How a Scant Quarter Inch Seam Allowance makes you a better quilter

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ruler measuring a 1/4" and scant 1/4" seam allowance

In the world of quilting, precision is key.

Scant Quarter Inch Seam: If you’ve ever struggled with achieving precise seams or puzzled over the difference between a scant ¼” and a regular ¼” seam allowance, this tutorial is for you.

When I first heard about sewing with a scant ¼” seam I thought they were pulling my leg. When the person then said, “It’s a thread’s width smaller than a ¼” seam” I wondered why we were even discussing it.

Well now I know! Those thread distances add up when you are piecing quilt blocks and then putting the blocks together into a quilt. So now I’m a convert and love myself a scant ¼” seam. 🤩


🎯 SHORTCUTS TO SPECIFIC TOPICS:

00:00 introduction
00:34 sewing quarter inch seam allowance
01:28 sewing a scant quarter inch seam
02:34 when you need a scant ¼” seam
03:16 compare quilt blocks with different seam allowances

04:16 how to sew a scant ¼” seam on your machine
04:41 use tape as a guide
05:29 use a magnetic seam guide
06:33 when you can’t use a magnetic seam guide


ruler on fabric measuring seam allowances

A seam allowance is the distance between the edge of your fabric and the line of stitching.

For many sewing projects, a ¼” seam allowance is standard. However, a scant ¼” seam allowance is slightly less than a full ¼”. It’s a hair’s breadth narrower, usually by about 1-2 threads.

I used the pen lines to show the difference between a scant ¼” (left) and ¼” (right). The first is just to the right of a ¼” from the line and the second is under the ¼” mark.

When you sew two pieces of fabric together, the thread takes up space within the seam. If you use a full ¼” seam allowance, the thread consumes a portion of the fabric, making the finished piece slightly smaller than intended. By using a scant ¼” seam allowance, you compensate for the bulk of the thread, ensuring your finished measurements match your pattern or design specifications more closely.

Know Your Sewing Machine

Familiarize yourself with the markings on your sewing machine’s throat plate or needle plate. Many machines have a line or notch indicating the ¼” seam allowance. This serves as a guide for stitching, but remember, you’ll be sewing just to the inside of this line for a scant allowance.

Test Your Stitching

Use a ruler or seam gauge to measure your stitching line and ensure it’s slightly less than ¼” from the edge of the fabric.

Here are a few tools that you can use to create a guide and sew scant ¼” seams:

  • Adjust your machine settings or needle position as needed to get the desired seam width.
  • Use a ¼” presser foot and test where the edge of the fabric needs to be to sew a scant ¼” seam allowance.
  • Use washi tape, Cluck Cluck Sew Diagonal Seam Tape, painter’s tape or masking tape to create a guide.
  • Use a magnetic seam guide – as long as you don’t have a top loading bobbin with a plastic cover. You can see where that goes wrong in the video at the 6 minute 33 second mark! 🫣

Practice!

Before working on an important project, grab some fabric scraps and practice piecing them together with scant ¼” seams. Measure the seams until you are confident you can sew consistently.


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🧵 Tara Reed

P.S. Is there a sewing tutorial you’d love to see? Leave me a comment and I’ll add it to my idea list!

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