Tuesday tip…pressing!

Disclaimer:  I am totally embarrassed to show you the state of my ironing board cover…pretend it’s something cute and I haven’t scorched it.
I had a question a few weeks back about getting quilt blocks to lay flat, so I thought I’d share with you my favorite pressing tip…I use it always.
I’m pressing these units of a quilt block (in my new fabric line…I’ll show you soon!!!).   I’m pressing the corners out, and I stack them as I press about 4 or 5 units high…it makes those seams bend backwards a bit and get extra flat.
Then, stick a floppy book or magazine on top!  Leave it for 30 seconds to a minute, so they can start to cool as you press the next batch, then take off the book and move it to the next batch of pressed pieces.  Leave them there an extra 30 seconds or so to cool.  
When you are done the seams will be super flat…and they will stay flat as you sew them into a block.  You can repeat this every step of the way.
Most importantly…don’t move your freshly pressed blocks until they are cool (still slightly warm is OK).  The fabric fibers expand when they are hot, so if you move them while still hot they won’t hold the flat shape you want them too (just like curling hair!).  That goes for whether you use a book or not…let those fabrics cool!
Other stuff:  I use a couple of floppy books I bought at a yard sale.  The covers have become very slightly warped after months of sitting on really hot blocks.  Don’t do this with a book you love.  I’ve never had any book or magazine transfer onto the fabrics, even when slightly damp. I mist lightly with water if my seams are being stubborn and on the final press of my blocks.  Other than that I rarely use steam or starch alternative.
If you don’t do this already, try it and see what you think!
The BEST pressing tip for SUPER flat seams

53 Responses to Tuesday tip…pressing!

  1. Karen March 3, 2015 at 6:17 pm #

    I love this tip. I will be trying it out. Thanks.

  2. Melissa Corry March 3, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

    That is brilliant!! Totally going to try this. Especially the not moving them while they are still hot ;)

  3. Paula Louceiro March 3, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

    Thank you for the tip. I will try this soon.

  4. Angie March 3, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    Thanks! Great tip :)

  5. ThirdMargaret March 3, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

    I will certainly try this tip, thanks!

    (and that green print is incredible!! I cannot wait to see more!)

  6. Beth March 3, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

    Great tip!

  7. StubbsFamily March 3, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    I would do this with my farmers wife quilt blocks. I used a charm pack that I had on my board and then would put the starch bottle or the random hammer that always is in my sewing room.

  8. Gail Lizette March 3, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

    Fantastic Tip! Thanks for sharing, I can't wait to try it myself!

  9. Kirsten March 3, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    Thanks for this great tip! I am sewing some blocks today so will do this for sure:)

  10. Judy March 3, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    Thank you, I'm going to try this. I am excited to see your line and want to buy it!!

  11. Louise March 3, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    Thanks for showing us (1) a real, working sewing space that looks like ours, and (2) a great tip for holding those seams flat!

  12. celkalee March 3, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

    Much like using a wooden clapper in sewing and tailoring, the book traps that steam and moisture in the fabric and the weight of the book seal the deal…so-to-speak! My clapper is not large enough for a quilt lock so I will try this, thanks for sharing.

  13. cute 57 March 4, 2015 at 1:06 am #

    Thanks for the tip! I will be doing that tonight. The new fabric line looks fun!

  14. jinsnapp March 4, 2015 at 5:04 am #

    What a great tip, thanks!

  15. Mama Mel March 4, 2015 at 5:32 am #

    I just started doing this but with a wooden block I found in the garage. It makes such a difference!

    • periwinklesue December 28, 2018 at 8:04 am #

      Yep, sounds like the same result of using a pressing block. But the soft books would be more plentiful if doing several at a time. I would think the pressing block would absorb the moisture from the fabric better than a soft book with glossy pages. Just a thought.

      • Allison December 31, 2018 at 10:11 pm #

        Yep it is just like using a pressing block! Except I actually like the “floppiness” of the book better…it seems to lay more flat and let the seam lay more flat. Both work just the same though!

  16. Jenny L March 4, 2015 at 7:51 am #

    My ironing board cover is great deal worse…. Great tip and one I shall be trying out as getting things really flat is a real trial not helped by irons seeming to be a lot less hot than the past.

  17. Charlotta March 4, 2015 at 7:53 am #

    Thanks! It's amazing and great how there are always new things to learn. And quilters are always so generous in sharing with each other.
    I will definitely remember and try this!

  18. Allison March 4, 2015 at 8:06 am #

    Thanks for this useful tip and your lovely clear photos – no need to be ashamed of that ironing board cover! (I've been planning a blog post about learning on line – I'll put a link to this post!)

  19. PatG March 4, 2015 at 9:36 am #

    Great tip! Just made 3 Hazel Hedgehog blocks yesterday, wish I'd known this BEFORE making them!! Thanks for sharing, Allison!

  20. ParadiseBreeze Quilts March 4, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    Thanks Allison for sharing your normal looking ironing board! Good on you – it helps keep us all sane! Fabulous tips about the book and waiting – I'll definitely be following your tips! Your fabric looks so lovely – looking forward to the big reveal. Cheers! Michelle

  21. ✾Jamie Lee Cooley✾ March 4, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    Lol! I sort of do something similar…that's how I store all my blocks after making them but before joining the rows. I keep them stacked under a few heavy books for a day or two so they are perfectly flat. It works great, especially for little blocks with lots of seams.

    More importantly…new fabric line? Yay!!!!

  22. Cathy March 4, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    What a great tip. I am going to try this one. Hugs

  23. Karen March 4, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    Love this tip….especially the part about not moving the blocks until cool. I notice you are pressing to the light side….does that give a flatter seam, or personal preference?

  24. Xina March 4, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

    I do this all the time…except I use a square quilting ruler. Love the flatness!

  25. Julia March 4, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

    Allison, thank you for taking the time to share little tips. I've learned so much from your blog… starting with (years ago) how to baste batting together, which I use constantly! Also – I found your last blog post so helpful, about the sewing machines. I have a Bernina 540 (which I love), but think that {someday} I would really love to invest in a juki, since I machine quilt all my own quilts.. And it seems like a great machine for little kids to learn stitching on, and I have 3 daughters all wanting to learn to sew. Thanks again!

  26. Stacy March 4, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    I sure appreciate the tips since I feel that my blocks are never flat enough. I have a question about the pieces in your picture – you've pressed toward the lighter fabric (white) instead of toward the darker (green). I recently sewed some similar pieces and pressed toward the darker, but it would have been flatter if I had pressed toward the lighter. Do you have a certain rul of thumb?

  27. Patricia March 4, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

    Thanks for the tip. I never get them flat, flat.

  28. ✾Jamie Lee Cooley✾ March 4, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    Got my I Want Her Stash fabric today! Love the fabrics you picked and I had to tell you your yellow crosshatch fabric goes great with the bundle. I even like the block pattern so I pulled more fabric to make it!

  29. Terri Ann March 4, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

    This is such a great tip. It's totally one of those things that when you put it that way (about the fibers still expanding) it makes perfect sense and I wonder why I had never thought of it that way! Another thing I found greatly improved my seams was setting the stitches before pressing the seam allowance. When the stitches are pressed (and then cool a bit) before I move the fabric to press the seam allowances either open or to the side it makes a world of difference. I think a lot of people know about this technique but when I first started I had no idea.

  30. allison March 4, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

    Karen and Stacy –

    I usually press towards the darker fabric or open, except on corners like this where I'm pressing a diagonal corner out. If I would have pressed towards the green, the bottom angled portion of the seam would have made a lot of bulk, and hard to press down. So in this case…I press towards the white but it's personal preference! :)

  31. Marianne March 4, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    Haha! I've been doing this for years. I usually do the finished block. I use a stack of quilt books and sometimes will leave the block overnight. It does work well. I thought I was weird! Glad to see I am not alone.

  32. Lisa J. March 4, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    Thank you for this tip….and by the way my ironing board cover looks worse than yours.

  33. SewPsyched! March 5, 2015 at 6:28 am #

    Awesome! I cant wait to try it!

  34. Jayne March 5, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    What a great tip! I cannot wait to give it a try! FYI ~ my ironing board cover looks exactly like yours…

  35. Susanne vb March 5, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    Great tip!! … GASP … the new fabric line! :)

  36. Helen L March 5, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    Great tip!! In my sewing classed in college they had a "pressing block" (just a smooth piece of heavy wood) that was used for the same thing. Sure saves the fingers!! :-) They had us use it on wool, but since cotton is a natural fiber, it makes sense that your trick would work. I'l be doing that, because I hate it when I've gone to all the work to press a seam flat and it decided to pop up again. I'll show it who's boss!! :-P Thanks for sharing!!! Hugs, H in HEaldsburg

  37. Helen L March 5, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    And PS: we wouldn't believe that you really do sew if your ironing board cover didn't look scorched!! Mine is getting in need of a cleaning too! Hugs, H

  38. Sew Stitching Cute March 6, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

    This is an amazing tip and super thank you for sharing!

  39. Live a Colorful Life March 7, 2015 at 12:34 am #

    What a great tip! I love my I Want Her Stash Bundle. And, yes, thanks for the honest ironing board. I always see the really cute ones but if anything leaks, it leaves a stain ring. So I never make a cute one…

  40. Laura Hadland March 7, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    Reminds me I need to make a new ironing board cover!!

  41. Kay March 9, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    Thank you for this great, new tip. x

  42. Niki Estes March 11, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

    Thanks for the great tip! Could I ask what iron you use and if you would recommend it? I'm needing to replace my old iron and trying to decide what to get.

  43. Dolly March 11, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

    I want to thank you for this tip. I started a new project a few days after you posted this, and I tried your way, taking it one step farther. Since I didn't have a nice flat book within reach when I first remembered your tip, I grabbed an 8-inch-square metal canister that I have full of fatquarters, and placed it upside down on top of my pressed triangles. Let me tell you that it worked WONDERFULLY. I think that the metal just reinforces the remaining heat from the iron. Probably takes longer to cool and relax, but still, I credit this wonderful stack of flat blocks to your genius !

    Thank you so much !

  44. allison March 12, 2015 at 5:00 am #

    That's awesome Dolly!! I'm so glad it worked!!!

  45. allison March 12, 2015 at 5:01 am #

    Niki – I use a Rowenta iron, I love that it gets hot really fast (and really hot) and the rounded tip at the end helps with pressing seams open. The only downside is it's really heavy and my wrist will ache after a lot of pressing, so pick a light one! :)

  46. Nancy March 16, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    I use a block of wood to do this. I got a nice piece of wood in the craft department at Michaels.

  47. kimberlier January 12, 2016 at 10:30 pm #

    What an awesome tip. Thanks!

  48. Allison P May 30, 2017 at 5:28 pm #

    I have used this trick for ages – plus a variation. If I have a stack of pieced units made today to sew tomorrow, I stack them up and then make a tower on top to leave overnight. Current preference for the tower is a glass pie dish, 4 or 5 thick paperback novels, and then a cast iron saucepan or big glass jar of pickles!

    Next morning they are as flat as a pancake and I’m good to get straight into sewing

  49. Kristin Thomas July 6, 2018 at 9:55 am #

    Somewhat unrelated question: Scorching the ironing board cover… Is that just a natural consequence of repeatedly pressing quilt seams with the iron on HOT, HOT, HOT? My muslin cover looked just awful so I recently replaced it. I tried to be more careful with the new cover but sure enough, it’s turning brown, too. Is my iron up TOO high, or is this just inevitable?

    • Allison July 9, 2018 at 7:17 pm #

      I think it’s just inevitable if you use a hot hot iron! I love my iron scorching….so I burn every cover I have. When it gets bad I just replace it or make a cover for it!

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