How To Press Seam Allowances In Quilt Blocks?


Pressing seam allowances can be somewhat confusing and even tricky.

And like so many things in quilting, there are “rules” and then there are many times when the rules are broken.

Here are my rules for pressing seam allowances:

  • toward one side
  • under the darker fabric
  • facing in opposite directions
  • toward the patch with the fewest seams
  • toward the patch with the least bulky seams (i.e., diamonds with triangles sewn on them tend to be bulky; squares sewn onto squares are generally pretty flat
  • the direction that makes your points more pointy – or makes things line up better
  • under a patch that you want to stand above the surrounding patches

Below is the back of the Storm at Sea quilt block and a description of how the seam allowances are pressed and brief explanation of why they are pressed that way.

storm at sea
The back of a Storm at Sea quilt block – showing how the seam allowances are pressed.
storm at sea quilt blockIn this patch, the seam allowances for the center square are folded away from the square.If they had been pressed toward the center of the square, there would be a significant amount of bulk, especially when the corners were folded on top of each other.Although my first “rule” is to press seam allowances toward the darker fabric, when it means that would create a bulky area, I press the seam allowances so the quilt will lie flatter. 
  
This area looks somewhat confused!It is just under the top right corner, and shows seam allowances sewn and pressed in opposite directions.This also will allow your quilt to lay flatter.Sometimes you just need to be arbitrary. Overall, I decided that I wanted the large diamonds to be pressed so that all of the seam allowances would be away from the center of the diamond. storm at sea block
  
seam allowancesThis is an example of pressing the seam allowance so the points will be pointier.Often when there are 6 triangles coming together in the center, when you fold a seam allowance one way the points will be pointier than if you fold it in the other direction.
storm at sea quilt block
Front side of the Storm at Sea quilt block

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