Dum-Dum-Da-Dumm: Marrying Thread to Fabric

couple marrying 2Whoever thought they were so attracted?  Do they ever divorce?  Who knew sewing could be so seamy, in the original sense of the word?                                          

If you have ever heard the phrase “marry thread to fabric” and were absolutely bemused, you are not alone.  This phrase doesn’t often get explained, though the technique is a real help to achieving a professional looking seam.

Sometimes you will listen to an accomplished (often older) seamstress or quilter and they will offhandedly remark that they made sure to press carefully in order to “marry the thread to the fabric.”  The seamstress is often responding to a compliment because her seams are so clean they squeak.  Even when viewed from a distance, like the six-million dollar man, her seams are better, stronger, flatter (no, not faster) than what you normally see even on high end ready-to-wear. 

What is being referred to is a pressing technique.  Normally we are taught to immediately iron our seams open right after stitching.  Our usual sequence goes press open, press flat.

But many home sewers press their seams flat first, concentrating on the stitch line itself.  They press the stitch line and they let it cool.  Letting it cool is key.  Their sequence is press flat, press open, press flat again.  

Fabric itself is made of threads though much finer that the thread on our spools.  When we stitch we are inserting something foreign into that weave.  Adding that bit of heat and steam helps flatten the stitching thread into the actual weave of the cloth.  I am unsure of the science behind it but somehow it just looks better.  Some seamstresses believe it strengthens the seam itself. 

Give it a try and see if your seamlines don’t have just a little more oomph.  Just remember to let the fabric cool completely before handling the seam again or you may undo the beautiful finish.

Next Post: Tuesday, February 16, 2010; Spring 2010 The Ladylike Blouse



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Echo
    Mar 22, 2010 @ 22:54:07

    Hiya – press flat, press open, press flat – do you press both times in the same direction or 1st time press flat one way, then the 2nd time press flat the other way? Probably would make sense to try it first then ask later, but I have only kids leggings on the go at the mo and won’t have anything pressable for a while… :o)


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Mar 23, 2010 @ 10:21:08

      Oh, you caught me. I don’t think I explained clearly enough. The first press flat the material looks like it does as it goes through the machine, both sides together, just laid on the pressing board and pressed down. The body of the fabric is not spread apart, the sides are resting against each other, usually right sides together. Then I do an open press like I was taught as a young sewer, to spread the seams apart and press. Last, I do a directional press where I decide how I want my seam to go in the garment.

      Those who use sergers may amend this process a bit since obviously you can’t press something open that has been serged together. This technique does work well for seams that you do not wish to serge together and in materials that hold a crisp seams, not knits as you mentioned.

      Your comment has struck me – there are so many ways we as sewers adapt our pressing to the situation. Hmmm . . .


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