Most of us know that a 1/4-inch seam allowance is used in quiltmaking. But we also know that sewing an accurate 1/4-inch seam allowance is not always easy. If ever there was a block to quickly make you aware of your seam allowance, Frame by Frame fits the bill.
Even though this is a simple block, there are six seams across the A/B section. That means six chances for inaccuracy to rear its ugly head. If you are off by just two threads in each seam, over six seams that adds up to 1/8 of an inch. If you are off by just three or four threads in each seam, over six seams that adds up to 1/4 of an inch. (I actually pulled threads from a quilt-shop quality fabric to see.)
On top of that, the A/B section must fit precisely with the C patch. And then the A/B/C section must fit precisely with the D patch. This is a block where you can really have challenges if your seam allowance goes haywire.
Which is exactly what happened to me as I was making my first block on Monday.
However, when I made the A/B section, it did not come out to be 9.5″ long. It was 9.75″ long. This was a problem.
Why wasn’t it working? The answer lies in several factors that are often overlooked. Let me explain.
You may have what you think is a perfect quarter-inch seam. But…
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- Is the fabric you are sewing with the exact same weight as all of your other fabrics have ever been?
- Is the thread you are using the exact same thickness as all the other thread you have ever used?
- Is the pattern you are following exactly like every other pattern you have ever followed?
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In all three cases, the answer is no. And one final, even more important question: Are your pieced sections fitting nicely with the other patches?
If the answer is no, here’s the bottom line: You must adjust your seam allowance to whatever project you are working on so that it is accurate for that project. Due to variances in weight of the fabric, weight of the thread, and type of seams you’re sewing (straight or diagonal or some combination), you will need to alter your seam allowance depending on the project.
I solved the problem above by switching to a general purpose foot and moving the needle position so that when I lined the edge of the fabric up with the edge of the foot, I was taking a bigger seam allowance than before.
It was only 2 or 3 threads bigger, as you can see below, but it made a huge difference. With the adjusted seam allowance, the A/B section came out to be 9.5″ just as it needed to be.
It’s worth mentioning that I didn’t resew every seam. After resewing four of the six, the section measured 9.5″, so I stopped there. Unless you’re trying to win a major show, the difference between the patches is small enough not to matter.
Here’s what I would suggest as you begin to make your Frame by Frame blocks. Sew an A/B section or two. Press them gently, making sure you’re not leaving a lip of fabric at any of the seams. Measure to see if the section is 9.5″ long as it needs to be. Adjust as needed.
How to adjust: If your A/B unit is more than 9.5″ long (such as 9.75″ or 10″), you need to take bigger seam allowances. Being off by about 1/4″ means you should move over about 3 or 4 threads on each seam. This is a very small amount. Being off by 1/2″ means you should move over even more. As you adjust, remember that whatever change you make to the seam allowance is multiplied by six because there are six seams.
If your A/B unit is less than 9.5″ long (such as 9.25 or 9″), you need to take smaller seam allowances. You will need to unsew the seams and then resew them.
I’m sure you’re seeing why it’s a good idea to sew one or two blocks and get the seam allowance right before you make all 48 blocks! Nobody wants to go back and redo 288 seams (48 blocks x 6 seams in each = 288 seams).
Here are my first blocks. The red and green fabrics are Moda. The other fabrics are organic Fox Hollow by Monaluna. These fabrics have a wonderful hand and I love the prints! Visit monaluna.com for lots of great 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton.
Of course there are other ways to adjust when things aren’t fitting together just right. You can adjust your cutting: moving the line on the ruler just off of the fabric or just onto the fabric’s edge can make a big difference up or down. Sometimes this bit of adjustment is all you need.
As strange as this sounds, you can often increase your accuracy by shortening your stitch length. I never piece with stitches longer than 2.0 mm. The default stitch length on most machines is too long for piecing. Shorten up and see what happens.
Thanks for joining me for the Back to School lesson!