Improve your quilting

How you can improve the quality of your quilt making.


One of the best ways to improve your quilting and patchwork skills is to learn to work accurately. For accuracy, always start out slowly and increase your speed as you become more familiar with a process but ensuring you do not lose accuracy along the way. Quilt designers, such as myself, develop quilt instructions with accurate mathematical calculations for units or blocks to fit together perfectly. Success is based on you the quilter, cutting accurately, stitching an exact 1/4" seam and pressing accurately. These are the technical skills you need to create a quilt. By developing and improving these skills, you can make more challenging quilts. Have you heard the saying "You need to learn to walk before you can run"? This also applies to quilt making.


It is important to press your fabrics right from the beginning of your project, before you even begin cutting. Following is some general tips on how to improve your quilt making with pressing.

Iron Settings

Use the correct settings on your iron for the type of fabric you are using and select steam. Steam is always a debatable selection; you either love it or hate it. I found it gives a much better, crisper finish to the seam as well as to the finished project so I urge you to give it a try.

Fabric Yardage

When pressing any fabric yardage, glide the iron from the center of the fabric out towards the edge, following the grain lines. Avoid pressing on the diagonal along the bias, as this can stretch the fabric.


Before pressing seams to one side or open, it is important to set the stitches. Why? Because this allows the stitches to settle into the fabric and helps prevent the seam from stretching or bending out of shape, particularly for those long strips.

How do we set the stitches? To do this, place your block flat on your ironing board so you can see the stitches or seam you have just sewn. Press the seam by placing the iron down onto the seam, lift the iron and reposition in a new location along the seam. Repeat this right along the seam. Do not slide the iron along the seam as this can push the seam out of shape.

Should I press a seam open or to one side? Many quilters insist you should press all seams to one side, while others insist pressing all seams open. In fact, for accurate pressing, a combination of both should be used, depending on the block or design you are stitching. It can also depend on the style of quilting you wish to do.

So why do we press to one side? Pressing to one side allows the seams in joining blocks to butt up or lock together and reduces the amount of pins required. This is definitely less time consuming and seams tend to match more perfectly. When quilting in the ditch, this type of pressed seam will create a high side and a low side, which makes ditch stitching much easier and neater.

With this being so, why would there be a need to press seams open? Sometimes when pressing to one side, seams will bulk up together. This happens mostly when diagonal seams meet together. In these cases, pressing the seam open will give a smoother, neater finish.

How do I press a seam to one side?

To press a seam to one side, lay the block or unit flat on the ironing board with fabric you want to press towards on top, seam away from you. Lift the top fabric with one hand and gently fold this over the seam. Now use the iron to press in place being careful not to get too close to your fingers. Steam burns as well as hot irons. Check both sides of block to see that the seam is pressed correctly, lying smooth and flat.

So which seam should I press towards? General rule is to press towards the darker fabric when possible, otherwise trim the darker seam allowance slightly narrower than the light. Why? The darker fabric often leaves a ‘shadow' on the right side when it is under a light fabric. By pressing to the dark side or trimming it back on the light side, we avoid this shadow. We should also ensure to remove any loose threads floating about as these can often get trapped between the layers.

How do I press a seam open?

To press a seam open, position block or unit right side down on the ironing board. Open the seam allowance with your fingertips. Use the tip of the iron to press open the seam. Again, be careful not to get too close to your fingers with the iron and steam. Check the right side to ensure seam is pressed correctly.

By following these basic steps you will improve the quality of your quilt making.

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