Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Beginners Unite! Sewing a scant quarter inch

We've covered accurate cutting and the next step for blocks that come together smoothly is sewing that scant 1/4" seam. 

For those that have a quarter inch foot for your sewing machine, it is still important to find that sweet spot. To show what a difference the seam allowance makes in your accuracy, I have sewn two units using a scant quarter inch and using just my quarter inch foot. (I will address finding a scant 1/4" if you don't have a quarter inch foot as well.)

To start, I raided my 1 1/2" scrap bin. If you are looking for that perfect seam allowance I recommend cutting up quite a few strips at 1 1/2" x 4 1/2" or a bit longer. This is a nice, manageable size for easy piecing. 

First, the scant quarter inch.

I know that there are many who want exact measurements for what a "scant" 1/4" means. I am not going to give you that. 1) I have no idea what teeny tiny measurement that is. 2) I truly believe the perfect scant 1/4" for your machine is something you need to take the time to find. Once you find it, you will never go back. On my machine (it's hard to see in the picture) the sweet spot is with the fabric just inside the 1/4" foot. 

If I line the fabric up with the foot, I consider this a 1/4" seam. (If you look closely you can see the fabric in the second picture is a little further to the right.)

So what is the difference?

Can you see it? The top is the scant 1/4" seam. 

Here I have pressed the seam to the dark side. If you look closely at the 2 1/2" marks on the ruler you can see they are on the fabric. 

Here, the 2 1/2" marks on the ruler line up along the outside of the fabric. Does this really make a difference?

Ignoring the fact that I did *not* cut accurately and my pieces don't match up, you can see that the 4 1/2" marks are still on the fabric.

Look at the difference on this one, though. My ruler marks were just on the outside of the fabric after the first seam, now however I've lost almost 1/8" of an inch after just three seams. Imagine what this would mean in a block that has 18 seams, or a top with hundreds.

What if you don't have a quarter inch foot? 

First, grab your ruler. Carefully, and by hand, put your needle down until it is on the 1/4" mark on your ruler. Place a piece of tape along the ruler. This is not the scant 1/4" seam mark, this is your starting point. Once you have your mark you will want to do the same thing as above. Sew 1 1/2" strips together, press towards one side, measure. 

The goal is to have the ruler marks along the inside of the fabric edge. If the marks are on the fabric, but there is fabric showing between the ruler marks and edge of the fabric, your seam allowance is small. If the marks line up along the outside of the fabric edge, your seam allowance is too large.

To help keep the seam allowance correct, line up your ruler along the new, correct line, and either place tape along the edge, or draw a line with a permanent marker.  Eventually you won't need this reminder, you will be able to mark it just by looking at it, but to start you want something to line up your fabric with. If/when you get a new machine, or a quarter foot, you will want to go through the process again to find that sweet spot. 

Happy accurate stitching!

1) Intro - May 2
5) That crazy scant 1/4 inch seam allowance - You are here
7) HST - Half Square Triangles (My one true love) - June 13
8) Flying Geese - June 20
12) Adding Borders - July 18
13) Sandwich that top - July 25
14) Quilting - August 1
15) Binding - August 8
16) Labels  - August 15

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