Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Pressing Matter

Today I’m going to nag you about pressing. Not ironing, pressing.

A lot of new quilters are unaware that there is a difference ironing and pressing. But there is, and it is huge. Ironing involves sliding the iron about the fabric in any random direction. You just keep sliding until the fabric is smooth. This is great for hubby’s shirts, but not so good for quilt blocks. Pressing on the other hand involves setting the iron down on the quilt block, lifting it up, repositioning it and pressing it back down. There is no sliding! Sliding causes distortion of your blocks, especially any that might have bias edges. Lift and set, lift and set. Sliding is for the playground.

Check your seams after you PRESS them. I always press from the back first, then flip the block or quilt right side up and ensure that the seam is indeed open all the way. Recently I taught a beginner class. I watched one student iron her first block, then complain that the seams did not line up as well as she had hoped. When I checked it, all the seams had tiny folds. We measured to be 6.25 inches. I walked her through proper pressing and when she was finished, it was a full (and correct) 6.5 inches. That’s quarter of an inch in one six-inch block. After the pressing, her seams did indeed line up correctly, the folds had disguised her accurate piecing. Over the course of a full quilt quarter of an inch in every block makes a huge difference. When you check your seams they should have no folds or overlaps. They also shouldn’t be stretched out of shape.

I’m also a huge fan of Mary Ellen’s Best Press spray starch. I give each block a light spray during the final pressing to give it a little extra firmness. This helps keep the blocks from distorting while being handled in later parts of the piecing process. I use it now at all stages of the pressing process. I even give the completed top a quick spray during the final pressing. As a bonus it comes unscented and in a variety of scents to make your studio smell lovely.

When piecing rows of blocks together its always a good idea to press the seams in even numbered rows to the right. Then press odd numbered rows to the left. This allows your seams to nest and catch together when sewing your rows to each other. It helps keeps blocks aligned properly. Don’t cheat and neglect to use pins. Yes in know: PINS is a four-letter word. That said, as I progressed on my own quilting journey, I learned that pinning actually saves time (less un-sewing) and that says nothing about those perfectly aligned corners.

Pine Freckle Forest has 15 new Designs. Okay, they really aren’t all that new. I previewed them at Quilt Canada. You’ve already seen Sundreams in a previous posting.

Next came Radiant Sky, a New York Beauty style quilt. Foundation piecing gives this quilt perfect points every time.

But my favorite are the Long Fellas, thirteen small wall hangings. Thirteen is my lucky number! Each is only 4 by 12 inches. Perfect for that tiny space in the hall! Each and everyone has a dimensional aspect from the fuzzy sheep of Lamby Long to the spiky leaves of Flora Long. And let us not forget the perfect Christmas gifts, Santa, Reindeer, Frosty and Penny (the Penguin) Long. Oh yeah, Holiday Long and Long Pine. They all whip up quickly and use up batting and fabric scraps. If you like the size, but not the dimensional aspect, simply trim the extra parts off before adding your binding. Need a hostess gift in a hurry, whip up something Long.

You can find these patterns and many more on my website at

Happy Quilting!

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