“Aligning seams” clarified

design, quilting, sewing

I’ve had a couple of emails from people asking me to clarify what “seam alignment” means. In some instances it means “matching points” but it’s bigger than that. Sometimes you need a visual line to continue across the quilt even when the seams aren’t actually adjacent to each other.

In the example above, the light blue corner needs to be visually aligned with the green corner across the sashing and the darker blue corner below. If they were touching we’d call it matching points. “Aligning seams” refers to making sure that elements that should line up visually actually do, whether or not they are physically next to each other or not.

Below are some examples that should help you understand the concept.

The quilt top above was made by some girls in our daughter’s 5th grade class. Their seam allowances were inconsistent, which is no big deal, but ideally the points would have matched and the seams would have aligned. You can see that the first square was off so it threw off the next square and soon the whole row had shifted over 1/4″.

Above is our My Guy quilt. It’s constructed with pairs of bars that meet at the corners with other pairs of bars. If they didn’t actually touch, the whole effect would be lost. In addition, the bars are made by sewing two strips together at the ends. The seam between the two plaids looks best when it’s aligned with the seam below.

The quilt above is our Fusion quilt. None of the points actually touch one another because each piece is surrounded by sashing. However, if the seams didn’t align, it would look sloppy.

If you’re struggling to align seams across a strip of sashing, you can always draw a quick line with chalk across the sashing as if you were drawing a line to connect the corners of each block. If you pin through each end of that line, the blocks will line up.

This may sound like a lot of detail but once you get your seams to align, you’ll see how much more visually pleasing it is. Improvisational piecing is fun and we do that too, but if you’re doing standard piecing, you don’t want the pieces to look like a near miss.

Keep those questions coming!

4 thoughts on ““Aligning seams” clarified

  1. When I read that the quilt was made by 5th graders, I realized just how far I still have to go! Too many of mine have seams that look very much the same! :) Great post and very helpful. Can anyone comment on the best way to cut long strips of narrow fabric – as in the sashing in the Fusion quilt. A rotary cutter? Should the fabric be folded to make that process easier? Does that promote crooked strips? Shorter strips then pieced together? Many thanks in advance. :)

    1. Hi Alice,
      The best way to cut the long narrow strips of fabric is carefully! Fold them over and make sure they are neatly folded so the cuts will be straight. Use a rotary cutter and a ruler. Even if the strips are crooked a bit, they will stretch as long as you keep the seams straight and the quilt square. It didn’t present any problems for us when we made it. Good Luck!

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