Thursday, August 11, 2011

Neat and Tidy

I'm not compulsively tidy. Really. But remember the other day when I said that being precise matters when it comes to quilting? Well, being careful and orderly in quilting does too.

There are pattern designers--and I can't tell you who they are off hand, although I CAN tell you I'm not one of them--who will show us on their patterns which way to press our seams. And I suspect many quilters either don't notice the arrows indicating which way to press the seams, don't know what they mean, or simply don't care. But if you've ever tried to get two seams to intersect nicely and just can't do it no matter how hard you try, the chances are both seam allowances are pressed in the same direction.

I took a few photos when I was making the friendship star blocks the other night so I could illustrate what I'm talking about. In this first photo, I've sewn the three separate strips together and I've pressed the seams away from the half square triangle squares and toward the plain squares. They tend to lay nicer this way.

But even if that middle piece of the middle strip was a half square triangle square, I'd STILL press the seams toward it because that way, the two side strips attach nicer.

In the next photo, I'm holding one of the side strips to the middle strip and showing you how the seam of one goes one way and the seam of the other one goes the other way. Now when I sew them together, they will nestle up and form a nice, flat intersection.

After sewing the three strips together, here's what the star block looks like:

And the back of the block looks nice and tidy, doesn't it?

Because the seams are well organized, I can do the same thing even with small pieces.

And here's the back:

At our monthly Thimbleberries Club meeting tonight, I passed around the Saturday Night Leftovers mini I just made. I wish I had taken a photo of the back of the quilt top before putting it together to show you, because even with such small pieces, the back looked pretty orderly. Taking care to make sure the seams are all pressed straight and not caught going every which way helps to make each part of the quilt look better--especially when working with tiny pieces. Some of the quilters tonight were surprised at how small some of those pieces were, but they really weren't much harder to make than the larger versions--just as long as I paid attention to the details, like getting the seams to lay right.

Yes, there are many times when no matter how hard we try, our seams will not fit together nicely, but there are various tricks for getting them to work. I remember seeing one of them--where you clip the seam allowance almost up to the seam to press part one way and part another--in a Schnibbles pattern recently, and I think it was probably the George pattern. Keep an eye out for these kinds of tips and tricks because they really DO help make for a nicer quilt and a quilter who is a lot less frustrated by trying and trying to make blocks come together correctly.

Sure this attention to detail takes a little more time, but before long, it kind of becomes second nature. And, of course, I know I'll spend a little less time ripping out and re-sewing seams because they were too far off. Give it a try next time you piece something and see what you think.


Donna said...

I appreciate the designers who give me pressing arrows. They are very special people - dear to my heart!

Rena said...

fell over your blog today - I've just finished 63 modified friendship star blocks (with HST in the corner blocks as well) exactly the way you did, then ran into problems last night when I tried to join them (without sashing) because then all those nice little seams show into the same direction causing really bulk seams. I was having nightmares about that trying to find a solution - do you have a trick for me?
Maybe I'm not the only uncapable quilter out there and you would be willing to share your knowledge with us? Many thanks in advance!

Judy in Michigan said...

Another trick is to feed the pieces into the machine/needle with the top seam toward the needle and the bottom seam toward the sewer. It helps keep those nests close and tight.

Jo Morton and others advocate "fanning" the intersections where the nests come together. This really takes away the bulk.

The previous commenter, Rena, asked about all that bulk where the blocks come together - if you clip one of the seams and press in the opposite direction, it will nest and distribute the bulk. I've done this many, many times and my quilts have not fallen apart. The quilting will reinforce any fragile areas.

Hope this makes sense and is helpful.