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Easy pressing tips for a perfect square rail fence blocks

If making a quilt is new to you, you may wonder about this constant back and forth between stations; cutting, sewing and pressing. I call it the trifecta of quilting. Each is an integral part of constructing a beautiful quilt, one which will hopefully be well-used and well-loved forever.

Pressing Makes Perfect

Yesterday, I gave you the cutting instructions. The next step in creating this striking Banyan Classics rail fence quilt is to press your strip sets, and, as mentioned in the title of this segment, pressing makes perfect.

Press the seam flat the way it was sewn to "set" the seam before pressing the strip open; using Banyan Batiks Banyan Classics! Free rail fence quilt pattern.
Press seams flat as they were sewn to “set” the seam before pressing open.

We want our quilt blocks to lay flat and to be square, so the quilt goes together easily. Good pressing techniques will help ensure that happens.

In general, when constructing a quilt, we’ll press our seams to the darker fabrics to avoid a shadow showing through the lighter fabrics. This isn’t always possible, however, and, at the end of the day, it often really doesn’t matter. The Quilt Police were thrown out of office years ago! To make things easy, press each seam allowance away from strip 1.

Use the tip of the iron to open the seam, press seam allowances away from strip 1, towards the darker strips; using Banyan Batiks Banyan Classics! Free rail fence quilt pattern.
Press seam allowance away from strip 1.

Flat, without distortion is the main goal and achieved by PRESSING the fabric with an up and down motion with the iron, not IRONING it back and forth the way it’s done with clothing.

To Steam or Not to Steam

To steam, or to seam, is another of those age-old questions. Personally, I love to use steam when pressing my fabric, but, over the years I’ve learned to respect the steam. Steam combined with pressure and movement can easily distort your fabric, so you need to use it carefully and wisely.

Once you press a strip set, use a ruler or tape measure to check the width. The ideal measurement should be 12½“. If your measurement is close, say 12¼”, or 12⅜” press your strips again taking a close look to ensure there are no little folds in the seams. Again, you want the fabric flat.

Carefully press the seams from the right side of the strip set to ensure the fabric lays flat; using Banyan Batiks Banyan Classics! Free rail fence quilt pattern.
Carefully press the seams from the right side of the strip set to ensure the fabric lays flat; using Banyan Batiks Banyan Classics! Free rail fence quilt pattern.

If you’ve repressed your strips and they’re still not 12½”, then maybe you need to tweak your ¼” seaming technique. At the end of the day, it’s really not the end of the world. This is a very forgiving quilt, which is one reason it’s great for beginners.

Measure several of your strip sets and hopefully, you’ll find a consistent measurement, whatever it may be. Maybe your strips are 12″, 12¼” or even 12⅝”. Not to worry; no need to stress. Find your most consistent measurement throughout all your strips and you’ll cut your blocks to that measurement. You want your blocks to be square, which will sew together easily. In this case, consistency is more important than the measurement itself.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through Stripping 101 without getting arrested, LOL! Strip piecing revolutionized the quilt world and has become a staple technique in many patterns, so it’s good to have in your sewing repertoire.

Grab your Banyan Classics strip sets and it’s back to the cutting table we go! Join me tomorrow.

This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2: Quick and easy cutting instructions for a classic rail fence quilt

Go to part 4: It’s hip to be square! Cutting and sewing rail fence blocks

While studying Fashion Design in college, Michael’s life and career ambitions took a dramatic turn when he caught the quilting bug in 1991 after watching Eleanor Burns from Quilt In A Day on PBS. 28 years, and hundreds of quilts later, he continues his love of quilting as a professional longarm quilter, sought-after speaker, teacher, Janome Educator, Dealer and Certified Service Technician for APQS longarm quilting machines, and now, QUILTsocial blogger! In 2017 Michael’s quilting journey came full circle when he finally met his mentor, Eleanor Burns and is now a Certified Quilt In A Day Instructor, as well. As Michael says, “So much creativity; so many quilts, sew little time!”.


  1. Kim Enos

    This is a great explanation of ironing. Such an important step in quilting!

    • Thanks for your feedback, Kim. Yes, I was taught very early on that for the best results sewing and pressing go hand-in-hand. Glad you enjoyed the blogs!

  2. Deb Lebherz

    Love all of your fabrics. Thanks again for all the giveaways.

    • Thank you, Deb! Aren’t these Banyan Classics fabrics gorgeous?! Love them!

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