How To Sew Accurate 1/4″ Seam Allowances?


Did you know that you can take two standard hexagonal pencils, rubber band them together, and they will draw two lines that are 1/4″ apart? So, if you want to mark your fabric for cutting and sewing, you can easily do it in one step using these magic pencils.

Over the years, quilters have found that a ¼” seam allowance is perfect.  It is just enough to keep the pieces together without adding bulk to the finished top.


Sewing accurate 1/4 ” seam allowances every time will go a long way toward sewing square blocks that are all the same size.  The time you spend now marking your machine or testing the measurement of your presser foot may save you time, frustration and fabric in the long run.

To test your machine measurements for a 1/4 ” seam allowance, cut two small scraps of fabric 1” by 4” long, then sew the 4” sides together using a 1/4 ” seam allowance as measured by your presser foot or the throat plate on your machine. 
  
Remove the sewn strips from your machine and press the seam open, folding the entire seam allowance to one side (toward the dark fabric).  Now measure the strip from the raw edge to the seam allowance.If the measurement you get is 3/4 ”, your machine or presser foot is marked for an accurate 1/4 ” seam allowance.  If not, keep reading, and you’ll be guided through the steps to get an accurate 1/4 ” measurement.
  
Many quilt shops sell a special presser foot that is made to measure a 1/4 ” seam allowance. As you sew, line up the edges of the fabric with the side of the presser foot.  This should result in an accurate seam, but you still will want to check it out. 
  
There are a couple of different models on the market that are made to fit most machines.  In addition to style differences, there is a difference in the length of the shank.  Mine happens to be a low (or short) shank. Check your machine before you purchase one.  Or, you may want to take the whole presser foot off your machine and take it to the store with you.  If you do that, be sure to unscrew the entire unit from your machine.  Taking only the “quick release” presser foot won’t be enough to determine exactly what you need.
  
Using the “Little Foot” on my machine, I match the edge of the fabric to the edge of the presser foot to get a 1/4 ” seam allowance.

Without the Little Foot

You really don’t need to buy this attachment.  Before I had the Little Foot, I measured ¼” from the needle in my machine out to the right, then placed a strip of masking tape or moleskin on the plate of the machine. 

To get an accurate placement for the tape, you will need a 1/4 ” measurement on a small piece of paper (approximately 2” by 4”). 

Graph paper marked in a 1/4 ” grid is the easiest.  If not, you can take a plain piece of paper and create your own grid. 

Another method is to use a lined index card.  The blue lines are spaced 1/4 ” apart.

Once you have the paper, lower your needle into one of the intersecting points on the grid, as shown in the red circle in the picture to the left. Making sure that your paper is squared up with the sewing machine, place a piece of masking tape against the right side of the paper. 
  

Leave the masking tape, remove the paper, and test the measurement as you did before sewing a seam in the fabric strips.

The masking tape will serve as a guide for the fabric to get an accurate 1/4 ” seam allowance. 

You could use moleskin instead of masking tape.  One thing about moleskin – it has some thickness to it, and can be used as a kind of “wall” to butt the fabric strip up to. 

Sewing a seam wider than 1/4 ” may be a problem with the moleskin still there, but it can easily be removed and rep Did you know that you can take two standard hexagonal pencils, rubber band them together, and they will draw two lines that are 1/4″ apart? So, if you want to mark your fabric for cutting and sewing, you can easily do it in one step using these magic pencils.

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