Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tips, Tricks, and Tuts Tuesday - 1/4" Seams

I know I'm probably "preaching to the choir" but just in case I'm not and one soul is saved from a disaster, than it's worth repeating.  Today's Tips, Tricks, and Tuts is all about 1/4" seams.  1/4" ACCURATE seam allowances are a MUST when quilting!

I hear so many say they use their 1/4" foot on their sewing machine so it must be accurate and right.  NOT!!!!  It can be but I'll bet it isn't.  Mine sure wasn't!   And the 1/4" foot isn't the only thing that comes into play when trying to get an accurate 1/4" seam.  In reality, it's not really about the accurate 1/4" seam, it's about getting an accurate seam allowance that when pressed, results in the needed size block.  Believe it or not, the thread you sew with, the thickness of the fabric you are sewing, and how sharp you press the seam all play a role in getting the desired results.

This example below is an example of what my seam allowance is using my 1/4" foot on the top one and my adjusted seam allowance on the bottom.  There isn't much difference but it's enough to wreck havoc with the fun of putting together a quilt when the pieces won't fit.

This hows the two pressed open.  See how much difference that becomes when you multiply it by the two blocks.  

So how do you get an accurate 1/4" seam?  It's really very simple.  Take two identical pieces of fabric and sew them together using what you think is 1/4" seam allowance.  Press the seam allowance open and then measure the block to see if it adds up to the needed size.  

In my case, I'm using a 3 1/2" block.  Two sewn together should measure 6 1/2".  In my example above, the incorrect one using the 1/4" foot measured 6 1/4".  That 1/4" too short, which isn't much.  I more than likely could ease in 1/4" and make it fit.   But what if that were a 1 1/2" square being sewn together.  Now I have to ease in 1/4" in a 2 1/2" space instead of 6 1/2" space.  Not so easy to do in a shorter space.  See what I mean?

So if you can't get an accurate 1/4" seam allowance using the 1/4" foot for your sewing machine, how do you fix it?  You have a couple of options.  In my case, I move my needle position over one notch on my sewing machine settings and it fixes my problem.  If you can't move your needle position, take a piece of tape (I like to use that wonderful 3M painters tape and the King likes it too when we do.  wink wink.) and place it where it's needed for your guide to stitch the seam.  

Remember that example above... I made a 9 patch block example below.  The one on the right is sewn with the correct seam allowance to get a 9 1/2" unfinished block.  The one on the right is sewn using the 1/4" foot.  Now that 1/4" difference just became 1/2".  

And look what happens when I try to sew two 9 patch blocks together....   They're off 1/2" and the seams don't match.

And what happens when I try to sew a 9 patch block to a solid block that is cut 9 1/2".  It should fit but it doesn't.  Again, a disaster waiting to happen.  

Since I pretty much use the same thread on all my piecing projects, and I've figured out my needle position, I rarely check my 1/4" seam unless I notice that my fabric is a definite difference in weight (and even though it's all "quilt shop quality" fabric, there IS a difference in weight sometimes).  I will almost always check it if I'm working with really small pieces also.  By doing this, I can switch from one sewing machine to another on the same project and still have happy results.  

I hope the Tips, Tricks, and Tuts Tuesday on 1/4" seams help....  and may all your 1/4" seams be accurate and your bobbins be full!



  1. WoW!!! This is mind blowing!!! Now I know why I have had problems with blocks not matching!!!!t Thanks for these tips!!

  2. Preach it, sistah! It doesn't matter if you think your quarter-inch is perfect--it's the size of the resulting patchwork that matters. Oh how I wish everyone knew this. Thanks for a great post!

  3. Oh thank, thank you. You have helped clear things up immeasurably. Now how do we get an accurate slightly less than a 1/4" I tend to avoid these patterns because I can not seem to make the block look right. Sigh.
    quilting dash lady at Comcast dot net

  4. I know that when using my 1/4" foot, I have to move my needle over from 3.5 to 4.5 on my Janome to get that elusive scant 1/4" seam. I have a customer quilt on my frame right now that is made up of 2.5" squares sewn into 6x6 blocks and I think the blocks were made by many different people with completely different ideas of what a 1/4" seam is...there is pulling on the smaller blocks and "fluffy" where the blocks are too large. My customer knows that there are "problems" with this quilt top and expects tucks (more then the tucks sewn into the blocks)...it is a donation quilt and I am not charging for the quilting...but I think construction of a quilt in all stages needs to be done well! If I wasn't pressed for time, I might consider taking the whole thing apart and fixing all the problems, but I don't like frogging that much!!! Keep on telling people the right way to do it! I love that Bonnie Hunter makes sure her students master the 1/4" seam at the beginning of EVERY class!

  5. It is also important to use the same machine for the quilt! I've created some blocks for a quilt on one machine but I know that when I start putting the blocks together I'll be doing it at a retreat with my featherweight, so I need to be sure that all of the block-putting together needs to be done on the FW...even if I have to continue to use it when I get back from retreat.

  6. This is definitely information that deserves to be repeated. It's a vital part of a enjoyable quilting experience. I've been explaining this to quilters for many years. Thank you for doing your part and posting a very comprehensive article about the subject.

  7. The paragraph above the third pictures refers to the right square twice but never refers to the left square. I'm assuming the one on the left was *not* made with the 1/4" foot?


Your comments make my day. I love to hear what you have to say. Please leave me a comment.

© The Quilting Queen Online | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Created by pipdig