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Thread: Why is a 1/4" seam the standard for Quilting?

  1. #11
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Quarter inch seams are standard because quilts were made with scraps from making clothes and from the good bits of worn out clothes. The quarter inch seam takes a whole lot less fabric. Originally quilts were quilted 1/8th to 1/4th inch apart because the batting was just carded cotton laid on the backing. It had to be close to keep it from shifting.

  2. #12
    Lisa T's Avatar
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    Well, I am going to throw my 2 cents in here, although I am in a very small minority of quilters I would imagine, so it's probably only worth a farthing or a ha'penny or something. LOL!

    I make 1/2" seams! I am just a rebel I guess. I did learn the right way, but I changed my seams about 4 or 5 years ago and have not had any problems with seams coming apart since. I started buying higher quality fabrics, too, but I noticed that a lot of them fray just as much as the cheaper ones, so I don't think that is the issue.

    I do agree with the people who said that quilting more heavily might have prevented your troubles with this one. But maybe you could fix it if you whipstitch the seams that frayed and then quilt it some more. It's really pretty and what a good idea! (OT- Someone just told me that in Europe they have split quilts so that the people in the beds don't fight over the quilt. How clever is that?)

    Here are some of my reasons for not following the 1/4" rule- I live where it's COLD 9 months of the year, and we all love really warm quilts in my house. So when people pick mine up and say, "WOW! That's heavy!" I take it as a compliment.

    I don't make complicated patterns so I don't have to worry much about bulk. I do use a 1/4" when I make a curved seam. I don't think it would lay well if I didn't. I also think if you tried to do a pinwheel or something with a bunch of seams coming to a point with a 1/2" seam allowances, it would give you a big ball in the center.

    As far as price goes, I don't mind spending the extra on the little amount a wider seam adds, although in the past, that may have been a very real consideration for Depression Era women or pioneer women.

    I have changed how I quilt in the past year or so, so that my seams are held down better. Here is my basic process: I sew my top together with 1/2" seams (which I am very careful about ironing to the right sides). Then I spray baste the sandwich (again, watching where my seams are to make sure I don't "flip" any in the wrong direction). I then quilt alongside the ditch, but on BOTH sides of the ditch, about a 1/4" away. So I have two quilting lines, one on each side of the seam, and they are half an inch apart. The fabric underneath, ironed to one side is 1/2" from the seam line, and the quilting is only 1/4" away, so it is "caught" by the quilting and stabilized. Does that make sense? I will post a picture of one that is quilted like that. It looks nice I think, and makes an EXTREMELY sturdy quilt.

    This does sort of limit what patterns I do, but not to the extent that it bothers me. I design all my own quilts on graph paper and 1/2" seams makes the math really easy. I like mostly straight line quilts anyway, like log cabins or appliqued squares, so no fancy piecing. Also, I give most of my quilts away and expect them to be used and in some cases abused. So I do my best to make them indestructible. If I make special quilt, say with a fancier pattern, I would maybe change my ways a bit, but then I also wouldn't use that quilt every day.

    So that was way more than 2 cents. More like a couple bucks. What it's actually worth, well, I guess to some not much, but this is what works for me after much trial and error. I will be very interested in seeing how people reply to this thread. I like to hear the why's behind things, even if they are different from mine.
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  3. #13
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    Well, Lisa, that is a neat way of making your quilts! I like the idea. I was always told you have to sew a 1/4" and because I'm too chicken to try any different way that is what I do. I never thought to ask why though. Thinking outside is always a good thing and I keep hearing there is no quilt police so I am going to do one your way!

  4. #14
    Super Member virtualbernie's Avatar
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    I watched a quilt show a long, long time ago who had a guest there that said it doesen't matter what your seam allowances are as long as all your seam allowances were the same! I forgot what her name was but it made perfect sense to me. Curved seams shouldn't be a problem as long as you clip them--that will make them lay flat. The only problem I can see with large seams is if you are a hand quilter like me, it would be alot of bulk to hand quilt through...

  5. #15

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    Having the quilt in two pieces and zipped is a good idea for the large and heavy quilts, but where in the world did you find a zipper that long?

  6. #16
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    I am enjoying all the responses. Thank-you. I don't know how to Quote Reply so if someone wants to send me a message I will be happy to receive it.
    Deb, I am interested in your 1/8" seam allowance. I have adjusted to the 1/4" seam now but if I change I will go back to the 1/2" seam. I'm with Virtualbernie's instructor that it shouldn't matter as long as all seams are the same size within the quilt.
    Prism, I absolutely agree with you and Lisa on the lack of the number of quilting seams to secure the front to the batting and backing. I hadn't thought very much about the importance of the quilting stitches taking the weight of the wash water, tugging, and such that a quilt gets. I thought more about the way the stitching made the quilt look on the back side. I did whip-stitch the seams that frayed when I washed it. I can't sew through the nubs where the corners meet because they are so thick and hard but I will be thinking of away to add some more quilt stitching to it. I learned a lot making it.
    ScissorQueen, I see your confusion. I didn't wash it before I quilted it. I pre-washed the uncut material and then I washed the finished quilt. I could see the frayed edges because some of the lighter blue 1/2 squares pulled away from the darker blue 1/2 squares when it was washed. (I could see my batting where they pulled apart) Not a lot of them pulled. Maybe 15 or 20 out of the 713 squares. But one pull is too many for me if I can prevent it on the next quilt!
    Pam, my zipper was given to me. It is more heavy duty than I would have chosen but I didn't turn it down! I will do a search later and see who sells zippers by the inch. I have heard they are out there.
    Thanks again for all the feedback.

  7. #17
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    if you want to increase (or decrease) the amount of seam allowance on your pieces, it's hard to figure it out from most written instructions. the most fool-proof way to get accurate results would be to draw each finished piece on graph paper and add your desired seam allowance to that. even then, i wouldn't trust it. also, smaller stitches will keep fabric from fraying better than regular size stitches. so if there's any doubt, go down a few increments in stitch size. and grain does matter regardless of fabric content.

    and i love the zipper idea. i think nancy's notions has the poly zippers by the inch. is poly strong enough or does it need metal? i never saw separating zippers by the inch. tell us if you find them.

  8. #18
    Super Member Olivia's Grammy's Avatar
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    I use 1/4" in everything except flannel and jeans. I have one student that just can't master the 1/4" seam so I have her do WOPF (width of pressure foot). I agree as some one else said, it's not the size it's the consistency of the seams.

  9. #19
    Power Poster sandpat's Avatar
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    I like the 1/4" because if you cut your piece accurately, then sew using your 1/4" foot....no worries about matching things up at all. I would think that using "whatever width you like as long as its consistant" would make cutting very difficult to figure out, but thats just the "math challenged" me talking.

    Thats a really ingeneous idea about the zipper....I bet you need to know how to put a zipper in to do it though. Not something I know how to do!:oops: :lol:

  10. #20
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    Sandpat, I agree 200% that my pieces fit together with no surprises when I used the 1/4" seam. It was so easy that way. There are lots of websites that show how to put in a zipper. I hate to put in zippers, they are my enemy. But I did it and am glad I did because I know now that it can be done.
    Butterflywing, I think any kind of zipper would work. Take something old that has a nylon zipper in it, zip it up and try to pull it apart with your hands. I don't think it will pull apart. My quilt is big but not heavily batted, I think I have from 2 to 5 lbs of weight against the zipper when I am tugging and pulling. Maybe not that much. I don't think a nylon zipper would be stressed.
    I used google:(upper left corner:images:search words:zippers by the yard.
    Sullivan's USA Make a Zipper Kit is listed at Kmart and Createforless.com 3 yards to 5 1/2 yards for $12.39 (Kit includes the zipper pulls). Createforless.com offers more colors. Overstock.com also has some and then I stopped looking. (I didn't fancy my zipper up on the ends, I just cut it and let it be as I cut it. I zip it, use safety pins to keep it from coming unzipped and pulling apart at each end. It is working perfectly.) Should I make a post on the split zipper?

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