Friday 29 September 2017

Taming Seam Allowances - a Tutorial

- This tutorial is part of Finishalong Tutorial Week. The full list of this week's tutorials can be found in the Finishalong Quarter 3 Linkup post. -

A full list of my tutorials can be found on my Tutorials page.

Simple quilts have them and complicated quilts have them.
Quilts from solid fabrics and quilts from printed material have them.
Quilts with straight pieces and quilts with curved pieces have them.
The only quilts to have none (or almost none) are wholecloth quilts, or appliqué quilts.

I am talking about seams and seam allowances, of course!
And since patchwork quilts tend to have a lot of those, I thought I show you here how I use the seam allowances to help fit pieces together, and to avoid creating big lumps where a lot of seams come together.

Pressing is our friend

To fit patchwork together accurately, pressing the seams well is almost as important as keeping a scant 1/4" seam allowance.
Take care to not distort your patches while pressing. Especially when your fabric is cut on the bias (often when working with triangles) distortion is really very easy. Exception to this: when you need your fabric to be distorted to make your piece fit better. This may happen where pieces don't quite fit perfectly, for example in improv piecing. See "Ironing Out Inaccuracy" on my Tutorials tab for that.

Seam allowances pressed open

Machine stitched seams can be pressed open (not a good idea with hand stitched seams). This can be the preferred way in some cases, and is perfectly acceptable.

Open the seam allowances at the back, and finger press:

Turn the pieces over, and press the patchwork pieces firmly apart with your iron, making sure that the seam allowances are still open on the back. Pressing from the front this way prevents any pleats at the seam:

Seam allowances pressed to one side

This is my preferred method!
Traditionally, seam allowances in patchwork are pressed to one side. They have to be pressed to one side when the seams are hand sewn, and when you want to quilt "in the ditch" for structural reasons.
Pressing your seam allowances to one side can also be helpful to "lock" seams in place when sewing cross seams, which is why I usually do this.

After sewing two pieces together press the seam flat while the patches are still facing each other. This "settles" the stitches and makes the seam straighter and flatter:

right how it comes off the sewing machine, left pressed flat and "settled"
Next, open the patches and press, keeping the seam allowances flat on the ironing board and they will both be behind the top patch. Make sure to open the patches fully at the seam, you can be quite firm!

the seam allowances will be pressed to the side of the top fabric

seam opened out and pressed

seam allowances pressed to one side

Cross seams

Patchwork consisting of squares and/or rectangles comes in many patterns and styles. But as far as seam allowances are concerned they are all the same, really. They have seam allowances running vertically and horizontally, crossing at the corners of the patches.
Pressing your seam allowances to opposite sides help align the cross seams, like here for a four square block:

seam allowances towards opposite sides

seam allowances "lock" the crossing seams in place

arrows indicate the direction of the seams

Now we make the seam allowances "spin", which means that the directions of the seam allowances go round in a circle:

Stitches at the "crossing" seem to prevent the centre to lie flat, but if we tug at the seam allowances a little, these stitches come undone. Don't worry, your patchwork is not coming apart!

Pull the seam allowances apart at the centre until they lie flat, then give them a good press. In the centre of the four square block a miniature block appears:

And your block is flat as can be:

Multiple cross seams

When we are joining strips of more squares (or rectangles) we can do the same thing, but we have to alternate the directions of the seam allowances:

top row: seams left - right - left - right... bottom row: seams right - left - right - left...
To make our seam allowances "spin" we make sure the directions of the seam allowances are going in a circle around each "crossing" or "corner":

Half square triangles

How I press the seams of half square triangles (HSTs) depends on how they are used.

When HSTs are used with plain squares I prefer to open the diagonal seam on the HST unit to avoid unnecessary bulk:

pressing the units flat

open out the seam

"dog ears" can now be trimmed
The resulting HST unit can now be treated as a square, and when it is used in further patchwork the new seams will be pressed as for squares. You will get open and to-one-side seams in one project.

Windmill block

However, when HSTs are used in a windmill block, we can really make some seams spin:

four HST units to make a windmill block

directions of the seam allowances in the HST units
 When joining two HST units, the diagonal seams will lock and prevent shifting while sewing:

Two pairs of HST units for the windmill block

Direction of the vertical seams (black) follow the direction of the diagonal seams (grey)
When the windmill block is all joined together, the seams should be made to "spin" around. Like before, a little tug is needed to loosen a stitch or two at the cross:

And just like the four square block, we will see our block appear in miniature on the back at the centre:

A very flat windmill block is the result:

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. More tips and tricks can be found on my Tutorials page.

Remember to link up your finishes at the Finishalong Quarter 3 linkup if you haven't done so yet.

Want to join in with the Finishalong, but don't know where to start? Have a look at the Finishalong page, and join us when Quarter 4 starts on the 1st of October.


Monday 25 September 2017

Goody Goody Binding Kit for Modern Quilters - Another Finish!

Over the summer I participated in yet another swap. I am saying "over the summer", but that's not quite how it went.

Organised by the Modern Quilters Ireland (who unfortunately no longer exist now - how did that happen?!), we were going to make and swap a Goody Goody Binding Kit from a pattern by Lella Boutique. In June the swap was opened and after a short deliberation I signed up. After all, the deadline was only early September. Plenty of time wouldn't you think?!

You can guess what followed. I posted a mosaic to help my partner decide what to do. Which probably was no help to her at all, because I liked any picture of any of the binding kits in question. No surprise there really, anyone who has a look around here will see how eclectic my makes are.

And I added it to my Finishalong list for the third quarter.

Then I went on holiday. Which, by the way was absolutely brilliant! I should have posted about it... maybe I still will? Oh yes, let's check on my partner and finalise those plans...

The boys were home for the summer months. The sewing kitchen table was continually occupied. And inspiration hadn't really struck though I did have some vague idea. I should look up that pattern again...

Exam results came and went, debs/balls were prepared for and attended, college places awarded, accepted. Oh yes, I need to really look at that pattern...
Student accommodation was finally arranged (housing crisis, anyone?), college supplies purchased... My idea needs to be firmed up...

Suddenly the deadline was about a week away!
I wanted to go for a dog theme since my partner loves her Bassets, but how?!

I considered sewing small squares with doggy fabrics for the outside of the kit, but someone else seemed to be doing squares already. I thought of a pieced star for the front, but it would have to be teeny, tiny to fit onto the front. And how would that incorporate a dog?
Maybe the dog should go on the inside?
And what fabric to use? Bright. Solids?

Then I started drawing. A dog. Mmmm.
And I took out my bag of solids, not too much there. Though plenty of small scraps.

Finally I made a decision. And posted this on Instagram as a teaser:

The  Goody Goody Binding Kit has quite a few pockets inside, and is ideal to use several coordinating fabrics in one item. I used a piece of fox print by Tula Pink for the outside together with some coordinating prints:

(fuzzy photo - sorry!)

Then I made an appliqué basset to serve as the scissor pocket. I had such fun making that!

The inside is made up of several sections, and I was able to add some more dogs there, too. A zipped pocket, an open pocket, thread holder, and needle patch are all included:

The kit was finished in time. It was even done a day before it needed to be sent off! Enough time to add a themed zipper pull (adding little details like that make me so happy)!

Picture taken from Ruth's Instagram, zipper pull visible top left

Sent off... and received... I hope Ruth will enjoy it for many happy sewing sessions!

And then, of course, I was due to receive one, too. With all the focus on making this one, I had forgotten about that! So I received a most stunningly quilted version myself from Erin, who had recently returned home to the US after spending some years here.

She chose to use all the colours of the rainbow, and each colour is quilted with a different pattern. Perfect!

Thank you so much, Erin, it is truly treasured and in use a lot!

Linking up my finished Binding Kit with the Finishalong.
By the way, there is a Finishalong Quarter 3 Linkup at my blog, too!
Back in July I posted my Finishalong Quarter 3 list.


Finishalong Quarter 3 Finishes Linkup

It is the end of September, and that means that the third quarter of this year's Finishalong is coming to an end. In other words, any project from your Finishalong list for Quarter 3 that has been finished, can now be linked up.

Normally, I would only be mentioning this and pointing you to the correct link(s), but this time I am also hosting the linkup myself! So scroll down, have a supportive browse of our sponsors (and see what prizes there are to be won!), and link up your finishes below. Linking up needs only be done at one host to appear at all of them. And then visit some other participants, too, and leave some comments!

At the very end you can see how much time is left before the linkup closes (you still have a few days for that last minute finish). Also, do have a look back at your list from the beginning of the quarter. Many a time I have been reminded of projects from my list that were finished, but that I had already forgotten about!

The 2017 FAL has a community of bloggers across the world jointly hosting the FAL. Our hosts are:
  • Sarah - Sew me - Northern Ireland
  Before you link up, let's give a huge thank you to our fantastic sponsors:  

For the 2017 FAL, we continue tutorial week. Here is the schedule of five fantastic tutorials, so you can visit them all:

The 2017 Q3 link for your finishes is now open below on this blog and on each of the hosting blogs - you only need to link on one blog for your finish to appear on each blog. Link-up "rules":

  • Add one link for each finish. If you want to link a round up post of all your finishes, use that link to enter one of your finishes and then link the rest of your finishes separately. Please, only one link per finish, as your link is an entry into the randomly drawn prize draws.

  • Please ensure that the photo or blog post you link up contains a link or reference back to your original list so that we can verify your entry (make sure it is from the appropriate quarter). Feel free to and tag your photos #2017FALQ3yourname (substitute your name), this makes it easier for us to match your finishes with your lists.

  • Please become part of the FAL community. Please check out the links of others and comment. We all need encouragement so let's applaud each other. The 2017 FAL Facebook page is here and follow us on Instagram @finishalong. 

  • Our hosts will also link their finishes to share in the community, but they are not eligible for any of the prizes.

The Q3 Finishes link will stay open from now thru September 30 at 11 pm EST - link up your finishes early and if you have a last minute one, add that one later so you don't miss out. The prizes will be awarded as soon as we can verify all the entries and do the drawings. We will post the winners on each hosts' blog.

And don't forget to start making your Q4 lists as the Q4 list link opens on October 1.