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

  1. #1
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    Apr 2010
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    1. Why is 1/4" seam the standard for Quilting?
    2. Does anyone use something wider than the standard 1/4" seam?
    3. Does anyone have trouble with their 1/4" seams fraying when the quilt is washed?

    I made this California King, put a zipper down the center so I can wash it in two halves. I don't know the name of the fabric because it has been in my stash for some time but it was thick and looked sturdy. My outer edges matched when I was making the seams yet some of the seams frayed it when I washed it on delicate. Could those pieces have been cut on the grain and that would be a reason they frayed? Do you think it would have frayed even with a 1/2" seam?

    Before I split it in 1/2 to insert the zipper
    Name:  Attachment-49499.jpe
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Size:  62.2 KB

    The back side before batting and lining
    Name:  Attachment-49500.jpe
Views: 214
Size:  45.1 KB

    Finished and on the bed ( When I zip it correctly my pattern lines up).
    Name:  Attachment-49501.jpe
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Size:  50.0 KB

    On the bed
    Name:  Attachment-49502.jpe
Views: 200
Size:  44.0 KB

    Zipper on the lining side.
    Name:  Attachment-49646.jpe
Views: 190
Size:  52.5 KB

  2. #2
    Moderator sharon b's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Northern Indiana
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    Can't answer your questions , but I love you quilt :mrgreen: It looks so warm and cuddly :thumbup: Never thought to add a zipper to split a quilt , do you see the zipper on the backside ?

  3. #3
    Senior Member renee765's Avatar
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    Jul 2009
    San Antonio, TX
    What a clever idea to put a zipper down the middle of a large quilt to make it easier to handle- ingenious!

    I don't know why we use 1/4 " seams on quilts - maybe it has something to do with not having too much 'extra' fabric inside the blocks (all the seam allowances). I was so used to 5/8" with garments that the 1/4 looked miniscule, and as you point out, sure doesn't leave much room for raveling!

  4. #4
    Senior Member TeresaT's Avatar
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    Oct 2009
    Southwest Arkansas
    When I started quilting I used 1/2 inch seams. I didn't have books or patterns or any kind of instructions. When I did get patterns it took me a long time to get used to 1/4 inch seams. I also think the 1/4 inch is for the bulk.

  5. #5
    Pam is offline
    Super Member Pam's Avatar
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    Apr 2010
    Southern Illinois
    In theory quilt tops are not washed before quilting so ravelling is not an issue. The reason to keep the seam allowances to 1/4" is to reduce bulk.

  6. #6
    Super Member Deb watkins's Avatar
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    Apr 2009
    Horseheads, NY 14845
    On some of the pp, especially the really small blocks/pieces, I was taught to use only 1/8 seam. He has developed a special pp ruler that is just fabulous to work with. George Siciliano was the instructor at the PA Mancuso Quilt show in Philly.

  7. #7
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Dec 2008
    Western Wisconsin
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    Quilting stabilizes the piecing so seams don't fray. I'm thinking there probably wasn't enough quilting for this particular pattern, as it looks as if there are a lot of individual pieces in every section that were not quilted.

    Quilting keeps the seam allowances from rubbing against each other. If you wash a pieced top that has not been quilted, the seam allowances will fray horribly from the cut edges rubbing against fabric.

    In this case, I think 1/2" seams would have frayed just as badly. The only difference is that you would have a little more fabric left in the seam allowance.

    1/4" seam allowances are traditionally preferred for quilting because they save fabric (less cost), reduce weight, and reduce the bulk that has to be quilted through.

    Quilting, aside from keeping the pieced edges from rubbing, also reduces strain on the pieced seams. Seams that have been quilted down to batting and backing are not subjected to as much stress or weight when a quilt is picked up. A wet quilt hung on a clothesline would be an example of water weight stressing seams. Close quilting means that all three layers are bearing the weight of the water fairly evenly. Far-apart quilting means that some of the seams (which are weakest part of the quilt) are not tied to anything that can take some of the stress. The weight of the water can put so much stress on the seam that the fabric fibers start to pull apart.

    My 2-cent theory........

  8. #8
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Jan 2010
    Outer Space
    I agree with Prism. I'd venture to say there wasn't enough quilting. Sorry, what a bummer:<

  9. #9
    Moderator Jim's Gem's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    Camarillo, California
    The other thing you may think about is if this is not 100% cotton fabric that may be some of the fraying issue as well.
    Some blended fabrics or polyesters may fray much more that cotton quilting fabrics.

  10. #10
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Jul 2009
    Southwest Kansas
    I'm confused. How could you tell if the seams frayed if it was quilted? If it wasn't quilted yet you shouldn't have washed it.

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