Quilts · Tutorial

Y-Seam Tutorial

During Thanksgiving Week, I thought it was time to re-post this tutorial from Leanne’s blog, from the Third Quarter Finish-A-Long Tutorials. As background, I’ve been sewing and quilting for more years than I should admit to, and during that time have completed over 120 quilts.  So I’ve faced down more than my share of the Dreaded Y-seams.

In June of this year, I made this quilt for my sister.  As you can see there are lots of peaks and valleys in this thing–lots of Y-seams going both ways (some people call them Y-seams and V-seams) but really, let’s keep it simple.

They are called Y-seams because the V-part of the letter Y usually has fabric with no seam, and the tail of the Y has a seam. I’ve marked the Y for you in red in the picture on the left.  The picture on the right is the other type of Y-seam.  I’ll show you both.

Let’s start with the first type of Y-seam, where the “tail” of the Y is facing toward you and the “V” of the Y is underneath.  Place a pin at the 1/4-inch mark through the seam, and into a spot that would be the peak of the 1/4″ seamline, if you could draw it on and imagine it.

Most beginners want to pin that seam to death.  Run screaming in the other direction.  The success of the Y-seam depends on the “float” of the fabric.

I sometimes will place one pin on either side of the seam, just to anchor it as I get going, then another pin or two along the starting point.  Then I take out the (above) pin.  I want my fabric to float — don’t want to anchor that second half of the seam too much, as I need it to pivot.

Start sewing from the left edge, as the seam faces you, using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Fold the seam toward you, and as you approach the seam, slow down and use a bit smaller stitch.  You are trying to anchor the stitching a bit.

When you get to the seamline, when you are on top of the thread marking that other seam, STOP.  Make a tiny stitch on top of the one before to anchor, but DON’T GO OVER THE SEAM LINE.

Lift your needle out of the cloth.  I pulled it away to show you what I mean, but you don’t need to do that.  Just give yourself a little room to smooth the (green) seam allowances out of the way, and to find the place to insert your needle again.

Re-insert your needle just on the other side.  Then line up the next two raw edges, smoothing the fabric away from the needle and your presser foot.  Sounds more confusing than it is.  Take a few tiny stitches to anchor, then change your stitch length back to normal.

Another shot of my needle placed just on the other side of the seam allowances (which I flipped to the back of my presser foot).

Depending on the amount of cloth in your Y-seam, and if you just feel better about it, go ahead now, and pin those raw edges together and stitch the rest of the seam.

When you are through sewing, clip the thread if it is restricting the ability of the seam allowance to open up and lay flat.  If you left a bit of thread there (pulled it away from the needle as in my photo above) there should be no problem. 

Press, keeping the tail of the Y-seam open.

From the front, it looks like this.

Now we’ll tackle the other kind of seam–where the seam of the Y’s tail is underneath, and you see the “V” part of the Y.

First locate the valley of the one-quarter-inch seamline and put a pin there.

Snip to within a couple of threads of the pin.  Leaving the pin there insures that you won’t cut too far.  If that happens, curse a little.  You can sometime rescue the piece with a bit of fusible interfacing.  Better to not cut too far.  Half of the seam (1/8″) is all that’s needed.

Find the 1/4-inch peak of the seam below, and poke the pin in to anchor.  You can leave in that center pin to hold it, and if you are afraid it will slip, it’s okay to put one pin on the backside.  If you can, try to avoid that pin on the right.  Again, the success of a Y-seam lays in the ability of the fabric to move and pivot.

Just as in the first type of seam, start stitching from the left side of the seam, towards that center pin.

When you get to the pin, STOP with your needle down in the fabric.  Remove the pin, then pivot the fabric so that you can match raw edges.  Move the first seam out away from you, as you align the new sides.  It may feel a bit bulky under your foot, but smooth any excess fabric out away from you.

Here you can see that I’ve pivoted, repinned the new raw edges together and am starting down the other side of the seam.

This is what it looks like from the back. That deep fold is the V part of the Y-seam.

The front.  Give it light press.  Resist the urge to saturate it with your pressing goo and mash it flat with your iron.

Sometimes your seam gets a little jig-jaggy.  As long as it’s not too bad, it will be fine.  I did the same kind of stitching process on this one: shorten your stitches as you approach the point, then lengthen them out on the other side.

A better point.  All of these work fine in the quilt, because you haven’t a) stitched it to death, and b) murdered it with your iron.

You can see one type of Y-seam where I joined the green roofs to the yellow houses.  And you can see the other type where I joined the purple roofs to the sky.

Now you know all my dressmaker/quilter tricks: never be afraid of Y-seams again!

One more time, thanks to Leanne, of She Can Quilt, for hosting a series of guest tutorials for the Finish-A-Long Motivational Program.  (Just kidding on the name of it, but it does help get those UFOs out of the closet and onto the bed.  Or wall.)


Sand, Sea, Schnibbles and Y-seams

Joyce Carol Oates, the very prolific American novelist and writer was asked what she did when she finished a novel.  Did she go on vacation?  Did she stare into space? “I read poetry,” she said. “I find it is good to let the mind rest a bit from the ardors of a novel.” Well, at least that’s how I remember it, when I attended her lecture as a graduate student at our local University of California.

Sea and Sand Quilt Top Schnibbles

After last week’s wrestling of the difficult quilt (coming up), this is my poetry after a novel, say, The Brothers Karamasov, or something.  I missed last month’s Schnibbles outing–too busy with the beginning of the school year, but I was pretty determined to do one this month.  It was a squeeze play, especially after I started reading the directions.  I couldn’t make heads or tails of them, as it was a pattern geared strictly to pre-cuts, which I don’t generally buy.

Back Sea and Sand

(I like the back with its little open four-patches seam allowances.)

I stormed downstairs all lathered up about my frustration, but luckily my sister Susan had given me a treat to assuage the raging quilter within: some delicious cookies from Joan’s on Third in Los Angeles.  It rescued me, and I went back upstairs, figured out how to cut strips from my fabric and get going.  If you are not a pre-cut user, you have been warned.  However, there is a nifty method for making those pieced triangles/checkerboards in the corner, so Miss Rosie’s pattern company was redeemed again.  (Still think there should be directions for those of us who use fabric-by-the-yard!)


The original pattern’s name is Mercerie, and they do it in many different fabrics, hence, the need for charm pack directions.

And the Y-seams?

FAL Tutorial Header

On Tuesday, I’ll be doing a guest-blog post about how to sew the Dreaded Y-seam.  Stop by Leanne’s, of http://shecanquilt.blogspot.com to see the secrets.

In the meantime, read some poetry.  Here’s one from the Poetry Daily website:

On My Seventieth Birthday I Try to Skinny-dip in Boston Harbor
by Sandra Kohler

I cover my nakedness this morning
with an outsize purple tee, “Outrageous
older woman” scrawled in pink across
the chest. A gift from my son, daughter-
in-law. Beneath it, the only part of
my body where my skin fits me still,
unmarred by time—my shoulders.

Sunrise, ebb tide, half an inch of water
covering Tennean Beach’s pebbles, mud
I sink into as soon as I step out toward
dawning sun. Planning this baptism I
forgot to check tide charts: I’d have to
wade through seventy feet of muck to get
my feet wet: no quick strip and dip here.

Turning seventy: I never imagined this.
Years ago, when I’m visiting my eighty-
something mother-in-law, she’s gossiping
about a neighbor, calls her “an old lady”
—stops herself, says, “I know I’m old
too, but not inside.” Inside, what age
am I? Thirty, eighty, fourteen?

Will sinking into this muck renew me?
On the drive home, passing a shallow
wetland between abandoned factories,
I see a flash of white: two egrets gingerly
wading, stepping, spreading their wings
in the risen light over a brood of hatched
fledglings, as new as aging is to me.