Quilting Blog

3 Ways to Master the Perfect Quarter-Inch Seam

In quilting, one of the most important techniques to master is the quarter-inch seam. It is also one of the hardest. Even experienced quilters struggle with their seam allowances. There are some tricks and tools that will help you master the perfect quarter-inch seam. Perfect seam allowances, combined with accurate cutting and proper pressing techniques, will result in blocks that are square, points that line up and quilts that are perfect every time.

Here are three ways to master the quarter-inch seam:

1. Quarter-inch foot

Most newer machines come with a quarter inch foot, but many older machines do not. If you don't have a quarter inch foot for your sewing machine, it is worth the investment. The quarter-inch foot allows you to line up fabric with the edge of the foot to achieve a quarter-inch seam. Each quarter-inch foot might be a little different. Use a piece of template plastic to see where exactly on your foot the seam falls. Is it just inside the foot, right at the edge or just outside?

use template plastic to check seam allowance

If you don't have template plastic, you can use a ruler. Gently use the flywheel to lower the needle until it touches the ruler at the quarter-inch mark.

check seam allowance with ruler

2. Tape your machine

A quarter-inch foot will help your seam allowances, but if you find your seams are still off, make sure you are lining up your fabric properly. You can use Glow-Line tape or masking tape to mark the quarter-inch seam on your machine, leading up to the foot.

use tape to mark seam allowance

This gives you a much longer edge for lining up your fabric, and if you keep your fabric against this line, you can be sure that when it arrives under the needle, the seam will be perfect.

pivot fabric with fingertips

3. Checking your seam allowance

The quickest way to check your seam allowance is to use a ruler to measure the seam. However, you'll want to take it a step further to be sure that your finished block measures true. After stitching, press your seam. Measure the newly stitched piece. The width should be the width of the two pieces, minus .1/2". For example — a 2" piece and a 3" piece would be 4.5" wide.

If your piece is to wide or too narrow, it may indicate an issue with cutting or pressing or it may be caused by the bulk of the thread. When seams are pressed to the side, one layer of fabric is pressed over the seam and seam allowance. The bulk caused by the seam and seam allowance can make the block slightly smaller.

If you find that your blocks are consistently a thread or two shy, you may want to adjust your quarter inch seam to a scant quarter-inch seam — a seam allowance that is just a thread or two shy of being a full quarter inch. You'll find that this will resolve any issues created by the seam and seam allowance.

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8 Comments

Andrea Thalmann

Pam M Thurston

Reply
Rosemary McMurphy

Post-it pads work also.

Reply
Ardith

I help youngsters in 4-H sew and we use weaatherstripping its removable and works great so they can line it up further back and keep their fingers back further from the needle.’

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Christine Monaghan

I use my 1/4″ foot and move my needle position 2 clicks to the right for a perfect scant 1/4″ allowance. Worked beautifully on the last quilt I did. I only had to square up after I did my quilting.

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Bebe

Exactly what I do!!

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Char

Hi Christine,
I can not tell you what a headache this scant 1/4 in. seam has given me. My squares did not end up measuring correctly so then tried to measure for the scant on my machine. I have tape which still allows for me to not be steady enough with my hands. I now have index cards piled and taped so I have a quide to lean on but if I could adjust the needle as you suggest that would be perfect. Do you mean to change the general number 3.5 up 2 clicks on machine. On my machine that would be 4.5. Thanks and wait to hear from you.

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Luke Smith

Thanks for mentioning that using a ruler to measure the seam on any garment is the quickest way to check your seam allowance. I would think that in instances like this, having some sort of seamer or similar machine would make the process much easier. I would imagine that such products would b e readily available online.

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