Sunday, July 26, 2009

Random Thoughts on Piecing

I am sipping cappuccino this morning contemplating my work from yesterday. I am making pinwheels. I have some more to do today. This batch was made using two different techniques. I felt kind of wild and crazy and decided to do a little experimenting. I made about half of them cutting squares and layering them. I drew a line on the diagonal and sewed on it and trimmed away one of the sides. I then pressed and put 4 half square triangles together to make a pinwheel. I made the HST's oversized and then trimmed the pinwheel down to the correct size - 3 1/2" square.The other half of the stack were made with Thangles. It was the first time I have used them. Nifty. They made for accurate piecing. They are made correct size and there is no trimming. My only complaint is that is was kind of slow going. A few more steps to get to the final project. At least for me it seemed that way. I am happy with the way they are turning out, though.

Which brings me to what has been on my mind - the pressing. This is how I pressed the first set of pinwheels - all the seams open.With the Thangles batch the first press is to one side as this is made while the paper is still attached. Once I had the HST's made - I pressed the last 2 seams open.
Both are good. If I had to choose, I think I prefer all the seams pressed open. Which brings me to this thought - what is this business lately with all the seams pressed open? There has been talk about it and it is much more common today than it was a few years ago. My friend Carrie, of Miss Rosie's fame, discussed it a bit awhile ago and asked me my preference.

I do have some theories and I will share them and take them with a grain of salt. It's only a theory, but I do think I have an interesting perspective on it. My longevity, basically.

It wasn't long ago that all quilting seams were pressed to one side. Usually to the darker fabric. Always to one side and no one questioned it. It was done this way as long as anyone could remember and that was JUST THE WAY IT WAS. When this pressing law came into being and was enforced all through the land, well, things were different. Pressing to one side made structural sense. It was not that long ago that making a quilt meant you were going to hand quilt it. There really wasn't much of an alternative. You could run it through your Singer or you could tie it - but basically it meant you were hand quilting it. It also meant there was a good chance that you were hand piecing it too. Not all were hand pieced, but certainly a good percentage were. This meant that pressing the seams to one side strengthened the seam. Hand pieced seams that are pressed open might have little gaps. Another good reason for pressing to one side meant that when you are hand quilting you have at least one side of the seam that was seam allowance free. Easier quilting. If you look at old quilting designs this was taken into consideration and many quilting designs were quilted on only one side of a seam. Pressing to one side made sense and helped your quilting. This is not true today. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but certainly not written in stone like it used to be. Hand piecing? Rare. Hand quilting? A small percentage of all quilts made.

So what does this mean? I think it means that if your piecing and accuracy improves with pressing the seams open, by all means do so. Back to work.....

Laurie

20 comments:

Kathy said...

I have been pressing to one side for years, and have recently been brave enough to use the open seams. I like the accuracy, and when I do hand quilt, there is no trouble with the huge seam lumps. This is especially true if I use flannel for backgrounds for my wool applique quilts.

Thank you for your 'discussion' on this!

WHAT ARE YOU MAKING in the photos? A new pattern???

ferne said...

I have been doing both depending on the situation. Pressing to one side is easier and if done right you can lock in the seams better to match your seams in piecing, but often what happens to me is the next piece is not pressed to the right side and I now have 6 layers of fabric in one spot on a seam, not nice. So pressing to one side does require lots of careful planning as to which side to iron to and following the dark side rule doesn't always work, thus a point for pressing open...now if it could just be a little easier without burning my fingers...got any tips for that?

Gwendie said...

I began sewing clothing and didn't make a quilt till I'd been sewing for about 10 years. Garment seams are always pressed open - less bulk in seams. I pressed quilt seams to the side (because that's how it was done) but have recently begun pressing them open. I hand quilt. I don't quilt in the ditch and when the seam is pressed open, there's less to quilt through. Occasionally, I make a pattern where pressing to one side appears to make matching easier but always seem to go back to pressing open after one or two blocks. I also seem to be more accurate when I press seams open. And I agree with Ferne about the six layer bumps!

I'm also interested in what others have to say. I've been wondering about this lately myself. I have a feeling it's one of those 'it's a good thing there are multiple ways to do it' methods.

Cathy said...

I came to quilting from garment sewing so was always tempted to press seams open. I press to the side when it will help to match seams later in the process but otherwise, I prefer to press seams open it if will reduce the bulk and make the top lie flatter. If I intend to handquilt (only a small percentage of my quilts) then I think about the quilting ahead of time and press accordingly.

PamKittyMorning said...

I mostly press to one side but the lumpy business is for the birds when it comes to things like pinwheels. I've done some pressing open and I have mixed feelings. I started with garment sewing so of course everything was pressed open there. For me its a bit of experimentation, see what works best. Love your pinwheels. I have done the thangles thing, I have mixed feelings on them. I used to draw a grid on the back of fabric Debbie Mumm style back in the day. That actually worked well and no paper to take off. I think the paper portion is my downfall. Too much stress on the pieces. Well, back to sewing.

Quilt Hollow said...

When there are that many seams I always press open and especially on smaller quilt pieces. But then alot of my own quilts I really quilt the heck out of them so those seams aren't budging anyway. Curious as to what your making..

Deb said...

I just read a funny comment of yours on another blog so popped over to visit. I love your pinwheels, they are my favourite!

Anonymous said...

I have pressed seams open when the pattern instructions specify it. One thing that is VERY important to remember when you press your seams open is to reduce your stitch length!

quiltngirl said...

Great thought provoking discussion! Isn't awesome how many different ways there are to tackle something. Even more awesome that with all the wonderful products and techniques we have at our disposal we have more "freedom" in our creativity today than our grandmothers did!

Lorraine said...

I have read that some of it has to do with the batting. When cotton was used for the batting "way back when", it would go through the seam if it was pressed open. But since we don't have to worry about that any longer, there is no need to press the seams to the side. Makes sense to me!

Kathy said...

My thought about Thangles is that they are very precise, but I don't like the paper mess. They say it's a mindless TV job to tear away the paper but I would rather be sewing that tearing paper and watching TV. Yes, I do use them...my LQS has a BOM that uses them. But if there are alot of HST's to make, I'd rather draw the pencil line.

Kate said...

I'm fairly new to quilting, but have read a lot of Weeks Ringle & Bill Kerr's (FunQuilts) ideas. They recommend pressing seams open. For me, it depends on what I'm making, depends on the fabric, the pattern, etc. I don't have a "hard & fast" rule, I just press according to what I think will be best. Thanks for all you do to help us who are new to the wonderful addiction of quilting!
Kate

MARCIE said...

I enjoyed these thoughts of yours on pressing the seams. Good things to consider. I love making HSTs. I love Triangles on a Roll. Also, I am still hooked on Prairie Paisley!

Carrie said...

Your longevity is my longevity! I've been quilting almost 30 years and "back in the day", pressing seams open was... well, it was a hanging offense! So being a good little quilter wannabe ~ NOT! ~ I did what I was told. I pressed seams in one direction ~ despite over 10 years of garment sewing experience, some professional tailoring classes and so on. And then one day I taught a class where the book said to press the seams open. Knowing that I would be seriously challenged on this, I did some research and lo and behold, every one of the "experts" said that all the reasons we used to always press to one side no longer existed. Some of which you mention!

Simply put, our thread is better. Our fabric is better. Our batting is better. And most of our quilts are made by machine rather than by hand so seams are tighter, stronger and the batting isn't going to migrate through the seam.

So I press some open and some still get pressed to one side. And there are times when I get the best results if the seams are pressed to one side ~ but the direction of the seam needs to change. So now I clip... another big "no-no" from days gone by. But we can discuss that another time.

Thank you for an excellent post! (I'm not a big fan of any of the triangle papers. I used to use them all the time, but not so much anymore. I think the accuracy is good but I don't like the mess of all that paper, and I can get pieces with the same accuracy using other methods.)

suebee said...

What a great discusion. I do the to one side pressing but I dont press until I have opened the middle seams where all that MESS comes together. When I press my pinwheels the middle lays like little stars. After I get that in the middle I let the seam fall where they may. That way when quilting you dont have that bulk in the middle of all the squares or pinwheels. This works for me so I will keep going with it. I have pressed a log cabin pattern will all the seams open. It was what the pattern called for and I wanted to try it. Well I am still working on it and only have maybe 30 blocks finished. Also what are you making with all those pinwheels? I just know it will be great.

Lisa D. said...

I love your sweet little pinwheels! I started quilting after watching Quilting from the Heartland on PBS. Shar Jorgenson pressed her seams open and so I did, too. Always have, always will! I think it makes things easier to line up and the quilt top lays flatter.

MJinMichigan said...

When I started quilting almost 30 years ago I was told to always press seams to one side because polyester batting bearded so badly and pressing seams open would leave space for the batting to beard through. That isn't as much of a problem with short fiber cotton batting and I think the new polyester battings have been treated to beard less.

suz said...

Interesting! I'm mostly a handpiecer and I usually "spin" the seams on complicated blocks, which doesn't always work. Lately I've started machine piecing with plans of someone long-arm quilting the quilt, so open seams makes a whole lot of sense.

Auntie Pami said...

As a longarm quilter, I like the pressed open and flat. My machine can sew through just about anything, but why tempt fate? If you press to one side, the center of the pinwheel can have quite a stack of fabric in the center.

Sew Create It - Jane said...

Gorgeous pinwheels ;o)

It seems I won't add much to the topic of seam pressing that hasn't already been said...but I, like so many, have started to press my seams open in certain situations and love how much more accurate it is.

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