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1/4" seams, why & how? Please help!

1/4" seams, why & how? Please help!

Old 08-05-2013, 12:28 AM
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Default 1/4" seams, why & how? Please help!

So I am very new to quilting and having this seam problem. I have finished my 1st quilt which is bassinet size- 20" x 30" approx. On it, I didn't really understand where 1/4" was on my machine & so I actually ended up with about 3/8"- 1/2" seams. After re-cutting a few pieces, I made it work. Now, on my 2nd I'm trying to do 1/4"seams & they tend to want to pull out. Is there a reason I can't just re-figure my cut sizes & use a bit wider seam? Any suggestions to fix this? Thanks to all for any help!
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Old 08-05-2013, 01:15 AM
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You would have to really change your sizes if the block is anything but plain squares. Even then you may have to. I don't understand why your seams are pulling out at 1/4". Is your stitch length too long? Are you using regular quilting cotton? If you can, post pictures of your seams (from the wrong side) that show the stitch and the seam allowance.

I'm guessing nearly 99% of the quilting world uses a 1/4" seam and so far, I haven't heard of any problems with seams pulling out. Your quilting experience will be a lot simpler if you can figure out what the problem is and try to use 1/4" (and better yet, scant 1/4") seams.
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Old 08-05-2013, 02:29 AM
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since quilt patterns always use 1/4" seams (some even scant *less than* 1/4" seams) it is important to find & learn to use your 1/4" seam- some patterns don't go together well when you try to increase the seam allowance- can mean re-drafting the whole pattern. take a ruler with a 1/4" mark- put your needle down- with the foot up- place the ruler 1/4" mark even with the needle- then put a piece of masking tape (or something) along the edge of the ruler- marking the 1/4" --- I have one machine that seemed like the feed dogs were crooked or something- I took a stack of about 6 post-it colored tabs (they are about 3/4" wide by 1 1/2" long) stacked together- placed those along my ruler edge & taped them down so I had an edge to put my fabric against. then you need to do a little practicing- cut some strips of fabric 1 1/2" wide by 6" long- take 3 of them and sew them together along the long edge- then measure- the center strip should measure 1" wide. the whole piece should measure 3 1/2" wide. if not- look at your seams- determine why & try again- practice until you have good consistent 1/4" seams. not sure what you mean by your 1/4" seams wanting to 'pull out'--- if the stitches are coming out- you need to backstitch at the beginning & end to lock your stitches- if you mean the fabric is pulling *skewed* at the end of a seam- you need to slow down, pause & re-align the fabrics- sometimes it is necessary to use a pointy tool (some use the end of their seam ripper) to hold the fabric close to the end as it travels under the foot.
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Old 08-05-2013, 02:45 AM
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ckcowl has given you excellent advice. The only thing I would add is to shorten your stitch length - increase the number of stitches/inch - and you should have less issues with your seams 'pulling out'.
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Old 08-05-2013, 03:43 AM
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Great advice above. I agree with the tape on the machine and shortening your stitch length. Without seeing pictures of where the stitching is coming out, I'll guess it could be at the beginning and the end of your sewing. Try Leaders and Enders (as Bonnie Hunter calls them) or Spiders (as Marianne Fons calls them)! That's where you start to sew on a scrap piece of fabric and continue on (without out cutting) to the good fabric you need to sew. I use LOTS of spiders...they're all over when I'm sewing.

The WHY? I think you can call the '1/4" seam' a Standard - like 8 ounces is a 'standard cup' measurement. Imagine the difficulty of making a cake using different sized 'cups'. What would happen if the instructions said '1/2 a coffee cup'...Would I use the 8 ounces, 12 ounces or the 20 ounce mug?

There's LOTS of practice ahead of you! Enjoy it ALL!

Nan - IN
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:07 AM
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All good advice. It took awhile for me to get my 1/4 seams right too
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:17 AM
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Go here:

Print out this graph paper it is 1/4" size. After printing, double check with your ruler just in case there is some scaling issues with your printer.

Take the paper and bring your needle down on any line on the graph paper. Look at where the next line is to the right. That is where your 1/4" is on your sewing machine. Now do what CK Cowl advised and put down masking tape. Take a very find sharpy marker and also mark a little line on your presser foot so you know where the fabric needs to go under your presser foot as well, to maintain the 1/4" seam allowance.

The whys have been explained by previous posters. You really want to master a 1/4" seam allowance so you can make any pattern you come across without having to redraft or be concerned about bulk. If you seams are coming out you need to shorten your stitch length. You can do this!
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:27 AM
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All the above info is excellent, especially the need to master the 1/4" seam before proceeding. In this case, as in most cases, "practice makes perfect".

In addition, many quilters use a separate foot ... a 1/4" foot ... to ensure an accurate seam. You may want to get one for your machine too.

All the best in your quilting.
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:35 AM
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If you were saying the seam seems to veer off at the end, the way to keep a perfectly straight seam at the end is to put your finger against the left edge of the foot and the seam will stay straight. A Command refill strip makes the perfect seam guide, it comes right off with no residue to deal with. It took me a long time to get the 1/4" seam consistent but it is very important when following a pattern.
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:56 AM
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My machine has quilting 1/4 inch foot that I keep the material even with. If you are coming from a garment sewing background the 1/4 inch seam can seem flimsy but it is what most quilters strive for. Can you sew with wider seams? Sure but you will have to adjust all quilt pattern sizes, there will be too much bulk when multiple seams meet and it uses more material.
As others have said, practice getting a true 1/4 inch seam and use a seam guide if necessary.
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