In my last post I asked what books are good for the beginning quilter, specifically a quilter who’s interested in free-piecing.
I haven’t seen most of the books you all recommended, but one caught my attention: Robin Strobel’s The Casual Quilter. Love the attitude. Read a review of the book here.
Anyway, the whole post got me thinking about what really is important to know about quilting. If you’re a quilter who’s not interested in accuracy, are there times when you do need to pay more attention than others?
Here are my thoughts on the Seam Allowance. I was going to say this was what you need to know if you are a liberated quilter, but I’m not sure what Gwen Marston would actually think about this – I wouldn’t want to make her cry. This is my take on the whole thing.
First off, is a quarter inch seam all that important? Yes and no. Fabric frays and if there isn’t enough whole fabric left in that seam allowance, then the seam could split open. Not something you want happening to a finished quilt.
So a quarter inch has been settled upon as an amount that will hold your quilt together. Does it have to be EXACTLY a quarter inch? No. You want it to be closer to that width than not but don’t pull your hair out.
Here I am sewing fabric together. I have a quarter inch presser foot and I aim the edge of my fabrics to the edge of the presser foot.
When I’m finished I hopefully end up with straight line of stitching a quarter inch from the edge of the fabrics:
When I open it up, the fabrics lay fairly flat and the edges are straight:
This time I bobbled a bit:
The seam isn’t straight. When I opened it up and ironed it, I had a bit of puffiness in places, but for the most part it worked fine. In fact, I accidentally deleted the “after” picture because it looked the same as the straight seam. So no big deal.
But this time, got a carried away and really curved the seam:
And when I opened it up? Eek, wouldn’t lay flat:
Now, I could force it flat by ironing in a pleat but it would probably cause fewer problems in the long run to just redo it.
Oops, now this time I didn’t end up with a quarter inch on both pieces of fabric.
The black fabric is decidedly short. What to do? For a baby quilt or something else that is going to get a lot of use and washing, I’d redo the seam. For a wallhanging that will get very little washing? If there was at least an 1/8” in the seam allowance, I'd probably leave it as is add a few drops of Fray Check if I were worried. In the picture above? That’s too narrow at the bottom even for me, so I’d redo it. sigh.
This time I’ve got the seam straight, but it’s at an angle:
Opened up, it looks like this:
I’m lazy, but this just isn’t going to work.
Now, if you’re at the stage where you’re first joining pieces together in something like a crumb quilt or free-pieced houses, then you can just straighten up the edges like so:
See, perfectly useable. [Note: You don’t have to actually cut the edges to make them straight. you could just make sure the next fabric is sewn on straight. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry about it for now.]
BUT -- and it is a big BUT – trimming straight doesn’t work when you are sewing fabric together for a border. And you very well may not want to do it when you’re sewing two finished blocks together because you are going to lose some of the blocks.
To sum up an angled seam: okay when first joining bits together, but bad later on…
So you’re a free-piecer and you have a lot of blocks made and all trimmed to the same size. It helps to have a consistent seam allowance when you put all those blocks together. Using the same presser foot for all those joins will help.
Depending on how casual you are about these things, it still might not be that big of a deal to get everything together consistently. Just add a bit of something to make all the blocks fit together, like I did when putting together my Margarita Quilt center.
I cut all of these blocks to the same size. Truly. At least I think I did. But I ended up with some rows longer than others. I added extra orange fabric to one unit of joined rows to make it long enough to fit together:
My other option would have been to join the two sections together and then whack off the bits that were too long.
On a side note, no still don’t have a border on this quilt center yet. Can’t decide if I should just add a wide border (my original plan) or add a wordy border.
That sums up my thoughts on the seam allowance. What do you think? Any questions? Anything in there confusing? What did I forget to mention?
By the way, I wrote this post in Windows Live Writer – thanks for the recommend Sassenach. For the most part it’s easier to use than posting straight into Blogger. The big question is, how does it look once it’s posted….