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Thread: Pressing advice

  1. #1
    Member Path50's Avatar
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    Pressing advice

    Hi everyone,
    i have been quilting for quite a few years and feel like I have gotten to a comfortable point in my quilting skills - not in a good way. I feel like I have come to accept my quilting competence and have not been striving to get better. If you've read "Moonwalking with Einstein" by Jonathon Foer (I just did!), I'm talking about the "ok plateau" - the point your brain reaches when it has become comfortable performing a task. You will not be able to advance from this plateau without focused practice, examining mistakes and analyzing what you did in the past and how you could do it better in the future. This kind of practice needs to be hard, you have to think about it, not just repeat the same action mindlessly.

    i am trying to apply this to my quilting. I don't want to do it to enter shows or to quilt professionally, I just want my quilts to look better. One area I have been looking at is pressing. I am never satisfied with mine! I have read a lot about it. First I set the seam, then I press to one side, first on the back, then from the front. I seem to get a little wrinkle on the front pretty often. For a long time I didn't use steam, but lately sometimes I do.

    does anyone know a good tutorial for me? Anyone have an iron that changed their life (mine seems like it might be too light)? How important is the board you use - I've read that the surface should be pretty firm, which I think mine is, but the board feels a little wobbly (my room is carpeted) . Does anyone use one of those clapper things (I think that's what they're called) on a regular basis? It seems like an awful lot of work for every seam, but lately I've been having the urge to use one, because my seam will lay flat after it is freshly pressed, but as it cools, it gradually floats up.

    sorry for the super long post - I'm hoping there are some ironing enthusiasts out there who would like to give some advice.
    Thanks, if you've read this far!
    Pat

  2. #2
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    I have recently become a fan of Strip Sticks for pressing seams. I bought 3 sizes and have used all of them on different projects. They're great at pressing strip sets, and also good for when your seams are really close together.

    I really like my Reliable V100 Digital Velocity iron - best steam I've ever had in an iron, and it can't leak. I bought mine refurbished. I seldom use steam - I go in spells of using it or not - but I still like the weight and shape of this iron, and the fact that it can be put into a mode where it doesn't shut itself off.

    I know what you mean about getting into a rut with quilting habits. I'm trying to shake things up too, but it's hard changing your patterns.

  3. #3
    Member Path50's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply dunster- it's funny, a while back I had made a note of this model iron as one I would like to own, because I had heard great things about it. But when it came time to buy a new one, I ended up with a cheap Panasonic - don't ask me why! I'm ready to replace it, I'm not happy with it. I've never heard of strip sticks, I will look into them.
    i recently participated in a Halloween quiltalong on Instagram, simply because I loved the color palette the organizer used. It ended up being very paper piecing and epp heavy, techniques I have no experience with. My color palette ended up completely different than the one I loved. But it is a long time since I felt so challenged and creative at the same time. It was so fun!

  4. #4
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    Pressing from the front first should eliminate the problem you're having with a wrinkles on the front.
    Lisa

  5. #5
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    I have watched several quilters on You-Tube and Jenny Doan from MSQC, when they press the pieces they have sewn, the press from the top. The put the piece down with the light side down and then press pushing the dark side over and the seam. So this is how I usually do it unless I want an open seam then the only way to do that is pressing from the back side.

    If you are talking about ironing the entire quilt before layering it to quilt, then I iron from the back side first, then flip it over to iron it a second time to make sure there are no pleats or wrinkles. And for those difficult seams that just seem to want to go the wrong way I have been known to use a glue stick to keep them in place.

  6. #6
    Member Path50's Avatar
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    I will concentrate on pressing from the front! Quiltingcandy, pressing the complete top is always a nightmare for me - glue stick = genius !

  7. #7
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    I was raised with the adage of 'always use a heavy iron - let it do the work for you'. I've been using Rowentas for many years now and not had the issues most here have so I'll stick with them.

    I also press almost all of my seams open. So I (like you) set the seam first then press the seam open from the back and finally press the unit from the front. I also use steam religiously. All this probably stems from my early sewing of garments vs anything else. I will sometimes get that little pleat on the front as well but then just press the heck out of it. I don't use a clapper but have thought sometimes a ham might be a handy tool to own but have not been so compelled to actually buy one yet.

    Do you use starch? I use the liquid starch (usually sta-flo) that you can mix to varying strengths. I usually do a 50/50 mix and find it works well. I believe it helps with not only cutting, but pressing as well. I will also admit to 'ironing' vs 'pressing' frequently. Between that and steam, if my unit/block gets a little distorted, I will trim to the correct size before moving on.

    All of the above are very tedious processes but I do believe it makes for a better quilt (or any other sewing project for that matter). And yes, I do it for each and every seam I sew. I am a far cry from a perfectionist. I do find that it makes the next step in my project easier to manage.

  8. #8
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    Hi NJ Quilter, thanks for the great advice. I started as (a not so great) garment sewer too. I agree pressing open creates a flatter result - but I do love nesting my seams! I have a couple hundred 4 patches to press so I guess I will do some experimenting. I definitely need to get a new iron (although like anything else, it's only as good as its operator!) and now I remember why I ended up with the cheap one. As I research the expensive ones, I hear they do not last very long. How come the cheap ones last forever? - I think it has something to do with more sophicated equipment has more components to break. I'm torn between the Rowentaa (which I hear leaks),and the Reliable.
    i do use starch sporadically on yardage- just the spray can from the grocery store though.
    i think I need to embrace the zen of ironing - instead of rushing to get through!

  9. #9
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    I know it's not very exciting, but you have to take your time. I also set my seam, then press from the front. I tend to assembly line sew, so then I assembly line press. I figure out which way I want the seam to be pressed, and lay out a row of sewn units with the fabric that the seam will be pressed toward on the top. I set the seam on all the units, then I flip the top fabric over and lightly finger press the first unit (so I'm pressing from the front, while the fabric is still a bit warm). I put the iron down on that unit & finger press the next one, then move the iron to that one, moving across the units that I have laid out. This allows the iron to just sit on the seam for a few seconds while I'm finger pressing the next one. I try & let the units cool before moving them from the board. I pre wash, often starch & usually use steam, but as a previous poster mentioned, let the iron do the work for you. Heavier is better, so even if I don't use steam, I make sure the iron is filled with water.
    I do the same for joining rows, moving across the row: set the seam, all across the length of the board, flip to the right side, finger press a few inches (about the length of the iron), set the iron down, finger press the next section etc.
    Usually this results in flat seams. Sometimes a fabric doesn't want to play nicely, so I do use a clapper. I also have a Steady Betty which I really like for complex blocks with lots of bias.
    "Let the iron do the work for you" was one of my mother's mantra's, another was "let the item cool before you move it"
    "I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to."
    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

  10. #10
    Member Path50's Avatar
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    Paper Princess - great advice - thanks! I'm off to google "steady Betty"!!

  11. #11
    Super Member Stitchnripper's Avatar
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    All good suggestions - I will take them too, but, I just started using my clapper on my quilt blocks and I do like the result. Makes them very flat. I don't move the iron too much, just press, and then slap that clapper on for a minute. Been happy so far!!
    Alyce

  12. #12
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    I admit that I had to look a "clapper" up, I had no clue what it was for! I did use to sew garments, but still had not come across it. I may have to venture in and see if it works for me, but I don't have that much problem with flat seams.
    BJ

  13. #13
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    I am in the same boat, but I do read about ironing. (Like cooking - can't do it, but I read about it.) One thing you might try is a firmer ironing board. Less batting under the ironing pad.
    I also read that as soon as you press a seam, lay your ruler on it until it cools. That's supposed to keep it flat.
    As for half square triangles, the Bloc Loc ruler makes sure the seam is perfectly straight, preventing some types of wrinkles.

  14. #14
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    I like the Flawless brand of starch (heavy). And one thing I started doing , after hearing it from Mary Fons, is to spray the back of the fabric, not the front, because the starch will penetrate the fibers better (less dye to go through). I spray only as much fabric as I'm going to be able to cut at one sitting. I spray the back, fold the piece in half and flatten it with my hands to really get the starch into the piece. I let it dry well before ironing. I use steam on everything except bias edges.

  15. #15
    Super Member jmoore's Avatar
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    I have just experimented with starching all my fabric before cutting (having attended a seminar at Maine's Quilt Show end of July) on a Warm Wishes baby quilt and it certainly made for easier piecing and pressing. Just trying to finish piecing the back to get it finished.
    attitude is everything...the rest will fall into place.

  16. #16
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    Lots of good food for thought here. Glad this thread was started.

  17. #17
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    Wish I could remember where I saw this, but the video I saw was quite informative. The quilter set her seams, the opened the joined pieces and pressed the corners first, then pressed the pieces. In her demo she was showing HST and did not stretch her bias edges.

  18. #18
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    No advice about pressing, but I can relate to what you said about a plateau.

    Because quilting is a hobby and therapy, I tend to avoid quilts so complicated that making them would be stressful. I had enough stress while working to last a lifetime and my goal in retirement is to not court it. But recently I was given some pieced equilateral triangles that were intended to form stars. I had no pattern and no clue how to go about making these blocks but was intrigued enough to try to find out and then do it. As I posted here, I probably ripped more than I sewed, and the finished flimsy (now sandwiched) is far from perfect. But I'm so glad I did it, because I learned a lot, got out of my comfort zone, and completed (hopefully) someone else's dream (my kids bought the triangles at an estate sale). And I did not feel stressed while doing it!
    Last edited by Friday1961; 09-10-2016 at 08:32 AM.

  19. #19
    Member Path50's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the great advice everyone and Friday1961 I know exactly what you're talking about- it's good to give your brain a workout every now and then!

  20. #20
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    Take baby steps. If you are having a little wrinkle, try holding the dark side up instead of being flat on the table. Press the light side and slide into the dark side. This should prevent that little wrinkle. A heavier iron does a lot of the work for you. But, if too heavy for you, it can cause more problems than it is worth. I have a heavier one for larger projects and one of the very small light one on a 12" pressing mat. While I have larger ironing boards, I prefer my 20" x 15" teflon covered slightly padded board that sits on a wooden tv tray table to the right of my machine when I am sewing. It is perfect when making blocks and is portable. My point is that whatever works for you will be what you should do. Try small things to start and keep upgrading and changing until you are happy with your results, but don't throw out everything you currently do at once.

  21. #21
    Super Member NZquilter's Avatar
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    I have read not to press quilt seams open like a clothes seamistress would, but to press the seams together towards the darker fabric. That will help prevent the batting from bearding through the seams after quilting.

  22. #22
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    The tricky part for me is medical issues with my limbs...so I need a good iron that's not too heavy or an hour ironing session can put me out of commission for any sort of sewing for a couple days, but you also kinda want a heavy iron, see the dilemma? Any tips? I also never put water in my irons anymore. Seems to kill them quickly and make them too heavy so I have my trusty water spray bottle nearby

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