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Feb 6, 2013

Scant Rant: A 1/4" Seam Tutorial

Feb 6, 2013
Pin It Scant Rant A Quarter Inch Seam Tutorial
Ok, so it's not really a rant per say.... but I wanted to ask if you've tested your 1/4" seam for accuracy? Don't make the same mistake I did!  For years, YEARS!, I sewed with a true 1/4" seam.  I never took the time to find the scant 1/4" and as a result, my seams and resulting block sizes were always a little off.

Spending just a few minutes to adjust your machine to a scant 1/4" will save you many headaches in the future.  The term scant means just a thread shy of a 1/4".  If you never test it, you don't realize that your thread and the pressed fold take up some space in the measurement, usually resulting in blocks being short of their required finished dimension.

Here are some helpful hints:
sewing machine feet
Presser foot.  My machine comes with two default general presser feet.  The zigzag foot and satin stitch foot are used for most stitches and straight line sewing.  The 1/4" foot is specifically for quilters trying to sew that perfect 1/4" seam.  If you don't have a 1/4" foot already, I highly recommend getting one.  The black guide on the right hand side of the foot helps position your fabric by butting the edges of the squares right up against the guide.  I sew with this foot 99% of the time.  My accuracy (or should I say consistency) is much improved using the guide.


default v. adjusted needle position
Needle Position.  Many times, the needle position will need to be adjusted from it's default position to achieve the scant 1/4".  In the photo above, you can see that when I try to sew a 1/4" seam with the needle in it's default position, the block is slightly shy of the 2" x 2" block is it supposed to be.  It takes a little time to play with shifting the needle to find where it hits exactly on 2".  After finding the correct position for the scant 1/4" seam, adjust your machine to that needle position every time you sew.  It will seem like a hassle at first, then it will become an automatic part of sewing, just like grabbing that diet coke before you begin.  :)  I find it helpful to have a sticky note with the adjusted needle position written down stuck to the side of my machine.
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The Test.

  1. Cut (2) 1 1/4" x 2" rectangles.  Sew along the 2" length with right sides together (RST).  Press seam in one direction.
  2. Measure the block to see if it is a 2" x 2" square.
  3. If the block is short, your needle will need to shift to the right.  
  4. If the block is too long, your needle will need to shift to the left.
  5. Shift the needle one or two notches at a time until you find the sweet spot where the block measures 2" x 2".
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13 comments:

  1. I had assumed for years that it was just something I was doing wrong, since my blocks were never square. I finally said NO to the Quilt Police who were forcing me to keep the needle position in the center. Once, I moved it I've been happy ever since.

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  2. I have a comment about the 1/4 inch foot which I bought and do not use. Since it has a single whole needle adjusting is not the suggested thing to do. I tried it and felt like my needle was rubbing against the whole on the foot. So I'm using the masking tape method instead. Just a thought! Thanks for the tutorial!

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    Replies
    1. It sounds as though not all 1/4" feet have room to adjust your needle position.. Thanks for pointing that out Kati!

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  3. You've solved all my problems in one little post :-) My blocks NEVER are square (or exactly the right size) NEVER. I'll have to look into getting that 1/4" foot for my little Janome... you can't put a price on precision! haha
    Thanks for putting this tutorial together AM!

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  4. I'd love to buy a 1/4 inch foot! Great tips, thanks!

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  5. Lovely post! I am in love with a scant seam. Actually, I may be more than scant. I like a little wiggle room to make sure I get my measurements. I'd much rather trim a teeny bit than be under in total size.

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  6. My biggest turning point with getting a scant 1/4" actually came down to pressing open rather than to the side - and it was actually your charmed prints QAL that made me realise how off my seam allowance was before I looked into it :o)

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  7. I started the BOM without knowing my machine's scant 1/4", so the blocks I've done already are a little small. Should I find the scant 1/4" now, or just finish out the year with what I've been doing? I don't want to have to trim a bunch of fabric off of the later block and possibly mess up the design.

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    Replies
    1. It's really up to you whether you want to find your scant 1/4" now - but I agree that it would be easier to keep the seam you are using consistent throughout the blocks for the BOM. Although they will be short, sometimes just the knowledge to realize why that is happening will help you from tearing your hair out??? :)

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  8. Haha true. At least I know why my grandmother's frame is small!

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  9. So... which Janome do you have? And where do you put your needle to get a good 1/4" seam? I put my needle at 4.2. :)

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    Replies
    1. I have a Janome 4900. I actually have to move my needle from 3.5 all the way to 5.0 for my scant 1/4"!

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  10. I was starting to wonder if the "scant" 1/4" seam was some sort of urban quilting legend! I've measured my finished seam several times and it has always been exactly 1/4". It's good to know the needle might need to be moved to get the scant 1/4".

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