Oct Tip - Gettin an EXACT 1/4" seam

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

If I could type/spell this early in the AM the title would say "Getting"................................

I'm reviitalizing this thread based on the "scant" 1/4 discussions/concerns that have come up recently. The bottom line is - every quilt pattern uses a "scant" 1/4. It's not specific to quilters cache. What is often missing on QC is them telling what size each of the components of a block should be before you start putting that (9-patch) together.

There is a lot of good info in this thread.

Since the "exact" 1/4" seam is the one rule of quilting that is never waived, figured it would be the best place to start.
I'll add some techniques I've picked up over the years and anyone else is welcome to post any I miss.

Do not be afraid to ask questions................... that is why we are doing this.

1) Just because your machine comes with a 1/4" foot does not mean it is EXACTLY 1/4"
2) Just because your machine comes with a 1/4" needle position does not mean it is EXACTLY 1/4"
3) How you sit at your machine will affect the 1/4" seam (chair height, left or right of needle, machine sitting above table, etc)
4) Not all rulers are created equal
5) Not all machines are created equal (don't change machines in the middle of piecing a quilt)
6) Not everyone "sees" 1/4" the same
and I'm sure there could be more added.

The attached quilt is made of the Aug BoM squares. Were all of them 12 1/2" (by my eye)? No
Were they 12 1/2" by the makers eye? Possibly
Could I still use them all in a quilt? Yes

This message was edited Oct 4, 2009 6:38 AM

This message was edited Aug 2, 2011 6:21 AM

Thumbnail by Qwilter
Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

I have a Bernina quilting machine and a Viking. I have a very hard time piecing with my Bernina. The 1/4" foot (to my eye) is wider than 1/4". The Viking has a needle set position that gives me a very accurate 1/4" but, using that I can't use my "single hole throat plate", and I have to remember to move the needle. The 1/4" foot is a tad wider than I'd like it to be, but I've gotten used to it.

Some ways to measure the 1/4" machine setting/foot:

You will need some accurate graph paper, plastic template (ruled) sheet, and plain printer paper.
Draw some lines on the printer paper @ 1" apart. Unthread your machine and sew 1/4" from the lines you drew. Take a good quilting ruler (the one you normally use) and measure the width. If it is exactly 1/4" you are set. Please let us all know how you got that setting on your machine.

If it is not exact, get the accurate graph paper and sew down one of the lines and see where the next 1/4" marking is in relation to the edge of the foot.

Try adjusting your chair height or where you sit in relation to the needle and try again. If moving 1 direction doesn't work, try another. Find the setting that is most comfortable for you.

If you can see where you are off here are a couple things you can do.

If there is an unmarked edge on the plastic templare sheet, accurately cut it off 1 side (a sharp rotary cutter will work).
Place the template sheet under the needle and lower the needle into a marked grid line, 1 in from the edge (1/4").
Lower the presser foot.
Find a parallel line (line on throat plate, bibbin case, etc) and make sure the template paper is perfectly straight. It's a good idea to also use a ruler to double check. Tape the template plastic down in a couple places, raise the foot, with a very fine pencil (mechanical 5 lead) mark the edge of the plastic sheet.

Remove the plastic. Sew using that drawn line as your setting - not the edge of the foot. Is that now an accurate 1/4"?

If so, you can use a very fine tip permanent marker to mark that line on your machine or you can cut the template and place it on the bed of the machine, lined up to the drawn line, and tape it in place. You can even color the edge with a permanent marker to make it easier to see.

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

There is also the trick of building a "bumper" to ride the edge of the fabric against. Usually you use a few layers of painters tape, tape that to your machine to "ride" your fabric against.

If you are doing this, make sure it is not under your presser foot. If it is, your foot will not lower properly and you will possible end up with some tension problems.

If you do this on the machine body, not directly under the foot, make sue you don't wobble when you get up to the needle.

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

When sewing 1/4" from a drawn line (1/2 square triangles) or on a drawn line (flying geese, snowballs) make sure you use a very fine tipped pencil to draw the line. Either sharpen it well or use a #5 mechanical lead.

Always sew 1 thread to the inside of the drawn line (pressing will take up that 1 thread).

OK, It's time for my 2nd cup of coffee.

Look forward to hearing any additional tips and seeing if these will work for you.

(thunder)Wildwood, FL(Zone 9a)


link to tips for getting accurate 1/4 " seams....with photos for those of us that just have to see it to get it (including me)

the "bumper" is my best friend, on one of my machines.....

when ever I switch stitches on my "new" machine...going from decorative stitching back to straight stitches for piecing...I always do a "test" piece..to check my seam allowance.
I usually use some of those triangle pieces cut off the edge from doing 1/2 squares, or flying geese......stitch a few through the machine, I measure the seam allowance as the piece is feeding out from behind the needle, and if it looks good, I run a few pieces through, then press, and measure to be sure it still looks good. I have a great 1/4 foot, but sometimes I still need to but up against the edge of it a little more, or a little less.

I definitely agree that if you have changed chairs, or moved your machine at all you can get a different seam.

taking the time to check, takes just a couple extra minutes.....a pain in the butt when your in a "hurry" to see what your pieces are going to look like when you get them together...I know....butttt a few minutes now...saves taking seams apart later!!

I keep a "mini" square ruler, next to my machine at all times. same brand as the ones I use for rotary cutting..so I can do a spot inspection here and there, as I am sewing to be sure I am staying "on track"

whenever I use a quilterscache pattern, I add a touch to the measurements when I cut pieces, and use a scant 1/4 to sew.

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

To go along with the 1/4" seam, measure your units as you go. If making a 12" (finished) block, using a 9 patch, each of those units will be 4 1/2" (raw). It may help to invest in some of the smaller square rulers. I use my 4 1/2" frequently.

The more pieces in any block, the more important that 1/4" seam becomes. 1 thread may not make a difference if there are just 4 seams, but becomes very important if there are 20 seams in a block.

(Barb) Manchester, NH(Zone 5a)

The way I learned to find the 1/4" seam was to cut three pieces of material all at 1+1/2 inches wide. Sew the three of the strips together and press well. The center strip should measure exactly 1 inch. If it is too narrow, your seam allowance needs to be made smaller. If it is too wide, your seam allowance needs to be made bigger.

I do like your suggestion Jean as it seems easier to do. It's strange the different ways we have been taught to do the same thing.....

Fostoria, OH(Zone 5a)

OK, I finished the September block on Sunday and it was lots of triangles. I measured my 1/4" foot to see if it was right on and it was so I used it but hugged the edge to make it a little tighter. Everything proceeded smoothly until I got done and measured the block; it was just a little over 12", not the 12.5 it should have been!! Boy, was I mad.

Is there a way to measure the pattern ahead of time to see if you need to go short on the seams or cut the pieces bigger than the pattern says? I hate it when I am cleaning up scraps, make a block I like, and find out it isn't the right size and have to do it all over with different fabric. Is it just me?

(Barb) Manchester, NH(Zone 5a)

Janice you have a d-mail...

(Barb) Manchester, NH(Zone 5a)

Oh and Janice - have a nice trip
And Mittsy - have a safe journey to Florida.
Thinking of you ladies as you travel.....

(Marion) Havana, FL(Zone 8b)

Oh wonderful Mittsy will soon be back in the sunshine state---Not!! Pouring down rain today.

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

OK, the Sep block was just a bunch of squares - 4 across & 4 down so each of those squares needed to be 3 1/2".

I NEVER cut anything to be an "1/8". I always round up. You can always trim away but can't add on.

So, for making the 1/2 squares I would have used 4" squares. You can even use 4 1/4" if you would feel "safer". Just square them to 3 1/2" after making them.

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

so, when it calls for cutting 3 3/4" squares, you cut 4" ? then square up as you go to keep the correct measurement? I had a pattern that called for 2 7/8" squares, never had anything to difficult to cut in my life...
My machine table has a ruler guide embedded in the finish, so I don't have to move to measure, which helps tremendously, but I've not tried to cut 'up' on the beginning pieces, will have to try that when I get back to sewing this week. I'm working on 2" square Christmas scrappy placemats at the moment.

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

Only cut bigger if making 1/2 or 1/4 square units. Sew the pieces together, cut, press, line up the seam with the diagonal line on the ruler, and trim to the required size. You will get "perfect" squares every time. Might take a bit longer but worth it in the end.

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

got it! That should make it much easier on the scrapbag pieces that I'm saving for a scrappy postage size 1 1/2" square finished..Thanks!

(thunder)Wildwood, FL(Zone 9a)

ewwww.....Kizmo caught the "scrap" bug from me!!!!! she's doing the 1.5 thing !!!! Y'all better watch out....ya might catch it too LOL ^_^

Kathy, want to swap some little squares ???

(Barb) Manchester, NH(Zone 5a)

Talking of little squares - I learned how to do Seminole patchwork two weekends ago. I'm amazed at small you can make the squares!!!! I really liked it.

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

sure, Thunder! I probably don't have as many scraps as you do, though! Still a rookie here, ya know....
I'll have more after I get my Christmas stuff done. Don't have them cut into squares yet, some of the ones I'm doing are triangles that I have left over that will be joined together for squares. I'll let ya know when I get a pile or two... LOL

Sounds like a swap thing.......

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

Kizmo - If you want periodic deliveries of small pieces, let me know. I always have lots to share, don't I Thunder?

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

That would be nice, Jean. It's a good way of collecting bits and pieces of your friends, don't ya think?

(thunder)Wildwood, FL(Zone 9a)

well we need to see some pics of that Barb...

qwilter, and many others have shared some great little scraps with me !!

I would be more than happy to share some of my scraps with you Kathy..anything you don't want at all? do you want anything in particular? I have all sorts; solids, Halloween, Christmas, red whites and blues..etc... you are cutting 2" ?

(Marion) Havana, FL(Zone 8b)

Kathy, I will gladly cut for you as well as Thunder. Don't mind cutting the tiny pieces but don't ask me to sew them together. LOL

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

no, I'm not going to ask you to join them together... LOL Gee, I have to save the 'fun' for myself, don't ya know!!! I think 2" squares are about right, the triangle pieces I have saved are from 2", so by the time I get them together, hopefully they'll be somewhere in that range! I just figured it was a good way to make a 'collections' quilt: bits and pieces of fabric that I've started with. Of course, if I add in pieces from the quilting groups, that makes it a bit more special!
I just hope I can swap something with you all that will be different!

(Marion) Havana, FL(Zone 8b)

Ok, so you want 2" squares?

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

1 1/2 - 2" would be fine.. either/or I have a pile started for 2" squares and a bag for the 1 1/2". I made a few 1 1/2" squares from triangles, didn't do too bad - so I tried making a 9 patch out of 1" strips LOL (read: I think I'll go back to the 1 1/2" as the smallest. My SIL is doing the postage stamp size, she must have the patience of Job.....

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

OK - I took this pick for Thunder, but think Kizmo needs to see it also.

Twis was at the JAX Quilt show. Over 8,000 pieces. There are a couple 3" pieces here & there

Thumbnail by Qwilter
(Marion) Havana, FL(Zone 8b)

Oh my wasn't what I needed to look at before I had my coffee. I will certainly support Kizmo and Thunder but no way would I undertake that. Good luck!

(Barb) Manchester, NH(Zone 5a)

Kizmo - yopu mentioned that you had a scale on your machine that you used to check you seam width. Be careful when doing that as that measure and your cutting ruler measure may not be the same. I always use the same ruler when measuring any part of the same project. Just a thought... Barb

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

Barb, the one on my machine is pretty accurate, amazingly enough. But I do have a 4x18 that I keep on the right of my machine table and a 6 1/2 square up...... good idea to mention though!

Jean, ................. Jean, Jean,,,,,,,, are you trying to give me ideas???????? I do distinctly remember you and Thunder making the comment about me eventually having lots of WIP and UFOs laying around....LOL Actually, that quilt looks like one of those pixel projects.. no, wait.... if I squint my eyes and lean to the left, I think I see a ...... no, maybe to the right just a little, it looks like a ...... LOL

Ah, come on Marion.... don't cha want to sit and cut up little squares in your spare time???????

(Marion) Havana, FL(Zone 8b)

Surely you jest Kizmo!! I cut the squares as I cut my fabric and drop them in a basket, when it is filled I then mail. I sent Thunder some here a while back so will save for you now. 2" X 2" is that the right size?

I hear ahoy calling me!!! LOL

Gainesville, FL(Zone 9a)

I would love to see the back of that quilt. Amazing. Love the tip thread and the sticky idea.

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

2x2s will be great, Marion! Do you guys swap these out on a regular basis? You must have hoards (sorry, that's the pirate in me.. LOL) of squares! But that's what makes it neat, all those different ones! I need to get one of those small portable cutting mats so I can bring it downstairs with me while we watch our SyFy movies and such.

Jean, was the back of that quilt just a plain or print, or did she do something spectacular as well for the backing? One of the quilts at the little show I went to had a calico for the back, but they had worked in squares of a contrasting color from the front in an X from corner to corner, suppose like a reversible type. The front was gorg-e-ous, don't think I could have covered it up if it was on my bed or wall...

Wichita, KS(Zone 6a)

another Syfy fan! yay!

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

I didn't look at the back. There was no white glove lady nearby.

Gainesville, FL(Zone 9a)

Thats what I call them too.. 'the white gloved ladies'

Im guessing thats not there real title??

This message was edited Oct 7, 2009 4:57 PM

Wichita, KS(Zone 6a)

Usually they are trained ninja warriors in disguise. Touch that quilt and hiyahhh!

(Marion) Havana, FL(Zone 8b)

ROFLOL, Sondra I have always suspected that. Good to have it comfirmed.

Gainesville, FL(Zone 9a)

hahahahaha...your not kidding. thats a good one

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

yep, hubby is a dedicated SyFy fan, has tons of books that are in series, knows which actors played on what shows, even in costumes... drives me insane!!!! LOL but I like the SyFy channel, has a lot of good shows. I guess I needed a break from Fox News and DIY lol

I wondered why those ladies had white gloves on, I just assumed it was something the diehard quilters took to the shows with them so they could examine the quilts....... guess I have a lot to learn!.. I can just see one of those White Handed Ninja's in action!

Wichita, KS(Zone 6a)

now every time you see someone at a quilt show with white gloves on, you are going to bust out laughing and have everyone looking at you like you are an insane quilter lady seeing ninjas :)

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