We have all heard how important a 1/4 seam is. It sounds so easy, but how elusive it can prove to be. Did you know that the accuracy of your 1/4 inch seam can be affected by the thread you use, among other things.
It is important to check the accuracy of your seams before beginning a new project, especially if you are using a different thread and/or needle size.
Here is my little tutorial on how to achieve that mysterious seam needed for quilting. There is nothing new here, but perhaps you, dear reader of my blog, will find it helpful.
Step 1: I cut three strips of fabric that measure 1 1/2" x 4" wide using two different fabrics.
Step 2: One of the often overlooked keys is how you sit at your machine. It is important to sit facing your machine "square on." As you look at the needle you want your eyes to align with the presser foot in such a way that you are looking straight at it. My machine has a 1/4 inch foot that I use, I make sure the edge of my fabric is lined up with the edge of the foot. My throat plate also has a quarter inch mark that I make sure is lined up as well. One other thing I check is that the top edge of my fabric lines up with the horizontal mark on the throat plate-this tells me everything is squared up and I will be starting with a straight line as I sew. (Notice the two arrows in the photo,)
When I sew I I focus my attention, not on the needle, but on that quarter inch mark on my throat plate. I was so used to looking at my needle from my garment sewing days that it took a bit to realize how much this little change in focus helped.
With right sides together sew the strips together and press towards the dark side.
Step 3: Now I can check how accurate my seam is. The middle strip should measure 1" across.
I want to show you in this next photo how much difference there is if I move my needle over one position on my machine. My machine has the ability to move the needle to the right and left several places. Here I have moved it one position to the right and you can see that the middle strip is now over 1" even though I only moved the needle over a very tiny fraction of an inch, basically a needle width. But just that little bit is enough to affect the accuracy of my blocks.
If your machine does not have this feature you may find it helpful to use a seam guide, of which there are many available options, that will help you line up your fabric on your machine as it enters the stitching area. You might even find placing a piece of tape on your throat plate is all that is needed once you figure out where your quarter inch mark should be. Pictured below are some of the things I have used in the past, before I purchased my current sewing machine, that helped me with acheiving accuracy. These are all adhesive guides that can be removed when not needed. I hope this helps.
This photo only captures about half of the quilting section. Everything was arranged by designer and then in subcategories of their collections. I felt like I was walking among old friends. Ken pointed out to me that I had been in the store before-this was the place I had purchased the fabric for the second quilt I ever made as I began my journey as a quiltmaker-a baby quilt for our firstbborn.
Waiting for my order of fusible to come so I could finish my wildflower quilt meant I have time to do some much needed housekeeping in the quilt studio. For most quilts I prewash my fabric. I admit, sometimes I am tempted to become one of the "no-prewashing" camp; ironing is not my favorite chore. After a wash with mild detergent into the dryer it on the damp dry setting.
Now I have a laundry basket full of fabrics ready to be pressed. One of the keys for achieving straight cuts is to make sure that your fabric is folded correctly. I place the two selvage edges together, hold the fabric up and slide the selvages until it lays smoothly. That is a little hard to explain so I will try to show in pictures how to "true-up" your fabric.
Once the fabric lays smoothly I fold in half again, making sure that the fabric continues to lay smoothly and roll it onto my little bolts. I use comic book boards for this. They are non-acidic and best of all I can get a pack of 100 for around $12.00 on Amazon. Much cheaper than the plastic ones that are sold in some quilt stores. Cut in half they work great for fat quarters too. Clicking on the photo will take you to the link on Amazon for hte boards I buy.
I find it helpful to know how much fabric is on each bolt. After I haev "rolled" the fabric onto the bolt I put a pin in to hold the edge in place along with a slip of paper with the yardage I haev of that piece. When I use some of it I subtract the amount from that number and jot down the new yardage.
Here I have the fabric all ready to add to my stash. I shopped with baby quilts in mind while I was in Portland, trying to fill in some of the gaps in my stash. Still need more purples.
Here is a peak at my closet. It used to be such a jumbled mess before I started storing my fabric this way. Now I can see exactly what I have and easily pull fabric out to audition it for a quilt. I have the main section arranged by color, another section that has batiks, solids, and childrens, and another section with fat quarters arranged by color. Orgainizing my fabric this way has helped me to see what to look for when I stop at quilt shop-I still may just fall in love with a fabric and get it, but I also have a plan for filling in my stash with more color.
Taking life a stitch at a time,