Top and bottom halves stitched and pressed

It’s not how you stitch it

. . . It’s how you press it!!

“Always press seam allowances to one side,” is what I read years ago, when I first started quilting.

The source said pressing seams to one side minimized “bearding.” Bearding happens when batting fibers migrate to the front of the quilt along seam lines, making it look like the quilt has sprouted whiskers.

Beards look better on men than on quilts . . .

Pressing seams to one side also aids in construction, and reduces bulk, but not by accident. You sometimes have to think about it, too.

ALL of my patchwork quilts use the same set of templates. I’ve had plenty of time to determine the best way to press the patches. Consider this patch:

Patch pieces
Patch pieces

Do you notice the two places that two seam lines come together at a point? How I press those seams makes all the difference in the world.

I generally stitch from the center out, and from the largest pieces to the smallest.

The following photos show the back of the patch (or patch back, for short) after I have stitched and pressed. I always press the seam allowances away from the point where two seam lines meet.

First two pieces stitched and pressed
First two pieces stitched and pressed
Third fabric piece, stitched and pressed
Third fabric piece, stitched and pressed

Then, I do the same for the other seams that come together at a point:

Fourth fabric piece, stitched and pressed
Fourth fabric piece, stitched and pressed
Fifth fabric piece, stitched and pressed
Fifth fabric piece, stitched and pressed

To either side of these two places, there are three layers of fabric: the two seam allowances, and the quilt top. Had I pressed both seam allowances in the same direction, there would have been five layers of fabric; had I pressed both seam allowances toward the point, there would have been seven layers of fabric.

This is a given.  I MUST press these seams this way to reduce bulk. Granted, these seams may encounter the same on adjacent patches, but there’s no help for that.

Now, it’s time to stitch the last piece of fabric. But which direction should I press it?

Sixth fabric piece stitched, but not pressed
Sixth fabric piece stitched, but not pressed

In this case, you need to see how the neighboring seams are pressed before you make that determination. I laid the four patches in their final arrangement.

Turn the patches over to see what’s going on underneath:

Four patch backs
Four patch backs

Once you see which direction the seam allowances are already pressed, you can figure out which direction to press this last seam.  The idea is to press the seam allowances in the opposite direction. (We’re trying to minimize bulk here, remember??)

Upper left quadrant
Upper left quadrant
Upper right quadrant
Upper right quadrant
Lower left quadrant
Lower left quadrant
Lower right quadrant
Lower right quadrant

Once the seam allowances are pressed in the proper direction, I stitch the two pairs of patches together and press the seam allowances in opposite directions.

Top pair and bottom pair, stitched and pressed
Top pair and bottom pair, stitched and pressed

Stitch and press the top and bottom halves together and press the seam allowances. I pressed the horizontal seam allowance toward the bottom pair in this block. I’ll press the seam toward the top pair in the adjacent block.

Top and bottom halves stitched and pressed
Top and bottom halves stitched and pressed

TAA-DAA!! (he says with a flourish . . .)

Finished 4-patch block
Finished 4-patch block

Tell me: how do YOU press your seams??

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