Wandaful Quilts

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Press seams open? to one side?

Wow, that opened up a lot of discussion about pressing seams open vs. pressing to one side.  I came from a clothing construction background so I always pressed seams open.  I started quilting in the late 1950's there weren't very many books about quilting.  I learned from the McCalls Needlework and Craft magazines and trial and error.  I think the pressing to one side came from the hand quilters.  They did it so the batting wouldn't escape out of the seams, which it might do if they were pressing the seams open.  Batting has changed a lot since then and machine stitching is more even and tighter.  Therefore I feel we are justified to do what works best and not consider either method a "rule".  As you can see above, I pressed seams to one side so they would butt up against the other seam when sewing the 4 triangles together.  I also did that for the seams when sewing the quarters together.  The drawback to the seams pressed open is that you don't have the ditch to quilt in.  I like ditch quilting to emphasize the geometric shapes in a lot of quilts, especially wall hangings. 

Stitch length for piecing patchwork is 2.0 (about 13 stitches per inch) .  The machine has a default starting length of 2.5 so I have to change it after I turn the machine on.  This stitch is big enough to get a seam ripper under.  But now, let's talk seam rippers.  I always tell my class that they need a grown up seam ripper, not a jr. high one.  Below, jr. high one on top, grown up on the bottom.  See the difference in the point size?  I was first introduced to the smaller one when I bought a sewing machine in 1978 and a fine point ripper came with the machine.
The white one is a Clover brand and I like the fatter handle.  They weren't kidding when they said we would lose our grip when we got older.  It is hard for me to grasp really small things. AND yes, I do need a seam ripper!

31 comments:

Cathi said...

I love how the back of that block looks -- so neat!! I know I'll need a good seam ripper so will look for that at the LQS next time I'm there.

Thanks for the tips -- I'll surely need each and every one!

Jackie said...

I am in total agreement with you on both points, seams and seam rippers. In fact, the post I put up today is also a great example of opening the seams. You just need to do what works. I also have the Clover seam ripper, actually 2 of them and they are wonderful to use.

Linda said...

Great post! I have also discovered that even the grown up version of the seam ripper gets dull after a lot of ripping and needs to replaced once in a great while.

Marianne (dagmar.eu@gmail.com) said...

Thank you very much for showing the back of the block. I see what you mean about loosing the ditch to stitch in but that is not a problem for me. I have taken to heart that I need not be afraid of durability and there is no right or wrong way to go about piecing. IT was so good to read the comments from yesterday and learn that lots of people press seams open.

patty a. said...

The back of your block is so nice and neat. I usually press my seams to one side, but once in awhile I will press them open to distribute the bulk. Clover does make the best seam rippers. I like the ones with the smaller brown handles. A good seam ripper is an essential tool - you may not to ever use one, but stuff happens and it is better to have a good one!

Jody said...

ALWAYS have pressed seams open too, Wanda! My friend sent me a grown up ripper made by gingher and I am afraid of it! It looks like a surgical instrument! What would we do w/o the rippers?

karenfae said...

I have a big fat Fons and porter seam riper - kind of like your white one, nice and easy to handle!
I kind of thought the pressing to one side had to do with hand piecing - it is what I have heard also. To me pressing open makes it easier to quilt evenly (hand quilting) through all the intersections.
Karen
http://karensquilting.com/blog/

The Calico Cat said...

Don't buy a cheap seam ripper either. I bought a pink one at Joanns thinking its new it will be sharp - NOT. It barely worked on stitch number 1 to rip out...
(I really like my switch blade seam ripper - I think they are made by Bohn.)

Sewing Junkie said...

Good Advise with the seams. As you said the stitching in the ditch isn't an option when machine quilting. When you have many seams all coming together the open pressing gets rid of the big hump to quilt through. Aren't seam rippers and extension of your hand? LOL Chris

Jean said...

I love HST but the drawback is the intersections which can end up bumpy. I usually try to see how the seam will the lay the best and go from there. Love the Clover ripper. When I see people sawing away with those others I cringe. Most of the time they aren't even sharp.

Joyce said...

I had to learn to press to one side when I started quilting. The quarter inch seam was also new after years of garment sewing. The one block wonder has most of the seams pressed open to avoid bulk.
We all need seam rippers, unfortunately. They are one of the cheapest sewing items so it's worth investing a bit more for a good one.

Chartreuse Moose said...

Aren't we a funny bunch, still thinking there are set rules? I had a hard time overcoming my home ec background, now I have a hard time sewing clothing! Three cheers for big seam rippers...those dinky ones that were in our home ec sewing baskets are horrid!

Cheryl Arkison said...

We were just having this discussion in a small guild meeting the other day. A beginner quilter was having a really hard time getting her seams to match perfectly on a basic patchwork piece. But she was pressing her seams open. We discussed pressing and the benefit of pressing to one side in this case.

Personally, I'm still a to one side kind of gal, but I'm open to all options - I'll change according to the project.

True Blue Nana said...

I come from a clothing background too. My mother was a home ec teacher and her garments were as neat on the inside as the outside. I am so glad you gave us permission to press seams open!!

Laura said...

Glad to hear you need a seam ripper! I"m like you and started sewing years ago and pressed seams open for garments. Mostly I press to the side but there are times when pressing open is good to reduce bulk at the seams. Thanks for the reminder.
Laura T

hetty said...

Thanks for all the info, Wanda!

Julia said...

I think you have this all figured out perfectly. I think you would have to do both methods.

Ardis said...

I also come from a clothing background. I was told when I started quilting and also read that the reason for seams pressed to the side is for strength. When a seam is pressed open and someone sits on the quilt--time after time the seam will become weak. Same thing happens when a quilt is washed constantly the seams weaken. Fabric edges have a tendency to fray more when a seam is pressed open. (Not much fraying occurs with Bali type tight high thread count fabrics.)

Needled Mom said...

It is interesting to read all of the comments on seams. I came from a sewing background and then learned to press seams to the side when I started to quilt. I have since gone back to pressing seams open when I have a lot of points to match because I can get it perfect every time.

I am sooo with you in seam rippers. There is no match for a good point and a great grip!

Sask sunshine said...

I just want to say how much I LOVE this blog. Such great tips and discussion and great pictures. It has inpsired me to get busy and finish a few things,(well maybe not fnish many, but try some new ones LOL)
I found this blog by accident, and now check in every day!!

Sequana said...

In response to Jody up there - I also have the new Gingher seam ripper and it's the best thing since sliced bread.

Wonderful to hold, easy to set the blade under the stitch, and makes it all much easier to finally take it apart. Just because it's a surgical curved blade is NO reason to be afraid of it.

I couldn't recommend it more highly, along with the Gingher cutting mats and their rotary cutter. I have no connection to Gingher, btw.

Karen S said...

I, too, come from a garment sewing background and the pressed-open seams thing. I'm pleased to see that others use their rippers enough to dull them.

I have to ask, though, are those teeth marks on that blue ripper? LOL!

Anne said...

I like to press to the side so I can get that locking feel when I match seams.

Mishkat said...

I taught myself how to piece after years of sewing clothes so I almost always press seams open. It is much easier for me to match the seams that way, and the blocks tend to lie flatter. After some encounters with quilters who told me NOT to do this, I tried pressing them to one side, but find that it makes matching much more difficult for me. So I'm glad to learn that other people do it too.

Sharon said...

Seam Ripper = Most used tool. I bought a box of them one time, I have them everywhere!

Patty said...

I agree with you about seam rippers. And I found out if you've had yours for awhile, get a new one. I couldn't believe how much better it worked. Never thought about them getting dull, but why wouldn't they? Especially when you do a lot of "reverse sewing" like I do!

Anonymous said...

Great photo along with tutorial. Common sense rules it looks like to me.

Did I understand right, that you still have the same ripper since '78' ? YOU are good that is for sure, I have gone through rippers like potato chips through the years.

J~MT

Vicki W said...

Good points! I started using the surgical seam rippers a few years ago and I really love them. Not much of a handle but they are sharp!

Jaye said...

Hi Wanda,
I heard about pressing seams open from somewhere and tried and was pleased with the results. I don't do it all the time (no particular reason, except habit). I agree that we should do what works best rather than what is the 'rule'.
Jaye
http://artquiltmaker.com/blog

Char said...

I know what you mean about the seam rippers. At the school where I volunteer the students get the jr. high ripper and the teacher and I use the grown up ripper!
I agree about the seams. I do whatever works best.

Vicky F said...

Hi Wanda,
Lots of comments today!
I just do what the block tells me as far as seams open or closed. Squares do match up better for me when pressed to the side.
And no one has mentioned it, and maybe I'm clumsy, but I tend to burn my fingers more when trying to get those dinky seams to lie open with the iron.
Thanks for your insight.
Vicky F