TUTORIAL - Twirling Seams

And now the twirling seams demo.......................

Here are the HST (or any other block component) laid out and ready to sew. One other note of interest - normally we press the HSTs to the dark. In this case - I pressed some to the light - where I would have TWO seams going in the same direction. - look at the two HST in the bottom right corner. If both the seams are pressed to the dark - I have more bulk at the intersection so I look at the block (laid out like above) and decide which ones need to be pressed in the opposite direction

Then I sew them together in FOUR patches (that would be FOUR 4-patches). Here they are laid out on the ironing board ready for pressing. NOTE that I kept them together as four patches. The arrows are pointing to the thread that connects the pairs. And note that EACH four patch is laid out in the SAME configuration. The left most pair of the 4 patch is pointing up and the right most pair is pointing down. You can reverse this direction, but you MUST BE CONSISTENT throughout your project. All to the left or all to the right. The minute you switch one of them, the twirling thing WILL NOT work. Now to press - just flip the pair open and press - this positioning already has the seam allowances going in the right direction

Here are the pressed pairs - the arrows indicate which direction the seam allowances are pressed.   Do you see what happened from one photo to the next??????   NOTE - the pairs are STILL ATTACHED - DO NOT cut them apart. If you do - it just means there is MORE likelihood that they will get turned around when you sew them into the four patches. 

Here the four patches are laid out in the block configuration (the arrow is pointing to the thread that still attaches the two pairs) (yes - the others are attached as well - I just drew ONE arrow)

Sew each of the pairs together (along the side where they are attached in case you get mixed up and turned the block around from picking it up to getting it to the sewing machine) - and now we are going to twirl the seam. Look at the wrong side of each pair. See this little piece of vertical seam ABOVE the horizontal line

Take your seam ripper and RELEASE the stitches. DO NOT cut that thread - just release it on BOTH sides of the seam

Then split that seam in the center and notice how the four seams will go in a clockwise or counter clockwise direction (the direction depends on whether you flipped the left most pair up or down).

Here are the FOUR four patches. And NOTE - if the centers do not match - I don't care. I aim for accuracy, but I don't aim for perfection. Life is too short to be worried about silly little details like that. If someone is going to zero in on those imperfections, then they need to get a LIFE. But I want my work to be neat and tidy and more or less accurate - I just don't stress over whether it is off by 1/8" or 1/16". If the piece is going to a competition - you bet - I will redo and redo until it is perfect, but for a quilt like this - what is the point???????????????   

The back side of the previous picture - note that the seams of ALL four of the four patches are going in a clockwise direction and so when the four patches get sewn together - the seams will nest into each other at ALL four intersections

Then sew the four patches together to get two HALVES - and note that you can continue to twirl the seams on those two seams. Notice in the center - those seams will NEXT perfectly to each other. 

Lastly sew the two halves together and YES - you can twirl all three of those intersections

You can ONLY twirl the seams if you sew in FOURS and TWIRL as you go. If you sew in rows or want to twirl once you have finished the block - it WILL NOT work.

Hope that clears up that mystery. Let me know if there are any questions.


  1. Wow what was the purpose of all that twirling thing?

  2. The purpose is to reduce the bulk at the point where the four pieces of fabric come together. And then your block lies flat!

  3. The 'twirling seams' was a whole new learning curve for me but with every block that allows such an activity, I truly enjoy having the opportunity to 'twirl the seams'. Thanks for the demo, Elaine:)