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Thread: To Set Seams or Not to Set -- The Why's and Wherefore's!!!!

  1. #1
    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    Oh wise, ladies and gents ... do tell ...

    Do you set your seams? or not?
    (before you press them open, or to the sides)

    What purpose does it serve?
    If you do it some of the time ... what situations are the times?

    What is the return on your time investment in doing such?


    I'm looking forward to the discussion on this as I am totally between and betwixt, and need some input as to the why-to!!

  2. #2
    Senior Member familyfun's Avatar
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    I do if I remember.. I cant answer your question. as to the purpose.
    I just do it because I have seen them do it that way on Fons and Porter..

  3. #3
    np3
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    I always set them. I was taught that way and it seems to lay nice and flat when I do. I can tell a difference in the final press. So it works for me.

  4. #4
    Super Member DebraK's Avatar
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    Nancy told me to, so I tried it and liked the outcome. Just habit now.

  5. #5
    Super Member AlwaysQuilting's Avatar
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    Sometimes. Not a big priority with me. I haven't had any real boo boo's yet because of not doing it.

  6. #6
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    Try pressing some seams "with" and "without" setting them first.

    See if there if a difference.

    I've never actually done that - maybe I'll go down and try it! :roll: :oops:

    I usually do - it only takes a few moments longer - I'm not into production sewing - but I think the seams press "better" to one side then and I have a "flatter" and "tidier" looking seam line

  7. #7
    MTS
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    The reason is along the same lines as the "scant" quarter-inch theory.

    The thread takes up space.
    So if you just sew them and press them (open or to the side), you're not getting it as flat as you can because there is a bit of a bump there from the thread.

    Can you see it from the space shuttle?
    No.

    But try it. Take two scraps and sew them together.
    Feel the thread line.
    Now just take you iron and press it on the seam line.
    Feel again. You can feel how it's nice and smooth.
    So now when you go to press the seams (again, open or to the side depending on your preference or situation), it will be flatter.

    Also, when you go press the seam to the side, you'll get less tucks and pleats. I just find they move better when the seams are set.

    So set the seams, press, and this is where you can bring starch in if you want, press again.

    I like my seams and blocks to be as flat as wallpaper.

    As for time spent, it's negligible. ;-)

  8. #8
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    i always set my seams- it presses them nice and flat/smooth-helps even up any stitches that may be slightly (off) and sinks them into the fibers of the fabric so when i then press my block open (or to one side) the seam is nice-straight- and smooth. i was taught to set my seams 45 years ago= making clothing in 4-H...a habit i have never left behind.

  9. #9
    Super Member Annaquilts's Avatar
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    I do with smaller pieces and quilts that call for precision.

  10. #10
    Super Member ghostrider's Avatar
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    I also always set my seams. Makes the end result flatter, smoother and straighter...just like I wish I still was. :oops: :D

  11. #11
    Super Member aorlflood's Avatar
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    I set the seams before pressing...for the same reason that MTS and ckowl said...

  12. #12
    Senior Member jean1941's Avatar
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    Always set seams

  13. #13
    Super Member MommaDorian's Avatar
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    What does it mean to set seams? I've seen that before but I don't know what it means.

    Thanks,
    Dorian

  14. #14
    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MTS
    The reason is along the same lines as the "scant" quarter-inch theory.

    The thread takes up space.
    So if you just sew them and press them (open or to the side), you're not getting it as flat as you can because there is a bit of a bump there from the thread.

    Can you see it from the space shuttle?
    No.

    But try it. Take two scraps and sew them together.
    Feel the thread line.
    Now just take you iron and press it on the seam line.
    Feel again. You can feel how it's nice and smooth.
    So now when you go to press the seams (again, open or to the side depending on your preference or situation), it will be flatter.

    Also, when you go press the seam to the side, you'll get less tucks and pleats. I just find they move better when the seams are set.

    So set the seams, press, and this is where you can bring starch in if you want, press again.

    I like my seams and blocks to be as flat as wallpaper.

    As for time spent, it's negligible. ;-)
    Thanks for the detailed explanation MTS ... I do like my work to look good, and appreciate attention to detail. So your explanation is ringing loud and clear! And I understand the logic.

    I won't be trying it on scraps ... will try comparisons for IRL blocks! Gives me a better sense than doing scrap tests.

  15. #15
    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bearisgray
    Try pressing some seams "with" and "without" setting them first.

    See if there if a difference.

    I've never actually done that - maybe I'll go down and try it! :roll: :oops:

    I usually do - it only takes a few moments longer - I'm not into production sewing - but I think the seams press "better" to one side then and I have a "flatter" and "tidier" looking seam line
    <------- waits for Bear's scientific research report!!

    BTW ... I smile every time I see your kitty and it's antics!! :lol:

  16. #16
    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ckcowl
    i always set my seams- it presses them nice and flat/smooth-helps even up any stitches that may be slightly (off) and sinks them into the fibers of the fabric so when i then press my block open (or to one side) the seam is nice-straight- and smooth. i was taught to set my seams 45 years ago= making clothing in 4-H...a habit i have never left behind.
    Another one with green blood ... and same vintage! Though I didn't have the seam setting drilled into me. I don't even remember it as being talked about! Now I'm older and ....... !

  17. #17
    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MommaDorian
    What does it mean to set seams? I've seen that before but I don't know what it means.

    Thanks,
    Dorian
    MommaD .. this I can answer (I think!)

    When you sew your two pieces together, you take it from the sewing machine and press with the iron, the way it is. Once pressed, as is, then you open it up to press your seam to the side.

  18. #18
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MommaDorian
    What does it mean to set seams? I've seen that before but I don't know what it means.
    It means that you take your seamed pieces to the ironing board and press the seams. This sort of flattens the thread into the fabric. It is done before you press the seams open or to the side.

    Jinny Beyer hand pieces her quilts, "eyeballing" the seam allowances (doesn't mark the seam allowances), and doesn't care how the seams fall when she presses her top. That is, she doesn't even care if seams are pressed symmetrically to each side; she presses from the top and just lets seams open or cross as they will. (At least, this is what she explained in a video I watched many years ago, and I have no reason to believe she has changed her methodology.)

    My thinking about this is that the additional degree of exactness achieved by setting seams may end up being more theoretical than practical. It doesn't make or break a quilt. Its usefulness may depend somewhat on the thread used in piecing, making more of a difference if it's a heavier thread than a lighter weight thread. The small improvement in exactness will also have more of an effect on a pattern requiring lots of small, precise pieces; for a typical rail fence, it probably won't make any observable difference in the finished piece.

    I will set seams if I am in a mood to do it, but for most of us I'm not sure if it's a really useful technique.

  19. #19
    Super Member TonnieLoree's Avatar
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    Setting the seams gives me the control. Some things I want pressed off to one side, and others I want pressed open. That is a judgement call on my part. I want my points to be pointy, and my curves to be curvy. If I go for too long without pressing, I have this little ironing devil that sits on my shoulder that tells me I am being dumb, again. For me, setting the seams in the beginning alleviates finishing problems in the end.

  20. #20
    Junior Member beaniekins's Avatar
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    I never used to because I wasn't taught to (self-taught), but I recently started after some quilting friends advised me to. I noticed that it really helps set bias seams, like on HSTs, QSTs and OBWs. They don't tend to warp as much. Since I do a lot of scrap quilting and have to deal with a lot of bias seams, I always set my seams now.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Melrose R's Avatar
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    I always do....I can actually see the fabric relax and sometimes I even hear it say "awwwwwww"....LOL

  22. #22
    Senior Member quilter on the eastern edge's Avatar
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    Unless the instructions say otherwise, I always set my seams.

  23. #23
    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melrose V
    I always do....I can actually see the fabric relax and sometimes I even hear it say "awwwwwww"....LOL
    Alas the REAL reason comes out ... I definitely want to hear the fabric say "awwwwwwwwww"!!!!! :lol:

  24. #24
    Super Member Stacey's Avatar
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    Always have, always will. Makes the seam lay flatter and neater.

  25. #25
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    I use a wooden Tailor's clapper on all my quilt seams. And I have the Steady Betty. My blocks are as flat as they can be.

    If you have a bacon press, that will work as good as the Tailor's Clapper.

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