Patricia Belyea’s tips for pressing quilting projects.

a pressing engagement


By Patricia Belyea

Why do we care about craftsmanship? If anything goes in our creative realm, why can’t we just be free and make anything any way we want? 

We can. And we should. Instead of approaching a project as an aspiring master, we can revert to being childlike. Or crazy willy-nilly. By going in the opposite direction of perfection, we can land somewhere spectacularly remarkable.

But perhaps our goal is to create a completely flat quilt top. Then we need to focus on craftsmanship—how we cut our fabric and press our seams. 

Cutting on the bias doesn't just mean slicing across our fabric at 45 degrees. Any cut off the grain gives us a bias edge—a fragile, easy-to-stretch edge. Lots of playing around with bias-cut fabric can lead to wonkiness in our quilt tops. If we find our quilt top is skewed, we can open seams and remove skinny V’s of fabric until we get the whole top flat—but this remedial action might spoil our design direction.

Improv curves—made when we lay two fabrics over one another, cut a curve and then sew the two pieces together—leads to flared edges. The only way to resolve this topography is to trim off the unflat edges.

What about these statements? The bunching will press out. Or, the bulge will quilt out. If the problem is minor, that’s a possibility. 

Although it’s a lot of up and down, pressing every seam as we go, makes a huge difference to the final look of our projects. We can achieve this with a powerful steam iron combined with a smoothly padded ironing board. Plus a handy spray bottle of water for those really deep creases in our fabrics. 

Pressing plays a big part in the visible craftsmanship of our quilts. And getting totally engaged in this step of quilt production rewards us as we slow down and assess how our ideas are progressing. 


Press each seam three times:

1. Set the seam—first press the stitching flat. The thread going through the fabric creates a tension. Press flat to relax that tension

2. Press from the back: Press to one side—press both sides of the seams to one side or the other. This can be considered strategically—when nesting intersecting seams. This also creates a high side and low side to the finished seam so you can stitch-in-the-ditch.  OR  Press open—a graphic approach. You have even heights of fabric on either side of the final seam.

3. Press from the front—push away from the seam to flatten any folded lips of fabric. If there’s a little crease where there was once a little lip, spray with water and press out.

If you inadvertently press a crease into your quilting cotton, your fabric will not let you forget your blunder. To erase its memory of the crease, you have to spray the cotton with water and then repress.

SOARING STITCHES is a blook (blog book) by Patricia Belyea.

To read the Introduction +click here