Saturday, 8 February 2014

A bee block - and a pressing issue

A couple of days ago I received a super lovely little package of fabric from Anna 

Some Color Me Happy to make our February bee block for the Siblings Together quilting bee (STQB). Anna had chosen a 17.5" unfinished version of the very pretty Pinwheels in the Park block .

I spent an enjoyable hour or so's cutting and sewing to produce this:

Hope it's okay Anna! I look forward to my STQB package arriving every month. It's such a fantastic charity, and a super bee and we are very lucky to be supported by some wonderfully generous sponsors.




Making this block gave me the opportunity to question and test out some of my usual sewing practices. Anna sweetly requested that we press our seams open for this block. I never ever press seams open, but being an obedient kind of girl I did exactly as I was told. And took the opportunity to reflect on why I do things the way I do.

When I first started quilting it seemed that open seam pressing was the way to go, but to be honest I never really took to it. I found it tedious and time consuming, and frequently burnt my fingers! Then I discovered Cristy's awesome glue basting technique. Oh glue basting, how I love you. The accuracy of my piecing improved immeasurably. I no longer had to use pins. I hate pins. No slippage. Practically perfect points. And no open seams! With glue basting it is impossible to press seams open because you have, you know, glued your seam together. So you press to the side, always. I like the extra support that gives to my seams and the ability to nest alternately pressed seams is fundamental to matching those seams, and therefore your points, perfectly. If that makes no sense, please go watch the video. It is Cristy's technique and she can explain it better than I can.

I was fascinated when I received the blocks back for my own STQB quilt (post on that coming v soon I promise) to see the way that others piece and press their blocks. Most people seem to use a combination of open and to the side seam pressing. Please - you go on and press your seams however you prefer. I'm just pondering on how a certain technique seems to work best for me.

Sooooo. Because I am a piecing geek, I decided to do some experimenting. My bee block went pretty well, but I didn't feel it was my most accurate work. Those centre points aren't perfect, though they are okay.

The open seams make for a lovely flat block with no bulk at the seams at all. I imagine this must make for an easier time when it comes to the quilting, fewer layers of fabric to battle through.

But the pins! And how I had to fight the temptation to put a spot of glue on that centre seam.

And so as this block came together so quickly, and because I am procrastinating on knickers, I decided to make another block, using my usual glue basting processes.

Here it is:

And a geeky close up of the centre. Still not entirely perfect but in a different way.

You can almost see the folding of the fabric at the seams. I actually fudged the centre point a little by not pressing the seam out entirely flat.

I like the crispness of the points. But it is bulky, no doubt. The centre of the block doesn't lie flat. Some Best Press improves things no end, but those bulky folded seams will certainly be a little tricky to machine quilt over. But it seems I work more accurately this way, it is what I have become used to. The block is exactly 17.5" (rather than a few mm over) and the points of the QSTs aren't going to get lost when I add borders or sashing. And -  no pins!

I'm going to turn this into a cushion now, rather than leaving it languishing in the lonely block pile. It has been fun, and interesting (for me, at least, you are all probably yawning with boredom!) to be encouraged to work differently for a change. But I think I'd better stick to my glue basting for now. Even if it is cheating a little ;-)


  1. I'm usually of the press open team purely because I don't need to work out which side to press to. Even when pressed open I find those hst joins are always bulky. I will be using glue when I get around to my voile quilt though!

  2. This is very interesting :) I normally only press HST/QST seams open to reduce the bulk at the points. One teacher on a machine quilting course I did last year was almost distraught that someone had pressed their seams open which apparently is for 'dressmaking only'… I think it depends on the block, but I have to use some starch if I go the open route as the seams don't always want to stay flat. Also, stitching in the ditch is much easier with seams pressed to one side. I still have to make my block for this month but for some reason I have a bit of mental block with this one, so at least I have a few examples to refer to now!

  3. Hello {old slinging} friend! just found your blog. Hooray - its fantastic.
    I often ponder the same thing about pressing - open is usually better for me but now I am tempted by the glue thingy.

  4. Great blocks Hannah! I tend to switch around on my pressing method depending on the block/seam intersection issues/what the instructions say! I ordered some Elmers glue from Christy so can't wait to give glue basting a go when it arrives :) x

  5. I only press open if it is easy to do so and tend to do a combination ;) Pinwheels really seem to get a nubbin of bulk in the centre without it but I struggle to do more than half of the seams- the vertical and horizontal one are easy enough but not the diagonals weirdly.


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