Marvella QAL – Week 3

Here we are at week three already! I hope everyone had a great time piecing together their first few blocks last week. I think those are always the most fun because you finally get to see what your quilt is actually going to look like.

Here’s all the business for this week and then I’ll talk a little about how I press my seams for this block.

Week 2 Winner: The Moda Modern Building Blocks pattern goes to @watchmedewett. Please contact me via Instagram or email so we can work out shipping details.

And thank you again to Jacky Jones (@moggygalquilts) for sponsoring last week’s prize!

Week 3 Need-to-Knows

Project: We’re working on more blocks this week!

Baby - 2 blocks, Small Throw - 4 blocks, Large Throw - 5 blocks, Queen - 8 blocks.

Prompt: Since I’m talking about the unusual way I press my seams for this quilt, I’m wondering if you normally press open, to the dark side, or a combination like I do.

Prize: Your choice of any two (2) Blue Mungo Patterns!

Open or to the Dark Side?

It’s a question that can stir up a lot of emotion in some quilters and will definitely get a conversation, maybe even an argument, going. Everyone’s got an opinion and reasoning to back it up when it comes to how to press your seams. And to be fair, it’s an important step in the quilting process that really can change the finished project.

Many years ago when quilting was mostly done by hand, pressing to the dark side was pretty much the un-debated standard. This was an easy way to hide uneven stitches, straighten out any wonky seams, and ensure a little extra durability when fabric scraps were the main material source.

But the technology and quality of materials has come a long way since then. The “problems” that pressing to the dark side solved, are no longer faced by the modern quilter. Today’s sewing machines allow for straight, consistent, and tight stitching and the threads and fabrics we use today are much stronger than those of the past. Even the batting most of us use no longer tries to sneak its way through seams. For all of these reasons, pressing open is no longer a faux pas in the quilting world. In fact, for a long time, it was the only way that I pressed my seams. I knew it resulted in seams that were super flat and extremely accurate piecing, since there wasn’t even a millimeter of fabric “lost” in the bulk of a seam pressed to the side.

Over the years, however, I’ve started to use a combination of both open and to the side pressing. It’s an unusual approach, I know. But I use this method to ensure I’ve got a quilt top with the least amount of seam bulk possible.

When I first started using custom free-motion quilting, I would get really frustrated with the amount of bulk in my seams and more importantly my points. After several broken needles, I began to brainstorm ways to reduce this bulk. I had always pressed open, because my grandma had told me that was the trick to flatter seams. But as I started studying the wrong-side or my quilt tops, I started to see examples where pressing open actually resulted in more bulk than pressing open. So I started experimenting with combining the two methods and the rest is history.

The combination changes with each design, but I thought I’d share with you my method for the Marvella block so that you can get a peak into my thought process as I’m pressing. I’ll first show you the back of one of my finished blocks and then walk you through how I press step by step.

So if we start with the Center Unit, I start by pressing the square-in-a-square seams open. I press the first round of side strips to the dark side rather thank open so that the bulk of the square-in-a-square seam doesn’t get doubled up. However, for the second round of side strips, I press open. In general, open will result in the least amount of bulk.

Then we move on to the Flying Geese Units. I press the square-in-a-square for this unit a little different than I do for the Center Unit. Here I press the first two opposite corners open and the second two opposite corners to the side. When it comes time to piece the blocks together, I press open and I know it’s these corners that will get turned back on themselves so pressing them with this combination allows them to lay just a little flatter than if I pressed the second set of corners open as well.

For the rest of the process of making the Flying Geese Units, I press all seams open.

Regardless of what pattern I’m working on, I always press my HSTs open.

Now it’s time to piece the units together into one block. My goal is to press all the flying geese seams in towards the center so those already bulky points don’t get folded back on themselves. All the other seams, I press open. Below is a photo of the three rows I sew together first and another of the finished block.

Finally, when it comes time to assemble the blocks into one quilt top, I press all my seams open.

As a general rule of thumb, I press my seams open unless pressing them to one side will make a significant difference. I know that may seem a bit more complicated than just picking one option or another, but in my experience, it really does make a dramatic difference in reducing bulk. If you’re feeling adventurous, give it a try and see if it makes a difference for you.

Don’t forget to post your progress photo by the end of Sunday and Happy Quilting!