Updated: Jul 21, 2021
I struggle with this post simply because I am more of a free spirited improv quilter and tend to work without a pattern so I don't always worry about a perfect seam. With that being said, I feel it is important to share with you why a consistent .25 inch seam is important when following a pattern.
A pieced block can have many seams and a quilt can have many blocks, sashing and borders. Lets just work up and example.
An extra 1/8 (0.125) inch per block multiplied by 10 blocks results in a 1.25 inch decrease in each row. This does not take into consideration sashing, cornerstones and borders. I have seen as much as 3-4 inches of difference in the actual measurement vs the intended measurement of the pattern. It all goes like a snowball downhill from here. If the borders are then cut to the pattern instructions there will be a significant differences in the measurements of the quilt at different points. Remember your quilters #1 love language is a square quilt.
There are multiple ways to check and maintain your .25 inch seam allowance. I take the thread out of my sewing machine, get a piece of paper to help me gauge by sewing on the paper. The first set of sewing was using the needle plate of my machine. As you can see it is slightly on the high side of .25"
The second set of sewing in measured by moving my needle down with the hand wheel onto a .25 inch mark on a ruler. As you can see it rests right on the .25 inch mark.
There are multiple ways to achieve an accurate .25 inch seam. I really like a good .25 inch foot, they aren't expensive and are easily found at most dealerships. There are some drawbacks to some of them. The .25 inch foot on my Juki is solid and will sometimes catch a stray thread causing my fabric to bunch behind the presser foot. I have also found that I cannot run my fabric exactly up against the foot because it creates a + .25 inch.
The simplest way is to place a ruler under your presser foot and slowly lower your needle by moving the hand wheel. I like to let the needle rest ever so slightly on the inside of the .25 inch mark instead of directly on it. Place a piece of blue painters tape or a magnetic stop on the outside of the ruler. Once you have done this sew a test piece and measure your seam for accuracy. If you feel it is on the greater side of .25 inch repeat the process.
I hope you find this helpful and not stressful. If all else fails try your hand at some wonky patterns or better yet improv. Happy quilting!
The quilter's love language.
1 They love pressed seams
2 They love flat borders
3 They love trimmed threads
4 They love love love square backing
5 They love meaningful words, "I am in no hurry" should mean
should mean "I am in no hurry"
6 They love you
As a quilter borders are my kryptonite. I love piecing tops and seeing my final vision come to fruition. Keeping flat borders feels like trying to leap over tall buildings in a single bound. Last time I checked my superheroine costume was retired.
I would love nothing more than to cut a nice long strip, start at the end and sew like the wind. As a longarm quilter there is nothing that frustrates me quite like wavy borders. Wavy borders are created with my sew-like-the-wind attitude.
Wavy borders are created when the quilt top will has a more relaxed outer edge than the center which causes a flare. This is exaggerated when a quilt top has a lot of piecing in the body of the quilt which causes a tightness in the center, the outer edges will now measure longer than the center.
How can wavy borders be prevented? Before cutting the borders take three horizontal measurements, one on the top, one in the middle and one at the bottom. Here is an example. This top has different measurements at all three points. In order to get the correct measurement for your border add 62 + 59.5 + 61 = 182.5, divide that sum total by 3, 182.5/3 = 60.83. I know, what the heck, 60.83 call me crazy but a wavy border is looking pretty good right now. I round down by 0.125 to 60.70 and cut my border to the closest reasonable measurement which is 60.75
Rotate the quilt top and take measurements, including the borders, in the middle, on the top side and one on the bottom side. This will be the length you will cut the side borders. Again, you may need to work in some fullness.
The ultimate situation would be to have a square center before adding the borders. There are multiple ways to ensure that your quilt top is square while you are piecing it, square all blocks before sewing them together and checking to make sure you have an accurate and consistent .25" seam allowance are just a few suggestions.
By the way, I found a smidge of super power and my customer's quilt turned our beautiful, of course I had a beautiful quilt to work with.