The Skinny on Scant 1/4″ Seams
Bummer! News Flash! All scant 1/4″ feet are NOT created equal!
First, because there is some confusion out there… here’s why you want to do a “scant” 1/4 inch seam (stitching slightly to the right of the 1/4″ actual mark on your fabric) instead of a full 1/4″ seam (which is done by stitching *on* the 1/4″ mark of a seam allowance):
In order to get all of the pieces of a quilt to go together accurately, your finished result of each piece should measure exactly to the desired specifications. So let’s say that you want four 1″ finished squares that are going to be sewn up against one 4″ finished square. You want the first and last seam of those little 1″ pieces to line up perfectly with the edges of the 4″ piece.
This means that you’re going to start with four 1.5″ cut squares (that after absorbing 1/4″ on each side – losing a total of 1/2″ of seam allowance fabric – will finish to 1″ each) and that 4″ square started out as a 4.5″ square before you sewed it. Right? With me on this?
OK.. so about those seams. If you sew the seam directly on the 1/4″ mark, once you press the seam open, looking from the topside, you are going to lose the amount of fabric that is directly under the stitching line as well as there is an ever-so-slight “valley” of fabric from the right side that dips down into the seam stitching. The end result, if you stitch directly on the stitching line, is that you have lost slightly more than 1/4″ of fabric to the seam – meaning your finished square will be slightly smaller than 1″.
If you do this 4 times (as in my example) it’s not difficult to imagine that you could be dealing with a large difference of finished edge between the one 4″ solid piece and the other piece that was supposed to be made up of four 1″ pieces. The four 1″ pieces could easily shrink to be 3.75″ or 3.5″ if their seams were even just a little too big.
So, it’s essential to sew your seams slightly less (aka: “scant”) of 1/4″ to compensate for the stitching line itself and the “valley”.
So back to our example… read on and see what happened to me because of a foot that wasn’t accurate …
I decided I needed something mindless, with meditative qualities, to do on some of my down time. To that end, I decided to make a truly “scrappy” quilt. “Scrappy” in the true, literal sense of the word. So a few months ago, when I was cutting out my “real ” projects, I would take the scraps and cut them into 1.5″, 2.5″, 3.5″, and 4.5″ squares. Those little squares started to accumulate quickly!
Combine this with the fact that I started this year on my stash-free, newly reincarnated sewing hobby (after about a 10 year hiatus!) with a whopping head start of about $2,000 worth of quilting cotton fabric from my GCLSAo2012 (Known to many in my realm as the Great Craigslist Stash Acquisition of 2012).
Let’s just say… I got scraps up the wazoooooo.
So a few months ago, when I was feeling brain dead but just wanted to sew something to relax, I started to put these squares together. This is truly a random, SCRAP quilt. I did not intend to bond with it or anything like that… it was just supposed to be somethin’ to humor me from my Dr. Phil Family life when I wanted to sew but didn’t want to have to think.
I fully expect this quilt to be used someday in a future RV. I visualize it being used at a campfire… or a picnic… or out on the boat. (For those that don’t know… I use my sewing time as the closest thing I’ll ever get to meditating – real meditating just makes me fall asleep! lol) Anyway, think: mental picture of spending time in the beautiful, peaceful out-of-doors with this quilt made up of true scraps from my various projects. The ultimate goal is not the quilt… but to manifest the times I intend to create it for. Get it?
So do I care if the seams match up perfectly?!?!? Uhhh… I didn’t think I would care…. but O.M.G. … I was totally shocked to find out how disturbing it is to screw up on this thing that I fully intended to *not* care about!
I originally had put a hundred or two of the little squares together in twosies and strung them from my sewing area lamp a month or two ago. They looked cute hanging there. How artistic! In other words… to any visitor… it at least looked like I was doing something with my sewing machine!!
So back to the 1/4″ seam dilemma*:
I had used the CLEAR VIEW JANOME FOOT to do some of the piecing. Or did I use the O2 foot a few months ago? Heck… who knows? And moreover, who cares? As my son would say: “My Give A Shitter was broken.”
Well, my GAS musta been broken a few months ago… and again this last week.
Anyway… the other night, while in the midst of the-hell-of-moving-to-the-new-house, I decided to take a few minutes to play with my new Babylock Ellisimo Gold and see what kind of machine she is for piecing. (I’ve only had her in the house for about a month – of which she’s just been putting out beautiful embroidery work – I hadn’t tried really sewing on her – YET.)
So I quickly found out what a joy it is to piece on this machine. So smoooooth…. so quiet…. and the soft curved build of this machine (that some sewists just don’t seem to appreciate-nor did I in the beginning!) really created a pleasurable mini-vacay from doing all of the stuff I should have been doing. Oh… and that hover/pivot/whatever-they-call-it function is to die for. I disengaged the foot pedal, used the start/stop button, and enjoyed plunking through a gazillion little 1.5″ pieces – turning them into twosies. It was so nice having the machine stop each little micro-seam with a needle down but foot slightly up movement. Very cool.
And the EG’s 1/4″ piecing foot has an added benefit of the guide blade extending farther forward of the foot – so it seemed easier to line up the fabric’s edge properly – and earlier – before it gets to the needle.
Anyway… my little mini vacay was doing great – UNTIL I went to add the new strip of 68 little 1″ squares to the already existing work I had done a month or two ago on the Horizon.
This is when I found out that all scant 1/4″ seam feet are sooooooooo *not* created equal!
I don’t want to go through the disgrace of showing you a picture of how far “off” the seams were!
Dang… I should know better. BUT… remember….. this Objet d’art is probably destined to grace a yet-to-be-found-much-less-aquired-retro-1976-era Airstream. It has a potential of being subjected to flying ashes at a bonfire….. or sticks and twigs poking holes in it at a picnic….. or at the very least… being slimed by a freshly caught uncontrollable fish that slips out of the hand while trying to be de-hooked on a 45 degree day of which no person in their right mind would be out on the lake fishing anyway! There’s the ugly reality of the out-of-doors! Not so romantic, eh?
Again: Should I care if my seams are not perfectly matched up?!?!? Probably not. But oh…. I DO! I do care. It makes me nuts to not have something turn out.
So after seeing how horrible of a job I did stitchin’ this panel on to the original few panels… I decided to do some homework.
Earlier this summer, before embarking on the thought of becoming a quilter, I bought a PERFECT PIECING SEAM GUIDE made by PERKINS DRY GOODS. This little yellow ruler has a marking of a scant 1/4″ seam with an added feature of a hole just to the right of the line for the purpose of placing on your sewing machine and inserting the sewing machine needle through the hole. When the needle is in the hole of the ruler, and you lower your presser foot down onto the ruler, the ruler’s edge then shows you exactly where your fabric’s raw edge should be to create a perfect scant 1/4″ seam.
Now… one would think that this ruler’s edge would fit nicely up against the metal blade guides that are on all 1/4″ seam feet. Heck… these feet are designed for this purpose, right??? (Think again!)
I have no excuse. I own this ruler. I should have used it *before* stitchin’ that first stitch on any of these pieces. I should have used it on both machines. I should have dragged it out to check all three feet that I’ve used. But I didn’t . Because, remember, I wasn’t supposed to care about this project!
So what I found out: The O2 foot that came as standard equipment on my JANOME HORIZON 7700 doesn’t come close to producing a scant 1/4″ seam when used with the automatic single hole needle plate gizmo (which requires the needle to be in center position). Isn’t that somethin’? A well-marketed quilting machine that can’t quilt using the single hole needle plate with the 1/4″ foot!
So this makes me wonder how many miles of seams have been sewn on this machine with this foot by quilters all over the world… and the fitting troubles experienced by all of those fine sewists that don’t own (or like me – didn’t use) the PERFECT PIECING RULER. Bummer.
So here’s the pics and a few more comments on my experience:
First off, here’s the Janome dreaded 1/4″ seam foot:
If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see that the ruler’s line matches up to the center needle position line on the 7700. No problem there. But then look at the edge of the ruler! It should be up against the blade of this O2 foot – and it’s not. Look at that big-ass (sorry) gap! I put a white piece of fabric under the foot so you could see the gap more clearly. Just look at the point of the seam ripper… that seam ripper is sideways in the gap.
I measured the seam ripper – that is almost a 1/16″ gap. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? Well… it is. (Which I found out the hard way!) If the seam is eating up an extra 1/16″ of an inch on each piece of fabric (which it is) then that means that when you press this open, it really is 2 x 1/16″ = 1/8″ off-just on that one seam! That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you multiply that times 4 of these little buggers that were used to match up to a 4″ adjacent square. 8 of these little bites out of 4 little squares add up to a whopping 1/2″ off!
Such a bummer.
So then here is the CLEAR VIEW FOOT WITH GUIDE by JANOME (not to be confused with one that is sold out there without the guide!):
There’s no problem with the Clear View foot – it works well and it does create a nice, scant 1/4″ seam. Leah Day (daystyledesigns.com) also raves about her Horizon – but she also has a video somewhere in which she explains that she needed to find a better quilting foot and ultimately decided to use this Clear View foot as well as a solution.
And then lastly… here’s the 1/4″ QUILTING FOOT with GUIDE that came with the Ellisimo Gold – This one is my favorite to sew with:
Notice the nice, long guide blade that is on this foot. It was really very nice to sew with… and it created a perfect 1/4″ seam, too. One more feature: Look carefully at the edge of the foot between the foot and the guide in the front. See that gap?!?!? That is AWESOME for being able to see that the edge of your fabric is meeting that guide properly. It’s a very well thought out footsie!
Bonus deal: At the time of this writing, the foot above was on sale for under $10 !! – follow this link: 1/4″ inch Footsie . If you have Amazon Prime, it’s even free shipping! (and if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you should give it the free month’s trial.. I love it!)
There ya have it. I should have used my trusty ruler *before* stitching with any of the machines. I had the variables of two machines and three footsies. The culprit, this time, for me anyway, is the O2 foot that caused a much wider seam (meaning that the end finished square was smaller).
I love my Horizon for workin’ on the purses and bags that I’m creating… but geeeez, Janome, what *were* you thinking when you were calling this a quilting machine when the single hole needle plate when used with the stock 1/4″ foot ***can’t*** create a 1/4″ seam???
Really. How goofed up is that?
But for anyone reading this that is considering the purchase of one of Janome’s wide bodies…. just be sure and give ‘er a good test drive before takin’ her home. At least for me, I now know better. I can use the Clear View foot without problems… but that O2 foot is sooooo no good unless you also de-center your needle to the right. (which means you can’t use the automatic single hole needle plate gizmo)
The Horizon is an awesome machine… I still love it. Wonder if this issue has been fixed on the new 9mm wide 8200 & 8900 models? If you have one of those – report in!
Sally aka: RipStitcher
*Oh.. and by the way… in trying to spell “dilemma” as “dilemna” (as I was taught!) I decided to go look the word up because my spell checker bitch slapped me with “dilemna” being wrong. Nice to learn on wikipedia that half the planet was, for some unknown reason, taught the incorrect spelling.