Kristin - I have always heard that pressing to one side is very important when stitching in the ditch. If the seams are pressed open, you are only quilting down the threads that are holding your seams together. The quilts I make are to be used and washed a lot, so they need to handle a lot of stress. Also, I found that it is not that difficult to hide the threads in the seam when it is pressed to one side. It just takes practice.
Judy M - I, like Kristine, do quilt 1/16" inch from the seam and press seams to the side (usually to the darker side). I don't want to risk stitching right on top of the seam and exposing the batting or opening up the seam, especially on quilts that I use and wash regularly. For that reason I still use my walking foot which gives me a guide to keep me straight and precisely 1/16" away from the seam.
Regardless of whether free motioning or walking foot, planning out those stabilizing seams is so crucial. It causes you to really think through your places where you will need to turn and reposition the quilt, as well as try and avoid as many thread breaks as possible.
Karen - When you machine quilt in the ditch along pieced seams, you have your seams pressed open -- thus you are quilting right on the existing seaming where those pieces join. Is there any chance your needle might pierce the threads holding those pieces together and thus weaken the quilt? "In the day", we pressed our seams to 1 side and stitched the quilting line on the side that only had the 1 layer of fabric. But today, so many patterns suggest you press seams open and after seeing your video, I thought it was time to ask someone knowledgeable about stitching on top of the existing seam line.With this many comments and questions about a single issue, I realized this would be a great topic to cover more clearly in an article. So here goes:
To press open, or not to press open, that is the question!
To start, yes, I always press my seams open where possible on my quilt. There are a few situations, like hexagons or diamonds, that the seams must be pressed together to one side, but for the most part, the seams on my quilt are always pressed open.
But according to the comments above, there is apparently some concern about doing this. A pressed open seam might be impacting the overall lifespan of my quilts!
Of course, you have to weigh in the power of opinion when it comes to an issue like this. In this hobby, there is no absolute, correct, end-all-be-all, never-to-be-questioned way of doing something!
We all do things a little differently, try new things out, take what works, and chuck the rest.
But this doesn't stop me from thinking I'M RIGHT! Ha!
So to weigh in with my opinion on the seam pressing issue, I really think pressing the seam open is the preferable way, and no, I don't believe this is endangering the integrity of the quilt.
For one thing, I use a very short stitch length when piecing which means that there are many stitches going into each seam.
This makes the seam line very stable, so that when pressed open there is no chance that the batting will start coming out through the stitches.
Another thing - I FINGER PRESS my seams open first before hitting it with the iron. If you are trying to use the iron tip to open your seams, then yes, you will most definitely get distortion because that iron is not a good tool to do that with.
Get one of those wooden seam pressing tools to help you open the seam gently first, then hit it with an iron carefully to press it open permanently.
As for the question about stitching in the ditch - to stitch right in the ditch or off slightly to one side - most quilt judges will tell you that stitches in the ditch should be IN THE DITCH. Not to one side, not 1/8" away, and this is far easier if the seams are pressed open.
If you think about it, a hand quilter can stitch right into the ditch absolutely perfectly because she is has ultimate control over the placement of each stitch. Since machine quilting has evolved from hand quilting, the rules remain the same.
This will also come into play greatly when we move on to the Section Quilting Part of the video series because in order to section quilt some areas, like sashing, you have to travel along the stitched in the ditch line. By stitching off, you're going to be building up thread noticeably off the ditch and it just won't look pretty.
And what about the concern of stitching in the ditch potentially breaking threads in the seam? My opinion is this is a big load of BS (sorry, no nice way of saying it!)
If you're using a short stitch length while piecing, even if your needle did pierce a stitch dead on perfectly (the chances of which have to be minimal), then that one broken thread is not going to suddenly destroy the integrity of your quilt!
In fact, by stitching right in the ditch, you're adding more threads through this area, so if anything you're going to end up with more stability and a better wearing seam.
This whole issue really reminds me a lot of the questions I get very often about my use of Isacord Polyester thread on all of my quilts.
Apparently there is a general opinion that polyester threads are EVIL!
They are out to destroy your quilt because if you quilt polyester on a cotton quilt top, the poly will eventually (maybe 100 years???) shred through the cotton, destroying all your hard work!
Sorry for the sarcasm, but really? Has anyone actually witnessed this happening or is this just a quilter's version of an urban legend designed to keep us all so fearful we don't dare consider quilting with anything other than ugly cotton thread???
The fact is, I can't free motion quilt with cotton threads. The high speeds required for quilting like this require a thread that is very strong. Typical cotton thread is great for piecing, but just not up strong enough when it comes to quilting.
Cotton thread is also thick. Even the thinnest cotton thread I could find looks like a chunky toddler on the surface of my quilts. Travel stitching is a nightmare, the lint build up can potentially destroy a machine, and the numerous thread breaks will send any normal quilter to the mad house.
But again - this is my opinion! How I make my quilts and the materials I use in them is based on my experience, my opinions, and my time and budget constraints.
A quilter with more money to sink into her quilts might swear by silk thread, while I think it's an expensive rip off!
A quilter with more time might hand applique everything in sight because she has infinite time to finish her quilt tops. I have neither the time nor patience despite the fact that I really enjoy hand applique!
So here is the ultimate point of this long, ranting post - do not listen to ANYONE!
We all have personal biases so don't listen to me, don't listen to your neighbor, or your mom, or your quilt guild president when it comes to learning about a new technique or trying a new material.
The only person who can tell you whether one material or technique is good enough or will work properly for your quilts is YOU!
You must try it out, play with it, experiment, break some threads, finish a few quilts, and by the end of it all - you will have a very clear, personal opinion of what works and what doesn't.
Whew! Can we go quilt now?