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How to Piece like a Rockstar – Part 3 – Nesting Seams + Pressing Tips

This post has been edited to add in this video on 10/12/17.


I want to start this off my saying that you are making a quilt. The little things really don’t matter. Like if your points line up, or if your edges are wobbly, or if you have a pinch or two in your quilting. These little imperfections are okay. You are making something with your hands.

The whole idea is to enjoy making the quilt, or snuggling up under the quilt or even giving the quilt to someone you love.

It’s not to beat yourself up about.

So relax, shake off the pressure, it doesn’t REALLY matter.

No quilt policing goes on here. And for heaven sakes, if you see a quilt where the points are cut off or the seams don’t match, do not announce it to the quilt maker. It’s just plain mean.

That quilter just finished making a huge labor of love. That is a job well done. Lopsided blocks and all.

Quilting is my therapy, I don’t want to follow rules, so don’t.  Make your quilt and be happy doing it.

When I first started quilting, I was a piecing nightmare.  Who cares?  I just finished a quilt!

But then, after you have made many quilts, when quilting is something you do on a daily basis, when those half square triangles aren’t quite triangle or the very worse when you have made twenty blocks and half of them are off by a half inch and you desperately and creatively sew them together anyway, wash your quilt, and then find out that all your seams have split open. THAT is the moment when you realize that if you had just taken the time to press your seams open, if you had just spent a little more time making sure your 1/4″ seam was accurate, your quilt could have come together with less headaches on the way and not riddled with split seams after a few washings.

We are not going to call them rules. Rules are not for art, and quilting is an art. We are going to call them guidelines.

Guidelines that will not only give you pleasure at seeing all your hard work look as close to perfection as the human body can make (nothing is perfect) it. But MOST importantly, that everything comes together easily and almost effortlessly. Following just a few simple guidelines will make you not hate quilting or sewing.

You will never say, I’m done, nothing I ever do comes out right. You will never say, I can’t do this. You will never finish twenty blocks and some be distorted so you throw them in your closet never to see the light of day again and all your time and effort wasted.

Never again.

In this series we will cover:

Better cutting methods

How to make half square triangles

Nesting seams and pressing tips

How to make flying geese

Making the most with your mistakes

Today we are covering nesting seams and a few pressing tips.

Many, many patterns will tell you in which direction to press your seams, which is unbelievably helpful.  But some of us in the beginning of our quilt making (ME!), decide that this is too much work, or it’s silly, and just takes up too much time to bother with, and what’s the point of that anyway.

But nesting seams is actually very helpful.

It can help your points line up easier with minimal work.  It helps make your blocks lay flatter.  AND when you finally getting to the quilting stage of making your quilt, your needle doesn’t break because you hit a massive hard bump that turns out to be a buch of seams jumbled together and laying on top of each other like a hidden brick. <———I’ve done that MANY times.

Nesting your seams and pinning them together does not take any more time than just pinning without nesting seams, it’s just being a little bit more thoughtful about what you are doing.

That’s all!

I’m going to teach you how to do it yourself, just in case you are using a pattern that doesn’t include this info in the instructions or maybe you are making a quilt with your scraps and don’t have instructions, but also so you can see how simple it is and understand why you want should do it.

The term nesting seams refers to having two seam allowances pointing in opposite directions, but the seams aligned.  They will fit together like a puzzle, nestled together.

You put your pin directly in both seams, keeping them aligned and unmoving.  Then, when you sew, remove your pin just before the needle comes to the seam.  The result is precision piecing and perfectly aligned points.  You will then press and open up your patchwork and then do a happy dance.

But let’s see it in an illustration.

 So now hopefully I’ve done a good enough job of explaining the concept of nesting seams.

For those seams to align you must place a pin right there in the thick of it.

In my illustration, I’ve shown you what nesting seams is and alternating the rows of the pieces within your block or all the blocks on your quilt top.  However, if a pattern you are using shows seams pressed a little differently, always follow your pattern.  I have found that most modern quilt patterns tell you how you should press your seams.  Sometimes they only do this with arrows, but it is there most of the time.  Most patterns will show you the best way to press those seams to have the flattest block possible with the least amount of bulk.

[easy-image-collage id=13057]

In the first picture above, you see my pin going directly into the seam of the top fabric.  In the second picture, you see my pin coming through the back fabrics seam.

Onto pressing tips

I like to lay down the piece I’ve just sewn on my ironing board, open it to where it’s face up, smooth it with my hands softly (maneuver the seam to the direction I want it to be), and then lift the iron up and down until I’m satisfied with the flatness of my piece.  Do not iron your quilt pieces the way you would a blouse.  This will distort your shapes.  Lift up and down instead.

I do love starch.

I don’t use it for everything.  I use it for anything triangular, anything with a bajillion seams, or anything I’m having trouble getting to lay properly.

If you press your fabric with starch before you sew, it makes things even easier as well.  Starting with starched fabric before even cutting your fabric is like having a minion who will do all your bidding.

I use the starch that you can buy at your local grocery store, but there are some fancier one’s available and some that even smell heavenly.

I also like to use steam.  Pretty much always.  And have my iron set to it’s hottest setting.

(if you are using cotton lawn or voile, don’t use steam and don’t have your iron to it’s hottest setting)

Look at those points!

Now I mention in my intro to this series that you should never point out somebody’s seams not lining up (bad manners!).  However, if you do see someone’s quilt or block with impeccable seams you should say something like, “Girl!  Look at your points!  You rock!”

This makes the quilt maker smile and feel even better about her work.

Here is the back of the block just in case you prefer pictures to illustrations.

And a close up.

So there you have it!

Now relax, go make your quilt block, nest your seams.  If it’s not perfect, stay at it.  Just like everything in life, you get better the more you do it.  And you can definitely do this!!  And if they don’t, who cares?  You just made a quilt!  That’s good enough!

16-Patch Block

My quilt block in this post features (16) 3.5″ squares, sewn together in rows of 4.

4 rows and 4 columns

fabrics from my 3.5″ scrap box

Unfinished block size is 12.5″


Helpful Links

Better Cutting Methods

How to Make Better HSTs

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  1. When you nest seams, rows 1-2 go together quite nice as does roe 3-4, 5-6, and so on. But what about when you sew the first section (rows 1&2) to the next section (rows 3&4). The nesting is backwards. Is there any workaround or am I doing it wrong?

  2. I have 5×5 blocks. Ironed/sewed all alike with seams nesting row by row. Then when I went to sew blocks together, seams were sewed down and would not nest. Now what?

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