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The Quarter Inch Seam

Before you begin quilting, you MUST learn to make an accurate 1/4" seam.  Here are some tips...

You must learn to make an accurate 1/4 inch seam before you begin quilting.  If you do not perfect this basic fundamental of quilting, you will be stretching blocks to make them fit together, your quilts will become distorted, your edges may ripple, and your quilt will not lie and hang flat.  

When you learn to make a perfect 1/4-inch seam, all your pieces go together like a puzzle.  Take however much time it takes to learn how to do it on your machine.

Be honest with yourself when working on this skill.  Do not say "close enough".  Little discrepancies add up to inches.  If you are sewing 15 blocks together, that is 14 seams.  If you are off 1/16th  of an inch in each seam, by the end of the row you will be off by almost an inch.

Most quilters tend to sew their seams too wide.  The reason you are told to sew a "scant quarter inch" is that when the seam is pressed, some of the fabric is "held up" in the fold or by the thread. 

Try not to over steer your fabric.  Let the feed dogs under your presser foot do the work they were designed to do- to move the fabric along.

How do you learn to make a perfect quarter inch seam?  Practice!  Practice! Practice!....and use your tape measure.  Each sewing machine is different.  Some sewing machines come with a quarter inch foot.  This foot will either allow you to run the edge of the presser foot along the edge of the fabric to achieve the 1/4-inch distance, or it will have a bar along the side to run along the fabric edge, as in the picture above.

Some machines allow you to move the needle to different positions. 

When none of these options are available to you, tape can be put down in front of your presser foot to use as a guide.


No matter what you do, you will need to practice.  Just attaching a 1/4 inch foot to your machine is not enough.  You need to sew and measure until you get it right.

You also need to test your seams.  One of the easiest ways to do this is by sewing two fabric strips together, and then measuring them to see if they are the correct width after allowing for the seam.

Cut two strips of fabric, 2x4 inches.  Sew them together.  The seam (if correctly sewn at 1/4 inch) should use up 1/2 inch of fabric.   That means your block should measure 3 1/2 inches.

As a further test, each side of the above test should measure the same- 1 3/4  inches.  Make sure that you are also doing a good job of aligning your edges together.

Try sewing 3 strips together, then 4.  Remember to always subtract 1/2-inch for each seam.  You may find that you have to adjust you seam depending on your fabric or your ironing.

Do not skip this exercise and you will be rewarded over and over again.  Do whatever it takes to perfect the 1/4-inch seam!

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