Monday, September 12, 2011

Pressing Matters

We quilters 'press' instead of 'iron'. Do you know the difference?

Ironing is what we do to our shirts and sheets - we move the iron back and forth on the fabric to remove the wrinkles. We aren't at all concerned about stretching the fabric - we just want it FLAT.

Pressing is different. Quilters want their patchwork to be accurate. There are several steps that impact accuracy: cutting, sewing and then, pressing. If we are careful when we press, our patchwork will be flat and there will be no shrinking or stretching of the fabrics.

Steam or No Steam?
I suggest 'no steam' to all my students. It takes practice and re-learning to press instead of iron. I use a spray bottle with water or Mary Ellen's Best Press, a starch alternative, for stubborn wrinkles. A bonus with this method: I don't have to clean my iron as often to clear calcium deposits and my iron lasts longer.

How should we press seams?
The generally accepted method is to press all seams toward the darker fabric. Often this is just fine. But sometimes it makes sense to press toward a lighter fabric or to press the seams open.

Here is an Ohio Star Block.

And here is the reverse side of the block. The seams marked A are pressed toward the darker fabric. But the B seams are pressed to the light fabric; this results in 'opposing' seams where the rows of squares are sewn together.

And the C seams are pressed open; this makes the block very flat and there is less bulk where the triangles and squares meet.

Special Circumstances
When sewing together 2 blocks made with my Give and Take Applique technique you may be joining two pieces with fused applique. I press all these seams open for a flatter quilt.

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