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Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Quilt Class ~ The Mystery of the Scant Quarter Inch

What is a scant 1/4" seam???

I hear this question all the time.
It was a question I asked myself
when I started quilting.
In quilting we generally sew our
seams with a 1/4" seam allowance.
And that is where this mystery begins...

My first advice would be to get
a 1/4" seam allowance foot for
your machine.  This will help with
your accuracy and it just makes it
so much easier.  The photo above
is the foot for my machine, I love
the fabric guide on the bottom right,
 it makes it sooo easy.  These days,
you can get a 1/4" seam foot for all
sorts of machines, even older models.

Next, you should test to see if your
1/4" foot is accurate.  I run the edge of
an index card along my foot and sew a
row of stitches, then I measure to see
if it really is a 1/4".  Mine was, if yours
is not you will have to adjust for the
difference.  Okay, so now we can sew
a perfect 1/4" seam and that is the heart
of our mystery ~ we don't want that.

WHAT? You may ask?  We don't
want perfection?

Yes, we do want perfection and that is
when we have to think of the whole
quilt block and thus, the whole quilt.
We must take into consideration the
fact that we have to press that seam open
and in doing so will lose just a bit of fabric
as we do so.  And that is where the scant
1/4" seam comes in. 

If we sew all our seams just a bit smaller
than 1/4" (and I mean 1 or 2 thread widths
smaller) we will have room to accomodate
 the loss of fabric as we fold and go over the
 stitching as we press.  If you move the fabric
just slightly to the left of the guard, you
will do just fine.

Okay, at this point some of you are
probably saying, "You must be kidding!
Why should I worry about 1 or 2 threads?"

But that is when I will remind you that we
are quilting!  In a 12" block we can have many
seams as we put that block together and if we
lose just a bit in every seam, they add up to
a big difference at the end.
I am always hearing from quilters that their
blocks don't turn out to be the correct size. 
If you cut correctly and use a scant 1/4" seam,
 your accuracy should improve immensely.

Note:  On many new machines you can move
the needle easily and this would do make the
seam just a bit smaller than 1/4".  Since all
machines are different I can't tell you exactly
how to do this but if you visit the shop where
you purchased your machine, they could tell
you exactly how to do this and that could
make a scant 1/4" seam even easier.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for explaining this. I tried to do some sunflower blocks with a lot of small components, and it was terrible. I think the reason is that I didn't use the scant 1/4 inch. Now I may go back and try again to see if it works this time.