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Feb 12, 2013

Scant Rant: A Quarter Inch Seam Tutorial for Basic Sewing Machines

Feb 12, 2013
Pin It Scant Rant Part 3 - Fixed Needle Position Sewing Machines
Since writing the original Scant Rant: 1/4" Seam Tutorial post, it was brought to my attention that not all sewing machines have adjustable needle positions.  Of course!  My first sewing machine, a basic Janome, was a great beginners machine with only one needle position.  I brought it out to find the scant 1/4" seam for those with this type of sewing machine.

Spending just a few minutes to find the 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.

Janome basic machine

Placing a Piece of Tape as a Guide.
If the needle on your sewing machine is in a fixed position (i.e. you cannot shift it right or left), an easy way to find your scant 1/4" is to find the sweet spot and place a small piece of tape on the throat plate to serve as your guide.

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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), using the edge of your presser foot as your guide.  Press seam in one direction or open.  [Use your preferred pressing method - more details about how pressing method affects scant seams here.]
  2. Measure the block to see if it is a 2" x 2" square.
  3. If the block is short, you will need to place a piece of tape slightly to the left of the presser foot edge.  
  4. If the block is too long, you will need to place a piece of tape slightly to the right of the presser foot edge.
  5. Continue shifting the tape a little at a time until you find the sweet spot where the block measures 2" x 2".
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Scant rant for basic machines scant quarter inch on basic machine 2
In the photo above, you can see how much I needed to move the tape to the left in order to achieve the scant 1/4".  This measurement may be just a few millimeters, but that dimension will add up to a larger amount with each seam you sew in the quilt.

Scant quarter inch on basic machine

After finding the correct location for the tape, line up your squares and/or rectangles to be sewn with the tape and (not the edge of the presser foot) each time you need a scant 1/4".  And keep the kiddos fingers from peeling it off!


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7 comments:

  1. That's a great idea...nice tape too. =) I still have to sit down and do this, but I don't think I've sewn much since you started the series, so I think I'm sorta safe. =) Thanks for doing this AnneMarie!

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  2. I've also heard that putting a stack of the narrow Post-it tabs down works well too, since it will create a ridge that keeps your fabric from going over the line.

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  3. Thanks - that is really helpful

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  4. I have an old credit card taped to my machine just in front of the feed dogs. I guide the fabric along the card and I don't really have to keep an eye on it.

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  5. :) That machine has all the same stitches, etc, as the green Hello Kitty Janome that I have. And I have a piece of tape on mine to mark the 1/4".

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  6. I enjoyed reading your posts about seam allowance. Tonight I was trying to make a block from a tutorial for a bee
    http://themodernquiltguild.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/100-days-week-of-shapes-tutorial/#comment-21168
    I thought about your posts and I think I figured out what needed tweaking in this tutorial. Thanks for your posts about it or I don't think I would have thought of it as quickly. Thanks!

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