To Press Open Or To One Side....

To press open or to press to one side…. that is the question!

I’ve noticed more andmore patterns are instructing to “press as desired.”  This is all well and good, but I want to know what is the BEST way to press for easy seam interlock.  When I sew seams together, they must interlock for me.  When I see a “press as desired” in a pattern I want to scream.  To some this might mean, press open, others it might mean press to one side.  But what side?  So “press as desired” never cuts it in my opinion (and I’m full of those ;)). 

So when would we press a seam open?   On my I See The Stars quilt there are areas where I tell the maker to do this.  Why?  Because, when a lot of seams are all intersecting in the same spot, pressing to the side would cause bulk.  Eight pointed stars are an example of this and on rare occasions, other areas might require this also.  But normally, you would always want to press to one side.

Pressing to one side creates stability within the seam.  If a few stitches pull out, the  fabric is reinforced with the seam.  When a quilt is first made, we don’t think about how it will be used.  I don’t display my quilts very often and they are either given away or used heavily.  Just the normal wear on a quilt will cause movement.  This movement can cause stress on any seam.   Most of us love our 50 wt Auriful to sew with don’t we.  While that thread is a dream to piece with,it really isn’t that strong to hold the quilt together over the years.  Quilt purist and quilt utility makers will always have a debate over what thread is the best to use and I’ll save that argument for another day, but pressing a seam to theside, really does matter.

Another reason it’s best to press as many seams to the side as possible is if you are going to be sending it out to a longarmer, or even quilting it yourself.  Unless it’s a pantograph, custom quilting usually requires some sort of stitch in the ditch.  We longarmers need that seam to be pressed to one side to find the perfect ditch to sew in.  When a seam is pressed open, there really isn’t a ditch.  On an open seam, all one is doing is stitching on the threads of that open seam and causing it to become weaker.

And last but not least, my most important reason for wanting to press to one side is so that my seams intersect perfectly.  Not sure if I can explain this, but I roll my seams together.  I do not press them beforehand and I do not pinch them tightly before sewing.  I never pin and just let my fingers find the seams with the lightest of touch.  Once found, I will hold them together until it gets under my needle, but I never try and flatten it beforehand.

Plotting out pressing schematics on a pattern is no easy task, but a well written pattern should always include it.  “Press as desired” should never be an option and please call me out on it, if you ever see it show up in one of my patterns….