You Don’t Have to Take My Word for it: Seam Allowance Nesting, Quilt Piecing Self Reliance, and Memories that Stick

One of the things I treasure most about being a mom of six children (aside from the children themselves), is how the memories of goings on when my kids were small, forever altered the way my brain buzzes through any given day.  Take children’s programming, for instance. Because I spent more than a decade straight embracing (with all my heart and soul) PBS Kids as our TV channel of choice, it’s not uncommon for my brain to shift into this internal monologue-style burst of song or commonplace phrase when such memories  apply to my daily life.

A good example: Six.  I never think ‘six’ without hearing Sesame Street’s Bert singing,  “Six. My favorite number is six. When someone says, ‘Hey, Bert pick a number,’ well I always pick the one nobody piiiicks….my favorite number – is six.”  I love Bert and I love his song because for obvious reasons, six is my favorite number too.

As jaunty Sesame Street songs tend to go –  if it’s hot outside, I hear in my head Rosalita, a girl muppet with moppy brown hair and a green spotted dress – singing “Hace color, hace calor, could fry an egg on the cement it’s so callente!” Even after all these years of not hearing it regularly, it still puts a spring in my step when it somehow eeks into my day.

So over a gloriously sunny/rainy/otherwise perfect Easter weekend as I was adding my first round of several borders to my Maribel Medallion quilt project, I got to thinking about directional seam allowance pressing, and that sometimes patterns DON’T indicate which direction we should press each seam allowance toward.

Neil Sees Bernard GIF
What the HECK do seam allowances have to do with children’s programming? Stick with me here, friends…

The thing is, I kind of like it when patterns aren’t terribly wordy or specific about such things as seam allowance directions.  It means I have to figure it out.

In general, there’s a standard rule of thumb in the quilting world to always press our seam allowances toward the darker fabric. The problem is – pressing toward the dark side isn’t always the most ideal.IMG_1118

In the above case, if I automatically applied the steadfast rule of pressing to the dark side, I’d have pressed toward the navy fabric, but I didn’t. I pressed to the white one because…


…I needed it to press opposite this seam allowance – or it wouldn’t nest comfortably (yes, I sometimes think of seam allowances as wanting to be comfortable beside one another. Wouldn’t you want to be comfortable if you were a seam allowance?).


My personal opinion (and experience) is that flat seams always take precedence over pressing to the dark side.

But wait – what does all that have to do with children’s television, you ask?

Levar Burton of Reading Rainbow: “…But you don’t have to take my word for it.”  

The more we seek to own our own projects, the stronger we become as quilters. It’s a choice to be independent, as opposed to just following blind, ‘press to the dark side’ rules, or expecting a pattern to tell us every little step of how to make a perfect quilt. Let yourself learn, let yourself grow and take charge of your own project. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try something that makes sense to your own experience and processes, even if it means diverging from what you think is a rule you must follow. What’s the worst thing? You have to rip out a seam, or two, or twelve? Pth. It’s all for the cause of growing!


So far so good on my Maribel Medallion project. Lots more rounds to go, but with each one, I learn…

Michelle Obama dancing with Muppets..singing silly songs and dancing as I do.



2 thoughts on “You Don’t Have to Take My Word for it: Seam Allowance Nesting, Quilt Piecing Self Reliance, and Memories that Stick

  1. I love that Sesame Street appeals to children and adults. My two older children loved Sesame Street, but my youngest loved Barney.

    I agree with you about having to learn what works best for us. Recently, I made a quilt that had no directions on which way to press the seams. I went to the magazine’s website to watch their video on how to make the quilt, but that was no help. Evidently there were others with the same issue because they left comments asking about which way to press the seams. So, I did something that I feel uncomfortable doing, and I pressed the seams open. It was the only way it would work. So, I shortened my stitch length and pressed the seams open. It made me happier because everything worked out so well.

    1. Exactly! Sometimes instructions are minimal. Even still – That’s not a slam to the designers. Sometimes I feel like more often than not, even if the instructions were over-the-top-detailed, they’d not get read in their entirety! People tend to read less all the time – So it matters more than anything that we all learn to take ownership of our own processes. As for pressing seams open – freaks me OUT! But I’ve done it too, in the name of a flat seam! Ahhh Barney. I loved Barney. ‘If all of the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, OH what a rain that would be!’ 🙂

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