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Pressed and Distressed

Dear Deb,

Does it really matter how you press a block ?  I don’t understand why you can’t just press it from the top to get the wrinkles out and call it good? Some of my friends say it is really important how a block is pressed. What do you think?

Pressed and distressed

Dear Pressed,

Absoluetly! Pressing your quilt block makes a huge difference! Pressing your blocks makes your quilt flat and easier to quilt. With all the time you have invested in your quilt, taking a few more minutes will make all the difference between a lumpy quilt or a flat quilt. A quilt that is lumpy or wonky won’t “quilt out.”

Pressing is more than just placing an iron on your fabric. The basics of pressing are simple, gently glide your iron or pressing tool across your seam allowance. I spend most of my time just sitting the iron on the seam. Be very careful not to stretch or distort the seam in any way. Steam has its place, some quilters love it, just be careful not to burn your fingers!

I press the seam allowance to the dark side when possible to reduce the fabric from showing through the light fabrics in the block. I press the seam allowance to one side of the stitching. I believe it makes a stronger seam. Do not twist or fold the seam allowance as you press because you want a nice flat block. I press from the top of the block and then from the bottom.  I also use a starch alternative called Mary Ellens' Best Press that we carry in the shop for a nice crisp seam. It won’t flake on your block. It also resists wrinkles and stain. I prefer the unscented choice as I have friends who are sensitive to perfumes.

My Mamaw always told me that the back of the block needs to be as beautiful as the front. To do that, I make a pressing plan while assembling the first block and I jot it down on the pattern. My goal is to have the seam allowances nest. That means the unit on the top is pressed in the opposite manner as the unit on the bottom. This makes for a flat, sharp seam. The flatter the block, the more square and accurate the overall quilt will be in the end.

Recently I discovered a wonderful pressing tool called a wool pressing mat. These come in 3 sizes. The mini is good to have beside your sewing machine and the "Magic" is great for your table. This mat is just the greatest as it literally presses your block from both top and bottom. It is made from wool so it never heats all the way through to damage whatever surface you are working on. 

You can purchase this product here and watch this video for more information:


More often I find that I like to press the seams on my blocks open. I find that there are times when the block just looks better. When I press seams open I use a little tool called The Strip Stick. My favorite sizes are the 8.75" and the 18". When you use this little gadget, you will find you can press open without distorting the previously pressed seams. It is ingenious. Order here.


Taking the time to press your seams matters. It makes your quilt flat and easier to quilt. I hope you feel confident to make a pressing plan for a beautiful quilt!

Until we meet again, may your days be pieceful.





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