As you are working on your quilt top and before it’s time to move on to the actual machine quilting process, there’s an important decision to make before loading the quilt sandwich onto your Grace quilting frame: seams pressed open or pressed to the side?

As insignificant as the decision may seem, it’s an important one as there are supporters in each camp that swear by their method, as each has its benefits.

There are also disadvantages to consider before starting the final quilting on your quilting machine.

Understand the pros and cons of both methods so you can choose the one that’s best for your project!

Seams Pressed Open

Pressing the seams open is a popular and highly recommended method to prepare the quilt top for final machine quilting because it offers a few great advantages:

  • Seams Lay Flatter - Open seams means one layer of fabric on either side of the seam as opposed to two, resulting in a flatter look throughout.
  • Less Bulk At Intersections - Because there are fewer layers at any intersection, there is less bulk at these points that can end up looking or feeling bulky in spots when side pressed seams all meet in one place.
  • Less Likely to Shift - With fewer layers to stitch through on the quilting machine, there’s less likelihood for the seam allowances to shift under the needle and end up wrinkled or bunched.

On the other hand, there are some definite issues you may encounter if doing your quilting with the quilt top seams pressed open:

  • Pressing is Slower - It takes longer to physically spread out each seam allowance to press it open as you are stitching the quilt top and preparing to layer the quilt sandwich to load onto the quilting frame and machine.
  • Cannot Stitch In The Ditch - With open seams there are only threads between fabric pieces not pressed-over fabric, which makes it impossible to use this technique.
  • Opening Seams - Should a few stitches break and the seam come apart, the batting will be plainly visible.

Seams Pressed to the Side

The second option many find to be just as suitable for their quilting projects is to press to the side which does have numerous advantages:

  • Stronger Seam - Thread that passes through more layers of fabric creates a stronger seam that’s less likely to rip; if some threads do break, the inside of the quilt will still not be visible.
  • Stitch In The Ditch - You can use this method since there are two layers of fabric to stitch into to make a secure, invisible seam.
  • Easier to Do - It is faster and easier to push the allowances to one side and press them flat than to pause and spread each one open for pressing.

Just be aware of the few disadvantages to pressing the seams to one side before you commit to doing it that way:

  • Uneven Bulk - Depending on the fabric used, one side of the seam may look or feel thicker than the other which may be especially noticeable in corners where multiple seams meet.
  • Fabric Shadowing May Occur - Two layers of fabric pressed to one side may be more visible as shadowing under lighter colored fabric.

Which Method Is the Right One?

Since both open pressing and side pressing are both accepted methods in machine quilting, the choice depends on which offers the most advantages for your project.

If you’re not planning on stitching in the ditch and there’s little concern about seams opening since the project will see little use, pressing open can make a more perfect-looking quilt.

On the other hand, if your quilt will likely see a lot of use after it’s off the quilting machine frame and needs to be more durable, pressing to the side is the better option.

Whichever one you choose, just be sure to use the same technique throughout the whole project so that the quilt top looks uniform!