Pressing the Quilt

Have you ever pieced a quilt and found the pressing just didn’t hold up?  I know I have. I have the luxury of seeing a lot of quilts and have found that pressing can really make a difference to the final outcome of your quilt.  It can really make a quilt pop.

As a Longarm quilter, it’s not uncommon to have a quilt arrive that was pressed but after some folding or time in a bag, the pressing popped back up.  I want to share what I’ve found helps avoid this.

This is a recent quilt that was huge and of course those large quilts are harder to give that last good press before dropping them off to the quilter.  What happens when the seams pop back up is the quilt just doesn’t lay as well when spread out on the Longarm machine.  I can press them for you but I charge a lot to do that. Why? Because time is $$ and this is something I hope arrives ready to load on the machine. Plus, I don’t like pressing just like everyone else.

So what can cause a seam to pop back up?  Well since I don’t get to see what happens in others homes, I’m going to talk about what I find helps to keep them flat.


This was the bottom borders of a quilt. I noticed the seams were not laying flat and nice at the bottom of the quilt. I flipped them over and did what I could with my steam iron to get them going the right direction and so they would hold the press and lay well.  It made a huge difference on the front side of the fabric. I also made sure that on the front, right side of the fabric, that the seam was open with no speed bumps flapping into the crack of the seam.

Here is what I find helpful to hold a press.  A hot iron, check to make sure the iron is hot!  You don’t want to scorch the fabric but it needs it to be hot enough to do the job. You may need to press it more than once.  Also watch that the iron has not auto shut off.

Pay attention to the direction of the seams.  Press the whole seam in the same direction. If the seam is flipped the wrong direction (try to avoid this when sewing) carefully clip the seam to be able to continue pressing in the same direction as you began.  Changing direction mid seam (the twisted press) doesn’t hold, it doesn’t look good on the front of the quilt and makes stitching in the ditch nearly impossible. You really can see that seam flip from the front of the quilt.

When you press a seam let it lie on the pressing surface until it cools. You can also put some weight on the seam while it cools (a pressing block of wood works great). You may need to press again until it holds.  After it cools then carefully lift it from the pressing surface and continue. You will see a difference. Now try to not wad the pressed portion if possible.  I place my ironing board right up against a table so I can drape the weight of the quilt top on the table. This really helps.

Use a spray starch of choice. I like a stiffer starch that doesn’t flake.  I prefer to starch before cutting fabric but then if a fabric is thinner or soft want to add more when pressing the pieces and block.  If you can get the fabric to feel stiffer, it’s less likely to stretch.

Finally, don’t rush when pressing. Since you’ll be moving the quilt top you want to have the pressing hold up.  After you do all this work pressing, don’t bundle it up and put in a bag, instead carefully fold the quilt top and hang it on a large hangar. You can buy Quilt hangars from dry cleaning stores. They are worth owning.


Proper pressing helps the quilt come together. It helps you measure the size of the pieces accurately before squaring up so the block goes together effortlessly. Remember most issues with quilts start from the center out. If well pressed you won’t get a surprise measurement after doing the work and you should have an easier time applying borders to the quilt.

Here are a few more before and after pressing photos. It’s easy to see how the pressing would lay flatter when turned over. I know pressing is not something we look forward to doing but seeing the end result it’s worth it!


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The quilt below is the before & after. This is how they should be pressed before drop off.


Finally, your quilt will lay better for quilting and you will have a happy Longarm quilter.

Press on!!