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Thread: Trouble with 1/4 inch seam - It wants to pull away.

  1. #1
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    Trouble with 1/4 inch seam - It wants to pull away.

    I think I might know what the problem is, however I would like advice/suggestions in case i am wrong.

    I have been fighting with trying to get a 1/4" seam. I have even bought the "sewer's Edge" purple guide, I have a 1/4" foot and I have also used painters tape. One of the issues I have with the tape and edge is that I have a top loading bobbin so it is really a pain to have to reposition everything (along with the fact that there is a slight wiggle on the bobbin cover) when I change the bobbin---so any helpful tips on that irritation would also be appreciated.

    Anyways --- the real problem/reason for this post....I can not seem to get a good 1/4" seam. What happens is that just as it goes under the foot it begins to pull towards the outside, therefore giving me less than 1/4" seam (and not in a good way like a Scant 1/4"--its much more). I am not a speed demon, however I am having to slow extremely slow just to try and keep this "pulling/sliding" from happening. I was wondering if it is because I need to support my fabric better in front/beside/ and behind the sewing arm?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Sally J's Avatar
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    Sounds like you have a problem with your machine. You comment that it "pulls towards the outside"and "slight wiggle on the bobbin cover". I'd have your machine checked.

  3. #3
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    Machine just came back from annual check up/cleaning so im reluctant to think that especially since everything seems the same as before (this is the first time I have used this machine to piece, I usually garmet sew on it). The pull is slight. Aftersewing four strips together, I am off by 1/16th of an inch. The cover has always had movement, even my new BL Esante has the same amount of movement on the little slide that covers the bobbin case (movement is like 1/32 of an inch, not much but makes it hard to attach anything to it). Main complaint about the slide cover is that it has to be removed to replace the bobbin so anything you place over it has to come off to put in a new bobbin, and then its time to "find" my 1/4" spot again. Maybe its just me and I should stick to my garmet sewing.
    Last edited by ZugZug; 06-14-2012 at 04:19 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member DeneK's Avatar
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    Some sewing machines do make it easier to get a 1/4" seam and others make it harder... I thought it was me until I got a new machine and found that my new one just "likes" to sew straight and I don't get the pulling to the inside or outside. My old one was impossible. I have a 1/4" foot with the flange --- the material rides alongside the flange to keep the seam straight. BUT my machine does not have an adjustable needle position so while I get a great 1/4" seam, I can't get the scant 1/4" to save my life.

  5. #5
    Super Member virtualbernie's Avatar
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    I think you just need practice guiding the fabric. Try guiding with one hand (right hand).
    Bernie

  6. #6
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    It sounds like your fabric is too far to the left and is off the right side feed dog. I had a machine that was nearly impossible to get a quarter inch seam on because of that.

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    I sew everything with a walking foot. And 1/4 in. Seam iS not the holy Grail. Keep a consistent seam, pay attention to straight of grain, and always square up the block when pieced. Everything will fit together.

  8. #8
    Super Member dakotamaid's Avatar
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    All good ideas for checking. I would also check the pressure on your foot. I too use my walking foot alot in piecing.
    Have a great day sewing and remember to "not sweat the small stuff"!!



  9. #9
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    I find what helps me most in guiding fabric is to have my left hand on my fabric and my left index finger just at the left edge of my foot. Seems to keep the fabric from 'slipping' as much. If I just try to guide the bulk of the fabric I'm sewing without my index finger next to the foot it slips quite a bit more.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Pat M.'s Avatar
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    If you have a machine that has a needle that can be shifted around, move it to the 1/4" site. I measure from the right side of the foot to the needle and then move the needle to where the 1/4" would be. Also, do you have any lined 3X5" cards? The lines are 1/4" apart and I use them for measuring where the 1/4" is. Put you needle on one of the lines and look at where you sewing should be.

  11. #11
    Super Member irishrose's Avatar
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    Is it a zigzag machine? I just went through this with my GD. She needs a guide of some sort for a 1/4". Moleskin or a screw on metal one are her favorites, but on the ZZ machines, the guides covered too much of the feed dogs and the seam wouldn't stay straight. After trying three machines, I pulled up a 1940s Necchi and the problem was solved.

  12. #12
    Super Member QuiltnLady1's Avatar
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    Some machines have the feed dogs spaced further apart than others and this makes it hard to get the "perfect" 1/4" seam. I find I need to adjust the needle placement to the right or left so that the fabric is over both feed dogs.. I then re-measure and mark the location. I have the Janome 7700 and I use the accufeed for most of my pressing and I have found that the presser foot that is wide enough that I can simply align the needle so the outside of the presser foot is my scant 1/4". I use a ruled 3x5 note card to measure my 1/4" -- the lines are 1/4" apart.
    QuiltnLady1

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  13. #13
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    I used to have the same problem until I read Sally Collins "Mastering Precision Piecing". My problem was two fold ... one was in starting the seam, the other was in continuing the seam.

    When I started a seam I would put my foot down, put the fabric up to the edge of the foot and start to sew. Sally taught me to always start with the needle in the down position, lower the presser foot, raise the foot ever so slightly (enough to get fabric under but not enough to disengage the tension) and butt the fabric all the way up to the needle then slide it over to the right until it's at the correct 1/4" position, THEN start sewing.

    When sewing a seam, especially strips - guide the fabric with your left hand (splayed hand - thumb in front of needle/foot - little finger in back of needle/foot), and feed the fabric with your right hand with the fabric slightly raised off the bed of the machine in front of the foot.

    Also ... I too use a 1/4" guide but I always adjust my needle position to get the right seam allowance.

    Finally ... I use a 1/4" walking foot almost exclusively when I piece. I have a Janome 6600 with the built in walking foot, which was one of the biggest reasons I purchased that machine. I absolutely love it. The walking foot helped, but I still had some issues with uniformity of my seam allowance until I employed Sally's techniques.
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.

    Sue

  14. #14
    Super Member QandE2010's Avatar
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    It helps me if I always grab the top and bottom thread and hold it with my right hand so the needle doesn't "eat" the fabric and it seems to keep the 1/4" that I want, instead of wandering off.
    Alma
    Nami to 6

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    I will check the feed dog position. I had overlooked that as being an issue. Yes the needle is positionable so I will see if moving the needle position helps first. I can get the seam, it just takes forever to sew because I am having to focus on each stitch. Especially since I was taught to adjust the fabric before it gets to the needle instead of at the needle. It really messes with my "mojo"

    Thanks for all the advice and tips! I have been using the graph paper but the lines are a bit wide so I will give the index card a try, especially since it is stiffer card stock.

    Machine is computerized so I have lots of stitches, but only using my basic straight stitch for piecing.

    I will give it all a try next time I scrape away some sewing time. Thanks again!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by DogHouseMom View Post
    I used to have the same problem until I read Sally Collins "Mastering Precision Piecing". My problem was two fold ... one was in starting the seam, the other was in continuing the seam.

    When I started a seam I would put my foot down, put the fabric up to the edge of the foot and start to sew. Sally taught me to always start with the needle in the down position, lower the presser foot, raise the foot ever so slightly (enough to get fabric under but not enough to disengage the tension) and butt the fabric all the way up to the needle then slide it over to the right until it's at the correct 1/4" position, THEN start sewing.

    When sewing a seam, especially strips - guide the fabric with your left hand (splayed hand - thumb in front of needle/foot - little finger in back of needle/foot), and feed the fabric with your right hand with the fabric slightly raised off the bed of the machine in front of the foot.

    Also ... I too use a 1/4" guide but I always adjust my needle position to get the right seam allowance.

    Finally ... I use a 1/4" walking foot almost exclusively when I piece. I have a Janome 6600 with the built in walking foot, which was one of the biggest reasons I purchased that machine. I absolutely love it. The walking foot helped, but I still had some issues with uniformity of my seam allowance until I employed Sally's techniques.
    ahhhh that makes sense....

  17. #17
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    Do you have or can you get a straight stitch sole plate for your machine? You don't mention the brand. A single hole for the needle to go through when straight stitching instead of the ZZ slot made all the difference for me. Just don't forget to switch back to slotted plate before zigzagging. I solved all my problems when we started collecting and sewing on vintage straight stitch only machines.
    Cheryl Robinson
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  18. #18
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Take a couple of large pieces of scrap fabric (muslin is fine), get the stitching started so the threads don't bunch up, then let your machine sew without you guiding the fabric at all. See if it sews in a straight line. What I suspect is that your machine will stitch a curved line (in really bad cases, it can sew a circle!). If your machine does this, take it back to the shop and explain that the feed dogs are out of alignment. This is something they should have checked and fixed at the annual check-up/cleaning, so they should not charge anything additional for fixing this. It seems to be common for techs not to check out *everything* on a machine during an annual check-up.

    Edit: Just caught up with the other posts. Wanted to add that you really do want the feed dogs covered with fabric, even if it means re-positioning the needle.
    Last edited by Prism99; 06-15-2012 at 06:30 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dakotamaid View Post
    All good ideas for checking. I would also check the pressure on your foot. I too use my walking foot alot in piecing.
    I agree--I had this happen once, and it was because the pressure of the foot was too great. Once I loosened the pressure on the foot a bit, no more twisting. Try it.

  20. #20
    Super Member quiltsRfun's Avatar
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    I use a stiletto to hold the fabric in place as it goes under the presser foot.

  21. #21
    Senior Member leggz48's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat M. View Post
    If you have a machine that has a needle that can be shifted around, move it to the 1/4" site. I measure from the right side of the foot to the needle and then move the needle to where the 1/4" would be. Also, do you have any lined 3X5" cards? The lines are 1/4" apart and I use them for measuring where the 1/4" is. Put you needle on one of the lines and look at where you sewing should be.
    This is the best advice......since you can't move the needle, just figure out how to place your fabric through. I've managed to identify a specific location ON THE PRESSER FOOT because I too don't want to have to remove any guides to get to the bobbin. Good Luck!
    Linda

  22. #22
    Senior Member sewgray's Avatar
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    I would start the seam with a scrap of material and butt your piece up to it. That way you don't start on the edge.
    There are different names for this technique, but I can't think of any of them right now.
    Lord, please keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

  23. #23
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    Originally Posted by Pat M.
    If you have a machine that has a needle that can be shifted around, move it to the 1/4" site. I measure from the right side of the foot to the needle and then move the needle to where the 1/4" would be. Also, do you have any lined 3X5" cards? The lines are 1/4" apart and I use them for measuring where the 1/4" is. Put you needle on one of the lines and look at where you sewing should be.



    This is the best advice......since you can't move the needle, just figure out how to place your fabric through. I've managed to identify a specific location ON THE PRESSER FOOT because I too don't want to have to remove any guides to get to the bobbin. Good Luck!

    Or another way to say that:

    Using a 3 x 5 lined index card -

    If your needle does not move - or only has left, center, and right positions:
    Put your needle on one of the lines
    Note where the line on the card is to the right of the needle on the foot
    That is where the edge of your fabric should be

    If your needle position can be moved teeny amounts:

    Put the edge of the presser foot next to a line on the card
    Move the needle so that it comes down on the line to the left (if you are going for scant - then so it's a teeny bit to the right of the line.

    After figuring out where 1/4 inch is on one of my machines, I just make a mental (or sticky) note to myself - I really don't worry about a 1/4 inch foot or marking my machine.

    However - if your machine is feeding the fabric very wonkily - I agree with the others - there might be something wrong with how the feed dogs are operating.

    If you are going

  24. #24
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    One of my guild members spent an afternoon working with anyone interested in perfecting that elusive 1/4" seam... turned out, a major part of MY problem, was my PRESSER FOOT!!! It wobbled as it sewed, so no matter how careful I was, it was WRONG... I sewed on HER machine and my piecing was PERFECT!!! sooooo.... now, I use a different foot on my machine, and it is much better...

  25. #25
    Super Member quiltmom04's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silver Needle View Post
    Do you have or can you get a straight stitch sole plate for your machine? You don't mention the brand. A single hole for the needle to go through when straight stitching instead of the ZZ slot made all the difference for me. Just don't forget to switch back to slotted plate before zigzagging. I solved all my problems when we started collecting and sewing on vintage straight stitch only machines.
    This is my suggestion,too. I have a single needle plate for my machine, and it not only helps with the 1/4" seam, but in that annoying way it sometimes will pull the fabric in at the beginning of a seam. With the single needle plate, it doesn't do that anymore. But I have had to put a big read mark and use the label maker to make a "single needle plate" tag right on the plate, because I kept forgetting it was on there and broke LOTS of needles when I switched to a decorative or zig zAg stitch .

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