Repairing Opened Seams at the Edge of a Quilt Top

I completed this quilt top over a year ago, but haven’t had a chance to quilt it until recently. I love the pattern, which was designed by Carl Hentsch. He calls it Color Block Solids, but I call my version Bright Sisters.

completed quilt top
Bright Sisters (pattern by Carl Hentsch of 3 Dog Design)

It includes a lot of seams that are pressed open to keep everything flat, and when I unfolded the top to prepare it for basting, I found that several of the seams had pulled apart at the edges of the quilt.

opened seam at edge of quilt
The damaged seam from the back of the quilt

I was afraid it would be a giant pain to repair, but it actually wasn’t. There were 6-10 damaged seams on the sides of the quilt, and 3-5 on the top and bottom edges. It took just a few hours to repair. Here’s how I did it.

Note: Be sure to handle the quilt very gently to avoid making any of the damage worse while you work.

1. Locate all the damaged seams along one edge. I spread the quilt gently along my ironing board and checked each seam that ended at the edge. When I found a damaged one, I placed a small clip (I use Clover Wonder Clips) over it to mark the spot and keep the seam together.

2. Take the quilt to your machine and fold it right sides together along the seam you’re about to repair. Then finger-press the seam flat so you can see the stitching.

Finger pressing on a seam
Finger press the seam to one side so you can see the seam

When I repaired the first few seams, I actually used my iron to press each seam flat, sewed it, and then pressed it open again, but I discovered that it’s not really necessary to do that. Finger-pressing works fine.

3. Stitch directly over the existing seam, backstitching a little at the start and finish to secure the repair.

quilt top loaded in a sewing machine
Stitch exactly over the existing seam
seam with extra stitching on top
The repaired seam

I found that I got better results if I first pulled out a tiny length of the thread from the damaged seam and clipped it close to the quilt. In the photos here, I didn’t do that, and you can see the thread bunched up inside the seam from the quilt front. It won’t matter because it’ll be under the binding, but the ones where I trimmed the old threads look much neater.

4. Finger-press the repaired seam open again, and move on to the next seam that you marked with a clip.

edge of quilt top with undamaged seam
The repaired seam from the front, after pressing open

5. Repeat steps 1-4 for each seam on this side of the quilt, then take it back to your board or table and mark the next side. I chose to work one side at a time so that I wouldn’t have the added weight of the clips on the edges I wasn’t repairing.

6. Stay stitch along the outer edge of the quilt. When all four sides have been repaired, open the quilt top completely. Loosen your thread tension a little and stitch all around the very outer edge of the quilt, wrong side up, about 1/8” from the edge, so that the stitches will be under the binding. Sew very slowly, tucking each seam carefully under the needle to keep it from flipping. I used my walking foot to help move the quilt evenly under the needle.

This will stabilize and protect all the seams that reach the edge of the quilt top, whether or not you needed to repair them.

I actually tried to stay stitch the top when I finished it, but I wasn’t able to do it using the machine I had at the time (and, probably, using the sewing knowledge I had at the time). Now I do it every time I finish a quilt top, unless the seams are all backstitched at the edges.

stay stitching the quilt top
Stay stitching very close to the edge to secure the seams
finished quilt top with stitching very close to edge
The stabilized quilt top

Once I’d finished, I gave the top a good pressing. While doing so I decided to trim the loose threads on the back of the quilt top to avoid having them end up in the wrong place and either cause problems with the quilting or show up as shadows behind the lighter patches. That process took a full day (I watched movies while I did it) and resulted in a giant pile of clipped threads.

pile of clipped threads of many colors in an open wood box
So many threads!

After that, the top was in great shape and ready to be sandwiched and basted. I’m in the process of quilting it now and it’s coming out great. Pictures soon…

What do you think?

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