On Y-seams and Mitred Borders

Or, joining cloth at an angle

When three seams converge you need time, patience, plenty of pins, a ruler and cutting mat with 45 degree markings, a pencil, and an unpicker (seam ripper). Or so I found this week when stitching mitred corners for the next border of the Bernina Round Robin challenge. It also struck me that a mitred corner and a Y-seam are the same thing and that it is easier to stitch these by hand.

Process photographs taken while tackling the mitre at the corner, with the finished result at bottom right. This was the fifth one I stitched — that’s how many tries it took before I manage to get an almost perfect corner.

As mentioned before, I am stitching two versions of the round robin challenge and use one of these for experimentation. This month it came in handy as I could practise sewing the mitres on the experimental piece. I found the trickiest thing was to insert the sewing machine needle at exactly the right pinpoint where the three seams meet. In the end, I found it easier to start sewing slightly away from the corner and then to turn the work around and stitch into the corner from the opposite direction. This was when I nearly resorted to stitching by hand! But, in the spirit of the Bernina challenge, I used my sewing machine. It helped that there was a pencil line to follow. Bernina’s instructions were, once again, clear and easy to follow. This is especially commendable given the complicated procedure for constructing a mitred corner.

The experimental piece where I practised making mitres. The needle holes along the unpicked seams were covered with applique!

The second part of the May challenge was to decorate the 5 inch border with raw edged applique (with umlaut). I decided to repeat the applique I had done on the central square and cut out flowers from the same Kaffee Fassett fabric, called Row Flowers. This time I added a “stalk” of plain fabric and used satin stitch (rather than the more decorative blanket stitch in the central square) to applique the shapes. As before, I used a lighter fusible web (called spider web) which comes without backing paper. This means that the fabric has to be between two teflon sheets when the sticky web is being ironed into place. I managed to avoid getting a sticky mess on the underside of the iron this time. To stablise the main fabric I backed it with iron-on stitch and tear. This makes the applique stitch work smoother and the paper comes unstuck and tears away easily from around the stitched applique sections.

The flowers with their stalks looked a bit like trees to me (ha!), and so I added avenues of them when appliqueing the main piece. Here it is:

To return to the likening of mitred corners and Y-seams — in both cases three seams converge at a point. A quilter, Sue Bax, once noted at a workshop that it is easier to stitch Y-seams by hand and she is right. One has more control over where the needle enters the cloth and, provided you have drawn accurate pencil lines along which to stitch, making a neat Y-seam is very easy to do.

May I take this opportunity to show you the progress on my elongated hexagon piece (pattern and method by Yolande Bowman) to give an example of hand-stitched Y-seams. The photograph of a section of the reverse side of the piece gives an idea of how it is done. (This is a bit like showing one’s Y-fronts in public.)

May I also share with you my delight in the word convergence. As usual I looked it up and found that it has its roots in the Latin for “incline together”. One of the definitions of the verb converge is: “Tend to meet at a point; approach nearer together as if to meet or join (on a point)” (OED). I think it is the perfect description for the process and challenge of constructing mitred corners and Y-seams.

When I complained to The Woodworker that I was having difficulty with my mitred corners, he said that at least I wasn’t working in 3D, as happens when making mitred corners for wooden objects.

18 thoughts on “On Y-seams and Mitred Borders

  1. Love the precision!
    And all the colours.

    Did a swift scan of your blog collection — really, you can be proud Mazzie. I’m sure proud of you! 😍

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  2. Your Bernina quilt is just stunning, Mariss. I love the design and the fabrics (that green border is perfect with the Kaffe fabrics). I haven’t done many Y seams, but I do know those i have done have been with gritted teeth, slow sewing, and patience.

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    1. Oh thank you Wendy for your your enthusiastic response to the Bernina round robin. I have spent so many hours on it this week that I can’t see it clearly and feared it was overworked and too bright. I am relieved to know I am not alone in my struggle with Y-seams!

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  3. Okay nice mitre but even more amazing is that quilt! I love the bold and intense colors against a green background! Oh yes my Woodworker also deals with mitred corners in 3D, I guess our corners are a bit easier with fabric. I bet they do not deal with Y-seams though!
    Convergence is a great word 🙂

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  4. As always, stunning work, Mariss. The colours here are so kinetic and beautiful, and I appreciate the precision that goes into these corners. Knitters have ‘mitered squares,’ but they are a bit wonky compared to these very crisp and clean edges! 🙂

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  5. Gorgeous pieces, Mariss.
    The ‘buttonhole’ stitching is quite clever, too. However, the work involved with y seams (though you described the how-to very well) is definitely not in my future!

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  6. love the explanations but I too am going to have to say “not going to happen for me” – note I didn’t say “never” because as soon as you put that word out there, it happens. By the Way, I love the outcome of the quilt and agree with the sentiments of the colours and style you’ve created, Catherine…

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  7. Another difference between woodworking and quilt-making: I find it a lot easier to fix a mistake on a quilt! Which is why my husband is the only woodworker in this household!

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  8. Great perseverance Mariss! This proved really worth it in the end your quilt blocks are stunning! Don’t worry about colours being too bright. That Kaffe Fassett demands zingy colours.

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