Skip Navigation Website Accessibility

Why I press seams open

March 2nd, 2012

I received the email that follows and when answering it, I thought other quilters might like to know my answer as well.


Hi Brenda –

I recently purchased Bali Pop Compulsion and I have ordered two more Strip Therapy books.  I love Hoffman Bali Pops and I am very excited about creating beautiful quilts with your patterns.  I am just wondering if there is a reason that you press your seams open.  I have been quilting for years and the general rule has been to press the seams according to how they will meet so they nest.  Is there a benefit to pressing them open?


Thank you,



My reply is as follows
I press open for a number of reasons.

– When you press to one side, unless careful, the strip sets tend to arc.  Requiring trimming and loss of strip length when sub-cutting.

– The seams are flat an much easier for my longarm gal to quilt.

– When FINGER pressed open – I do use my fingernail – I get close and personal to the seam line.  There is no accordion pleat of fabric, no lost fabric, at the seam line.  My piecing is much more accurate.  The seams are flat so I don’t feel tempted to go to the iron during block construction.  As a result, my blocks are square and not distorted by poor pressing technique at the iron or steam from the iron.

– A great side benefit is that I don’t have to argue with myself why I am pressing the seam one way or the other.  I just press open.

I believe the original reason to press to one side was to strengthen the seam.  If the stitching of the seam released, the second fabric was still pressed completely under the seam, preventing exposure to the batting.  This was much more important with hand pieced quilts and the old lint cotton batting.

Modern quilters have terrifically strong seams due to sewing machines.  The bonded batting available today does not shred and migrate out of the seam if it should open. It is also my impression that todays quilts are most often machine quilted – more heavily quilted than the quilts from the 70’s and 80’s.

It is okay to rethink what we do and how we do them.  I spent years pressing seams to one side, and many hours trying to determine which direction would work the best.  Once I thought through why the seams were being pressed to one side, I decided that those reasons didn’t hold water any longer.

This information is simply my personal opinion.  Pressing seams open works for me, perhaps it will work for you as well.



God Laughs!

September 9th, 2011

Do you ever feel that God must have a really great sense of humor?  If He is watching me, I’m sure he must laugh a lot.

We tend to run off with every confidence in our future.  We plan and scheme how to get to where we want to be.  When I say “We” you realize that I mean “I”.

When my beloved and I went off on our jaunt to Australia and New Zealand, I fully anticipated returning to Alaska to begin a home building project.  Much planning went into my house design.  An architect had been employed to make my ideas into a plan that could be followed by a builder.  A builder had been secured.  And then life happened.

That is when I think God laughs.  Not that He is laughing at us and our missteps, just that He chuckles at our attempts to map out our lives when He is the only one that knows the final script.

I thought I had a year to pack, fix-up my current house and prepare for a move.  Can you hear me groaning?!?  When it became apparent that our house plan wasn’t going to move forward, I started looking to purchase a house.  Over the years my business has overtake the entire house.  The realtor that we have used over the years was enlisted and a search commenced.  Within a week I had found an AWESOME house.  It has a second attached garage (really important in cold, bear-filled Alaska)  that can accommodate my business.  Bliss!

Our bid was accepted and on July 5 we signed on the dotted line.  On July 9 I was on a plane for a 9 day teaching trip.  Oh Dear!  I had started packing as soon as the house was found.  My fabric was packed, my long term stash culled.  The most important items were on pallets in the garage waiting for transfer to the new house.  Then my beloved springs on me the following statement “anything that you don’t have packed, I will pack and move for you while you are gone” !!!!  Just a little pressure in that sentence.

Brenda's New House!!!

Did I mention that the new house is not complete?  We are now in our 9th week of construction.  It will be worth it when we are done.  I have been out of state three times since we purchased the house.  When I made my travel schedule for 2011 I did not anticipate being in this stage of a building project – God laughs.

My Sewing Room

It doesn’t look like much now.  The sheet rock went up yesterday.  The framed wood at the end of the room will be two large windows that are replacing the garage door.  I will have room for my fabric stash, quilts, longarm and Alaskan inventory of BPP books.  Even with all of that in this space, I still expect to have plenty of room left for a sitting area where I will recline and watch chick flicks while my hubby watches sci-fi travesties.

The contractors are busy completing items on the checklist, and I am packing my suitcase for yet another trip.  I will be gone for two weeks this time.  If all goes well, we may be able to move in when I return.

Oh listen, I think I hear God laughing again!

Long Time Gone

September 9th, 2011

Life has taken many a turn since my last post.

Feb 2010 my mother passed away.  Even though I have lived far away from “home” for most of 30 years and didn’t have day to day contact with mom, her passing was hard.  Events like this make you reassess your life and what is important.

Mom as a youngster

In August I managed to destroy my neck. Who knew that too much sewing and computer time could do such damage. Okay, I knew, but I chose to not listen to those in my life who nag me. Months of spectacular pain followed by a double cervical fusion in November brought my year to a close.

I did attend Quilt Market in Houston last fall, and was able to survive the adventure only with help from my dear friends. My beloved husband joined me on my last teaching trip of the year in November. He made sure I was as rested as I could be, well fed, medicated and absolutely disallowed any lifting.

Two days before Thanksgiving I had surgery to correct the problem. After the pain of two herniated discs, surgery was a breeze.

My spring travel schedule was slow other than an extended trip to Australia and New Zealand. I highly recommend this trip – beautiful countries and lovely quilters! My husband traveled with me. He was my sherpa and chauffeur.

ladies from Bungendore

Queenstown, NZ

New Zealand was exquisite!  I would love to go back.  We spent 4 weeks between Australia and New Zealand, it wasn’t nearly enough time!  If you have a shop or guild in either country and would like me to teach, just let me know and I’ll be on the next airplane!

Christmas Afterglow

December 27th, 2009

My middle child – a second grade teacher – gave me a very sweet gift for Christmas. This little book was meant for children, but it brought tears to my eyes. She confessed later that she got teary as well when she read the book.

It is the story about a quilt made for the quilter’s daughter. Abigail’s quilt kept her warm on cold nights, comforted her when she was sick, and served well as a gown during imaginative play. This is a charming story. I highly recommend it as a gift for yourself and your quilting friends.

Our three children have grown up using quilts in the same way. Once, when invited to a sleepover, my daughter didn’t understand why her friend had a sleeping bag on her bed. Having been raised with hand made quilts, she had never seen a comforter! My children are truly sheltered.

So as not to lead you astray and let you believe that our children are totally wonderful, I need to share the gift our daughters made and gave to me and their daddy. They decided that we truly needed gnomes to complete our home. Our eldest painted her dad’s gnome and daughter #2 painted my lovely lady gnome. The gnomes were painted to depict us. So papa gnome got brown eyes and dark hair, while mama gnome got green eyes and orange (red? blond?) hair that was shot through with gray! Those little stinkers! Perhaps I once again need to become friendly with a dye bottle. When all is said and done, I will likely cherish those silly gnomes.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

December 22nd, 2009

I ran across this You Tube video while searching for Christmas carols. O Holy Night is my favorite song during the Holiday Season. I hope you enjoy this rendition as much as I have.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Happy Birthday to Me!

December 12th, 2009

You know you are awfully spoiled when your husband doesn’t know what to get you for your birthday.

One week prior to the big day he suggested a trip to commemorate the event. He was considering a rather chilly destination. Not being a huge fan of winter, snow, ice…I suggested a trip to Hawaii instead…it would only cost a couple extra hours on the airplane…why not be warm and relaxed?

It is rather disconcerting for this cold climate girl to hear Christmas Carols being accompanied by ukuleles! What a treat to spend a week on Oahu. We ate at a few favorite restaurants, read a bunch of books and watched old movies. Yes, we walked the beach as well. Being pasty white Alaskans, we are careful to not overdo the beach time.

Due to an Atlantic storm, there were high surf warnings during our visit. We had the great fortune to be able to watch talented surfers brave the big waves. What a treat! Beyond the fact that I have never seen such large waves before, the surfers put on a really great show!

Needless to say, we returned to snow and cold. Anchorage has been blanketed with ice fog causing the trees to be covered with hoar frost.

This afternoon, the bohemian wax wings came by for a visit to devour any remaining berries from the May Day tree in our front yard. The front shades had to be closed after a few of these lovely birds flew into my windows!

This week will be spent working on the quilts for Strip Therapy 5. Two tops have been completed, #3 has been started. Quilts 4 – 6 are drawn up and waiting for their turn. I expect Strip Therapy 5 will also include a bag or two as well. Keep posted for updates.

The DVD is in the Warehouse!

November 27th, 2009

The DVD has arrived at the warehouse just in time for Christmas! We will begin shipping immediately. The small quilt on the left is the project that you can make as you watch the DVD and follow along with the workshop.

Where has this month gone? One moment it was Halloween, and the next time I looked up from my computer it is almost Thanksgiving. I don’t think I slept through it so I expect my personal whirlwind has absorbed the month when I wasn’t paying attention.

I have been looking forward to November all year. I am not scheduled to travel again until mid-January when I will be teaching at Road to California. Until then, I am anticipating a few uninterrupted hours bonding with my sewing machine once again.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26th, 2009

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Mastering the Mariner’s Compass

November 9th, 2009

Remember the DVD that I taped this summer? I received the final edit while I was on my three week teaching/quilt market trip in October. After review, it is deemed ready for replication. I am so excited!

The DVD is perfect for those quilters that would like to make a mariner’s compass but are intimidated by the process, as well as a refresher for the quilters who have sewn but would like a few pointers how to make the process more enjoyable.

In this one-on-one workshop, you will learn how to foundation paper piece a mariner’s compass at your own speed – play, pause and rewind. I have added my favorite tips, hints, and secrets to success. I will tell you what tools I use to make piecing easier.
Most importantly, I have included a printable PDF pattern so you can work along with the DVD. It’s just like a private lesson, but better – you can work in your pajamas!

It is never boring in "Brendaland"

October 30th, 2009

At least, that is what my hubby would tell you! I took a few moments in September to order a long arm! The machine was delivered in multiple large boxes and today the sales rep arrived at my doorstep to set-up the new toy.

My sister-in-law, who has blanket permission to always say what she is thinking, asked me very sweetly, “Honey, when will you have time to do that?” Well, I am not sure. Frankly, the refrain from a country song has been running through my mind… “What was I thinking?”

Actually, I am thrilled! I purchased an A-1 Quilting Machine. After talking to many quilters in my travels, I am confident that I purchased the correct machine for me. With that said, I do expect to spend a good bit of time just learning how to quilt. Trust me, my beloved long arm quilter is in no danger of losing my business.

So, now on to the next question…can anyone tell me where to begin? I feel rather like I did after giving birth to our first child. I was in the hospital bed, our daughter was fed, burped, diaper changed and all I could think of was “Now what do I do?” I am capable of loading a quilt, and even keeping it rather square. I can make it go, and balance the tension to my liking. My hubby is now a trained long arm armorer – he can time it. Now what do I do to build skill.

Is there a dvd or book or something that I can do to become reasonably proficient? If you have some clue where I should begin, please feel free to educate me. Thanks in advance for your insight!