Making a Celtic Quilt – Pressing the Bias Tubes

This is the fifth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted and machine appliquéd onto background fabric.

The strips have been sewn into tubes, but how do you hide the seam allowance along the side? 

There are two main ways to deal with this:

Either way, you’ll need a 3/8″ wide press bar. 

I like these plastic bars the best, as they are economical, do not get as hot as metal press bars, and are more stable than nylon bars.

You’ll need a firm pressing surface.

My ironing board is slightly padded, so I don’t like using it for this step – I find it harder to get firm creases. My favorite pressing surface is shown below, my omnigrid portable cutting & pressing station; but in a pinch, I’ve even used an empty cardboard fabric bolt!

You’ll also need an iron.

Avoid steam, as it tends to relax the cotton fibers and may cause the tubes to stretch as you are pressing them – which means they won’t have the stretch you’ll need later. You can use your regular iron, but I prefer to use my Clover Wedge Iron, as it is lightweight and does the job beautifully while being more maneuverable and less tiring for me to use.

Finally, you’ll also need to trim down the seam allowances of the fabric tubes to about 1/8″.

This will make it easier to conceal the seam allowances underneath the tubes.

Trim down the seam allowances to about 1/8″ – this will make life easier later!

Note: If you were to cut your original fabric strips 1″ wide and sew them into tubes with a scant 1/8″ seam allowance, you wouldn’t need this step. However, most people find the 1 1/4″ strips and scant 1/4″ seam allowance so much easier to work with that they don’t mind trimming down the seam allowances before pressing the fabric tubes.

Method 1 – Most Common:

  • Slide the fabric tube onto the bias press bar; in this case, it should be the 3/8″ wide bar.
  • Center the seam allowance (not the seam itself!) in the middle of the bar.
  • Press the tube with a hot, dry iron (cotton setting if you are using cotton fabric), guiding the seam allowance to one side.
  • For longer strips, continue sliding the bar inside the tube and pressing until the full length of the tube has been pressed flat.
  • Carefully remove the press bar. Be very careful not to stretch the fabric!
  • Depending on the type of bar you are using (metal, plastic, or nylon), you may need to give the tube an additional press to completely flatten it after the bar has been removed.


Method 1: Center the seam allowance (not the seam!) and press the fabric with the press bar inside.

Method 2 – My Preference:

  • Slide the fabric tube onto the bias press bar; in this case, it should be the 3/8″ wide bar.
  • Center the seam allowance (not the seam itself!) in the middle of the bar.
  • Scrunch up the tube on one end of the bar.

Method 2: Center the seam allowance (not the seam!) and then scrunch the fabric down toward one end of the press bar.

  • GENTLY guide the fabric off the end of the tube (I like to hold the bar at an angle to the pressing surface) and press the tube with a hot, dry iron (cotton setting if you are using cotton fabric), guiding the seam allowance to one side. Be careful not to stretch the tube as it comes off the bar!

    GENTLY guide the fabric off the end of the tube and press with a hot, dry iron, guiding the seam allowance to one side as you flatten the tube.

For either method, don’t stress too much if the seam allowance occasionally flips from one side of the seam to the other, as long it it remains hidden when you turn the tube over to check the front.

The front of a pressed fabric tube – seam allowance hidden on the underside, and ready to go!

Once you have all of the tubes pressed, you are ready to start creating the design!

 

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