes your squares not be square any more and your triangles to be more like oblongangles...no good.  If I am making something that's seriously complex, I will use starch...but normally I don't use anything other than good old heat and pressure.

There are 3 steps to pressing.  When I first began quilting, I ironed and steamed the heck out of everything I made.  There's a reason none of my seams match up from my early work....that and I didn't pin and I figured as long as I cut within...1/4" or so, it wouldn't matter that much.  It all matters!!!  Also, as long as you start sewing your block with nicely smooth and ironed fabric, your pressing shouldn't be so difficult as you just have to focus on the seams...and not wrinkles.

Step 1

Set your seam.  This means before you fold your fabric open, you press your fabric as it was sewn.  Just lay your iron down, hold for a second, lift and move to the next spot.  What does it mean, exactly to set your seams?  It seems there's a bit of controversy over this step.  My mom does it, so therefor I do it.  I did a little research on what exactly setting your seam does, and this is what I've found:

It causes the thread to shrink a bit into the fabric and gives you a more precise edge.  This is what you want in quilting, because you want your blocks to be the correct size and match up at the seams.  If you do not set your seams, it can cause your block to be off up to 1/8" which even though it doesn't seem like much, it is, in quilting.  It will also help your seams to lay flatter.

Step 2

Open your block, right side down.  Now you can either press to one side of the fabric or press your seams open.  I think pressing seams open is really fiddly, so I always press to one side.  I move my finger along the seam and follow with my iron.  You want to get it to lay as flat as possible, so by finger pressing a bit, you can feel if the fabric is folded over far enough.

Step 3

Flip the fabric again, so this time it's right side up.  Press once again and you should have a nice flat seam, perfect for piecing.

Other Posts in the Series:
Part 1: The Basics
Part 2: Measuring and What Kind of fabric to buy
Part 3: How to pick your fabric
Part 4: How to cut your fabric without losing a finger
Part 5: Let's start cutting fabric to measure
Part 6: How to Pin Properly
Part 8: Leaders and Enders

Thanks for reading!!



  1. Oh that's looking so pretty Heather. Quilting is pretty much the only time I use my iron :) 16 years old and it's practically new :)

  2. I see that cute pirate fabric! I always have to dust off my iron before I use it because..I never use it! Guess I'd better dust it off! Always appreciate your tips Heather!

  3. You know your friend From THE RUSTY PEARL is loving this !!! I love having visitors too at my place and one day I will use this tip on something fabulous .Thanks for teaching me sister

  4. I had no idea that in quilting you press...not iron! When and if I ever quilt, I am running to your blog!!! Great tips and tutorials, Heather! Pinning :)


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