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Beginning patchwork: perfect quarter inch seams

Updated on March 12, 2016
JanTUB profile image

Quilter, author, tutor, columnist, Jan T Urquhart Baillie has been enthusing others with her passion for quilting for more than 30 years.


No fuss quarter-inch seams and perfect pressing

Because patchwork made by machine is usually based on what is known as a 'template-free' method, perfect ¼ seams are imperative for accurate piecing. It is essential to press your work as flat as possible between seams.

This is a lesson on how to achieve a perfect ¼ inch seam with no fuss.

In addition, you will learn how to press the Jan T way — for success!

Lesson 1: Perfect seams

for perfect patchwork

You are going to make a three strip patch with a light centre strip, and then you'll test for the accuracy of your seam.

You'll learn how to make adjustments to achieve a perfect ¼ inch seam for your patchwork.

What you need: Equipment

for sewing your test piece

Sewing machine

Iron and ironing pad or board

Rotary cutter

Rotary cutting board

Quilter's rotary ruler

Those are some of my old friends, my quilting tools.

To get you started

Olfa rty-st/ cg 45mm rotary cutter/ self healing mat/ quilt ruler making set
Olfa rty-st/ cg 45mm rotary cutter/ self healing mat/ quilt ruler making set

My recommended starter set for beginning quilters, containing medium rotary cutter, a cutting mat to save your worktop and blade - essential, and a quilter's ruler.


What you need: Fabric

for the practice piece

Cut strips of fabric:

1½ inches x 5 inches

2 strips of dark coloured fabric

1 strip of light coloured fabric

Sewing your seam practice piece

With the ¼ inch foot on your sewing machine, follow the steps below:

  1. Place one dark strip (right side down), onto the light strip (right side up), matching the long edge.
  2. Sew down the long side keeping the edge next to the guide on the machine foot.
  3. Press the seam towards the dark strip.
  4. Take the second dark strip and place it right side down on the light strip, on the opposite edge to the other dark strip.
  5. Sew the next seam at ¼ inch as before.
  6. Press towards the new dark strip.

1: Place a dark strip on a light strip - Right sides together, sew with a quarter inch seam

2: Press to the dark strip - Follow the instructions in Lesson 2: Pressing (below)

3: Attach the other dark strip - On the opposite side

Press to the dark as before

4: Press to the dark as before - Test piece ready for measuring

5: Place your quilter's ruler on top - so that the light centre strip can be measured

6: If your centre strip is EXACTLY 1" wide

You did it!

Perfect seams.



How wide is the centre strip?

Is the strip less than 1 inch wide?

The seams are not EXACTLY ¼ inch.

Turn the work over, and measure the seam allowance.

Cut some more strips and try again. This time, make sure you are keeping the edges right up beside the flange on the foot of the machine, or that the edges are exactly at the side of your patchwork foot.

Is the strip more than 1 inch wide?

You will need to keep the edges just shy of the edge of the foot.

Once you are familiar with how your machine performs, then you will be able to get perfect seams every time.

Lesson 2: How to press patchwork

the Jan T way

The secret to successful machine piecing is to press your work from the right side. This way you get no little rolls on the seams.

Follow the steps below to get perfectly flat piecing.


Do NOT pull the 'lid' or you will roll the seam allowances, causing problems when you are joining blocks together later in the quilting process.

1: Place the sewn patches - on the ironing surface with the darker patch on top.

2. Lift the 'lid' slightly - just enough to get the iron under

3: Glide the iron sideways - out towards the darker patch

4: Complete the sweep with the iron - without pulling

See how flat the seam is?

That's how to get great patchwork by machine

Press the Jan T way, you can't lose!

© 2009 Jan T Urquhart Baillie

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    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 4 years ago from Australia

      @anonymous: Of course, but it is much easier to get seams right with hand patchwork. Perhaps I will write a lens about that soon. ;>)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I do not own a sewing machine, can these techniques be applied sewing by hand>

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks for the easy to understand photo's and comments

    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 7 years ago from Australia

      @marsha32: The secret is to press as you go! I'm all for fast. I deigned a whole system of fast piecing. But pressing just is as it is. Keep having fun!

    • profile image

      marsha32 7 years ago

      I get in a hurry and I know that one thing I do wrong is not pressing seams along the way...I sew a it to the next ....and I don't press it at all until I get it all sewn together and am ready for the filling and backing. I need to stop and take more time for pressing.

    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to spirituality] Thanks so much!

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      :) very good introduction :) blessed again :)