How to Press Quilt Seams - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

How to Press Quilt Seams

Every quilter knows that pressing and ironing is a big part of the quilt-making process! Pressing fabric and quilt blocks makes for a more accurate and polished result. Today on the blog we’re sharing some tips for pressing quilt seams and a BIG giveaway of ironMATIK ironing boards and mats!

Ironing vs. Pressing

How are ironing and pressing different? The main difference is in how you move the iron across the fabric. Ironing is the familiar motion of sliding your iron over the fabric to remove wrinkles and creasing. Whereas, pressing is appropriately named because it’s done by placing the iron on the seams or fabric and holding or pressing it there for a moment.

An easy trick to remember is that ironing is how you prepare your fabric before you start sewing, and pressing is what you do after, as you go along and piece your blocks.

Tips for Pressing Quilts

Here are some of my favorite tips for pressing. If you have pressing methods that you find helpful, please drop them in the comments below.

Starch Your Fabric

My number one tip is to starch your fabric before you start anything. I like how starch makes fabric stable, easy to handle, and prevents fraying. You can see how I starch my fabric in this How to Starch Fabric for Quilting Video.

Set Your Seams

The heat and steam from the iron locks the stitches into the fabric and makes the seam stronger. It also softens up the fabric for the next step, which makes things easier.

To set your seams, place the iron on a pieced unit directly over the quarter-inch seam for 2-3 seconds. You’ll do this step before you press the seams open or to one side. If it’s a long piece of fabric, pick up and set down the iron all along the seam until you’ve set the entire seam. You can see how to set a seam in my video tutorial, Pressing Versus Sewing)

Finger Press for Success

It can be helpful to give your fabric a little nudge in the right direction (in this case, pressing towards the blue fabric) before hitting it with the iron. Whether you use your fingers or a little stiletto, just be sure not to touch the fabric while it’s hot. You don’t want to burn yourself. In this short video, I share my method for How to Press Seams Open.

Avoid Duck Pleats

To make a smooth seam, place the fabric unit face up as if to press to one side and nose the edge of the iron into the crease where the two fabrics meet. The side that you’re pressing towards will have a slightly higher bump, which you can flatten as you press the iron away from the center line, smoothing the fabric and seam.

In the photo, I’m pressing toward the blue fabric. This prevents fabric bunching or doubling up near the seam (the dreaded duck pleat!). You can see how I do this in my Nine Patch Block Tutorial.

How to Press Backing Fabric

Many people ask me about ironing the fabric for quilt backs, so I made a video to show how I prepare and iron the fabric for a pieced backing.

Selecting a Good Iron

Some features to look for in an iron for quilting are heat capacity, a water reservoir for steam, a smooth ironing plate, and auto shut-off for safety. We have many irons and pressing aides for all types of sewing and quilting needs.

A Special Ironing Board for Quilters

With those pressing tips in hand, lets talk about ironing boards and ironing mats. There’s a new company that’s making ironing more efficient (and beautiful!). ironMATIK is a woman-owned company bringing innovative tools for ironing to enhance every quilter’s experience.

I always enjoy shining a light on fellow female entrepreneurs, so that’s why I’m teaming up with ironMATIK for a Mega Giveaway! Read on to learn more and see how you can enter to win one of their products!

ironMATIK was founded by Victoria, a former American diplomat and a quilter at heart. Her company’s story stems from family, innovation, and a tribute to a legacy. When Victoria returned to Atlanta from her overseas assignment as an American diplomat, she traded diplomacy for entrepreneurship, helping her mother turn her innovative ironing board designs into reality. As possibly the only women-owned ironing board brand globally, ironMATIK brings a unique perspective to the quilting table.

Innovation Tailored for Quilters

ironMATIK’s product line is a testament to thoughtful design and quilter-friendly features. The Space Maker ironing board offers a large, stable surface perfect for pressing large quilts. Its unique features like a starch spray caddy, a mountable hanger for storage, and rollers for easy transport make it an indispensable tool in any quilter’s studio.

And if you don’t need a caddy, but you want the rest of the bells and whistles, then the Space Surfer model in the gorgeous Pagoda designs is too cute to pass up. It comes in 5 colors, each with a print and a metalized cover, so you don’t need to shop for a second cover for quite some time!

Compact Solutions for Small Spaces

Understanding that not all quilters have the luxury of a large workspace, the Space Saver ironing board offers a compact, yet sturdy, solution. And for those who quilt on the go, the portable ironing mat and glove bundle in the Jaipur Collection transforms any flat surface into a safe ironing zone, ideal for retreats or workshops.

Quality and Sustainability in Every Stitch

Designed in the USA and made in the European Union, ironMATIK’s products meet high standards for quality and sustainability, all with the durability and unique design that quilters appreciate.

ironMATIK Mega Giveaway!

Fat Quarter Shop and ironMATIK are joining forces to give six lucky winners some amazing products from ironMATIK!

If you would like the chance to win one of six ironMATIK products totaling $1,030, fill out our giveaway survey! Six winners will be chosen at random to win 1 of the following: The Space Maker Tropical Blue, The Pagoda Orange Ironing Board, The Original Space Saver 2.0, or one of three Jaipur Ironing Mat and Glove Bundles. You must enter your name and email address at the end of the survey to be entered! One entry per person.

*Giveaway Terms & Conditions: The giveaway ends on Thursday, December 14, 2023 at 11:59 PM. 6 total winners will be chosen at random and notified by email on Friday, December 15, 2023. Open to both U.S. and international residents. Residents outside of the U.S., please note Fat Quarter Shop will declare the full retail value of the items on the shipping documents, and any customs fees, taxes, or duties are the prize winner’s responsibility. Comments on the blog are always appreciated but don’t count as a giveaway entry.


  1. I love using an pressing tool called a Strip Stick when pressing seams open. You place the stick (available in several lengths) under your seam. It lifts the seam you’re pressing above any other nearby seams so that you don’t disturb those seams.

    1. Oh yes! The Strip Sticks are very handy to use. That’s a good tip. We carry those, too.

  2. Love this! So many aids to help with pressing – who knew?! I’ve been wanting clappers for a while but now obsessed with the portable ironing met!

  3. In filling out the survey, the keyboard goes away on question 7 and I’m unable to answer any of the questions after that. I’m using an iPad. I’ll try filling this out on my laptop tomorrow, because I couldn’t finish with the ipad

    1. I’m sorry about that, Jill. We’ve had many entries, so imagine it might have something to do with the iPad. I hope you have some success with the laptop!

  4. Thank you so much for always providing such helpful tips!!! I so enjoy your blog!! And thank you for this opportunity.

  5. Colors are uplifting. My husband makes beautiful end cut cutting boards from oak, maple, walnut and foreign woods so this is what I use as a clapper to flatten my blocks. The boards are wide and heavy so I can do a 12” block with no effort at all.

  6. FYI In Lunenburg, MA there is a woman owned business for ironing boards called TNT Quilt Boards.

  7. Love these space makers and would love to win one <3 Thank you Fat Quarter Shop Team for all you do for us – love always <3

  8. I would love to have a an ironing board solution that works. This Ironmatik would be the absolute best solution. Thank you for thinking of this innovation.

  9. I’m not sure why I haven’t seen this product before but I am so in love with the space saver. I have to stack boxes on chairs so I can keep my cup, pins, wonder clips and starch it’s not even funny. Lol

  10. love the ironing board. My husband has walked by my ironing board and has knocked off my iron 3 times as the ironing board sits in the kitchen hallway. Great idea a holder for the iron.

  11. Thanks for all the great info. These new ironing boards are beautiful and they have wheels that is just perfect will make things so much easier. Love that they are offering different ironing board options to suit different needs/space. I really like the ones with the starch spray caddy.

  12. Your comments have always been very helpful. I’m looking forward to seeing all the products Matik has to offer. The ironing board extension is just what we quilters need for all of our needed supplies we use during ironing. Thanks for all your innovated ideas.

  13. An ironing board with an extension would definitely be the ideal tool and helpful for quilting. I have dropped my iron a few times off the ironing board, and so now I place the iron on the kitchen counter to have room to iron. Not practical as I have to reach sideways and back every time. But I love to iron all my fabrics before I start a quilt project and as I piece each block, not giving much thought to the inconvenience.

  14. Is there a problem with entering the giveaway OR is it me??? lol. I can’t get past Question 4 of 19.

    1. Hi Debbie!

      Have you tried exiting the giveaway and going back in. I just tested it and I can get past question 4. If you keep having trouble let me know!

  15. I love that the ironing boards are wide and beautiful too! Being tall, the adjustable feature will be great also!

  16. I’ll be adding this to my gift wish list I make for the hubby every year to help him with Birthday, Anniversary, and Christmas gifts.

  17. Why do I need a new ironing board? For several reasons. I think my ironing board is almost as old as I am, and that is OLD! It is too big for the area I sew in, so a smaller one would be useful. It almost doesn’t have a leg to stand on. I usually don’t participate in contests, but I couldn’t pass this one by. This might be my lucky day! Thank you for a chance to get lucky.

  18. Thank you for all you do for us, with the huge amount of videos you put out to help us with developing our quilting skills. I learn so much from you! The ironing board is the perfect size for my small sewing area. Thank you!