I’m pretty sure that the perfect quarter inch seam allowance is a beautiful myth, something that quilters chase in the never ending pursuit of flawless corners, perfect points, and straight lines. I’m still not sure I’ve ever found it. Not really. Not consistently anyway. And that’s kind of what counts when you’re working with seam allowances.
Why? Because a consistent seam allowance is what helps those corners meet just so. It’s what brings the quilt together in harmonious alignment. Take my two nine patch blocks below for example.
Just a little off here and a little off there in the seam allowances leaves this guy looking a bit wonky.
In this one, my seam allowances are more consistent. It’s still not “perfect” but the block lays flatter and appears a bit neater.
This quarter inch seam deal is no joke, and there’s a lot standing in our way. Thread bulk, fabric type, shape, and size, needle position relative to you presser foot, and more. But there’s good news too. Countless experts have weighed in on websites, blog posts, and video tutorials to help us along in our quest.
Whether you’re into the attainment of perfection, hacking the heck out of it, or just letting go altogether…here are just a few tips from the experts that I have found to be helpful:
Chasing the perfect quarter inch seam allowance
- 3 Ways to Master the Perfect Quarter-Inch Seam Getting the right setup for your quarter inch seam allowance is the first step in the pursuit of perfection. Craftsy covers the fundamentals for seam-perfection-seekers: the quarter inch foot, taping your machine, and checking your seams.
- The Quarter Inch Seam & Pressing Techniques Did you know that how you press your seams makes a difference? Sew Mama Sew explains the ins and outs of steaming, setting, and pressing open vs. to the side.
Quilting tip: Scant 1/4 inch This post by Amy Smart at Diary of a Quilter, explains the deep secrets of why using a scant quarter inch seam allowance is key.
Seam allowance hacks for those of who fall short of perfection
- The Seam Allowance Sometimes things go wrong. I love this post by Lazy Gal Quilting showing all of the various minor and major seam disasters. She offers real talk about whether it even matters and how trimming, tugging, and easing can work just as well.
Letting go of the search for perfection
- Over the Hills Quilt Pattern: Wabi-Sabi Quilting Suzy of Suzy Quilts explores the beauty in imperfection. She explains, “Wabi-sabi quilting is simple, uncluttered and inexact. Through this Over The Hills quilt pattern practice accepting the ‘mistakes’ and embrace what is unique about each cut, each seam and each block – simply see the beauty in the handmade-ness of it.”
- Souls Grown Deep The Quilts of Gee’s Bend “Uninhibited by the norms of fine or folk art, the Bend quiltmakers have been guided by a faith in personal vision; most of them start with basic forms and head off ‘their way’ with unexpected patterns, unusual colors, and surprising rhythms.”
For those who challenge the notion that straight lines and perfect corners are the only options in the pursuit of making beautiful things, I say yes!
Let’s let go and ponder the beauty of perfect human imperfection, and love all the quilts.