What is the proper way to press your seams? First of all, must we do everything properly? Heck no! Find what works for you. That being said, let’s scratch out “proper” and just talk about options when it comes to pressing. There is more than one way to skin a cat, so the old disgusting saying goes.
Press to the dark side. This is the “old school” pressing technique and is still a favorite of most quilters. Pressing to the dark side simply means to press your seam allowance onto the darker of the two fabrics that you are sewing together. This prevents the seam allowance from being seen from the front behind the lighter of the two fabrics. The other great thing about this technique is that it leaves a bump where the seam allowance is. That bump, or some call it a lump, serves a purpose. When that seam is butted up to another seam, in which there is a bump, the two bumps “lock” in place against one another. When locked in place, you can easily sew them together with minimal pinning (or even no pinning at all!). This is called “nesting” your seams. A quilt with nested seams is very easy to quilt by stitching-in-the-ditch.
Pressing a seam open. This method is a little controversial and will go down in history as one of the greatest quilting debates of all time. Some quilters are persistent in proclaiming it as the best and only way to press, while others are Team Dark Side. But like all things in life, there is a time and a place for each side (pun intended). Pressing a seam open is done so by just running a finger through the seam to open it up, and then pressing it with your hot iron. An open seam prevents you from having bulky seams on the back of your quilt. Open seams are also invaluable when working with small pieces or areas where lots of seams intersect, like a pinwheel. Many longarm quilters prefer the seams to be pressed open, as this makes them easier to quilt over. Open seams make it nearly impossible to later do stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. Many insist that open seams weaken the quilt by leaving the stitches open and vulnerable. Many say that just isn’t so. Sigh.
The reality is that most quilters use a combination of the two styles of pressing. Sometimes they press open, sometimes they press to the dark side. Get comfortable with both styles and soon you will realize that some quilt patterns lend themselves to one way or another (again, pun intended). You can find many pressing accessories here that will help you on your way to having nice flat seams. As your pressing skills improve, your piecing skills will as well. Press on, fellow quilters.