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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Scant Quarter Inch?

I love teaching beginning quilters. They don't have time to develop bad habits yet! Even when I am teaching more experienced quilters one of the first questions I ask is "Does anyone know what a scant quarter inch is?" Being in a guild, I know when many member participate in the optional block or raffle quilt, where everyone is making the same block, they all come out different sizes! Why is that? Because everyone's definition of a scant quarter inch seam allowance is different. No one can tell me what it is. I think it is a mysterious number. Many books define it as one or two thread widths from 1/4". One or two? What kind of thread? Some threads are heavier than others. Can you see the dilemma?

I've taken many workshops from national teachers. Even though I teach, it is always good to see how other people teach to find better (or other) ways to do something. I'm not so stuck in my ways to say my way is the only way. I have my degree in Special Education and I have taught children who use different methods of learning; visual, auditory, tactile (touch) and kinesthetic (movement). Most quilters are visual learners and learn from observation. I learn things through a combination of visual, tactile, and kinesthetic. I can see a technique demonstrated, but until I touch it and do it, it isn't really stuck in my head. I admit that I am a terrible listener, not that I don't listen to people when they are talking, but I do not remember the information as well as when I am doing something with my hands. For example, if someone gives me directions to their house, I need to write it down (kinesthetic) and look at a map (visual). Once I drive there, I usually remember how to get there. Now if my husband does the driving, I may not remember. In that instance I was just an observer, not the doer.

Let's get back to why I brought up taking workshops from national teachers. The first time I learned a good method for getting a consistent quarter inch seam was from a class by Sharon Craig. She uses Dr. Scholl's Molefoam Pads to get a consistent seam. She recommended that you put your needle in the furthest right position that your machine will allow, measure 1/4" from the needle and place a small piece of molefoam next to the ruler. Before I took her class, I had been fighting with my quilting foot because I was concentrating too much on whether the edge of the fabric was under the foot, just outside of the foot or where it was. With this tool I was able to see the edge of the fabric and it was always touching the molefoam. I could relax and just sew, always knowing that my seam would be the same each time.

There is another reason that I do not like that 1/4" quilting foot. Many of the newer sewing machines have very wide feed dogs (those teeth under your sewing foot) and the quilting foot did not cover both feed dogs. I always felt that my fabric was not being fed evenly without the fabric touching both feed dogs. This is why I like to use my regular sewing foot with the molefoam.

The next teacher I learned about the 1/4" seam allowance from was Sally Collins. You know, that quilter who makes prize winning miniature quilts that are perfect! Her work is amazing! I purchased her video "Sally Collins Teaches You Precision Piecing" and was lucky enough to take a three-day workshop from her. She discussed an "accurate" quarter inch. Now if everyone made an accurate quarter inch wouldn't you think they would all be the same? She uses a ruler by Collins called Machine Seam Gauge (which I sell on my website). It has little holes in it, that you can stick your needle in, to measure the 1/4". So, I combined Sharon Craig's technique with the needle-right and molefoam and Sally Collins technique with the ruler and voila....a perfect 1/4" each time! Consistency is the key.

Well, got to work on writing a pattern for the quilt I'm making. Tomorrow I will discuss another topic on accuracy.

Just a little self-promotion...I am celebrating my first anniversary on my website all this month. Become a Facebook fan (link on my website) and get $5 off any purchase over $24, all this week, until Sept. 14. That is $5 off my new book St. Louis Stars. If you make a purchase, send me a message on my "Contact me" page with the words "Facebook fan". You will get a $5 refund on your purchase. Please spread the word to all of your friends to join my blog and become a facebook fan. Fans will be privey to special sales and promotions.

Everday do what you love and love what you do. 'Til tomorrow, Toby

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