Monday, May 19, 2014

Quick Quilting Tip - Finger Pressing

Happy Monday to you! I hope you had a great weekend :) Today, I'm sharing a super simple quick trick as part of Amy Smart's Quick Quilting Tips & Tricks blog hop to celebrate the release of her new book Fabulously Fast Quilts ! It's a simple trick that I use every day in my sewing room: finger pressing!

As a little girl, one of the girlie things I got into early on was nail polish. I actually got into some serious hot water one afternoon when I spilled half a bottle of glitter nail polish all over my mother's formal living room coffee table. My older sister was supposed to be watching me, but she didn't see me make a bee-line for her glitter nail polish, not until it was too late. My obsession with nail polish continues to this day - while I may be lax about getting my hair cut, I like to take care of my fingernails. Always have. I get manicures regularly, it's my "me time" - and I've found that in sewing, it's super handy to have my nails well taken care of, because I can put them to use finger pressing.

Do you finger press your seams? I'm a frequent finger presser. In paper piecing, there's a good bit of pressing involved - really, you ought to press every single seam you make with a nice, hot, dry iron. I do a lot of paper piecing, and I often cheat with my seams, finger pressing them rather than pressing them with the iron, if I'm waiting for the iron to heat up, or if I'm just being lazy, which happens frequently in my sewing room.

Finger pressing also works great for speeding up regular pressing. I often press assembly line style, laying out a bunch of pieces to be ironed all at once. This process is made way easier by finger pressing the seams first, so that I don't have to spend any time setting up the seam to be pressed. It works well for both side pressing and open seam pressing, so you can do whatever floats your boat.

If you aren't one for having longer fingernails, you can still take advantage of finger pressing using a notion called a Finger Presser. It's a little wooden tool that you can use in lieu of a finger nail to finger press your seams. In one of my recent paper piecing classes, I met a student who bites her finger nails and swears by her finger presser because her finger nails are never long enough to put to work in this way.

Also today, you can listen to me chatting with the wonderful Pat Sloan on her weekly American Patchwork & Quilting podcast - it's always such fun to chat with Pat, and this time we chatted a bit about free-motion quilting, so check out the podcast at 4 o'clock Eastern time today right here/1 o'clock Pacific time. You can also check it out after the fact, as well as other past podcasts right here. Pat's show is great to listen to while you're sewing, so make sure to check it out!


  1. Yay! Thanks Elizabeth. Can you believe I finally got my first ever manicure last week? Good luck on Pat's show! Can't wait to listen.

  2. Great tips! I look forward to hearing you on Pat's show :-)

  3. Thanks so much for the tip! I'll try that next time I need to press!

  4. Great tips but what is the item you are using in the bottom left square please?

    1. That's my iron - I use a Rowenta Pro Master iron like this one here:
      I don't ever put water in it, as I don't use steam. I love the heft of this iron and the pointy tip!

  5. Steam or no steam, thats my question. . You say no steam, is that all the way through the project? I heavy steam start to finish because the teacher who introduced me to this wonderful world says the more steam the better. Many bloggers and other quilting sites also say steam. I am finding often I have distorted fabric.. from the steam or the inexpensive fabric I've been practicing with? I'm interested in hearing pros cons who does or doesnt!

    1. Distorted fabric could definitely be a result of steam, but if it's inexpensive, non-quilt-shop quality fabric, that could also be the culprit. I never use steam. It's partly because so many irons tend to leak when filled with water, and also because I've don't use steam in any kind of ironing or pressing, even with my garments and such. I do sometimes use a starch-free smoothing spray, like Flatter or Best Press. I just prefer working without steam, and I have found that steam can distort patchwork and quilt blocks, so I prefer to work without it.

  6. I noted you pressed all your seams open. Is there a specific reason for doing this all the time? Unless I am doing something which will lead to a very bulky seam I press to one side as I have found seams line up better with less shift

    1. Yes, I do indeed always press my seams open. I find that I have a much flatter finished quilt top, which is then much easier to free-motion or straight-line quilt on. I don't have any trouble lining seams up or anything like that, but pressing open or to the side is very personal to each quilter, so do what feels most comfortable and works best for you!

  7. Thank you Eluzabeth.. I've switched to no steam now and am geting far better results

  8. terribly sorry Elizabeth! thats what I get for replying on my cell in the sun and no glasses!


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Welcome! I'm Elizabeth, mom to a very busy nine year old boy and a one year old baby girl and I sew for my sanity. Let's get to quilting, shall we?
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