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Forum > Quilters' Corner > Need help with problem of sewing through thick/bulky seams on quilt blocks ( Moderated by Sharon1952)

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Need help with problem of sewing through thick/bulky seams on quilt blocks
Letterwoman

Letterwoman
Advanced Beginner
Iowa USA
Member since 5/22/05
Posts: 36
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Date: 2/21/09 12:03 PM

I'm kind of a newbie at quilting and I just tried to sew a mini (potholder size) version of the zig zag quilt shown here: http://www.purlbee.com/zig-zag-quilt/ but I had a really hard time sewing over all the thick seams when I was piecing the squares together. The instructions said to press the seams open (which I should have done, but didn't), but I pressed the seams to one side because that was how I was taught in all the quilting classes I've taken. But the size of the squares I made from the half square triangles was 1 1/2 inches (with a 1/4 inch seam allowance), so maybe the squares were too small and too thick to sew with all the bulk of the seams pressed to the side. Or maybe the feed dogs couldn't get a grip on such a small square to move it along.

I finally pressed all the seams open on the last couple of rows because I was tired of fighting my machine, but it still didn't want to sew over the less-bulky seams. I have a brand new electronic Pfaff sewing machine designed for quilting and I was really surprised how resistant my machine was every time the needle went through those thick seams. Has anyone else ever had this problem with piecing quilt blocks? If so, do you have any tips to make this process easier? I really wanted to make a full-size quilt using this pattern, but if I keep running into the same resistance, I may give up. It's a shame because I really love that zig zag design.

I think I might try this again and piece a row of much larger blocks like the pattern calls for and see if that makes a difference before I commit myself to making the whole quilt.

Donna H
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Donna H
Washington USA
Member since 9/29/05
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In reply to Letterwoman


Date: 2/21/09 12:56 PM

Yes, those seams tend to get really thick where they join.

I always press seams to one side. It was the way I was taught, too!

What needle are you using? Others differ, but I always use 80/12 Universals. Some really love the Sharps instead of Universal points. Try them. And remember to change your needle semi-regularly. I change mine after every project. I buy them in bulk so they are cheap "insurance" for nice seams.

All that being said, if it makes the seam less bulky and easier to sew through, press the seams open.

Remember, quilt piecing is suppose to be fun!

------
The single most important discovery made by a group of women? The Empty Tomb!

http://www.donnahodgson.blogspot.com/

quilter49
quilter49
Intermediate
Ontario CANADA
Member since 11/14/08
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Date: 2/21/09 1:09 PM

I also have a problem going over the thick seams with my electronic machine.I have been decreasing the presser foot tension and that helps a little.I was also taught to press seams to one side and that is fine if they will be butting up against each other but when I have many seams interconnecting I have started to press them open

------
Marie

PattiAnnJ
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PattiAnnJ
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USA
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In reply to Letterwoman


Date: 2/21/09 1:40 PM

It is always good to do just one block.

There was a reason for the seams to be pressed open.

Alternating the direction of the pressing may also help.

Zig-Zag Quilt

------
"Improvise, adapt and overcome." - Clint Eastwood/Heartbreak Ridge

Jennifer Hill
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Jennifer Hill
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Alberta CANADA
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Date: 2/21/09 7:10 PM

I would use some sort of sharp needle, like a Jeans point or microtex (sorry Donna!). You may have to use a bigger needle, but still use the smallest one that will work with your block.

I almost never press seams open, but do press well. I find I get much flatter seams and intersections if I use lots of steam and pressure.

Jennifer in Calgary
'Winds of inspiration. . .'
Quilt Canada 2010
Telus Convention Centre, Calgary, AB
April 26 - May 1 2010

Letterwoman

Letterwoman
Advanced Beginner
Iowa USA
Member since 5/22/05
Posts: 36
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Date: 2/21/09 11:33 PM

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I will try a different needle and see if that makes a difference. I will also try pressing the seams with steam. I agree that the steam does compress the seams and make them lay flatter. I usually do use steam, but my iron ran out of water and I was too lazy to fill it back up. Thanks again!

runnerchicki
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runnerchicki  Friend of PR
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Date: 2/21/09 11:55 PM

For small quilted pieces, I DO press seams open. Pressing to the side isn't necessary for smaller pieces because the added stability on the seam isn't as crucial. There won't be any "drag" on the seams from the quilt hanging over a bedside, or being laid on, etc.

For blocks that have a lot of seams, you can also "unsew" at the junctures and flatten out the seam. For example, when I do a hunters star there are eight pieces all joining in one place. It would never lay flat if I didn't unsew and "fan" out the seams.

If you do these things, your finished piece will look much nicer. It will lay flatter, and you won't see or feel lumps and bumps from bulky seams.

------
There's no such thing as too much fabric.

Letterwoman

Letterwoman
Advanced Beginner
Iowa USA
Member since 5/22/05
Posts: 36
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In reply to runnerchicki


Date: 2/22/09 5:05 PM

Thanks, runnerchicki!

That's a very helpful tip. I always wondered how people who pieced blocks with a bunch of seams made them lay flat. I never knew you could do that. Just for clarification, when you say "unsew", do you mean to take out the stitches with a seam ripper after the blocks have been pieced?

TessKwiltz
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TessKwiltz  Friend of PR
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Texas USA
Member since 9/21/07
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Date: 2/22/09 7:27 PM

1. The only reason I can think of not to press seams open is if you want to quilt in the ditch. With seams pressed open there is no ditch. There used to be a concern with the batting bearding though the open seam, but most modern battings don't beard much.

2. If you ignore the guideline to always press toward the dark fabric, sometimes you can plan your pressing to minimize the bulk.

3. If all else fails and you have a few places that are just going to be bulky, use a hump-jumper or a jean-a-ma-jig type notion or make your own out of a folded scrap of fabric. The important thing is to keep the presser foot level as it's going across the bulk.

4. Plan your quilting to avoid the bulky places if possible.

------
Tess

"I am a degenerate art supply junkie" - Jane Davenport

Warbler
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Warbler  Friend of PR
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Vermont USA
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Date: 2/22/09 10:06 PM

If your machine is able to adjust pressure foot pressure decrease it and increase the stitch length... the machine will ride up over the seams more easily if there is less tension caused by small stitches. My machine has the ability to adjust both... not all machines do. HTH

------
Janome MC6600 Bernina 240 Juki MO735 Singer 201-2 Singer 221-1

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