Pressing Basics

McQ U - Pressing BasicsWatch the Video...

Beth Hayes demonstrates loads of tips and tricks for pressing quilt patches and units. Use your iron to improve your patchwork results…this is one steamy video! If you have problems running the video, click here for troubleshooting tips.


Basic Pressing Information

Interestingly, so many quilters spend so much time on their piecing, but almost no time in pressing. Taking a little extra time up front to identify a correct pressing plan can help you avoid many pitfalls.

To steam or not to seam, that is the question! Every quilter will at some point fall on one side or the other of this argument. If you don't use steam,  you may need a starch alternative to insure that your fabric is pressed completely. With steam, you just refill your iron! However, you must make sure that you clean your iron (following manufacturer's instructions) frequently to insure that you do not have any rust or other minerals coming out the steam holes.

The first rule is: never press agressively! You are carefully pressing fabric and seams, not ironing a shirt! Other things to remember:

  • Always set your seams before pressing them. Setting the seam before pressing to its final location will avoid any arcing or stretching of the fabrics.
  • Press from the front of the fabrics.
  • Follow the 90° rule; place your iron tip at a 90° angle to your seam and press gently. Press the entire seam in this manner, then press with iron parallel to seam.
  • Follow your pressing plan.
    • You should try to always press toward darker fabric.
    • Allow for opposing or butted seams. In order for these seams to fit together easily, seams must be pressed in opposite directions.

Some hints for specific blocks:

  • Pinwheels: press seams toward dark. Final seam will have to be pressed in opposite directions to be pressed towards dark fabric. Press edges of that seam and then press the middle of the seam open.
  • Strip-piecing: add strips by sewing in opposite directions (e.g. start at opposite end each time). Follow the 90° rule.
  • Complex blocks may require you to press seams open, if there are a lot of intersections, or intersections with many patches.


That's right, even the best of us has to unsew the occasional seam. If you do need to, be sure to unpress your seams (e.g. press seam as if you are setting your seam) before digging in with your seam ripper.




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Thank you so much for tips. I was taught that pressed seams should be smooth and flat, not bumpy; hence apply some pressure when necessary. The tips that will be most helpful for me right now ~ general pressing ~ nose press with iron first; then press over seam and pressing for pinwheels ~ press the middle of the back seam open.
I never knew that pressing after ripping would draw the fabric back in. I have always tried to ease the two pieces together and ended up with ripples. Maybe they weren't noticeable to others but I could spot it in a heartbeat, even after quilting.
I learned a lot
I have always set my seam, pressed from the back than the front. Not anymore. I doticed that not always did my seam open on the front all the way. I now know why. Thanks
This was the most informative and helpful video I've ever watched! THANK YOU for this simple, straight-forward tutorial. I know these tips are going to make a significant improvement in my piecing results.


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