How to fix mismatched seams

Last week, Sabrina left a comment on my “Night Sky” quilt post, asking if a beginning quilter should attempt it.  I say why not?  The only way a beginning quilter becomes an expert quilter is to try new things.  Sure, it has triangles, and therefore that dreaded four-letter word “bias”, but bias can actually work for you.  Here’s how:

Here is a block with a mismatched seam.

1 aFirst, unsew that part of the seam.

Side note – you don’t always have to unsew the entire seam, especially when you’re working with bias.  The pink and orange triangles match perfectly at the top of this block, so I’m going to leave that part of the seam alone.

2 aBut I will unsew all the way to the bottom, because A) there’s extra purple fabric on the left that I want to move up, and B), that part of the block doesn’t need matching seams yet.

3 aMy seam allowances had been pressed open on this block, so I put both halves right sides together, straightened out the seam allowances, and pressed them back into their original form.

On a padded, pin-able surface, take a straight pin and stick it in the seam allowance of the top layer of fabric, right between the two patches.  The pin should be 1/4″ away from the raw edge of the fabric.

4 aKeeping the pin in the seam, slide the top fabric up the shaft  of the pin to reveal the bottom piece of fabric.  Stick the pin in the seam allowance, 1/4″ away from the raw edge.

5 aMake sure your pin is standing straight up vertically.  Push both layers of fabric down flat, and using your fingernail, kind of scootch the fabric out in all directions from the pin.  Yes, “scootch” IS an official quilting term, thankyouverymuch.

6 aHere is the part where the bias actually works for you.  With your iron, hover above the fabric about 1/4″ inch and give it a shot of steam.  You don’t want to touch the fabric at this point.

7 aDo that on both sides of the pin.  The bias has a mind of its own, and will move and shrink a tiny bit with the steam, but because you have stuck a pin exactly where you want it to match, that part can’t move.

Lift the top layer of fabric and dab a tiny bit of glue in the seam allowance.  (More about glue and glue tips in a minute…)

9 aHold the seam together for about 10 seconds to give the glue a chance to be absorbed by the fabric.  Then give it a touch with the iron to set and dry the glue.  Make sure as you do this that the pin stays vertical.

Sew the seam.

11 aThe glue will not gum up your needle.  It’s way over in the seam allowance, remember?

Next, I ran a stiletto between the top and bottom layers and popped the glued bits apart.  This is why I only use 2 or 3 tiny dots of it.

12 aPress and there you have it – perfectly matched seams.

13 aA word about glue.  I use Elmer’s Washable School Glue because it’s available everywhere.  I have nothing against Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It or any of the other good quality sewing glues on the market, it’s simply a matter of availability.  I can get Elmer’s at ten o’clock at night on a Sunday, and it works just as well.  Just make sure it says “washable”, meaning it will wash out.

I bought 2 metal tips from Sharon Schamber’s website a few years ago, but apparently she doesn’t sell them anymore.  However, I believe you can get them at art and craft supply stores next to the glues.

Someone once said she didn’t like the metal tips because she didn’t like having to constantly take them off and clean them out every time she used the glue.  Well, I have never taken the tip off mine.  I simply stick an applique pin in the hole!

14 aIt fits perfectly, never sticks, and keeps the glue from drying out.  Just make sure you use a pin that is rust-proof.  I used one of those yellow flower-head pins once and it rusted.

15 aWhat is your favorite method for fixing those pesky mismatched seams?

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9 thoughts on “How to fix mismatched seams

  1. Oh lawdy, it’s just this sort of thing that makes me not want to quilt. First of all, THANK YOU, very much for providing this tutorial. Perhaps I should Pin it because of it’s usefulness. But, back to my whining . . .

    For one thing, I use a sad iron [], no steam to use above the mis-matched seam at my house. Can’t remember the other things this sec.

    As I have been reading about quilting since deciding to really begin to learn I am astonished at the apparently simplistic idea I “had” about quilting. Thinking in terms of yesteryear; i.e., fabric, thread, batting, needle = GO!

    It’s been taken to an entirely ‘nother level. Not sure when, but it has.

    Quilt on, dear quilters.


  2. Thank you — this glue idea is awesome!! I usually baste tricky matches, un-stitch just that stretch, re-pin straight up, re-pin on both sides, re-stitch, and (sigh) repeat until perfect because the fabric still slips. I think the glue dots will be just what’s needed.

  3. Pingback: Any tips on achieving accurate seam matches? - Page 2

  4. I am looking at this repair for seams not matching up since I am having this problem with a quilt kit with precut pieces. I realized after a few blocks not all the pieces are the size they should be. I will try the fix.
    Also I have made a few quilts on my own. When I sewed them together I pressed the seams open instead of left or right. This made it so I could used a pin through each seam to make them match up perfectly. But this quilt I am working on tells which way to press the seam and I am following all the directions. I think I will go back to pressing seams open since it helps me match things up.
    Thanks for the repair tips,

  5. a little bit of me thinks its sad that we have to have it that perfect………but I too strive for that sometimes elusive perfection

  6. Great advice. I’m making a sampler quilt with TONS of half square triangles. I’ve had to rip and resew at least 2 seams on every block. Gonna put this trick to use on the rest of the blocks. Glue! Who knew?! Thanks for the help.

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