Piecing is a very large topic, from a judging point of view. After the last 2 posts, there are still a few more points that need to be considered.
Quilters start with fabric that they cut and stitch with accuracy, we hope. We use sewing machines, needles, thread, rulers, scissors, rotary cutters….and don’t forget the iron.
Pressing is often an afterthought. It’s what you do when the important stuff…cutting and stitching…is done. “I’ll just give it a quick press……if I have time.”
As I was learning to quilt, I had one of those ‘Huh?’ moments (If I had a dollar for every ‘Huh?’....) when I discovered that some quilters actually paid attention to pressing and that some of them even had a pressing plan when they started to piece. When another new-ish quilter at a guild meeting asked me if I pressed my seams to one side or open she might as well have been asking me if I’d ever launched the space shuttle. Totally clueless. It finally, slowly dawned on me that when you start aiming for quality piecing, pressing becomes important. Especially if you’re planning on having your work judged.
But wait, how does the judge know what you did with the iron? It’s on the inside. She can’t see it!
Yes and No.
Some piecing judging points that could be related to pressing can be seen just by looking. For example, shadowing of dark fabric through light fabric, which is not desirable. The quiltermaker might notice this while pressing, and decide to trim the seam allowances to avoid the shadow. Or they might choose to press the seam in another direction. If this was a Harry Potter story, 10 points to Pressing.
More often, pressing can be felt. This is one of the main reasons why judges touch the quilts they are judging. You know how sometimes the seam allowance flips from one side of the seam to another in the middle of the seam? An experienced judge can feel that.
Will the judge happen to run her fingers over the seam right where that happens? Maybe, maybe not. But as long as you’re at the ironing board, wouldn’t it just be easier to make sure there’s no flip to be found?
Pressing really comes into its own where a lot of seams come together, such as in the center of a LeMoyne Star or Pinwheel block. One of the comments I frequently find myself making is something to the effect of ‘Strive for decreased bulk at block centers,’ (or wherever the bulk happens to be.) Other than a nice flat appearance and feel, as with so many other judging points there is a practical advantage to avoiding built up bulk on the quilt. Any area that sticks up on the surface of a quilt is going to be more susceptible to wear and tear. Some areas that suffer from wear and tear, like the edge of the binding, can be easily repaired, but the middle of a block is another magnitude of difficulty. Another 10 points to Pressing.
And now a pressing hint, that has absolutely nothing to do with judging. Some years back a friend of mine sent me a link to a video about pressing with a clapper (a tool originally used in tailoring) and steam. (Yeah, I know, bad steam.) I do a lot of improv piecing with seams of all sizes and angles and this thing really works. You get flat seams. As a blogger for NACQJ, I probably shouldn't actually tell you where I bought mine, but if you google ‘pressing with a clapper’ you’ll find lots of info.
Take that, bulk!
Stacy Koehler, Secretary, NACQJ
NQA Certified Judge
Qualified to Evaluate Masterpiece Quilts
Stacy Koehler became an NQA Certified Judge in 2005. She is a current member of the National Association of Certified Quilt Judges and has served as the new organization's Secretary. She loves quilts and quilters and believes that a well-judged quilt can be a positive influence in its maker's individual development and contribute to the continued growth of the art of quiltmaking.