one of the very first things to learn when quilting is the scant quarter inch seam. what is a scant quarter inch seam..? in laymen’s terms, it’s a seam that is just shy of a true 1/4″ seam. in the above photo, you will notice that the white stitching is not a perfect 1/4″, if it we’re we would see the stitching directly under the yellow 1/4″ ruler marking, as it is, the stitching is slightly to the right of the marking, this is a scant quarter inch.
i’ll show you just how to set-up your machine to sew a scant quarter inch seam.
first things first, DON’T stress, i’m a perfectionist and i had to relax and have fun, i’ve read stories from those who have quilted for over 5, 10, 15+ years and they say, they still don’t sew a perfect quarter inch seam every time, as someone who is newer to quilting, that makes me feel better! …and besides a quilt with imperfect seams once in awhile will still keep you warm at night..
secondly, just take it slow… slow and steady wins the race every time!
when i began quilting, i took the 1/4″ seam quite literal and sewed a “perfect” 1/4″ seam, but when i pressed my seams and tested my measurements, it wasn’t so perfect after all…grrrr.. what i didn’t take into account was…….
once you open and press your seam, THE THREAD AND FOLD ACTUALLY TAKE FABRIC AWAY FROM THE TOTAL SEAMLINE MEASUREMENT..
this was a ah-ha moment for me, no wonder why my seams were coming up short, i needed to make adjustments to account for the thread and fold!
let me show you how..
i adore my little 1″ by 5″ omnigrid ruler, i use it for all sorts of things. i purchased it on sale at joann’s for $2.49, a worthwhile investment. you can use any quilting ruler with 1/4″ markings.
- begin with your quilting ruler, slide it gently under your presser foot, as shown in the photo below.
- align your needle to the right of the 1/4″ marking on your ruler.
- gently lower your presser foot onto the ruler to hold it in place.
- use painters tape to mark along side the ruler, you can stack 3-4 pieces of tape, one on top of the other to create a lip. some have used moleskin, but painters tape does not leave a sticky residue.
- lift presser foot, and remove ruler.
now your set up to sew a scant 1/4″ seam..
next, you’ll take your two layers of test fabric and align it with the painters tape, as shown in the photo below, and in this case i’m using the 1/4″ seam presser foot that came with my baby lock, i’m also aligning the fabric with the end of the presser foot as shown by the top green arrow.
begin stitching, remember, slow and steady.. when you’re finished, check your seam using your ruler. you want your stitching to be positioned to the RIGHT of the 1/4″ ruler marking, as shown below.
if it measures correctly, pat yourself on the back, you’ve just sewn a scant 1/4″ seam! if the measurement is off, that’s ok, just repeat the above steps until you get it right. in the long run, you’ll be happy you took time to set this up prior to sewing 30+ seams incorrectly, or worse a whole quilt.
pressing the seam.
now it’s time to press your seams, another important step in quilting. pressing your seams is not the same thing as ironing. ironing is using a back and forth motion to smooth the fabric, while pressing, is literally pressing the iron onto the fabric.
begin by pressing along the stitch line, PRIOR to opening your fabric, as shown below, this step embeds the thread into the fabric, creating a smooth finish with less “bulk”..
next, you will open and finger press your seam. at this point, i will give my fabric a spritz of starch, let it set for 30-60 seconds and then press the seam.
press, lift, press, until you’ve pressed the length of the seam, the starch will give you a nice crisp finish, making it easier to piece your quilt.
now for the final test, use your ruler to measure your seams, making sure they measure correctly. in this case my strips of fabric were 2 1/2″ so the final measurement should be 2 1/4″, since i have one 1/4″ seam and one raw edge..
tada! again, if your seams don’t quite measure correctly, just re-measure and re-position your painters tape and you’ll be sewing scant 1/4″ seams until your hearts content!
note: below is an OPTIONAL SET-UP using a standard presser foot and the needle left position. you’ll get the same results. i prefer the steps above using the 1/4″ seam presser foot simply because i can see the fabric position clearly without looking through the presser foot. if you look closer at the markings on my baby lock [bottom arrow] you will notice that baby lock marks “1/4″”. this is only a accurate 1/4″ seam when the needle is in the left position.
if you have any questions, just leave a comment below!