Friday, March 20, 2020

Y-Seam Reality Check and a Refresher Tutorial

You guys, how did I look at this block yesterday and think there were only 8 Y-seams?  

My 20" Block
There are SIXTEEN Y-seams in this block!  See below.  Ugh.  I liked the Y-seams better when I thought there were only going to be eight of them.

The Wicked Block Diagram
So this block is kind of like the news lately -- it's twice as bad today as it was last night, and the only way to get through it is to just focus on ONE seam at a time instead of worrying about the whole block at once.  

I'm Piecing These Corner Squares First

This shot is for my own future benefit, because I never remember how I decided to press the seam allowances:

How Did I Press Those Seams?
You know, as I'm looking at this, I'm thinking that those Y-seam points would be crisper and flatter if I pressed these two seams towards the outside of the block instead of pressing them towards the red center square.  I was thinking "Press to the Dark Side" but now I'm second guessing myself...

Okay.  Two Y-seams waiting to be sewn:

Ready for Y-Seams
As you see in the photo above, I did NOT sew all the way to the raw edge of the fabric when I attached the green triangles to the white pieces.  I stopped 1/4" in, right where those seams are all going to meet up.  I also removed the stitches from that last 1/4" in the seam where the dark blue and red fabrics are joined in the foundation pieced unit.

The Piece In My Hand Gets Sewn On First
Just one seam at a time...  Pinning the first bit up to the Y-junction, with my final pin exactly where the seams are all meeting up and the green triangle folded neatly out of the way so it can't get caught in my stitching:

Here's How I've Pinned It
These are extremely fine pins (Clover Extra Fine Patchwork Pins) that I'm using, by the way, so I have no qualms sewing over them, especially as slowly as I'm running the machine for this precision work.  It's kind of like hand piecing with a machine needle.  If my sewing machine needle does strike one of these hair-thin pins, it shifts out of the way or maybe bends; nothing breaks and definitely no timing disasters!  

You Can See the Stitching Better Here
In the photo above, you can see how that previous line of stitching ends precisely where the next stitching will meet up with it.  After stitching along the pinned white side, I take out the pins, flip the seam allowance the other way, and tuck the white fabric out of the way so it doesn't get caught in the next line of stitching.  Pins are repositioned along the green triangle edge like so:

Ready to Stitch the Next Bit
Stitching down the next side, I backstitch right up to the previous seamline without crossing it, adjusting where that final stitch lands with the hand wheel if necessary.  This is why I'm using my Featherweight for the Y-seams instead of a modern computerized machine -- the manual Featherweight never takes an extra stitch when I'm reversing directions.

This is SLOW Stitching, Not Full Speed Ahead!
By the way, I've got a vintage Singer "cloth guide" screwed into the bed of the machine exactly 1/4" from the needle so I can use the original Singer multipurpose foot that came with the machine for piecing instead of a generic foot.  I have almost identical Patchwork Seam Guides for my modern Berninas that I also position exactly 1/4" from the needle on those machines, enabling me to switch back and forth between any of my sewing machines on the same project, knowing that my seam allowance and finished block sizes will be identical regardless of which machine was used.

After Stitching
The backstitching is necessary because we can't cross the seams to secure stitching lines with a Y-seam.  Since we're sewing right up to the seam intersection but not a single stitch beyond, the backstitching ensures that those stitches don't come loose.

One Down, One To Go (For This Corner Section, Anyway!)
Then the other side goes on the same way.  One of the reasons I pressed that red/white seam allowance toward the red square was so these two seam allowances (Red/white and white/teal) would nest together nicely, but I could have reversed the seam allowance on the white/teal...)

Same Process As Before
Sewing the first leg, you can see how I connect my new line of stitching to exactly where the previous stitching line left off.  From there I took 2-3 back stitches before pulling the work out of the machine, clipping the threads, and repositioning for the second leg of the seam:

Sewing Right Up To Connect to the Previous Stitching Line, then Backstitch to Secure
Pinning the Second Leg
...And then the threads are clipped, the work comes out of the machine, and the seam allowance is flipped out of the way so you can sew the second side.  I start a few stitches beyond that seam junction, backstitch right up to the point where all three seams converge, and then continue sewing forwards the rest of the seam.  At the Y-seam intersection, all three seam allowances are completely free from the seams.

Ready to Sew
Again, I've very carefully folded and positioned the white fabric out of the way so none of it gets inadvertently caught in the next leg of the seam.

Stitching Lines Meeting Up Nicely!
In the photo above, I've just stitched the left side of that green triangle.  Next I pull out those two pins from the green fabric, pull the green fabric out of the way to the left, and flip that seam allowance to the left so I can sew the next leg of the seam in the white fabric.  

Ready For the Last Side
See how that seam allowance on the left is still loose?  That's the whole Secret Magic of the Y-Seam.  You sew right up to the seam allowance but never INTO the seam allowance, and then you get a nice, smooth, pucker free finish on the right side of your block.

Two Y-Seams Later, This Is What I've Got
There are a couple of inexpensive gadgets that I use to make Y-seams easier.  First, in addition to printing foundation paper piecing patterns on newsprint from my EQ8 software, I also printed traditional piecing templates (with 1/4" seam allowances) for these chisel and quarter square triangle shapes onto heavy card stock.  Then I used a 1/16" hole punch to cut tiny holes in my templates at the corner points of the seamlines, just big enough to fit the point of my Sewline mechanical pencil.

Sewline Pencil and Mini Hole Punch for Marking Start/Stop Points
My yellow Sewline ceramic pencil shows up nicely on the dark fabrics.  For my light colored fabrics, I mark that start/stop point where the seams match up with a single dot from a Frixxion heat erasable pen.  (The dot is on the wrong side of the fabric right where the seams all meet up, and it disappears as soon as I iron the finished block unit.). You could also use a dot of regular graphite mechanical pencil instead.

Black Dot On Pale Blue Fabric is Frixxion Heat Erasable Ink Pen
What you want is a very tiny, very distinct dot that will not smudge with handling, indicating EXACTLY where that first/last stitch needs to land.  The black Frixxion dot above is very easy to see on light fabrics, and the same is true for the yellow Sewline dot on the darker fabrics, as seen below.  My final stitch will sink directly into the center of that dot, then I'll sew in reverse for 2-3 stitches to secure the seam.

Yellow Dot on Green Fabric is Sewline Ceramic Fabric Pencil
So anyway, I finished all four of these corner sections today.  I'm not sue which seams should be sewn next, and that's okay.  One day -- and one seam -- at a time, remember?  I will figure out which seam to sew tomorrow!

Stay safe everyone, and happy stitching!  I'm linking today's post with: ·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


Chris said...

So I need to go back and re-read this a few times but it is midnight and I have been foundation piecing 4 1/2 inch Dear jane blocks with no Y seams. I think I need to look through all my Featherweight gadgets and find one of those seam guides. Looks good so far.

Jill said...

When corners and seams need to match, I am a dot-to-dot quilter. Excellent photos. Are your glass head pins nice and sharp? If so, do you know the brand? One day at a time as tomorrow will take care of itself.

SJSM said...

You must be a master at putting in godet. When making a lot of the same your templates save time in marking the points. Usually I only have a few so use crossed chalk lines for speed. You know, "X marks the spot. "

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

you can really see those Y seams better on the pattern chart can't you when you star to circle them.

Nancy said...

This is a great tutorial, Rebecca Grace, but it was one I didn't want to read, having just recently finished several blocks for Cheddarback (a sew-along from Sentimental Stitches) that had y-seams. I hope I never have to do them again, though practice improves the results, for sure! Your y-seams look about as perfect as humanly possible! Well done.

Kathleen said...

This is a great tutorial! I don’t knoe that I would want to do all those - kudos to you! Also, I run a tips and tutes on the 22nd each month through the end of the month.....if your at all inclined I’d love for you to link to it. I do also pin them so they can be found and there is always a link at the top menu on my blog.