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The Best Darn Technique
for Pressing Quilt Blocks

Flat quilt blocks are easy to achieve with this simple trick!

Stitching a quilt together is a dream when you've done a good job pressing your quilt blocks.

This technique is, hands down, the absolute simplest thing in the world to do and the results are AMAZING!

No special tools or products to buy.

Easy.

Cheap.

And terrific results.

What more could a quilter want?!

The best pressing technique for perfectly pressed quilt blocks starts with...


The Supplies

There's nothing on the list that you won't already have. It's pretty basic:

  • Pieced quilt blocks or the units that make up the quilt blocks
  • An iron
  • Rotary cutting ruler(s) and/or a stack of magazines

That's it! Easy-Peasy!



A little background information

In tailoring, shaping is added to wool garments by first steaming the wool around a curved Tailor's ham (also known as a pressing ham) or other such tool.

Cotton Way Ironing Board Organizer pattern
Purchase the pattern to make this
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The wool is then left to cool and dry in place.

Wool fibers have scales on the outside. These scales mesh together. The combination of the steam, heat, shaping tool and cooling time create the desired shape.

But cotton fibers don't have scales. We can't mold them into shape like wool.

Fortunately, that's not really a problem.

What we WANT are flat blocks, not bulky, bumpy-lumpy ones.

So we borrow the idea of heating the fibers and letting them cool in place around a shape. However, in this technique instead of a curved tailor's ham we'll use our flat rulers. Instead of 'around' we use under.

Pretty smart, eh?!!!


The Process

Mary Ellen's Best Press
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This method of pressing quilt blocks works just as well for paper piecing as traditionally pieced units. I heartily recommend and use it for both.

I also recommend you use it at each step throughout your block's  construction. You'll love how flat your finished patchwork lays.

This technique works equally well, in my opinion, whether you use steam or not. I've done it both ways and go back and forth depending on if there's water already in the iron. It just doesn't make a big difference.

The same goes for using starch. If you're a starcher (like me), use it. If Best Press blows your skirt up, use it.

Let's get to it!

Step 1: Press your pieced unit in the closed position to set the seam.

Setting your seam allowance


In technical terms, this helps smush the fibers of the thread into the fibers of the fabric.


Step 2: Press your unit open.

Pressing your seam allowance open


The seam allowance can be pressed:

  • To the dark (most common)
  • To the light (to reduce bulk--just remember to grade your seam allowances so that the dark fabric doesn't show through the quilt top) or...
  • Open (again to reduce bulk or keep dark fabrics from shadowing through the top).

The technique isn't dependent on 'which way' the seam allowances are pressed, just that they ARE pressed. Be careful not to press in any tucks at the seam allowance. I frequently finger press the seam allowance first and that seems to avoid any tucks.


NOW DON'T BLINK!

The magic of pressing...wait 'til the block is cool

HERE COMES THE MAGIC!


Step 3: After pressing your blocks or units (remember, they're still hot from the iron), lay your rotary ruler on top of them. The ruler might steam up a little, that's OK. 

Never, never ever put your iron on top of the ruler. The residual heat from pressing your blocks is enough.

The secret step to pressing quilt blocks flattest!

Wait for the quilt block to cool completely

Step 4: Now for the hard part...

...don't remove the ruler until the block is cool and dry--it's more apt to stretch when it's damp and still warm.

It won't take very long.

But it must cool completely.

Once it is, you're ready to get back to piecing!


That's ALL there is to it!

Surprised?!

I certainly was!

But it's that simple to get amazingly flat quilt blocks and units!


What do magazines have to do with pressing quilt blocks?

You probably don't piece just one unit at a time, right?

And there's a limit to how many rulers you have. Right?

That's where the magazines come in.



Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library


Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

Keep a stack by your ironing board—we've all got plenty of quilt magazines!. When you run out of space under your ruler, use the magazines to weight down the units and flatten them. Keep pressing and stacking until you've run out of one or the other.

I've been using this technique for several years now and have never had any nasty transfer from the magazine to the fabric.


More 'pressing' matters:





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Quilt patterns,
books and kits
to tempt you!

Click any of the images or links below for more info...

Fold-N-Stitch Wreath pattern
Fold-N-Stitch Wreath
by Poorhouse Quilt Design


Farm Girl Vintage
by Lori Holt


Gypsy Wife
by Jen Kingwell





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