Stronger Seams Without the Bulk

September 14, 2016By Heather JonesQuilting, Tips & Tricks 14 Comments Opinion by Paid Consultant

There are many times when I can’t finish a quilt in one sitting, as I’m sure is also the case with many of you. When I’m working on a pieced quilt block for a project that is not going to be finished for a while, or a block that will be moved around a lot either on my design wall or in my studio, I’ve noticed that the threads of the exterior seams can come a bit loose if they are handled too much. If the threads of those seams come too loose, they can actually begin to unravel and the edges of your fabric could come apart. To stop this from happening, I’ve come up with a simple technique to make the exterior seams of my pieced quilt blocks stronger, but without adding too much bulk in the process. If there is too much bulk in the seam, the design of your quilt may not come together as it is supposed to.
Stronger Seams Photo 1

How To Begin

This is a block from my Marrakech pattern that I am working on. It consists of large-scale pieced components and requires a quarter inch seam allowance, so I’m using the quarter inch foot on my PQ1500SLPRW. This is a great foot for quilt construction because it allows me to keep my seams accurate throughout my entire project.

Stronger seams without bulk 2

As I am sewing a seam and getting close to the end of that seam, I stop the machine about 1/8” from the edge, and keep my needle down. I then use the backstitch feature of the machine and make one to two stitches in reverse. After those reversed stitches are sewn, I continue sewing forward, along the edge of the block, all the way to the end of it.

I’ve made a little video to show you how I do this, since I think this technique would be easier to understand if you could see it .

Watch Video

A Closer Look

You can see the extra locking stitch in my seam here. By placing the locking stitch about 1/8” from the end of the block, there is not as much bulk added to the seam as there would be if that stitch had been added at the very end of the block. If the locking stitch or stitches were closer to the edge of the fabric, there would be a chance that the extra thread from the locking stitches could increase the bulk of the seam. The potential extra bulk could have an effect on all of your quilt blocks and make them not fit together as well as they should.

Stronger seams without bulk 3
I hope you’ll give this technique a try the next time you’re working on piecing some quilt blocks, and let me know how it works for you!

  • Marrakech pattern is a product of Heather Jones Studio, and Brother International Corporation makes no representations or warranties regarding such products.

14 Comments

  • Has anyone tried using a featherweight iron on interfacing to their finished quilt tops and pieced backs? I’m trying it on a quilt I’m making now.

    • Thank you for your feedback.
      At Stitching Sewcial we are aiming to bring tips and information to sewers, quilters and crafters of all skill levels.
      Please be sure to check out other tips that are sure to be targeted for a more advances sewer. We also encourage our more experienced sewers to share their tips with new sewers. What’s your favorite tip?

    • This really isn’t such a silly tip, as you suggested. Just yesterday I was teaching an intermediate quilting class and one of my students, who really is quite advanced, mentioned that she just saw this tip and has started using it. Only two of the other four students in class had thought of doing that, as they all had waited to backstitch until the end of the seam. We are all creatures of habit and when most of us learned to sew, backstitching was done at the end of the seam, not 1/8″ of an inch away. Thanks for the tip!

  • I’d like information on adjusting your thread tension without messing up the underside of your thread. We have lost my booklet for this machine. I have a Brother LB-590. I’m trying to lengthen
    my stitching but nothing seems to work. Thanks for any help.

    • Hi Midge,
      By chance is your machine model LS-590 (rather than LB-590?) The manual for the LS-590 is found here and is free to download. Thread tension is page 38. Stitch Length Dial is page 24.
      Manuals, Downloads, FAQs and Troubleshooting can be found here. If this isn’t the information you are looking for, please do reach out to our amazing US based customer service team via phone at 1-877-BROTHER (877-276-8437),
      M-F, 9:00am to 6:00pm Eastern Time, or click here and fill in your Model info. Then on the next page select Email and send them an email.
      Thank you for stopping by Stitching Sewcial!

  • I read an article written by an award-winning quilter last year. She said that rather than backstitch to reinforce seams, she shortens her stitch length at the end of each seam line. This avoids backstitching off the stitch line and adding bulk. I’ve been doing it her way since and nothing’s come loose. Another way of accomplishing the same thing.

  • Hello and thank you for the tip. I noticed that you align the edge of the fabric with the front edge of the foot which is not as wide as the rest of the foot. Is this just an optical illusion or have I been measuring incorrectly for all these years?
    Signed, still feel like a newbie after 12 years of quilting.

    • Hi Virginia,
      On this foot, the shorter front edge is the 1/4″ section. The second photo, the close-up photo, in the post, shows the 1/4″ line on the machine as well. When in doubt, measure from your needle to the edge of the foot.
      Happy Quilting!
      Best,
      Kimberli

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