Now be honest, after spending loads of time piecing fabric to make a quilt top, have you ever found matching your blocks difficult and you realise it is because your measurements were slightly out? It happens to all of us (tell me how I know!). Even if you have that ¼ inch foot so many sewing machines include, or your sewing machine table has ¼ inch line marked on it, it’s really helpful to check that it gives you an exact ¼ inch seam before you start on that first quilt top.
Here’s one way to check your ¼ inch seam – it’s well worth doing this and you’ll only have to do it once because once you know, you’ll never look back.
1) Take a piece of plain paper with at least one straight edge.
2) Take your thread and bobbin out of the machine.
3) Place the edge of the paper under your foot in the position you hope will give a ¼ inch seam.
4) Sew a few ‘stitches’ – with no thread. You will just have a line of holes. (If your machine won’t ‘sew’ without thread, then just do this with thread.)
5) Measure your line of holes from the edge of the paper. (I happen to have a ‘Handy Sewing Gauge’ but you just need to use your ruler or tape measure.)
6) If it’s ¼ inch, well done – you’ll be fine.
7) If it’s slightly out (and remember that a tiny amount out increases with each time you add another piece to that block), then either adjust where you place the paper or try moving the needle position. Sew another line. Check the distance again until you are satisfied you have been able to get that ¼ inch.
8) Once you have found the best position of your paper or needle, make a note of it. Some people suggest putting a piece of masking tape on your sewing machine (it doesn’t leave a sticky residue on the machine if you need to take it off) to act as your ¼ inch guide.
Note: some patterns talk about a ‘scant’ ¼ inch seam. This is just very slightly less than ¼ inch and allows a bit more ‘wiggle’ room when matching sections or blocks, particularly when pressing seams all to one side, so just adjust the position of the edge of your fabric (or needle position) again slightly if your pattern needs this.