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May 22, 2014

Quick Quilting Tip: Scant 1/4" Seam

May 22, 2014
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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!



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4 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh!! Well okay now that I know the allowances may be off for reasons other than I cut it wrong :) I may start to like piecing again. Thanks so much for sharing your research!

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  2. Great tips & pics! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Great suggestions. And, being an 1/8" off on a 4 patch will make your block start out 1/2" off. No wonder it drives folks crazy.

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  4. I attended a Bonnie Hunter workshop this week, where she discussed this very issue. But her approach is to add a few threads when cutting fabric by placing the ruler line just outside each cut of fabric. Instead of aligning our ruler lines with our mat lines and cutting right on those two lines, slide the ruler line just outside the mat line (next to the fabric edge), and cut there. These few extra threads add enough to account for the fold when pressing a 1/4 inch seam.

    Colleen @ Made By Colleen

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