I’ve had quite a few opportunities to sew on a variety of machines this summer, whether teaching or traveling, and I got to thinking about quilting accuracy. The usual rule of thumb* is that once you start sewing a project on one machine–especially a project you really *really* care about–then you need to stick with that machine.
“But self!” I thought to myself, “Would it not be so great to just call ahead to where you were going and say “Hey, dearest MIL/Aunt/Gramma/boyfriend/Uncle, can I borrow your machine while I’m there?” What about if one of my machines ends up in the shop, or I need to embroider a hanky or something and I still need to sew? What’s a body to do? Getting the right seam allowance is critical for a number of things, and I don’t want to wait!
Thankfully, there is a way to figure out how to make sure your seam allowances are the same, and it’s not hard.
First, find a note card or grid paper that has a perfect 1/4″, using your gridded ruler to double check. Line up the cutting edge so that it is perfectly over the line and cut using a rotary cutter, exactly on the line. Not to the right of the line, not to the left of the line, exactly on it.
Next, place this under the 1/4″ piecing foot of the machine that you primarily use, which in my case is the B790, so that the cut edge is on the right edge of your foot, just as if it were fabric. Drop your needle so that it punches through the paper.
Raise the needle and remove the paper, and take it with you to the machine you will be using next, which in my case, is my Featherweight. Lower the needle carefully using the handwheel so that the needle enters the same hole exactly. Check to see where the edge of the paper is relative to the guide on the foot and the registration lines on the machine bed.
If necessary, you can easily establish guides using stuff you have around the house, such as sticky notes or blue masking tape. Heck, use washi tape since it’s much prettier. It is very important, though, that it be perfectly straight according to the sewing guides on your machine. Even being off a little could cause some funky seams.
I hope this gives you some more freedom as you take quilting classes or as you travel around next summer! I think I’m going to make a couple of these using index cards and have them in my wallet, so I can just toss my projects in the car and not worry about it. Let me know if you have any other questions, and make sure to check out the other amazing tutorials!
* SO I became curious (can’t help it. It’s a blessing and a curse.) and just looked up the origin of “rule of thumb”. Note to self: maybe find a new phrase.
- Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuilts – So, Does that Diagonal Method for a Pieced Backing Really Work
- Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com – The Quilter’s Knot
- Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams – The Importance of Pressing
- Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts – Color Coding for Paper-piecing
- Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio – How to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding
- Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt Studio – Credit where Credit is Due
- Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts – How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines
- Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose Hughes – Fast Pieced Applique
- Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy Stitcher – The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine
- Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio – Make a Mobile Art Kit
- Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty – Log Cabin 101
- Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew Sweetness – Zipper Tips
- Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams
- Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of Je’s Bend – Garment Making Tips and Tricks
- Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins
- Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting
- Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams
- Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine
- Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels
- Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back
- Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders
- Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps
- Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension
- Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes
- Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods
- Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting
- Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!
- Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!
- Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears
- October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3LittleBrds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine
- October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate
- October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up
This is a great idea. I have heard that caveat about switching machines but now I have a tip in my arsenal to ward off wonky seam allowances.
I have a request in to my friend who has an excellent picture of what a top looks like after switching machines without doublechecking the allowances. I’ll post it if i can get it! Glad you found this useful!
Great explanation, I’m posting it to our guild’s Facebook page.
Glad to be of help! Thanks!
Mary Ellen says
Do you have the seam guide that came with your Featherweight? It would be safer in the long run than tape of any kind. Lots of horror stories regarding tape damaging the clear coat on blogs and web sites devoted to vintage machines.
Mary Ellen, thanks for the heads up! I am not sure I do, but will go scrabble around in the box of bits to see if it is there.
Lara B. says
Brilliantly simple idea Mandy! (The best kind!) I’m afraid of using tape on old sewing machines, so would use the seam guide instead. You can buy them fairly cheaply on eBay.
“Rule of thumb” has a horrible origin, doesn’t it?
Bill Volckening says
You! Are a Genius! No, seriously! I never would’ve thought of this idea. 🙂
This is a great tip, thanks! One thing I learned the hard way is that using a 1/4in foot doesn’t guarantee a 1/4in seam. I had to play around with my machine to find the right needle setting to get a (scant) 1/4in seam using the foot. Annoying, but worth it in the end.
Yes, any machine no matter how well serviced will often need a double check. I do it out of habit now, but it’s saved my bacon a couple of times!
Kelley in VT says
What a great idea… I have three machines in my sewing studio and they all create different 1/4″ seams… this seems to be a foolproof way to get it right on all of them… this is the first I am hearing of washi tape as well… I am going to need to check that out… Kelley in VT
It makes such a huge difference! I’m glad to help out. Do be warned, though, that any kind of tape on vintage machines may cause problems, so look for a way to do something non-sticky if it’s on a vintage machine…