So, what the heck is furling, right? Well, when I looked it up the true definition is: to wrap or roll (something, such as a flag or a sail) close to or around something….we aren’t technically wrapping anything here, but we are “wrapping” our seam allowances around a central point, making them “tight” and neat and most importantly, FLAT.
I tend to design quilts that have smaller pieces which means lots of seam allowances and lots of intersections. The seam allowances don’t change size, but when you start with fairly small pieces your seam allowances from different seams are closer to each other than if you start with, say, a 6″ square. I rarely start with anything that big as anyone knows who has made my patterns. I like small, detailed pieces and it has led me to seek out ways to improve my work or make it easier in some way. I did not develop this technique, it is one that I have seen in books and magazines. I am writing this tutorial to give my students a place to refer to when they are not in class with me or when I am not awake when they are sewing at 2am….
I quilt all of my own pieces and I discovered rather quickly that a bulky intersection can really bog down in my machine and cause really short stitches followed by a couple of giant stitches as the fabric finally feeds through. Not a great look and very frustrating for my perfectionist self! The process I am going to show you here makes your seam intersections so much flatter and enables your machine to stitch over them easily as you are quilting.
I am going to walk you through making a simple four-patch block to show you how easy this technique is.
I started with 4 squares cut at 2″ each. I chose two white and two navy squares.
Sew one of each color square together with an accurate 1/4″ seam. (I used red thread for this tutorial so you could clearly see the thread in the pictures.) Repeat for the other two squares.
Press the seam allowance in each pair toward the darker fabric.
Sew the two pairs together matching the white fabric to the blue fabric. Use an accurate 1/4″ seam.
This picture shows the stitches that need to be picked out.
Using a seam ripper, unsew the stitches within the seam allowance, up to, but not past, the line of stitching. Flip the unit over and take out the same stitches on the other side.
This picture shows the seam allowance with the stitches picked out on each side. You can see the holes in the white fabric where the stitches were removed.
Another picture showing the stitches removed.
Lay the four-patch flat on your pressing surface. With the stitches removed it is very easy to open the middle section and “furl” the seam allowances around the center section. The blue and white squares on the top are the first pair I sewed together. Note the seam is pressed toward the blue fabric. The blue and white squares on the bottom are the second pair I sewed together and the seam allowance is also pressed toward the blue square. When the stitches are removed within the seam allowance, it allows the the horizontal seam allowance to be pressed in opposite directions.
Note that the horizontal seam allowance to the left of the intersection is pressed down (toward the white square) and the horizontal seam allowance to the right of the intersection is pressed up (also toward the white square). I am not concerned about pressing toward the dark fabric in these cases. My main concern is eliminating bulk at the intersection. The result is a tiny four-patch in the middle of the block. I do not cut the threads as you can see in the photo. I do not want to compromise the seam at this point so I leave the tiny thread ends attached. Normally I would be using a neutral thread that blends in so this would not be a problem.
Here you can see a perfectly aligned four-patch with no obvious bulk in the middle.
And one close-up to show how nice and flat this area is. If you do your own hand or machine quilting you will appreciate how flat this area is and how much easier it is to get a needle (whether hand or machine) through the layers.
One last thought, it’s important to feed your pairs smoothly into the machine. Sometimes the pieces can kind of get “hung up” when you start to sew two pieces together. This causes the machine to make several tiny stitches almost on top of each other. Those tiny stitches are very difficult to open up. One way to avoid this is to start by sewing onto a small scrap of fabric first. When you get to the end of the scrap do not remove it from the machine and cut the thread. Instead, feed your first pair of squares right under your needle and keep sewing. Your needle is less likely get “bogged down” in this area forming nice neat stitches which are much easier to remove.
I hope this tutorial is helpful for you. I plan to put a link to this post in all my upcoming patterns as well as going back and editing my completed patterns. Thanks for stopping by and making it this far!
I hope you come back soon!