The secret to Y-seams

October 30, 2011 § 10 Comments

Earlier in the week I dug out an old UFO to continue quilting and I busted the sewing machine needle. When I sat down to start sewing the pieces together on the Carpenter’s Wheel I discovered a huge burr in the needle hole!  And, after running around town, I couldn’t find a file small enough to file out the burr. So I dug out my Featherweight to continue sewing while I wait for a new needle plate to arrive.  Luckily, my needle plate is not as expensive as some!

So… are you ready for the Y-seams?  Once you know the secret to Y-seams you won’t think they are as hard as they look. At the least I hope you won’t.  At the very least, I hope that the fear of  Y-seams is substantially less.

The SECRET to sewing Y-seams is to know where the seams of each piece intersect at the corners. 

Once you know where the 1/4″ seam allowances intersect, all you have to do is pin them in place and sew.  99 percent of the time they will turn out perfectly.  Once in awhile,  you’ll find an unruly seam.  Especially with all these bias seams.  Just bully the seam into submission with some spray starch before you sew so that it doesn’t stretch out of shape as easily and you should be good to go. Anything else can be quilted out when you sandwich, quilt and finish the quilt top.

With a pencil, mark where the 1/4″ seam allowance at every point. Do you see the black dots I put in the corners? This is were the 1/4″ seams intersect.  Mark the narrow points here and the wide points in the middle. Also mark the corners of the background squares.  If you skip this step and guess, this is where most of the trouble begins. It’s easier to estimate the seam allowances on the squares. But it’s really, really hard to guess on these sharp points.  There are also rulers that can be used to mark the point corners.  Jinny Beyer makes one.

Use a pin to pin through the dot at each end before you sew.  Start sewing right at that point (remove the pin first) and backstitch. When you come to the other end, stop right at the dot and backstitch again. In case you can’t really see what is going on in the photo above, I drew a picture as well.  Does this make sense?  Click on the image if you want to see it larger.

Start by sewing the 8 diamonds in the middle. Sew 2 together as shown above and don’t press. Then sew the next diamond to the last diamond until you have all 8 diamonds sewn together. It gets a little unruly the more diamonds you have sewn together, so pin carefully and just sew slowly.

When all of the 8 diamonds in the middle are sewn, go back and press all the seams going in one direction.  Because you haven’t sewn through the points, you can press the center so that it fans out and spreads out the bulk.

I know it feels awkward at first, but it will get easier and make more sense with each Y-seam you sew.

Here are the sections as we will sew them together.  Next, make the 4 smaller sections at the top, bottom and each side. Then you can sew them to the star center. Don’t forget to continue marking the corners and pinning them in place before you sew.

Sew 2 diamonds together in the same way you did the center diamonds.  Then sew a “B” background square to make the top, bottom and side units.

Pin and sew one side of the background square to one side of the diamond unit.

Then, pin and sew the other side of the background square to the diamond unit.

Now, you can go back and press the seams. I like to press these diamond seams open and the squares towards the diamonds. It just feels like less bulk to me if I press this way.  You can decide if this works for you or not.

Next, you can sew the corner units. Start in the same way as you did with the side, top & bottom units.  Then add on the next 2 diamonds to each side.  Next, sew in the single “A”  background square (green). The corner printed fabric square and the other “A” background square can be sewn together normally from top to bottom, no y-seams, no backstitching.  But when you sew those next to the other diamond… one more y-seam.

Now you can sew the corner units to the center star unit.  Be sure to continue starting and stopping where the 1/4″ seams intersect. We still have the eight “C” triangles to sew into the block. Those will be the very last Y-seams.

I’m still working on sewing mine together. But I wanted to let you get started in case there were any questions along the way. It’s hard to describe exactly what you need to do here on the Internet. A hands-on class would be SO much easier!

For those of you who aren’t up to tackling all of those Y-seams, I’ll give you some new cutting measurements for the background pieces that will avoid as many Y-seams as possible.  Just hang on for a moment while I work on those instructions.

As always… you can add your progress shots to the Flickr group.  And I hope you all don’t hate me by the time you sew your last Y-seam!!

§ 10 Responses to The secret to Y-seams

  • Kristine says:

    Thanks Anita for your very clear instructions.

  • Dena says:

    Great clear and concise instructions for sewing Y-seams, which I’m sure can intimidate even the most advanced quilter. Thank you!

  • Robin Koos says:

    Next time you need a file that small, go to the local bead shop. I have a cheep set of Very small jeweler’s files, in various shapes (round and flat) and find that I use them all the time around the house and sewing/craft room. Love the giant sized carpenters wheel. I would have never thought to blow-up one block to make the whole quilt top. Love the blog!

  • Ann Champion says:

    So sorry to hear that dang needle caused so much damage!
    Your instructions are great. Thanks so much for walking us through each step. The diagrams help make it so clear.
    Thankls too, for the pressing instructions. In some patterns it really makes a difference.

  • Pratima says:

    Your lessons are so detailed and comprehensive. Thank you so much, Anita for taking the time to explain every related aspect.

  • SewCalGal says:

    Excellent tutorial. This definitely goes into my list of favorite tutorials. And I so want to use this tutorial to make the quilt shown too. Love it.

    SewCalGal
    http://www.sewcalgal.blogspot.com

  • Annessa says:

    Awesome explanation! The back of your y seams looks as good as the front. Thanks for the great diagrams and eye candy of your quilt.

  • Helen says:

    Instead of stitching the 8 diamonds in a ‘circle’, stitch 2 lots of 4 diamonds, then just stitch them together across the seam.

    • Anita says:

      Thanks Helen! You can certainly sew the diamonds together that way as well. Thank goodness there are so many different ways to put things together! 🙂

      Anita

  • I am so glad I found this pattern here! I have an antique quilt that my great-grandmother made with this design. Her background was light pink and her diamonds were assorted fabrics but each block only used 2 fabrics: the background and one print. The sashing was made with a deeper pink. It’s my favorite quilt that I own and I have wanted to replicate it since I got it from my mother. Each block is about 17″ and the squares are 2 1/2″ finished, diamonds are 2″. The layout is 4 blocks by 3 blocks with 3 1/2″ sashing. Can’t wait to get started on my own!

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