I recently finished a piece that required a scant 1/4 inch seam allowance. This was due to the fact that there were so many pieces and cuts we wanted to be sure not to lose any points and maintain an accurate size for each small block that would eventually become a part of a larger block.
I work on a Bernina sewing machine, which makes scant 1/4 inch seams fairly simple. Our 1/4 inch foot has a guide on the side, so we can cozy our fabric right up to it for accurate seams. I also have a needle control which moves the needle a hair or more one side or the other. It has up to 5 slight spaces to move to the left or right. I generally set mine 3 spaces to the right for a scant seam.
Alright, so here’s the reason we do this. Every machine has a different measurement for 1/4 inch due to the way the foot lies on your machine or the needle positioning. There are many 1/4 inch feet for a quilter to buy, unfortunately they all seem to measure that so important 1/4 inch differently. When we are creating our masterpieces we don’t want to have one piece not match up with another, so we find a way for seam consistency. I generally dislike unsewing or as many of us refer to ripping what we sew. Because of this, I don’t like to practice my seam on pieces from my quilt. I try to find better ways to measure that little allowance.
I have recently started using a neat way to check your machine to see how much it, or rather the foot, is off. I stay at hotels often, so I take the note pads they leave by my bedside. The lines on these pads are 1/4 inch apart. ( you can also use a note card. ) I cut off the last line and use that edge as it was my fabric edge. I then sew and hope that the seam ends up on the line. If it doesn’t, I make adjustments and then begin my project. Can you see how the one on the right is off considerably? The more pieces you have in your block, the greater discrepancy this will cause.
There is tape you can use, it is sold in the sewing notions section of any fabric store, called omnigrid glow line tape. It comes in fluorescent pink, yellow or orange. It isn’t sticky so it won’t leave residue on your machine, it is actually made to mark your rulers. I will sometimes use it to mark where my fabric should match up to for my scant 1/4 inch.
Whether you decide to use the scant 1/4 inch or the approximate 1/4 inch your foot may make, the important thing is consistency. Remember, it’s really just a play on words, we can call it a scant 1/4 inch or a true 1/4 inch seam. The one thing that is certain, you need to find yours and make a note of how you get your 1/4 inch. I recently taught my granddaughter Gabby how to make a simple 9 patch. She is 8 and enjoys quilting on one of my featherweights. We didn’t worry about whether the seam was scant or not, we worked on consistency of the seam allowance. Please post comments if you have something I may have omitted to add to this post or if you have any questions. And as always…