Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How to Spin Seams

Last week I posted a picture on Instagram of an hourglass block for a quilt that I am currently working on and asked if there were others, like me, who "spin" their seams. I had several people ask me how it is done, so I decided to share a step-by-step tutorial.

The reason that I like to spin my seams is that it creates less bulk at the intersections. I will be making a four patch block for this example, but the same technique works for hourglass blocks, pinwheels, and many more.

1. Start with the four pieces of fabric that you will be using for your four patch. I'm using these 3 1/2" squares from my stash.

2. Sew them together in pairs. One light and one dark in each set.

3. Press to the dark side.

4. Flip one set around...

...and layer on top of the other set.

Make sure that your seams "nest," meaning that they butt up next to each other. This is a critical step; if your seams overlap or do not touch, then the spinning technique will not work. Pin if necessary.

5. Sew the two sets together.

When sewing the sets, I always have the seam on top going toward the presser foot, as shown by the arrow above.

If you are making several sets that will be sewn together in a light, dark, light, dark, pattern, it is important that you sew them in the identical direction. That will insure that all of your blocks will nest. 

This is where the magic happens!

6. Turn your block over and hold the two unpressed seams between your fingers and thumbs, as shown above. It may be a little hard to tell from the picture, but I'm holding the block with both hands, thumbs on top, forefinger underneath.

Now, with a little pressure, give the seams a twist in opposite directions until there is a little "pop." One or two stitches will pop open so that the intersection will lay flat.

For all of you who are worried that your block and/or quilt will fall apart, fear not! I have been using this technique for almost 20 years and I haven't had a single issue. As a matter of fact, I suggest you do a sample block and give it a tug in all directions, just to see that your pieces are still secure.

7. Finger press the center and guide your seams in a spinning direction, as shown above.

8. Turn it over and press from the top. You're finished!!!

Turn it back over and marvel at how the spinning seams create a little four patch in the center of your block.

Here's a close up of the back...

...and the front. See how nicely the seams match when you nest them correctly. Pure joy!

Now, if you're sewing several blocks together, stitch them all together in identical fashion, as explained above. Flip them right sides together and stitch.

One important thing to note: When you are sewing two blocks together, the seam going toward your pressure foot will now be facing the opposite direction. (See Step 5.)

Below are examples using the same technique when making an hourglass block.

This quilt was made by Holly of Bits of Everything. Isn't it beautiful? Holly was working on this quilt at a retreat we were at when I shared this technique with her. By using the spinning method, she was able to get all of her four patches to nest perfectly.

I hope that this tutorial was helpful. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will try to answer your question a soon as possible.

If you try this out and post a picture on Instagram, please tag with #spinningseams


  1. I always thought this trick was terribly difficult - but now I know - it's easy!Thanks so much for explaining, I'll try it out next time!

    1. I'm so glad that this was helpful for you. It's one of my most used quilting tricks.


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