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Why are quilts made with 1/4" seam?  I made a log cabin quilt with 1/4" seams.  Then when I had to wash it the seams started coming apart.  Whenever I sew clothes the patterns required 5/8" seam, those seams do not come apart.  So why 1/4" seams? 

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Comment by Anna Hord on March 27, 2013 at 6:29am


I have changed the stitch to 1.8 and I am trying paper piecing.  Hopefully this will help with the seams being straight and tight.  This way - until I get used to 1/4" seams, I will be sewing the correct width.     

Comment by colorado13 on March 27, 2013 at 6:14am

Congrats on starting quilting!! I was really worried about this issue when I started quilting in 1983!! This is what I do to prevent this from happening:

* I use the best fabric I can afford, and the best thread.

* I buy a little extra fabric, then I tear it from selvedge to selvedge to get a straight grain; then I cut off about an inch so I am not using the stressed part of the fabric from the tearing.

* I use a very small stitch - 1.8 or 1.9 on my Bernina

* I put the 1/4" marks on the ruler ON the line, not next to it.  This gives me one more thread in my seam allowance.

I hope this helps! Keep at it and have fun creating!

Comment by Carol Ann Hinton on March 25, 2013 at 9:12pm

Congratulations, Anna, on completing your first quilt!  And I'm sorry you had trouble with the seams coming apart.  

Forgive me for sounding so "teacherish" in my previous post ( but I DO teach quilting). I was trying to figure out why you are having that problem.  If the fabric is good, and the THREAD is good, and you are using a standard stitch size (check this), which it sounds like you are, then be sure you are sewing a STRAIGHT 1/4" seam.  No "wavering" back and forth as you go along the seam line.  What are you using to be sure you are sewing exactly 1/4 inch?  Is there a mark on your machine at 1/4" where you can align the edge of the fabrics, or are you using a special quarter-inch foot made for your machine?  

This all sounds very picky when you are just starting out, but an accurate, consistent 1/4" seam is what all modern quilting patterns are based upon.  Master that, and you can make any pattern.  

Good luck with your next quilt, and feel free to ask us any questions!

Comment by June Johnson/Wi on March 25, 2013 at 8:16pm

I use 1/4 inch.  A quilt for charity group that I belong to uses 1/2 inch; we do not know what care is given to charity quilts so feel that 1/2 inch will make a stronger quilt.  Also, we tie all the quilts rather than quilt them to save time.

Comment by Anna Hord on March 25, 2013 at 2:52pm

This was my first quilt and I enjoyed making it so much.  I am going to make the stitches smaller on my next one.  I was just using the standard stitch length on my machine.  I am also going to quilt all the seams on this next one.  Am looking forward to making another.  I never had any problems with table toppers that I have made, but maybe I had more quilting on them.

I used cotton fabric which I bought from connecting threads, so I don't think it was the fabric.

I just wondered why 1/4" is the standard.  

Comment by Janet/MO on March 25, 2013 at 2:03pm

Another reason for 1/4" seams is so you could quilt pretty close to the seam without having to quilt through the additional layer of fabric.  Since you had trouble with your seams coming apart, I'm curious as to what stitch length you were using.  If it was a bit too long, that might have been part of the problem. 

Comment by Carol Ann Hinton on March 25, 2013 at 1:04pm

If you want to use 1/2" instead of 1/4", there is nothing that says you can't, BUT there are a few things to keep in mind.  If you are using a printed pattern, remember that all of the cutting directions are ASSUMING that you are using 1/4" seams.  Therefore, you'll have to cut bigger pieces to use 1/2" seams.  All of your cutting rulers are designed to the 1/4".  If you have many seams coming together at the same point (center of a star perhaps), the more seam allowance you have, the bulkier it will be and the less likely to lay flat.  Some other things happen when you start making triangles and putting rows together and borders on.  Very simple quilts, like a rail fence and sometimes even a log cabin, will make very little difference -- you'll just get a smaller quilt with the same number of blocks.  Miniature quilt makers often sew seams less than 1/8 of an inch, because the smaller the pieces the more bulky 1/4" seams,  become.  The same would be true of 1/2" seams in a regular quilt.  Quilts should be made of relatively tightly woven fabric that doesn't ravel easily.  Your 1/4" seams should not come apart in the wash.

Comment by Prairie Quilter Jan/NE on March 25, 2013 at 12:51pm

I'm sorry to hear your quilt seams started to come apart in the wash.   I've never had that problem with my quilts.  

Seam allowances are interesting.  I don't know the origins of the 1/4" quilt seams, but I do have a couple of very, very old quilts and if their seams are 1/8" we're doing good.  I'd guess it was to not waste fabric.

I did some garment sewing for many years and noticed many times the seams were trimmed to much less than 5/8".  I figured the 5/8" seams that weren't trimmed were left to allow for alterations, but that would be just a guess.

Comment by Shannon, ON on March 25, 2013 at 12:10pm

i read that quilting used to use 1/2" seams, then i guess in the name of conservation a 1/4" was tried and proven to be ok.

Comment by Pam/NY on March 25, 2013 at 10:57am

It may have been the fabric you used...a tightly woven fabric like cotton should not come apart.

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