• Pressing Pieced Blocks

    Many quilt books and patterns instruct you to "press to the dark". Sometimes that is not possible when there are too many seams coming together and there is too much bulk. The pressing to the dark "rule" is left over from our hand piecing quilting ancestors. When hand piecing templates were made the exact size of the finished patch and the seam allowance was added randomly or "eye-balled". Because of this the seam allowances were usually uneven and of different widths. Also all the stitching was done by hand -- sometimes with large stitches -- and the seams were weak. Pressing to one side -- usually to the dark -- was necessary to keep the strength of the quilt even after being hand quilted.

    Now that we rotary cut our pieces and our seam allowances are a standard width, there is no reason to continue in this archaic pressing method. Also our lock-stitch sewing machines make a very firm and tight seam.

    It is OK to press to the light if it is necessary to keep the build up of numerous intersecting seam allowances less bulky. If the dark color shows through slightly, you might want to trim a slight amount from the dark seam allowance allowing the light color seam allowance to cover the darker seam allowance.

    Did you know it is OK to press seams open? Today's quilter has a lock-stitch sewing machine. Many quilters began sewing by making garments. We used to stitch the back seam of our trousers and press the seams open! Then we wore them for several years and sat on that seam and gained weight in those pants and still the seam didn't split open. All men's dress trousers have the back seam pressed open.

    Many professional quilters press all their seams open. Machine quilting of our modern day quilts help stabilize the stitching of the piecing. Our machine made quilts are stronger than the quilts made in yesteryear.

    I press all seams open on Lemoyne Stars and other blocks that radiate from the center. I also press half square triangles open before stitching into rows for blocks. My general rule for pressing is to press from the center of the block toward the outside of the block. Look carefully at how your block is constructed and press your seam allowances in the direction that works best for your particular block. It is better to have a flat block than follow archaic rules.

    Not a long time ago, I received a question from a subscriber:

    We're expecting our 1st grandchild, so of course I'm busy quilting. I'm puzzled about flame retardant fabrics. I've bought flannel for the backs of the quilts and noticed on the selvage that it is not meant for children's sleepware. My husband's co-worker also owns a quilt shop and she said no baby blankets are flame retardant, only the pajamas. Please let me know what you think. Thanks
    So I would like to talk a bit about this topic.

    Flame Retardant Fabrics And Quilt Fabrics

    Quilters who make a lot of baby quilts have questions about the availability of flame retardant quilt fabric and batting. All fabrics will burn. Some fabrics will burn faster and with more flame than other fabrics. Of natural fabrics, silk is one of the most combustible fabrics followed by linen and cotton. Wool is least combustible and it is difficult to sustain a flame on wool.

    Heavy and tight weave fabrics will burn more slowly. Fabric that has a "brushed" look or pile will ignite and burn very fast.

    Synthetics such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester resist ignition. But once they ignited they will melt in a hot, sticky, gooey melted substance. Also burning synthetics release a black acrid smoke.

    Most of the flame retardant children's clothing is pajamas or other sleeping attire. A ruling was made in the '70s that all children's pajamas and other sleepwear sold must meet flammability standards or be clearly marked as "not suitable for children's sleepwear" if the item or fabric appeared to be the type used for children's sleepwear. This would include flannel and some cotton knits. If the fabric didn't pass the flammability tests it needed to be treated with a flame retardant chemical.

    There is some controversy over the use of chemicals that could cause cancer and other related problems. And many didn't like the having the added chemicals in clothing their children were wearing on a regular basis, such as pajamas and sleepwear. They preferred to use natural fabrics for their children's sleepwear rather than polyester.

    Now the Consumer product safety commission is saying the children's clothing need to pass a flammability test or be "tight fitting" as loose clothing is more likely to come in contact with fire or flame. The Consumer Product Safety Commission defines "tight fitting" children's sleepwear as cotton fabric that "contacts the skin at all points". What about the diaper and underwear. They are "tight fitting" and another layer to protect the child from any flame.

    While some parents approve of the chemicals in their children's garments, the chemicals do wash out after repeated washings. One chemical company says their flame retardant treatment lasts for up to 50 washings. Usually busy young mothers don't have time to keep record of each time clothing is washed -- they are lucky to get the washing done at all. One chemical company says their fabric stays fire retardant as long as the garment is not washed. How practical is that for children's clothing?

    So if you use fabrics not suitable for children's sleep wear you need to keep in the guidelines of "tight fitting" clothing. By this definition a quilt would not be considered tight fitting.
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