How do you Stitch the Perfect 1/4" Seam?

All quilters know that achieving a “perfect” ¼” seam is the standard of excellence in quilting, but sometimes you might want to use a scant ¼”, especially when you have a multi-seamed project.

Most quilting sewing machines have a ¼” foot – some machines, like the Janome MC9450 have several ¼” feet to suit the preference of every quilts.

Once you have your ¼” foot on your sewing machine, you need to test to see if your ¼” foot is truly allowing you to stitch a ¼” seam. It’s really easy to check this. You need to take 3 pieces of fabric 2½” wide and stitch them together with your ¼” foot. The centre piece should be 2” as ¼” of the fabric has been taken into the seam on both sides - ¼” + ¼” = ½”.

If the centre piece is larger than 2”, your seam allowance is too small/narrow and needs to larger.

If the centre piece of fabric is smaller than 2”, your seam allowance is too big/wide and needs to be narrower. In either case, you’ll need to make adjustments.

How do you do this?

If your sewing machine has the ability to move the needle position, this is what you will need to do in either of these situations. If your seam allowance is too narrow, you will need to move your needle position to the left – away from your fabric edge.

If your seam allowance is too wide, you will need to move your needle position to the right – closer to the fabric edge.

Well this is fine if you have a sewing machine that has a needle adjustment feature, but… how do you get a ¼” seam allowance if you don’t have a ¼” foot?

There are several methods:

1.     Use your ruler to measure ¼” away from the needle and mark this with painter’s tape. Can then use purchased notions such as these purple strips – or make your own guides.

2.     You can use Post-it notes or several pieces of masking tape or painter’s tape stacked up on one another and place these at the ¼” mark on the bed of your sewing machine.

3.     You can also stack up several (many!) index cards, one on top of one another to use as a seam guide.

I’ve covered how to get an accurate ¼” seam on your sewing machine, but what if you want a scant ¼” seam and what is this anyway? A scant 1/4” seam is just a thread or two narrower than a ¼” seam. It can come in handy when you have several seams all coming together as the thread and fabric take up some of your seam allowance, so in this situation, a scant ¼” seam might be the right solution.

Click on the image below to learn more about stitching a ¼” or scant ¼” seam.

 Whether you are using a true ¼” seam or a scant ¼” seam allowance, be sure to use this throughout the entire project so that all of your pieces will fit together the way they should.

How do you achieve the “perfect” ¼” seam on your sewing machine? Let us know in the Comments below.


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