Hello there! Today I am sharing my best quick quilting tip with you as a part of Amy Smart / Diary of a Quilter's Quick Quilting Tips and Tricks blog hop to celebrate her new book Fabulously Fast Quilts. Hopefully this tip will help you see a little less of Mr. Seam Ripper.
In the 8 years I've been sewing, I can honestly say there is ONE thing I did that dramatically changed my piecing. For many years, I pieced and pieced always to end up with blocks that were a little off. Sound familiar? I'd heard of a scant 1/4" seam and didn't really pay much attention - thinking I was using a foot that was supposed to be 1/4". But what does the scant mean?
The term scant means just a thread shy of a 1/4". If you never test for 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 dimensions.
The idea is to sew with a seam allowance a little bit smaller than 1/4" - then press open your pieced unit open. We want <1/4" seam + thread diameter + fold to yield a pieced block that is right on the money.
There is a simple test you can do by sewing only 2 rectangles together to see if the seam allowance you are sewing with yields the desired measurement.
For basic sewing machines (Machines with Fixed Needles) - find the test instructions here.
For sewing machines with adjustable needle positions - find the test instructions here.
I also explored how the seam allowance is affected by pressing method here if you want to get crazy with it.
My suggestion is to perform this test for the way you usually sew - and then watch your blocks come together more accurately. I hope this helps some of you avoid some headaches in the future!