One thing I love about quilting is that no matter how long you have been sewing, there's always a new technique or different approach to learn. You may be thinking that you have pressed thousands of seams over the course of your quilting career so you don't need a tutorial on how to press seams in a quilt.
And the truth is, you're right! You may not need this pressing tutorial, but it's always fun to see how other people do things, right? Over the course of 19 years and well over a hundred quilts, I've stumbled upon a system of pressing seams that works really well for me.
Take a look at this video and tell me what you think! Is this how you press seams in a quilt too?
The Perennial quilt pattern is featured in the photo above and can be purchased here!
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Press Seams in a Quilt Supplies
In this tutorial I use a few tools that are really helpful in getting an extremely flat, semi-permanent press to your seams.
To get a fantastic press, you just need an iron that gets hot. I have owned a range of irons from a very cheap second-hand one to the nicest iron on the market. (It truly is amazing. More on that in a future blog post.)
Before getting my LauraStar rocketship ironing system that can drive me to the grocery store and babysit my son (I kid...kind of.) I owned an iron that would leak water if I ever tried to use the steam setting.
That crummy iron trained me to rely on a spray bottle of water to steam my fabric and since then I have found that to be a very successful way to extend the life of a cheap iron. It seems like these days regular irons are not built to last more than a couple years and the steam function is a big culprit as to why that is.
Solution? Don't use the steam function. Get yourself an inexpensive spray bottle and save the life of your iron.
In the video I am using my very adorable pink Oliso mini iron. If you use the coupon code SUZYQUILTS20 you get 20% off and free shipping!
The Grow quilt pattern is featured in the photo above and can be purchased here!
You can use a regular ironing board or transportable ironing surface. In this video I use a 17" x 24" wool pressing mat. Read more about the pressing magic of wool pressing mats in this post – An Honest Review of Wool Pressing Mats.
The Reflections wall hanging pattern is featured in the photo above and can be purchased here!
It's time to fish out that weird hunk of wood from your grandma's sewing basket. It has a purpose. That hunk of wood is called a tailor's clapper and simply by placing it on a hot, steamy seam and letting that seam cool, you are creating a semi-permanent crease in the fabric. That seam will be so wonderfully flat, even if you fold it up and throw it in a corner, it will stay pressed.
For more information on this tool that will help you press seams in a quilt, check out this post – 8 Things You Never Knew About the Tailor’s Clapper.
You can bring the steam any way you want – a spray bottle, the steam function on your iron, a retelling of 50 Shades of Grey. It's up to you. It doesn't matter as long as you've got it.
How to Press Seams in a Quilt
This tutorial shows you how to press seams to the side. If you would like to press your seams open, the same rules apply except for Step 3. I'll mention this again, but in Step 3, instead of finger pressing to the side, finger press your seam open. Aside from that, the instructions are the same.
The Tail Feather quilt pattern is featured in the photo above and can be purchased here!
1. Lay fabric out with the dark side facing up.
Once you have sewn two fabrics together, figure out which of those fabrics is the darker one. Place your fabric on your ironing surface with the darker fabric facing up.
2. Set your seam.
After sewing a seam, press it with a hot iron so you set the stitches in place. If you start stretching the seam open with the side of your iron right out of the gate, those stitches will stretch along with the fabric. This is how warping happens.
3. Finger press the seam open.
With your cute little fingers gently open up the seam and press it so that it's creased at the seam. This is important because it creases the fabric in the right direction without applying heat or steam, which can cause stretching.
If you would rather press your seams open than to the side, finger press your seam open, then follow the rest of these instructions.
4. With a hot iron, set the seam open.
Use your iron to further crease what your fingers just did. This is where a lot of people stop and call their pressing finished. However, if you want to get amaaazingly flat seams that will stay flat forever, I have two more steps for you.
5. Create steam on your seam.
Time to get steamy, people! Crank up the HEAT! Either with a spray bottle of water or the steam function on your iron, blast that steam! Well...blast is a bit forceful, let's say, gently mist that steam. 😉
6. Let the steam cool underneath the tailor's clapper.
Time to whip out your tailor's clapper! After getting your seam all hot and steamy, place your tailor's clapper over it. You don't need to press hard, just use the natural weight of your hand. After about 8-10 seconds, lift the clapper off. Viola! A perfectly pressed seam.
And that's all there is to it! You are now a pro at pressing seams for a quilt! Did you find this tutorial helpful? Do you have pressing tips you'd like to share? Comment below!
23 thoughts on “How to Press Seams in a Quilt (with Video Tutorial!)”
Do you use the longer or shorter clapper? (I keep thinking of “clap on, clap off, the clapper).
Haha! My clapper is 8″ long.
You’ve got me so curious about that Laurastar iron – it looks so cool!
Do you think there are advantages to the smaller or larger size clappers?
I don’t think you need a clapper that is wider than a couple inches, but if you got a longer one, you could press more of your seam at once, making the process go faster.
A Strip Stick is a great help when pressing strips. I’ve used mine a lot more than I thought I would when I bought it. I checked out the Oliso iron and found that it doesn’t have auto shut-off. That was the only reason I was thinking about replacing my $12 Walmart mini iron that doesn’t have a steam function but heats up in 30 seconds. Also, I made my own clapper by cutting 8 inches off an oak 2×2 from the hardware store.
This is amazing! The video is so helpful. Thank you so much for posting 💜
I do ok when I’m pressing strips. Where I get messed up is sewing strips together, or squares or triangles etc. – when there’s lots of fabric involved and multiple seams sometimes going in different directions. What do I do then?
It sounds like you may just need to slow down. Try setting your stitch speed to half of what it can do and see if that helps.
Brilliant. Just got the wool mat. Where have they been all my life. The wool mat also helps to keep me from “pushing” with the iron. That used to make my row more of a “smile” shape. Not where I want a smile. Love seeing the “film crew”. He is such a helper!
such a face-palm moment. 🤦🏻♀️ I have always sewn my own (hubby and kids) clothes. So I am equipped with a clapper since forever. I am new to the quilting game and having fun. Never crossed my mind to use the clapper to help flatten the seams. LOL. so even an old dog can relearn how to do their old tricks.
I absolutely can not wait for you post on the Laurastar! Our local quilt shop started selling it and it looks amazing but I am having trouble finding videos or reviews from a strictly quilters point of view. I’ve almost pulled the trigger on getting it so many times but just want confirmation that it would be awesome for quilting.
Thank you for talking about not using the steam function on your iron. I have my grandmother’s Black & Decker Light & Easy iron from the 1980’s. She never used the steam function on it and neither do I. That iron is still going strong. I believe it’s because it’s not been filled with water, ever.
Great, thank you. I need a clapper, steam bottle and a new iron. Hello from south AUSTRALIA.
I love all your tutorials! This taught me a lot of tricks I didn’t know, so thank you!! Can you tell me where you got your quilt ladder that is displaying your darling quilt?
Thank you! I got it from The Citizenry.
This was great timing as I needed to press a bunch of snowball corners, which always seem to come up short. I pressed them open and used your methods with great success. Thanks.
Thank you for this video! I watched hoping you might address the reasoning behind pressing to the side vs open, and you partially did. I prefer open because it tends to help me get the seems the flattest possible. But I’m a newbie so I wonder: is there is something more I need to know about the pros/cons of open vs side pressing?
There are experienced quilters in both camps, so I think it really just comes down to preference. Try both and pick which one works for you!
Hokay, but how do I press LOTS of seams together, as in s block, particularly when the pattern alternates from light up to light down? I get all messed up!
Can you recommend a good ironing board? Mine is not stable. It wobbles all over the place. Lol
Well I currently use a LauraStar ironing board, but that’s on the pricey end of things. Have you heard of this Brabantia board? People seem to love it.