Discover the secret to award-worthy quilt seams and how to avoid the biggest mistakes

Seam pressing is an often overlooked part of the quilting process. It is a very basic step, but an extremely important one if you want your quilt blocks and pieces to lay flat! Most of the time, it isn’t enough to just press down the fabric with your fingers; you need an iron to really get in there and make it smooth.
Don’t worry, though, the process is quick and painless, and you can do it with any type of iron you’d like!
1. Ironing Your Fabric
Before we get to the seam pressing, Diane Knott of recommends that you iron your fabric before cutting it for your quilt. When the material comes off the bolt, it is usually wrinkled or lumpy, and you don’t want that on your final product!
Pressing the material with a steam iron or even some starch will make it lay flat, and will make the cutting process simpler and more accurate.
2. Pressing Your Seams
Now for the most important part: Pressing the seams. Once you have stitched your pieces together, leaving a ¼ inch allowance of fabric (in most cases), you need to press the seam flat, so that you won’t have lumps or pieces of fabric sticking up out of your finished quilt. This also makes it easier to sew your various quilt blocks and quilt pieces together, because it makes everything level and straight.
There are two different ways to press a seam: Open and closed. To press a seam open means that you spread apart the two pieces of excess fabric at the seam and have them each lie flat on their respective sides, as in the picture above. To press a seam closed, you keep the excess fabric pieces pressed together, folding them over to press them to one side. While many quilting tutorials recommend pressing the seam open to make the quilting process easier, Dana Jones of National Quilter’s Circle suggests pressing them closed, to make the seam stronger. The decision is up to you – you must decide which way is best for your own quilt!
Once you have decided on a method, simply run the iron along the seam to press the excess fabric flat, and voilà! You have pressed your seam.
3. Tips and Tricks
While seam pressing really is that simple, there are some important tips to keep in mind during the process.
1. The number one biggest mistake that quilters make when pressing seams is to smooth a darker fabric in the direction of a lighter-colored piece. If you have a deep red square sewn to a white square, for instance, you will want to push the iron TOWARD the red piece when you are pressing the seam. Otherwise, the deep red color could bleed into the white square because of the heat and/or the steam from the iron, and you don’t want a blotchy quilt!
2. Another important tip is to be sure to let your material cool before you try to move it. If you don’t, your fabric could get lumpy and bunched-up, leading to a distorted-looking quilt block.
3. Also, press the seam with your fingers first, so you can see how the fabric will lay before you start with the iron. This will help to avoid mistakes.
You can find these tips and many more at
It takes a bit of practice to press a seam and press it well, but in the end, it will be worth it when you have a perfectly flat, beautifully smooth quilt!
To see a demonstration of the seam pressing process, check out this video from National Quilter’s Circle:

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