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Thread: 1/4 seam vs scant seam

  1. #1
    Junior Member stephaniequeen's Avatar
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    What is the difference between a 1/4 inch seam ans a scant seam?

  2. #2
    Super Member cabbagepatchkid's Avatar
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    I was just reading about this in a quilting book. The explanation goes something like this: the line of stitching takes up some room (even if it is only a very small bit) and so that it doesn't take up room "within the block" you sew a scant 1/4 inch so that the line of stitching is taking up room in the space between the 'block' and the 'seam area'....Is that clear as mud :lol: ?

  3. #3
    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
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    I was watching an Eleanor Burns video earlier today. She always uses a scant seam. She says that it is one thread shy of the full 1/4".

  4. #4
    Senior Member sammygirlqt's Avatar
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    Very well explained cabbagepatchkid. When I sew a scant 1/4" I am sewing less the thread thickness which is about 1/32. In my opinion this started as people did less pressing in their block constructions. In the past we had that thread in the seam taking up space but we still sewed 1/4" but we pressed seams at each stage of the construction. I had an excellent teacher and friend who taught me proper pressing and I have had some good chuckles when other describe how they press.

  5. #5
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    Hi,

    I always piece with a scant 1/4 inch seam.

    I have the Babylock Symphony....the quilt piecing stitch for 1/4 inch is set at 5.5 on it, that's a true 1/4 inch.
    I piece at a stitch setting of 6.0 which is a scant 1/4 inch.

    When you use a true 1/4 inch and press your seam to one side you are losing that "one thread width" as Eleanor Burns says, so your stitch is now 1/4" plus that tiny width.

    If you sew with the scant 1/4" and then press...it's a true 1/4" when done.

    That's how it was explained to me.......not so much the sewing of the seam, but the pressing it over is where you lose. Make sense? Hard to explain....

    Hope that helps.

    Bev

  6. #6
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    and the fold of the fabri also takes up a small amount of space making the seam less than the desired 1/4"

  7. #7
    Super Member fayzer's Avatar
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    I am piecing my first quilt now. I measured, then remeasured,
    then put blue painters tape on my thread guide for the scant 1/4". Every time I look at my blocks, I can only envision them coming apart in the washer. I'm using LQS fabrics and still nothing reassures me that this thing won't come apart after a few washings.

  8. #8
    Senior Member jean1941's Avatar
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    sammygirlqt How are we to press?

  9. #9
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    Depending on what I am making I may use a true (or scant) 1/4" or I may just follow the 1/4" guide on my foot (which will result in slightly more than 1/4" finished seam after ironing).

    The important thing is if you start one way - you continue that way throughout the whole project. Uniformity is the key.

    Right now I'm piecing a border, a tricky one, and because the corners of the pieced border are complicated the seams throughout the whole project MUST be 1/4" FINISHED (ie after ironing). Why? Because I've already done the math for the pieced border and that math say's my finished size has to be exact - which means my seams have to be exact. So the first thing I will do is sew seams using the same fabric I will be using in the project, sew what I believe to be a scant 1/4", iron my seams, then measure my finished piece to make sure that the measurements are true. With a pieced border that will meet precisely in the corners - if I'm off 1/32" ... times EVERY seam - it could translate into a very big mistake once I reach the corner of a 50" border!! So it must be precise and it must be uniform from the first to the last seam.

  10. #10
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    Thak you for asking this question and thanks to all of you who responded. Till now, I really didn't understand the difference. Now that I do ( I think ) I am going to place the blue tape on my machine to mark the scant seam 1st thing in the morning.

  11. #11
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    Consistency is the key. Sew a sample with scraps to make sure you are coming out to the correct finnished size. Try several. Label each one of your samples with precise notes so that you know what really works for you. Pressing is very important IMO. I press the piece as sewn first, then I press my seams open. To me, it reduces bulk as well as makes lining up next piece much easier. Your quilt will not fall apart in the wash even with these tiny seams! Typically everything overlaps so that all pieces are 'locked' into place. Even with open seams. It may be that you need to cut a smidge larger and trim for some or all blocks. Whatever works until you get there.

  12. #12
    Super Member fayzer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Quilter
    Consistency is the key. Sew a sample with scraps to make sure you are coming out to the correct finnished size. Try several. Label each one of your samples with precise notes so that you know what really works for you. Pressing is very important IMO. I press the piece as sewn first, then I press my seams open. To me, it reduces bulk as well as makes lining up next piece much easier. Your quilt will not fall apart in the wash even with these tiny seams! Typically everything overlaps so that all pieces are 'locked' into place. Even with open seams. It may be that you need to cut a smidge larger and trim for some or all blocks. Whatever works until you get there.
    I have a quilt on my bed that is fraying. It is 2 years old. I did not make this quilt, I bought it. It makes me sick because it is my favorite quilt. It was't cheap either!

  13. #13
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    To me, fraying would be an indication of the fabric itself breaking down versus the actual construction of the quilt.

  14. #14
    Super Member fayzer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Quilter
    To me, fraying would be an indication of the fabric itself breaking down versus the actual construction of the quilt.
    The fabric is strong. It is the tiny seams. I think a scant 1/4" is the pits! I'm ready to start making mine 1/2".

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by fayzer
    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Quilter
    To me, fraying would be an indication of the fabric itself breaking down versus the actual construction of the quilt.
    The fabric is strong. It is the tiny seams. I think a scant 1/4" is the pits! I'm ready to start making mine 1/2".
    Interesting. If it is a mass produced quilt? that may be the problem. It might not have been sewn w/ 1/4" seams - only trimmed to that (or something smaller?).

  16. #16
    Super Member fayzer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Quilter
    Quote Originally Posted by fayzer
    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Quilter
    To me, fraying would be an indication of the fabric itself breaking down versus the actual construction of the quilt.
    The fabric is strong. It is the tiny seams. I think a scant 1/4" is the pits! I'm ready to start making mine 1/2".
    Interesting. If it is a mass produced quilt? that may be the problem. It might not have been sewn w/ 1/4" seams - only trimmed to that (or something smaller?).
    That may be the problem. Scant 1/4" seem to be the only way to make my blocks and points match.

  17. #17
    Senior Member PiecesinMn's Avatar
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    There are patterns that you absolutely need to 1/4 in order for the pattern to work. Mary Ellen Hopkins books/patterns she has the PPM as she calls it (private, personal measurement) and as long as your sewing is consistent throughtout the construction of the quilt, these patterns will work. This is not true with all quilt patterns. My opinion, if you need to learn to sew consistent to have your quilts go together, might as well learn to sew a scant 1/4 inch and be any to piece it all. Still working on that skill.

  18. #18
    Super Member TonnieLoree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PiecesinMn
    There are patterns that you absolutely need to 1/4 in order for the pattern to work. Mary Ellen Hopkins books/patterns she has the PPM as she calls it (private, personal measurement) and as long as your sewing is consistent throughtout the construction of the quilt, these patterns will work. This is not true with all quilt patterns. My opinion, if you need to learn to sew consistent to have your quilts go together, might as well learn to sew a scant 1/4 inch and be any to piece it all. Still working on that skill.
    Isn't Mary Ellen a hoot? I sure enjoyed her episodes on Simply Quilts.

  19. #19
    Senior Member PiecesinMn's Avatar
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    Love her. Quite a few number of years ago she was at a local quilt shop for a lecture kind of thing. She was absolutely wonderful. If she was still doing things like that in my area, I would go in a heartbeat.
    Quote Originally Posted by TonnieLoree
    Quote Originally Posted by PiecesinMn
    There are patterns that you absolutely need to 1/4 in order for the pattern to work. Mary Ellen Hopkins books/patterns she has the PPM as she calls it (private, personal measurement) and as long as your sewing is consistent throughtout the construction of the quilt, these patterns will work. This is not true with all quilt patterns. My opinion, if you need to learn to sew consistent to have your quilts go together, might as well learn to sew a scant 1/4 inch and be any to piece it all. Still working on that skill.
    Isn't Mary Ellen a hoot? I sure enjoyed her episodes on Simply Quilts.

  20. #20
    Super Member Kappy's Avatar
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    Why or why can't patterns be made that use a "regular" 1/4 inch. Would be so much easier!

  21. #21
    Super Member fayzer's Avatar
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    From the "Queen of Ripped Seams," nothing matches, points are off, corners don't meet.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kappy
    Why or why can't patterns be made that use a "regular" 1/4 inch. Would be so much easier!
    Read carefully - some are/some aren't. If you're trying to hone your skills, maybe try some that don't emphasize the 'scant' seam allowance. Or, cut your fabric about 1/16 - 1/8 larger than what is called for in the pattern and use a 'full' 1/4 in. seam until you are more comfortable with it. I always do this with pinwheel blocks for example. The squares are always cut at x 7/8". I cut at the full inch measurement, sew and then measure from the center of the unit and trim accordingly. Works for me. In fact I recently finished a quilt for my niece that was a bazillion pinwheel blocks and had no problem with points matching using this method.

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