Pressing Seams Open {Tip}

Tip for Pressing Seams Open

If you are a regular reader of my blog, I don’t think it will come as a surprise to you that I press my seams open the majority of the time I am piecing my quilt tops. There are certainly lots of reasons to press to one side, and pressing seams open is not for everyone. Today, I want to focus on a quick trick that I use to help my open seams stay locked together as I am piecing. My secret? Seam tails.

Seam Tails - Top View

Seam Tails – Top View

Seam Tails - Back View

Seam Tails – Back View

As you can see in the images above, I cannot always use what I call seam tails. When trimming pieces to size, like the HSTs shown above, the edges of the seam will be raw. However, when piecing blocks together and as often as I can when piecing, I sew 4-5 stitches in place before starting a seam and after finishing a seam to really lock the thread into place. This is another reason why I am not a huge chain piecing sewer. This method can be a bit more difficult to employ when chain piecing (although it is definitely possible, it just requires a bit of patience).

Rhoda Ruth Block Seams

Rhoda Ruth Block Seams

The magic of the seam tails really begin to be obvious the more piecing comes together, such as in the Rhoda Ruth block shown above. I find that when I press a secondary seam open (such as a row after piecing blocks into a row), that having seam tails keeps the edge of the block piecing from popping open as I press the secondary seam.

Notched Block Seams

Notched Block Seams

And in closing, I’ll show my test Notched Block which employs both pressing to the side and pressing seams open and my ever present seam tails (above).

If you are someone who likes to press open your seams, do you do this? Do you have any other tips? Again, I’m not out to convert anyone, but if you want to give it a try, I really suggest you use seam tails to keep things snug and secure!

31 thoughts on “Pressing Seams Open {Tip}

  1. RuthB says:

    I’m a to the side person unless someone specifically asks for open in bee blocks. I’ll be keeping this in mind making bee blocks this week!

  2. JoyceLM says:

    I use a shorter stitch length when I know I’m going to press my seams open. That keeps my seams from popping open at the edges.

  3. Michele T says:

    I’ll give it a try to see how your tip help!! Thanks!!

  4. Cindy says:

    I prefer to press my seams to the side. I think it’s an old school thing.

  5. I press open a lot. I do have some trouble with the seam ends opening, not consistently but often enough to be annoyed by it. 🙂 I’ll see if doing this deliberately helps. Thanks for the tip.

  6. Patricia Cash says:

    Thank you so much. I have always want to press my seams open but kept seeing no to the thought. I ran across a site where the quilter pressed open but I did worry about locking the seams.

  7. I prefer to press to the side, but if I have a lot of seams in a block it’s not always the best thing to do. My issue with pressing open is matching seams when assembling the block. No matter what method I try or how many pins I use I’m often not successful at getting the seams to line up. Pressing to the side allows me to nest the seams.

    When I chain piece, I always pull the piece I just sewed a bit to the back before starting the next piece which allows for the tail you’re talking about. I don’t know why, it’s something I started doing and it stuck. 🙂

  8. Jayne Willis says:

    I tend to press both ways. It all depends on the project and the fabric. I love when I can nest my seams together…makes for a good tight fit! Then there are times when pressing open is the only option. I do chain piece, but there is always enough thread space inbetween the pieces for tails. You always come up such interesting posts!

  9. Great tip! I almost always press open, I find that it helps the blocks lay flatter, deceases the chance of distortion, and reduces the seam bulk. I usually chain piece, maybe I can leave a few more stitches between each piece to get the tails?

  10. sewincolor says:

    I like to press seams open on smaller and more complex blocks. I don’t have any problems with the seams being off. I pin at junctions! I sometimes press to one side, but recently I find myself pressing seams open more often. I just finished a series of 6″ blocks, #blocktober on IG, one every day in October. Those I pressed the seams open!

  11. Lynda H says:

    I sew on a very minimalist type of machine (cheap) and it just does not stitch well without fabric under the foot, I am a chain piecer and sometimes even have problems with that.

  12. Maryse says:

    I usually press my seams to one side and sometimes both ways. That been said, the last quilt I have been working on is a pixel quilt, the smallest piece finished at 3/4 inch. I quickly realised that I would be better off pressing all the seam open for this project. Like you, I leave the tails. 🙂

  13. Yvonne, I have the tendency to practice both methods. I do not leave tails but I will give it a try. I back stitch at the start and end of each seam that I stitch. I took the time and read the other comments; it is fascinating how a tip can bring about a splendid conversation starter. Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful creative day!

  14. Melody Lutz says:

    I now press open. It has made free motion quilting soooo much easier without bulky seams. Got a quilt with open seams on my machine now and i would estimate it is 40% easier to quilt it. Thanks for the discussion.

  15. Karen says:

    Yvonne, I started sewing as a 4Her many decades ago, (What?–over half a century ago!) so I just naturally pressed almost every seam open, but they were 5/8 inch wide. Now that I’ve started quilting, I still press open, but it’s so much harder with these teeny, tiny 1/4 inchers. I end up with seam allowances all folded and wrinkled and also singed fingers 🙁 Any tips for this beginner?

  16. MoniqueB says:

    I have recently begun piecing open and I much prefer it. I find that I must stink at pressing to the side because I end up with block distortion which makes trimming difficult sometimes. I realized a few weeks ago that if I left tails it wouldn’t open on the ends as easily. such a coincidence but glad to know I wasn’t imagining that it helped. I actually pressed the flying geese in the Meadow Mist Mystery Quilt and I pressed to the side and am regretting it. My blocks distorted and I will be able to make them work but I will have to be aware on every single seam I sew with them. sigh….

  17. Jasmine says:

    My niece found she really liked seam tails when sewing her quilts, even when pressing them to the side. The tails helped her keep her seams from pulling at the edges.

  18. Judy says:

    What a great conversation starter, Yvonne, and a great tip! I need to try it! I have been doing a lot of both ways recently. I was a die hard open seam girl from the start, now there are projects that I do press to the side just so I can nest those seams. I use a very short stitch length when I’m piecing, 1.5 – 1.8. My machine is preset to 1.8 when I am using the 1/4″ setting. I have definitely had issues with those pesky ends popping open when I’m ironing, even with that short stitch length. Next project, I’m giving it a try!! 🙂

  19. Tiffany says:

    Oh my goodness, this is genius! Thank you! I love pressing my seams open.

  20. I always used to press my seams open but I’ve been pressing to the side more and more, but it really depends on the block. I like to chain piece when possible and sometimes what helps is at the end/beginning of each chained block, I reduce my stitch length just a bit.

  21. I do a mix of open and to the side pressing depending on how many layers of fabric are involved. Sarah at shared her technique for pressing seams open without scorching fingertips, and I think it was Leah Day I saw using a hera marker type plastic stick to the same effect.

  22. JanineMarie says:

    Oh my goodness, Yvonne, even your tails are neat! (I always admire how neat the backs of your blocks look.) I’m usually a to-the-side presser. I think it is due to my age and having it drummed into me as I learned that that was THE way to do it. I like it most for nesting seams. I use a fairly small stitch for piecing so I don’t usually have trouble with seams splitting. I also back stitch crucial seams–like those at the edge of a block. I have been trying out pressing seams open and am finding that it is useful to me in some situations. I really stink at getting the seams to lie open when I’m pressing, though, and it takes me forever compared to pressing to the side. I see that Allison above mentioned using a chopstick. Any other tips for that?

  23. Miriam says:

    This is really interesting! As a former clothing sewist, I learned to press seams open. When I began quilting, the 5/8″ seam went out the window, and in came 1/4″ and pressing “to the dark side”. Now, I use a mix of open and to the side. I’m definitely going to try the “tails” and just leave room for tails between my chained pieces. Thank you for a super tip!

  24. Rochelle says:

    I’ve started pressing some of my seams open, especially on the small blocks. My machine cutter leaves about an inch tail so I have that at the start and end. I don’t like the tails because they tend to get caught in the seam when I stitch blocks/rows together and then I have them hanging on the top and have to pick them back or trim them. But I must say that the seams lie so much flatter when pressed open. Saw a video some time back where this quilter presses her seams, leaves the piece laying on the ironing board and sets books on the just pressed seam for about 5 minutes. This allows the seams to stay flat while the piece cools. A little like blocking a piece.

  25. Helen says:

    I got rid of my gel nails so I could easier press my seams. I rarely pressed open because of the seam popping thing . But … With my new machine this will be easier .

  26. I almost always press to the side, more out of habit than anything else. I do press open when there are a lot of seams coming together, though, and I find it really helps then.

  27. I usually press to one side because I like seams that nest, but sometimes I press open, usually to avoid bulk. Does that make me a pragmatic presser of no fixed beliefs?
    The only problem when pressing open is that I am more likely to get hot fingers with the iron. I wish I knew how to avoid that.

  28. sally says:

    I’m generally a seams open kind of person, so I’ll give this a try, thank you! And I forgot to say on the last comment (over excitement at actually being able to comment, it went to my head!), I love your new hair cut, great photo.

  29. Aimee says:

    Thanks for the tip, it really helped! I found this because your Plus Banner block was picked for a quilt bee I’m doing this year. I’ve never enjoyed pressing open and having seams separate, but your tip really helped.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)