Wednesday, September 28, 2011

setting seams

I made this bee block for Bonnie yesterday and all the while I was thinking, 'boy, i sure could benefit from a precision piecing class.' Those little red blocks finish at 1" square! The block is 9.5" total. That leaves very little room for error. I love piecing tiny things, but I definitely have room for improvement in the accuracy department.
Just as I was finishing up this block, I recalled reading/hearing about setting seams. (There is a short video here that explains it well.) I was somewhat skeptical, having tried it in the past and didn't notice a big difference. I decided to give it another try yesterday (what did I have to lose?) and you know what? I really do think it helps. I just might be a convert.

So now I'm curious...do you set your seams? Do you think it helps? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

103 comments:

MeganAnne said...

I tend to do this. But with steam - I was taught it would help lock the stiches in. Not sure if it does, but since that was the way I was taught it's just a habit now.

Bossy Pants said...

I heard the term for The first time last week. I don't set seems but I'm going to watch your video and then maybe give it a go. I love your blog a lot! It's my favorite one.

Delores said...

It's interesting, that is the way I was taught in my very first quilting class! I thought that was the only way to do it! Another thing I found so good, was to use a dab of glue to align the seams when piecing rather than pins. Pins always seem to move, or the fabric moves when you take the pin out. A dab of Roxanne's, or similar, keeps it in place.

supermom said...

I do set my seams. And I also use starch... though I've been setting my seam first, then spray on the starch when I press my seam to the side. I may try her method of spraying the starch when setting the seam. I do find that this gives me nice crisp seams and makes nesting the seams when sewing a block together much easier.

Katherine said...

Yes, every time, because I find it does help me. Not saying that my piecing is 100%... LOL... but setting the seams keeps me from distorting things when I press.

Chay said...

I do set seams. It helps. I'm making a Dear Jane quilt, 4 1/2" blocks with many pieces. My pressing tips are:
1. Set the seams
2. Press, don't iron, after sewing every seam. Press to the dark side or let the fabric guide you; sometimes it just wants to go where it wants to go.
3. After the block is complete, lay it flat on a towel that has been folded a couple of times. Spray lightly with starch or Best Press. Bear down HARD on the block with a DRY iron. I recommend the Continental dry iron, it's hot and heavy; steam tends to distort the block. Press, don't iron. Lift the iron and move to another part of the block. Repeat. You will end up with a totally flat block that is not distorted.
4. If you can, make the outside edges of your pieces bigger than necessary so that you can trim your block after it's been pressed.

pinsandneedles said...

I try to always remember to set my seams. It seams to help. Can't say I do 100% of the time but most of the time.

~Michelle~ said...

I've done this recently to help when pressing open! Especially helpful when working with different types of fabrics (double gauze, linen blends & quilting cottons).

Brenda said...

I like that red and white bee block. Yes, I set seams, something I got in the habit of doing when i sewed garments. I think it helps accuracy.

Linda said...

I have set seams in the past and do think it helps, but I am often just too lazy to do it, or I forget. LOL. :)

Erin Marie said...

I've just always done it. And when I don't take the extra two seconds to do it, my seams don't press as nicely. I don't use starch or even steam (cuz I forget to fill my iron), but it helps anyway.

Venus de Hilo said...

Yes, I always do this. I learned garment sewing before quilting, so got in the habit then. I also always use steam.

Sherron said...

I have never heard of the term and I haven't ever done that. It definitely seems worth trying though. Thank you for teaching me something new today!

Toni said...

I always do it, I was taught to do it by my dressmaking, tailoresses family :0> toni xxx I always use steam too.

Darlene said...

I had someone show me the setting seams method in a class and I am a believer now. I always do it and also use best press starch to "press" my blocks. They would always end up distorted before - now I am pretty happy about how they turn out.

PunkiePie (Jen) said...

I do it only because that's how I was taught when started quilting. Never knew the purpose though. :)

Tyler & Rose-Ellen said...

My mom insisted I press every seam. I thought it was silly, til I got to do more on my own and found it really does help, especially with tiny blocks. I don't always do it because I think it's a pain to sew, press, sew, press, having to get up and move each time, and if you take too long the iron auto-shuts off... So most of the time I just pin very carefully. But if I have pieces less than 2", it's a must.

I also like to think that this is fabric we're working with, not paper. It's supposed to stretch, wiggle, wrinkle, etc. Not be perfectly flat and crisp. Gives it life.

Jane said...

Funny you should post this now. I just tried "finger pressing" for the first time instead of pressing every seam. It worked fine for what I was doing, but for precision work, I'd definitely press. Not that I can actually do precision work!

Jane S. said...

I just love to iron and press, I've even gotten "ironer's elbow" from overdoing it with an iron that wasn't quite heavy duty enough. So setting seams and then pressing is something I enjoy doing.

It makes whatever I'm working on look like I actually know what I'm doing too!

Karen said...

I've done this for a long time, but with one change to that shown on the video. After pressing as shown, I flip the piece over and press on the opposite side. I do use spray starch when working on blocks with points. Both of these methods help immensely.

Karen

Cheryl Arkison said...

I always set my seams. So much so that when my hubby is ironing his clothes the girls like to point out to him that he is making his clothes stronger.

Julie M said...

I didn't know it was called that but yes, I always set my seams. My Grandma taught me to do it that way. I haven't used starch before but for small work it would be very handy.
Julie

krisgray said...

I do set seams and I notice that they are more difficult to unsew, you know, once I -finally- see my mistake.

BillieBee (billiemick) said...

Your block looks perfect!

Patti said...

Yup, always do. Just because that is what I was taught.

Sandra said...

looks like about 95% of us set the seams. I was taught to do it and (almost) always do.
Love your block.

carol said...

It just occurred to me that I learned this when I took a quilting class, but haven't used it since. Bad me! I think perhaps (considering all the comments here) I should start. Thanks for reminding me about this valuable tool.

I am Just One Mom said...

usually press all seams open. precise, but time consuming, a Small iron is needed for minis.

Jackie said...

I definitely set my seams with a dry iron. I never use water in my quilting iron.

Jill@northstarquilting said...

I've always set my seams because that's what I was told to do on my very first quilt. I have no idea why I do it but my seas are always neat so there must be some benefit.

The Tulip Patch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Tulip Patch said...

I sew my seams and press to the side. I am a major believer, esp. with long strips and bias edges.

paulette said...

I'm with most of them...definitely set the seams. Your block is perfect!! This is going to be a beauty!
P

Farmyard Crafts said...

I didn't even know what this was!! YouTube has shown me!! I think it's a great idea. I always have problems with things just being a LITTLE bit out. Maybe this might help it be less of a problem!

Char said...

I never set seams until I started volunteering at the middle school with the sewing teacher. The children are taught to set their seams so I started to do it as well.

Kristy said...

I have been sewing forever, taught by my mom, and I have never heard of this! Definitely going to try this on my next quilt!

kploquilts.blogspot.com

Blogful said...

Speaking of precision piecing, if you ever want to give a tutorial on paper piecing I'd benefit!

Quilt n Queen said...

In my first quilt class we were taught to set your seam.....yes I do 99% of the time. I find it does work!!

Anonymous said...

A quilt instructor once told me that it was important to set the seam. I don't know if it helps, but I still do it... sometimes. I'll have to pay closer attention. Debbie Leschisin

Connie said...

I set my seams as instructed in my first quilting class.

notes of sincerity said...

I came across this technique purely on accident and now I never leave it out. It gives a crisp edge and I just love it!! :0)
I am having a little give a way. Would you like to drop by?
hugs. Trish

Jenny said...

Yep, I'm a seam setter. They taught me this in my Quilting 101 class. I'm not good enough at cutting or sewing to take shortcuts, so I do it! Don't know if it helps me or not, since I've never *not* done it.

Pieces to Love said...

I saw a someone setting their seams on a quilt show one time and have done it ever since. I even catch myself setting seams when I make a dress for my daughter it has be come such a habit.

What Comes Next? said...

having started my sewing many many years ago with garment sewing, I have always set my seams. Something I learned with my very first project - an apron!

elizabeth said...

I didn't know it had a name, but yes, I set my seams : )

Anonymous said...

I do set my seams. I'm not sure if it makes a difference or not because it's the only way I've ever done it. I learned to set my seams from the get go. I had an awesome teacher in my Beginning Quilting Class at a LQS.

Mary Jo said...

You betcha. I just do it because I was told to. So obedient. Your block looks very precise to me.

Mike and Susie said...

Wow. I've been quilting for years, and I've never heard of this. Learned something new today ~ Thanks! Might have to try it. :-)
~ Susie

Threeundertwo said...

Yes! I was taught this in a beginning quilt class many years ago. Supposedly balances the threads top and bobbin. Just a nice little habit to work into the routine. Then again, I don't know what my seams would look like if I didn't set them.

mascanlon said...

yep, me too, I always set my seams. And usually press to the dark but if the seam has a decided preference to go elsewhere I let it! Makes for much more precision.

Kris P said...

Like you, I think I've read about this before, but it always seemed like an unnecessary step. The video link you posted was very helpful. I'm going to give it a try... and find some Best Pressed. I've been hearing a lot about that lately, too. Thanks!

ktquilts said...

Absolutely a setter!!

Jane said...

I have always set my seams and starched. Perhaps that is why I am a slower quilter.

Marci said...

I'm a VERY beginner quilter but an experienced seamstress. Years ago when I was beginning to sew, I watched Sewing with Nancy. She said to ALWAYS set the seam, so I do. :o>

Anonymous said...

Yep sure do. I have tried other options but always come back to setting and then pressing, which makes a lot of difference than if u iron it. Keep up the good blog work, love it.

emedoodle said...

I don't think I was ever taught this - but came to it myself somehow. Although I usually set the seams then press open when working with really micro quilting....

Freddie said...

The lady who taught me to quilt told me to do this., so I do. I think it does help.

Jantine said...

Yes I do and I think it works!

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

We were taught to do this, it does help.

Dawn Hendrix said...

OOO I was doing this but never knew the term... WAIT does this make me FABULOUS or something... GOTTA BE! LOVE your BLOG look forward to it daily!

LeKaQuilt said...

Yes I do, always :o)

Wilma NC said...

I always do that. It was the way I was taught.

Anonymous said...

I do set my seams. I definitely think it helps. If I'm doing a lot of blocks at once I'll move my ironing board to beside my sewing machine and lower it to the same level so I just turn in my chair. Now that's lazy!

Margaret said...

Rumor has it, steam distorts. I don't know...I always press dry so as not to waterspot picky fabrics. But I do use and stand by starch. It keeps piecings from moving and stretching and distrting. It will wash out after the quilting is done, but keeps all blocks crisp until then.

Michelle said...

I always set my seam, because that's what Rene' told me to do, and I always listen to my big sister :) However, I'm not sure it helps with my accuracy. I still am working on that "perfect" 1/4 seam...haha!!

Franziska said...

I never thought about setting seams but maybe I'll give it a try.

Julie said...

I haven't been setting my seams but it seems like it is probably more critical when you really need precision such as the Dear Jane or Farmer's wife or other small blocks. I'm going to have to work on making it a habit.

sewfrench.com said...

I always set seams. Something that was drilled into me in HS Home Ec. I thought it was a given requirement, I didn't know you *couldn't*!

Suzanne said...

I do set my seams. I find it makes it easier for me to press seams open or to one side because the seam is kind of primed to crease better. I don't use starch that often but I can see where it would be beneficial especially with things on the bias.

Debbie said...

Yes, I set my seams, but have never starched. Will have to look into that.

MellieWo said...

I do set seems as this was also how I was taught in class. Although I am doing a dissapearing nine patch and trying to iron before cutting has not seemed to help. Love your red and white! Awesome as always!

Peg said...

First of all I have to say that I think your piecing is just fine!!! I also always set my seam, but I was taught to press over from the back first, then the front. Also have had a tip of pressing the seam open first, then closed (from the back) and then finish at the front. All seams to help!

Lisa In Oregon said...

I first heard this idea on a Missouri Star Quilt Company youtube video...I currently do it about half the time...thinking "does this really make any difference?" Now after reading all the comments, I think I need to stop skipping that step! I need all the help I can get with accuracy! :)

Mary Grace McNamara said...

I'm a steam iron fanatic...I steam all my seams first to set them, then I open them or turn them to one side and hit them with the steam again. Setting them first was something I had read about a while ago and thought it sounded crazy, but I tried it, and it really does make a difference in how the finished seam looks! Who knew!

MGM

Miranda said...

I'm working on a coin quilt and it's the first time I've ever set my seams. I'm not sure if it makes a big difference on larger pieces but probably neatens up the tiny ones. Your block looks great!

kendascrafts said...

I just learned about this as well. I saw it on Fon's and Porter's PBS show. I tend to do this when I remember. I can't say I've found it to be any more or less helpful with accuracy. Love your block!

bulabean said...

Yes! I always thought it was a must, and feel like I am being lazy when I don't do it.

Quilt Monkey said...

I do always set my seams. I think it helps the piece you are pressing lay flatter and stay pressed. I hate when the piece I've pressed flops back down like I haven't pressed it at all, and I think setting the seams first helps prevent that.

Debbie J said...

I am currently in the trenches of making an almost identical quilt. Red and white, double nine patch. 1inch squares and all. I struggled with every.. single.. block to get accuracy. It never happened. But it is what it is. I still like the quilt, but it will be for my own personal use, since its far from perfect. :o)

I did find that setting the seams helped, however.

Please look at my quilt on www.angelscrapsquilting.blogspot.com.

Page said...

I try to set my seams although I often forget. I don't use starch though. I think I'm going to try to start doing that.

Deb said...

I do religiously set my seams after every piece that I add, and before adding the next piece. I know it takes a lot of extra time and slows down my process, but I've found that it makes my blocks much more accurate, then when putting all the blocks together it goes together with very few problems. I also use the spray as in the video, makes the material crisp and I find that I have less problems with stretching, especially on the bias.

Michele/TextileTraveler said...

I do set my seams. I'm not sure if it helps; I do know I have yet to sew a block that is anywhere near perfect! I try really hard to do everything just so, but they never come out right.

Valerie said...

Yup, I'm a seam-setter! I got in the habit when I first started quilting and find my shapes hold better than if I don't. It doesn't really take that much extra time and I've always been pleased with the results.

Quilty Conscience said...

Yep! Me too! I do! I do set seams and I think it makes a big difference. Now I don't enjoy doing tiny blocks like you, but on after readinb about setting seams...about 10 years a go. I do! Toni

Thimbleanna said...

I'm just about to finish my long project with a bajillion 1 1/4" blocks all sitting next to each other. For me, the big HUGE help is to be sure that the seams are ironed in opposite directions so that they will nestle together. (That probably makes no sense, but I hope it does.) I can piece those squares together accurately without even pinning -- I love it!

LOVE that cute little block!

Very Lazy Daisy said...

This is so lovely and .. pepperminty! =)

Daisy of Lazy Daisy Quilts Podcast

Pam said...

Whoa! I did a double-take on that first photo. It gives me an idea . . .
Nice work. Thank you!

Sara said...

Love the block...and yes, I do set my seams...

Barb said...

Yes...I definitely set my seams.....and work with starch as well. Both make a difference with my accuracy.

Clair said...

I LIKE that block.

quirky granola girl said...

i set my seams once and saw no difference at all, so now i don't spend the time. maybe some day i'll try it again.

colleencl said...

Yep, I always set my seams. I started the Jo Morton Little Women classes a couple of years ago, and this makes such a difference when you're working with all those little pieces. I do always set them with the iron, love spray starch, but I finger press the seam open before I hit it with the iron, and I am very careful to press gently, not iron and risk stretching the fabric. I see it as me beating my fabric into submission!! Ha, ha ...

Cristin said...

hmmm... SOMETIMES I set seams before I press them open. I seem to do it when I'm sewing blocks together into rows, and when I'm sewing rows together. I haven't really noticed if it makes a huge difference, but I need all the help I can get! I also heard it shrinks the cotton thread and makes the stitch last longer(?) not sure if its true, but I'll find out in 70yrs when I'm (hopefully) still snuggling under these quilts I'm making while in my early 30's...

Anonymous said...

When I started quilting, this is how I was taught to press seams: set the unit you just sewed on your ironing board with the seam to the right, press the seam, open it, then press again. I used to press a third time by flipping the unit over, but that got time-consuming and I never really saw a difference after I stopped doing it.

Kate said...

Yes, I usually set my seams. It "seams" to me to make seams lie down flatter and fit together better. Nothing scientific, just works for me!

njquilter said...

I always set my seams. i find I have better accuracy when making a block.

crafterly said...

I was taught to set seams back when my mom taught me to sew garments, then in home ec class in high school, we were taught the same thing. Since I always set seams, when I started quilting it was really just automatic. So yes, I do think it makes a difference.

Debby said...

What a pretty block. I've been looking for some type of setting to use on a set of panels I fussy cut and this might be the ticket.

Yes, I always set my seams but for me the real key is keeping the stitches straight when sewing. That way they set better and press nicely too.

Live a Colorful Life said...

I admit that I forget to take the time to set my seams. However, I did spent nearly an hour the other day reevaluating and reworking my 1/4 inch seam and it was totally worth it! It made such a difference (and I thought my 1/4 inch seam was already quite perfect...) that I'm going to do a post about it!

Kelly said...

Hi set in my seams every time. It saves a lot of unsewing for me :) When making miniatures, I sew 1/4" seams and then trim them down to 1/8" before pressing. This just keeps it tidy and lays better.

Congrats on your book!

Nicky said...

Stunning little block - so neat and precise despite what you say! Will give this technique a try!

Sis-O said...

This is the only way I have ever made quilt blocks. I didn't know there was a special term for it.

SuzyQSparkles said...

I've set my seams ever since Mrs. Oitzman in High School Sewing Class. I already knew how to sew, but taking that class gave me some relaxing down time everyday. One thing she DID teach me was the importance of setting your stitches (pressing the way they were sewn) THEN pressing the seam open. It "locks" the stitches into place and pushes them into the material.