Friday, August 5, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 08/05

Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Figure 1
One of the treats of attending quilt shows
is having a white glove lady show you the
back of a quilt that has lovely quilting. What
you can't see in a finished quilt is what the
backside of the quilt top looks like. I've
chosen to share the backside of one of my
blocks to illustrate my preferred method
of how to press seams these days. 
When I started quilting in 1988 I was taught to press my seams towards the dark fabric. So, that is precisely what I did without question. Eventually, I realized the reason for this was so that the seam allowance wouldn't show through the fabric. Something that was likely to happen if a navy fabric was pieced next to a creamy yellow. Then I learned that there was another advantage. If the seam was pressed to one side, the seam allowance covers the actual seam and this kept the batting from bearding to front side of the quilt. Bearding is when fibers from the batt work their way through porous areas to the front of the quilt. I discovered this was particularly problematic when I used a cotton batt as opposed to a polyester batt. 

I am not sure when I learned a different pressing technique. That was to press seams that would butt up together in opposite directions. The advantage to this method is when four pieces in grid format with a "+" seam configuration were sewn together, the opposing seam directions caused the juncture to nest, resulting in a perfect "+". Sometimes I could even achieve the best of both methods with a little planning so that pressing towards the darker fabric AND opposing directions was one and the same. 

Figure 2
This is the same block as shown in Figure 1
but from the front side. Note the pin pointing
upwards in the upper left corner. This tells
me which direction is up. 
I had seams mastered, or so I thought. These two methods of seaming worked great during the days of hand quilting, stitching in the ditch or stitching that followed 1/4" from the seam allowance. However, this seaming/pressing method was problematic once I was free motion quilting all my work. Why? The issue is that if seams are pressed to one side, where the seam is pressed there are three layers of fabric (the piece, that piece's seam allowance and the seam allowance from the piece it is joined to). What happens at a 4 way juncture or an 8 way juncture of seams? The result feels like trying to free motion quilt over a speed bump. No surprise the needle may either jump or get stuck. Not pretty. 

Figure 3
Can you find the block I used to demo
my seaming and orientation tips in this post?
This is what Siren's Song looked like after
this week's blocks were added.
The solution is to press seams open. (See Figure 1) The advantage is that there is less bulk and since the seam allowance is always pressed towards the piece it is affiliated with. This leaves bearding as a potential problem. That can be solved by selecting a batt with little to no bearding. 

I'm really enjoying my single focus weeks of making blocks. There is something so calming about working this way for me. It does mean that little else gets done as you can see.

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks. - Closer

This week I managed to make 10 blocks! 
2) Free motion quilting practice - Not Done.

3) Do some surface design work - Not Done.

I do have an idea for something I want to try that I think might make glitter added to paint stay on the fabric even after it is washed. This will be my next surface design experiment.
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done!

Perhaps only my brother, who is a regular follower of my blog will get this one. I was so turned off by my eighth grade teacher, who taught the civil war, that I rarely will read a book or watch movie set in that era. One of the few exceptions in recent years was reading March, by Geraldine Brooks. I have never made a single attempt since eighth grade (I'm 63) to understand the civil war from a first hand, non fiction perspective. However, when I discovered that Neal Conan of National Public Radio had put together a series of first hand accounts about the civil war, I gave it a try. Excellent! If only my eighth grade teacher could have humanized the war this way

Next week will be more of the same. At this rate I am estimating that I will finish piecing Siren's Song no latter than mid September. If I need a break there are always a couple of other projects on list to attend to.

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks.

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.


  1. My mother taught me about opening seams but I don't take the extra time so I applaud you and it obviously pays as seen by your perfect piecing. The colors you chose are very calming and beautiful. I never knew or cared about the civil war until I watched Ken Burns documentary on it. It is fabulous

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  3. Yay for Team Seams Open. I thought I was one of few who open seams! I concur with the FMQ factor, no needle and thread breaks, sews much smoother over seams. It takes a little extra time but the relief in fatigue is measurable. Love following your blog too!

  4. Your siren's song looks like it will be gorgeous when finished!!!

  5. Oh you nailed it....I too am now a "press seam open" kinda sewer. Yes, for all the reasons you stated and for me, I find that seams match much better this way, rather than shoving all those layers to one side.
    Found your comments about the Civil War interesting. Since we've moved to NC, I've been stunned to realize just how little I did know. The perspective here is quite different, perhaps understandably since so much of the war happened in the deep South.