Want bump-free quilt blocks? Try Jo Morton’s clippy trick (video)

Jo's Little FavoritesLittle quilts are so appealing because they’re fun to make and easy to finish. That’s precisely the reason Jo Morton, author of the super-popular book Jo’s Little Favorites, loves designing on a smaller scale. Being the quilt genius that she is, Jo’s come up with a wealth of tips and techniques for successfully piecing diminutive blocks, including an excellent trick for reducing the unwieldy bulk at seam intersections.

When a block finishes at just 4″ or 5″ square, the multiple fabric layers at the seam intersections can make the block look and feel extra lumpy. The intersections of a small block also tend to be quite close together, making it difficult to press and evenly distribute the seam allowances. Jo’s clipping trick is a simple but effective way to eliminate that problem, resulting in tidy and flat blocks that are much easier to piece together and quilt. Lucky for us, Jo herself explained the trick and showed the back of one of her small Ohio Star blocks at Spring Quilt Market in May. Here’s the video.

(Reading this post in email? Click here to view the video.)

How quick and easy is that? You can imagine how handy this trick is for a quilt like Beth’s Baskets from Jo’s Little Favorites. The 4″ x 4″ Basket blocks contain many seam intersections in close proximity:

Beth’s Baskets from
Jo’s Little Favorites

Here’s a close-up photo of the back of the Basket blocks, where you can see how Jo used her trick to clip and press the seam allowances to distribute the bulk. To quote Jo, “If the back looks nice, the front will look nice, too!”


I’m currently working on making the sweet Indigo Stars Doll Quilt, which finishes at just 12½" square, a perfect small canvas on which to practice a bit of hand quilting. Jo’s clipping trick works like a charm for these little Star blocks as well!

Indigo Stars Doll Quilt
Indigo Stars Doll Quilt from
Jo’s Little Favorites

Once you’ve made a few of these charming little masterpieces, you’ll want to put them on display. The book includes lots of helpful ideas for decorating your home with small quilts. Here, Cabin Corners is paired with a bowl of antique treasures. Placing one edge in the bowl gives the quilt a lift and invites a closer look from across the room.

Cabin Corners from
Jo’s Little Favorites

Along with her clipping trick and 13 classic quilt patterns, Jo has dozens of other great tips and tidbits to share in her book. Whether you’re a reproduction-fabric devotee, a little-quilt lover, a scrap collector, a longtime fan of Jo Morton’s club, or all of the above, Jo’s Little Favorites will be a delightful addition to your quilting library.

More from
Jo’s Little Favorites

Pressing matters: seams to one side or open, which way is your preference? Tell us in the comments!





32 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I use both methods depending on the complexity of the block. I use the open seams approach and do not fear this technique as some quilters are negative to this method. I do need a smaller tip iron when I do open seams as the heat can be hard on fingers.

    —carol on July 15, 2016

    —helen cox storey on July 15, 2016
  • I press to the dark and always try to rotate the intersections.

    —Angie Little on July 15, 2016
  • Usually press to one side (the darker if possible). Love her tip for those small intersections. As a long time clothing sewer before discovering quilting, I was always carefully pressing seams open and clipping. Will have to be more aware of where I can use her technique to improve my blocks.

    —ADKKate on July 15, 2016
  • Most of my seams get pressed to one side but there are times when pressing open is a better option.

    —Nell on July 15, 2016
  • I used to press to one side with all quilts. I now favor pressing seams open–it looks nicer on the top. I quilt in the ditch quite a bit with open seams, too.

    —Judith Gunderson on July 15, 2016
  • I do both – it depends on the block, the quilt and/or how I’m going to use the quilt. Miniature quilts are don’t get as much handling and washing, so I’m inclined to press seams open. This is also good because I normally hand quilt my miniatures. I love the clipping idea and will definitely try that with my next mini.

    —SuzKuhns on July 15, 2016
  • I tend to utilize both ways according to what works best for the end result. If I am making a quilt for my grandchildren, I would press the seams to one side for stability. However, if the quilt is for decorative purposes, then, I would probably press them open to help the look of
    finished quilt.

    —Rebecca on July 15, 2016
  • I normally press to one side but press open in some cases. Also do the twirl like shown in the example.

    —Peggy on July 15, 2016
  • Most often I press the seams to one side.

    —Carol K on July 15, 2016
  • Open! It is only an issue with your quilting, so think ahead! (which I don’t always do)

    —Scarlett on July 15, 2016
  • Press open evens out the bulk.

    I’m not much of a quilter and wondered why pressing to the dark side would be preferred? On the back, the light side would press to the light side and the dark to the dark. I don’t understand. I’m sure someone will explain…

    Sometimes as a dressmaker I have to decide which way to press the seams. I have more opinions about that!

    Hi Sheri, I believe the pressing-to-the-dark-side rule is to avoid seeing the seam allowances through the front of the quilt. That being said, there are exceptions to every rule and rules were made to be broken 🙂 Thanks for your question! –Jenny

    —Sheri on July 15, 2016
  • I do both depending on the project, what the quilt will be used for and how many bulky seams there are. I have not tried the clipping method. Would like to learn how to do this!

    —Patty on July 15, 2016
  • It depends on the results of the piecing and how the seams come together. I press to the side most of the time, but if the bulk of the seams is really thick, then I press open.

    —Vicki Sprain on July 15, 2016
  • I mostly press to one side. Occasionally I will press open if it helps eliminate bulk. Thank you for showing your technique to lessen bumps, can’t wait to try it!

    —Terri Tresise on July 15, 2016
  • It depends on what use the quilt will have; but usually I press open for a nice flat block. Thank You!

    —LINDA on July 15, 2016
  • Press to one side 99% of the time. Occasionally have to press open for a particular block. ("There are exceptions to every rule")

    —JanG on July 15, 2016
  • I like to open my seams, to clip would not work for me. But what I do for hand sewing is different than machine and the pattern makes a different too.

    —Linda Christianson on July 15, 2016
  • I usually press to the dark side, but if the seams are too bulky I will definitely press open to reduce the bulk.

    —Marion on July 15, 2016
  • I was taugh to one side .

    —Rose Gibbons on July 16, 2016
  • To one side. Love the tip on clipping the 1/4″ seam to avoid the lumpy bumpy. Something I did as a sewist, and now will apply as a quilter:)

    —Diane B on July 16, 2016
  • I almost always press the seams on my little quilts open. I love how flat and accurate my blocks become. I also do quite a lot of Jo’s clipping trick and I love it too. Makes seam connections so nice and flat.

    —Kathleen King on July 16, 2016
  • Usually press toward the dark and spin when possible. Now I’ll be clipping also. Thank you

    —Jan on July 16, 2016
  • I prefer seams to one side, but occasionally the seams a just to thick so I open them.

    —Judy B on July 16, 2016
  • I usually press to one side but there are times when it is necessary to press seams open, if there is a lot of bulk, although the clippy trick may reduce those times. When I do press seams open I use a sleeve roll from my days of sewing garments.

    —Glenna Denman on July 16, 2016
  • It’s an remarkable piece of writing designed for all the internet people; they will take benefit from it I am sure.

    blog on July 16, 2016
  • Usually press to the dark, or the side, but sometimes pressing open is the only way to make a flat seam. I sometimes clip when seams don’t cooperate. Love Jo’s tips!

    —Linda Towers on July 16, 2016
  • I prefer to press my seams to one side.

    —Marie on July 17, 2016
  • I usually press to one side.

    —Nancy Lanier on July 20, 2016
  • I do both, Some quilts call or doing both, but mostly to one side.

    —Shirley on July 22, 2016
  • Press to the dark. I do swirl though!

    —Sara on July 26, 2016
  • Thanks for the tips. I love anything that will give me better results!

    —Mary Smith on October 7, 2016

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