Week in Review 2019 – 10/11

How do you handle advice? Do you ignore it? Do you give it a try? Perhaps you modify advice, following what feels comfortable and ignoring the rest. Over the years I’ve seen fiber art trends come, go, and even return. Each iteration comes with advice from the current hot gurus in the medium. I don’t metaphorically stick my fingers in my ears and put blinders on. I have learned to only follow advice that works for me.

Reference image for Sunrise Over the Gulf River
Reference photo used during the creation of Sunrise Over the Gulf River

There are two pieces of advice that have guided me for decades. One is quite simple. It is to press seams open. When I started quilting in the late 1980’s this was not the advice. Then the rule of thumb was to press seams towards the darker fabric. Next came pressing abutting seams in opposing directions, so they would nest.

How to Press Seams

Why was this the advice? A key advantage, at the time, of pressing seams to one side or the other, is on the backside the pressed seam covers the seam line gap between pieces. Older battings tend to beard. Bearding is the migration of batting fibers wending their way through the seam and appearing on the quilt top. Current battings and layering methods have basically ended bearding. Also, most quilts of that era were hand quilted, or if quilted by machine, were quilted in the ditch. Therefore, having only one layer of fabric, on one side of a seam and three on the other, made quilting easier, since the quilting stitch could pass through the side with few layers.

What do I do today? I always press my seams open. Why? Because bearding is no longer an issue. Also, it makes for a flatter quilt since the seam fabric is equitably distributed on either side of the seam. I am a free motion quilter. Free motion is easier to execute when the quilt is flat.

Current state of Sunrise Over the Gulf River
The Distance Test

A piece of artistic advice, which resonates with me, came from Sandy Donabed Townsend. She likely passed it on from someone else. The rule of thumb is when you view an artwork it should grab you from across the room, draw you in for contemplation at arm’s distance, and then hold up from inches away as you peer at the details. My son was 5 years old when I took Sandy’s class. He is 35 today. I still self-analyze my work, making sure it would pass, what I have dubbed, the distance test. So far, Sunrise Over the Gulf River is getting high marks. Just in case you are wondering, all the seams are pressed open.

What is the best quilting and/or artistic advice you have received? How does it influence your work?

I am linking up with Nina Marie’s Off the Wall Fridays.

By Gwyned Trefethen

I am an artist who uses fabric, thread and miscellany to create designs gifted to me by my imagination.


  1. how interesting! I still think it’s stronger to press seams to the side, but just pressed some open for ease of construction. Thats the thing about advice, you do take what works and use it when it’s right. My current art quilt group thinks bindings are passe. Well I like bindings when I want to see a hard line accent or like a mat on artwork. I use facings when I want a different look. Good to see you again Gwyned! LeeAnna now in Colorado, where the Fall temps are 12F.

  2. I never took a class from Sandra but that artistic advice is what I learned, too, and try to follow it for every piece. It seems obvious when successful but it’s often hard to get there. Your current piece is really looking good. Looking forward to seeing your details as you progress.

  3. Sunrise Over the Gulf River is lovely! When I was a quilting newbie, I tried to follow the advice of experienced quilters. Then I began to realize that those experienced quilters all had different ways of doing the same thing. So I did what worked best for me. I agree with the idea of pressing seams open. The top is just too bulky otherwise. I never knew the reason why this wasn’t recommended until now. Thank you.

    1. So often advice, such as press to the dark side, is given as though it is the only way to do something. When I first started quilting if you were going to exhibit your quilt, the most common opportunity was quilt exhibitions and county fairs. These were often judged with ribbons given out. Judges looked for precision, such as matching seams, mitered corners, and tiny, even quilting stitches. Those judges wouldn’t want to see shadow through of seams, because a dark fabric could be “seen” through a lighter fabric. As the quilt world started to have more renegades using the medium not for traditional quilts, but for art quilts, those hard and fast rules were questioned. Rules were modified, and/or selected by what suited the individual quilter – just as you and I have done. I like to understand the why. Then I could go use the method that works for my own why. Hence my choice to press seams open.

Comments are closed.