Seam Allowance for Quilting: All About ¼” Seams

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When it comes to quilting, almost all patterns are written using a ¼” seam allowance. If you come from a garment sewing background and are used to a ⅝” seam allowance this can seem small, but Heather Thomas explains why the ¼” seam allowance is used.

Quarter Inch

When piecing a quilt there is no need for a larger seam allowance because the seams are not going to be subject to wear and tear like a garment. Also, if quilted properly, the seams will be reinforced when the quilt top is quilted. Because of this it is also less important if all of your seams are perfect. Heather Thomas explains that while you want to alway try and sew using and accurate ¼” seam allowance, there are times when a scant or chunky seam allowance can be used. A scant seam allowance means that you are stitching just under ¼” whereas a chunky seam allowance means you are stitching just over a ¼”. Heather shows the backside of a quilt she has pieced and explains how she used one of those seam allowances to help better fit several units together.

Stretching and Easing

While you may be striving to stitch a perfect ¼” seam allowance all of the time, sometimes it doesn’t always happen. Rather than have to tear out a seam with seam rippers and re-stitch it, Heather explains how you can using a stretching or easing technique to ‘fix’ the seam. This works great if you need to fix one or two seams in a project, however if you are finding that you are needing to do this often you may want to reevaluate your stitching technique. Measure your ¼” foot to ensure you are lining up at the right spot or make a mark on your machine throat plate that you can line your fabric up on every time.

Discussion
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4 Responses to “Seam Allowance for Quilting: All About ¼” Seams”
  1. Linda Greenwood

    I am by no means an advanced quilter. When I quilt, I sometimes have fabrics that ravel. If I use
    a 1/4″ seam, the fabric may ravel through the seam, especially if washed. I prefer to use a little larger seam more towards to a 1/3″. I understand what you are saying about using the 1/4″ so that the pieces fit together as designed. Is it wrong to use a little larger seam to prevent the raveling?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Linda. If you are using someone else’s printed pattern it was written for a consistent 1/4″ seam unless otherwise noted.
      If you use a larger seam allowance all the time -with every seam- things should still fit together but end results will be smaller than the pattern states.
      If you use a larger seam allowance only with the loose fabrics then units will cease to fit.
      Perhaps if a fabric frays easily it is not the best choice for a quilt.
      Be careful when shopping to select fabrics that are well made.

      Reply
  2. fran

    Understood every point she made about this qtr inch seam & also the sewing machine foot which has the q tr inch size but she said fabric should not show when sewing as qtr inch seams. And consistency in seam size is important for neat, flat quilting — — as a beginner who made one jelly roll item, she mentioned everything I wondered about RE seams — — thought this was excellent presentation.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth Nelms

    Wonderful calm guidance for understanding 1/4 in seams. I really appreciate hearing from a pro that we are in charge, not the fabric. I frequently find myself “fudging” slightly to make a block fit together nicely. Very reassuring to hear that this really is OK.

    Reply

Tags: Free Videos, Heather Thomas, piecing, quilt seams, seam allowance