Front or Back?

What's Your Style

Welcome back! This is the third post in my series called What’s Your Style? Today’s question is about seams.

Common Guidelines

Seams, they are absolutely necessary but oh how they can create problems! When learning to sew we are taught how to press them. Here are some of the common suggestions:

  1. The first step in pressing a seam is to set the seam. Setting a seam simply means the seam is pressed closed. Pressing it closed aligns the stitches and makes the seam lay flat.
  2. If we are stitching together a light and a dark fabric the recommendation typically is to press the seam toward the dark.
  3. If we are nesting two different sections of a block together we are instructed to press one seam to the left and the other to the right.
  4. If we are having difficulty obtaining an accurate quarter inch seam, pressing your seams open may help.
  5. Bulk at intersections creates problems during the hand or machine quilting process.  Those raised bumps create areas that are impossible to quilt. To avoid this issue press your seams away from each other at the intersections. This results in a flatter quilt top and a happier quilter.

These are only a few of the suggestions that can help make life easier.

My Personal Preference

I am a real fussbudget! I like my seams to behave and lay nice and flat. To encourage these stubborn kids to behave I always set my seams first. From there, nine chances out of ten, I will typically press my seams open. I believe pressing them open achieves a more accurate block measurement as well as a much flatter seam. If I’m having difficulty getting my seam to stay open I have been known to either spritz it with water or a light mist of spray starch.

I do most of my pressing from the back. I believe I am more successful at keeping my seams all going in the desired direction when I use this method. Pressing from the back also creates a smoother finish on the right side because indentations from seam edges are less noticeable or pronounced.

Now It’s Your Turn

Today’s question has two parts:

  1. Do you press your seams from the right side or the back side of your fabric?
  2. What other guidelines do you apply when pressing your seams?

What are your thoughts? I know you have some so get busy and add your comments. 🙂 I’m dieing to read your answers.


16 thoughts on “Front or Back?

  1. Recently I have been trying to set my seams. I remember learning that but then it left my mind, ha! I press my seams from the back as when I press from the front, something usually goes awry!

  2. I set the seam on the wrong side and then press from the front, always toward the darker fabric. I press my seams to one side as my first quilt instructors said the seams will be stronger by using this method. Another question for fellow quilters….steam iron or dry iron??!!

      1. I agree with you. So much to learn. So much valuable personal experience to draw on. Thank you for reading and for taking time out of your day to comment. 🙂

  3. I set seams, I press from the back always, and occasionally give it another swipe on the front, if a seam doesn’t lie as flat as I’d like – usually that only happens when I change my mind about which way it should go. I almost never press open, and I almost always nest my seams. It seems to me that if I have two seams joining and they are pressed open, it’s still two pieces of fabric on either side, and I like having the nesting for accuracy.

    Having said that, however, I will also say that for someone with a lot of experience, who has been doing something the same way a long time, it probably doesn’t matter what that way is. Their blocks will be flat, the right size, precise corner meetings, and all the rest, because they have so much experience in making that happen with their preferred methods.

  4. I usually press from the wrong side, but make any wonky corrections on the front side: all the while fearful of straining the true grain of the fabric.

    Also, long ago I learned the huge benefit of pressing ‘opposable’ seams to nestle quilting squares/pieces in perfect match-up!

    1. We do have to be careful that we don’t distort the fabric. Nesting seams in that way is a helpful technique. Thanks for taking the time to share your habits. I think it’s fun to get conversations going. 🙂

  5. Hi Cindy!
    This is a fun question, and I can’t wait to read other comments! I always press from the wrong side. I often see Jenny Doan (MSQC) press from the right side but that goes against everything I was taught in Home Ec. I can’t do it. I am new to the press-open-club for quilting but think that will be my preferred method going forward. I agree about the more accurate block measurement. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Every rule, it seems. ~smile~ Roseanne

    1. I’m looking forward to other responses as well. My Home Ec. Teacher taught me to press seams from the back as well. Maybe Jenny Doan has a camera time issue and that might be why she presses in the manner she does. There are exceptions to everything. That’s why we have so many choices and if we don’t like any of them we can always make up our own. 🙂

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