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Top Tips for Pressing Fabric Like a Pro

Pressing well makes a big difference in your finished quilt's appearance. Learn the secrets to pressing like a pro!

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[Next page: Pressing to Prevent Bulk]

Five Ways to Press Your Seams

1. PRESSING STRAIGHT SEAMS

Straight seams should be pressed with the iron parallel to the straight grain of the fabric. First press the stitching flat with right sides together and the darker fabric on top. "Setting the seam" is the term for this critical first step that locks the threads together, smooths out any puckers, and evens out minor thread tension differences. Beginning at one end of the seam, lift up the top piece and position the tip of the iron on the lighter color fabric. Press the iron along the seam edge moving just the tip of iron from the lighter color piece to the darker color piece. This method will both open up the unit and press the seam to one side in a single step. Pressing the unit from the right side helps avoid pressing tucks and pleats into the seams.

 

2. PRESSING BIAS SEAMS

A bias seam should be pressed with the iron at a 45° angle to the seam and along the straight grain to avoid distortion.

 

3. FINGER-PRESSING

As a temporary measure, you can press short seam allowances with your finger. Place a pieced unit on a hard surface. From the wrong side, spread the unit apart with the seam allowance folded toward the darker fabric. Press with your fingers along the length of the seam allowance. Turning the unit right side up with the seam allowance still facing the darker side, finger-press again. Finger-pressing isn’t a substitute for using an iron, but it does temporarily press seam allowances in one direction or another. It’s a good method to use if you’re unsure which way seams will eventually need to be pressed.

 

4. PRESSING OPPOSING SEAMS

When two seams will be joined together, press the seam allowances in opposite directions. This helps distribute the bulk of the seam allowances evenly and ensures that the seam allowances can abut one another.

 

5. PRESSING SEAMS OPEN

Seam allowances are pressed open when multiple seams come together in one area. This helps distribute the fabric bulk evenly in a small area, eliminating lumps and making the seam easier to quilt through. Some quilters prefer to press all seams open for a smoother, flatter finished quilt top and to prevent fabrics from showing through in the seam allowances. When pressing seams open, press first from the wrong side of the fabric. Use your finger or ironing tool to open up the seam ahead of the iron.

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