Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tip Tuesday! - Swirling the Seams

Welcome to

"Tip Tuesday!" - Swirling the Seams

I love learning new things and then sharing that knowledge with my quilting friends. So, every Tuesday I'll provide some tips, hints, tricks, tutorials, shortcuts, etc. that I've learned over the years and share them here on the blog. 

"Tip Tuesday" will be a collection of information about a wide variety of subjects garnered from a large variety of sources.  I am not an expert by any means and do not take credit for being the great wizard behind all of these hints and tips. I will gladly give due credit whenever possible.

These tips will be archived and accessible to you just by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" tab above. 

Read, enjoy, and be inspired! 

Have you ever noticed that when you are piecing blocks, sometimes your intersection are just too bulky for comfort? Well, in many cases you can take care of that simply by swirling or spinning the seams. Today I'm going to run through the steps of swirling the seams, and hopefully between the written words and the pictures, you'll be able to follow along.

I almost always do this when I am piecing four patch or nine patch blocks, but it can be done with other blocks as well. When I first started to do this, I think the most difficult thing for me was to simply remember to do it.  :-)

OK, so why do you want to spin or swirl the seams? This helps to reduce bulk at the point where all four seams come together. If you've ever tried to quilt through on of these intersections, you know exactly why we need to find ways to reduce that bulk. 

Most four patch blocks are pressed with the two-patch units going in the same direction, usually toward the dark fabric. (This assumes that you are not pressing you seams open.) The long, connecting seam is then usually pressed to one side. 

Below are two units of a four patch block sewn and ready to be pressed.

Here are the units from the front.

And now from the back. Notice how the seam allowance is making it's way to the green fabric. Go ahead and press to the green fabric. This will make it very easy for the seam allowances to "nest" and be more accurate.

Can you see what I mean by nesting in the picture below? The seam allowances are both press toward the green fabric, which means they are pressed away from each other. When they are put together, the seam allowances nestle nicely up against each other. I've head this referred to as "butting" the seams together.

I've pinned at the intersection and on either side of the intersection. You are free to pin as much or little as you'd like. I tend to be a pinner and almost always pin at least the intersection.

Here's the four patch block, ready to put in the machine and sew. I usually try to make it so that the seam allowance on top is facing up or towards the needle. This helps me control the seam allowance and make sure it nests nicely into the other piece. By doing this, I also can control the seam allowance and prevent it from getting folded over. (I know, some of this was covered on last week's Tip Tuesday!, but please bear with me.) 

And we are at the machine and ready to sew. Remember, even if you see pins in my pictures, I never sew over them.

Keeping an accurate 1/4" seam allowance, sew down the edge of the block, leaving the pins in place until you are very close to them. I pull out my pins when the needle hits the seam allowance. 

I make sure the needle is in the down position and then I remove the pin. By doing this, I have secured the seam allowance in to the position I want it to stay. If I take my pin out too early, the fabrics can shift and cause mismatched seams

Once that is done, I continue sewing until the entire seam is complete.

Here's the intersection from the front.

And here it is from the back.

If I just pressed this connecting seam, the result would be a nice looking intersection, but one that is quite bulky.

Instead, I get out my trusty seam ripper out and use it to remove a couple of stitches that are in the actual seam allowance. You should only be removing two or three stitches, and you definitely want to only remove stitches that are in the seam allowance. Do not un-stitch anything in below the horizontal seam, as this will cause you to have holes in your seams.

This is what it will look like when you have removed the stitches.

Flip the block over and do the same thing to the back side of the block.

When you lay the block out flat, you should be able to easily separate the seams so they go in opposite directions. That's the part that many people find tricky, but if you've pulled out the stitches properly, it should pull apart quite easily. You may have to practice a few times. 

Finger press this seam flat. You should end up with a little four patch at the intersection. (I love that!) 

And on the front side, the seam lays nice and flat.

I press from the back and then turn the block over and press from the front.

As I said before, this swirling technique is not just for use with four or nine patch blocks. It is especially nice to do when you are matching more than four seams at a single point, like in a kaleidoscope block or a eight pointed star block.

So get yourself swirling so you have flatter seam intersections. I think you'll be a very happy quilter if you do!