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Thread: Need help With 1/4 inch seam

  1. #1
    Super Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Mabank, Texas

    Need help With 1/4 inch seam

    Please help me. I have read over and over again about what to do to make sure your 1/4 inch seam is really 1/4 of an inch and just can't seem to make it come up exactly 1/4 of an inch. What happens if it's off a tiny bit but all of the seams are sewed at the same width? Will it screw up my quits really bad or will it just make the pattern be a little larger or smaller depending on which way the seam is off?

    When I piece the pieces together and pressed them, they lay flat. However, I keep reading about how important it is to keep seams at 1/4 inch.

    Thank you in advance for your help.
    Fabric is like money, no matter how much you have it's never enough.

  2. #2
    Super Member Vanuatu Jill's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    Ramona, California
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    I use a 1/4" foot which helps alot. I think it is well worth the cost (not much, I just bought a new one with a fabric edge guide for my Brother for $12.99.

  3. #3
    Senior Member AndiR's Avatar
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    Nov 2010
    S. Dakota
    Betty, on certain patterns it will not matter. For instance, a Rail Fence block, where you sew three strips together. If the measurement is supposed to be 6-1/2" and yours is 6-1/4" wide, just cut the blocks 6-1/4" in the other direction so they are square. Your finished quilt will be somewhat smaller, but if you don't tell anyone they won't ever know {smile}.

    Other patterns, however, are more critical. Certain stars blocks may have their points cut off - that type of thing.

    Did you know that the ruler you use can make a difference? See my post here Did You Know.....Not All Rulers are Created Equal?

    And I also have a post on how to achieve that accurate 1/4 inch seam here: Achieving an Accurate 1/4" Seam Allowance

    Keep in mind that you don't really care that the seam on the backside of the block is perfectly 1/4", it's the measurements on the FRONT side that matter.

    Good luck!


  4. #4
    Super Member QuiltnLady1's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Andi has a great tutorial about this.

    Here is what I do:
    1) Make yourself several 2.5" strips, sew them together then press them open. They should measure 4.5".

    2) If your sewing machine allows you to adjust your needle and if your sewn strip is less than 4.5", then move your needle a bit to the right, stitch and measure again -- play with this until your strips are the correct size and make a note of your needle position.

    3) If your sewing machine does not allow the needle to move, use a piece of blue painters tape to mark your sewing line and adjust it until your sewn pieces are the correct measurement.

    What happens is that your fabric, when it is pressed open, takes up some of the finished width of the fabric and the little adjustments compensate for this. When you reduce the width of the seam to accommodate the fabric, this is called taking a scant 1/4" seam.

    Something else that can drive you nuts -- always measure on the same side of the line on the ruler. Decide what side you are going to use and stick with it because switching your cutting guide from "inside" to "outside" can make a couple of thread difference in the with of a strip and in a large quilt it can make you way off.

    When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

  5. #5
    Super Member newbee3's Avatar
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    Aug 2010
    Central Iowa
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    do you have the capability of moving the needle ??? Just measure 1/4" from the needle and use whatever foot you have. You can also put down tape to mark the 1/4" usually make it a little less that is a scant 1/4"

  6. #6
    Senior Member pacquilter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Getting a 1/4" foot a few years ago really revolutionized my quilting..I can't imagine being without it now. You still have to apply some control, but it makes it much easier having the guide.
    Last edited by pacquilter; 03-20-2012 at 12:46 PM.
    Bless, O Lord, the works of my hands....

    P. C.

  7. #7
    Power Poster
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    Mar 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    If you are doing a repeated block, the 1/4 inch seams are not as important as if you were doing a sampler quilt. When you do different blocks with a variety of pieces the exact seams are important for all the blocks to turn out the same size. I have a patchwork foot for my Bernina that makes a perfect seam but there are lots of other solutions for different machines. First test the 1/4 inch seam on your machine. If you have a machine that you can move the needle position, that might work for you. Some people like to mark the machine bed with a guide from masking tape or sticky notes. Try the different feet from your machine, maybe a zipper foot will work?

  8. #8
    Super Member ghostrider's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Quote Originally Posted by QuiltnLady1 View Post
    1) Make yourself several 2.5" strips, sew them together then press them open. They should measure 4.5".
    Two strips should measure 4.5", I agree, but the test is much more accurate if you sew three strips together and make sure the center one measures 2" while the total measures 6.5".

    Also, you should press the seam the way you usually press your seams when making a quilt. If that's to one side, without setting the seam first, then do it that way for your test. It won't do you any good to adjust everything to a pressed open seam if you never press your seams open.
    The Earth without art is just "Eh".

  9. #9
    Super Member soccertxi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Glendale AZ
    These quilters have given you wonderful resources! Don't forget to BREATHE! oh..and sometimes for me, bad weather and not holding my mouth just right will affect my seams too! ::::grin:::::
    Beth in AZ
    Innova 22' with Lightning Stitch and Pantovision
    Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great. Mark Twain

  10. #10
    Super Member MacThayer's Avatar
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    Jul 2011
    I just couldn't get that 1/4" seam either, no matter what I did, and even with a 1/4" foot. I finally cut some test material, put it front side down on some fine sandpaper (so it wouldn't move or stretch) and drew 1/4" seams on my material. A lot of material, by the way. Then I started sewing, carefully keeping the needle centered right on that 1/4" line I'd drawn. You know, it really didn't take me all that long to figure out what I was doing wrong. I measured and measured. As long as I stitched on my line, I was getting perfect 1/4" seams. Which served to prove that I was reading the 1/4" foot all wrong. By continuing this process, I learned to "read" the foot correctly. It was a small error, but a huge one when magnified over and over. I now, finally, sew 1/4" seams. Now I'm working on that ever elusive "scant" 1/4" seam, whatever that is. I know if I'm going to do this one, it has to be consistent. But lots of patterns call for it, so I'm going to learn it, whatever it is.

    Just keep practicing. And take that tutorial! You'll get it.

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