Aurifil Thread · Bella Solids in Serendipity Woods · Handy Quilting Tips · Moda Fabric · Moda Sampler Shuffle

The Sometimes Perplexing Scant 1/4″ & What’s Thread Got to Do with it?

“Use a scant 1/4.” I’ve read this in multiple patterns and though it’s not necessarily a difficult concept to get my arms around, knowing why – or more importantly when – to use it has always escaped me for some reason, until yesterday.

First, let me show you the current view from my desk at any given time during my day (when I’m not cutting fabric or living life, in general).

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Carina Gardner’s gorgeous Posy Garden on the bottom shelf (from which I’ll be creating my next project, no question!) and the Sweetwater Bella Solids Collection on top which, if you ask me, has got to be one of the most joyful collections of simple solids ever assembled on purpose. I’m in love with these fabrics together beyond words!

Add to this to my growing love affair with Bella Solids in general, I’ve been trying to carve out some time to create a quilt with Moda’s Sampler Shuffle – a series of 30 – 6″ blocks designed by Moda designers – which were released to quilt shops last November at Quilt Market, Houston.  I can’t say I’ve seen them created with Bellas, but as I’ve spent the last week or so staring longingly at the above image, The Sweetwater Bellas became an obvious choice.

So far so good…

Sweetwater Blocks
Blocks 1 and 2 of the Moda Sampler Shuffle set of blocks, in Sweetwater Bella Solids.

All was going well until I made the 4th block, which had an awful lot of pieces (equating to an awful lot of seams)

Lots of Tiny Pieces = Scant 1:4 inch.jpg

Needless to say, I made it once, but decided to remake it. Here’s why:

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The block on the right is Block 1 in the series which does have a fair few pieces, but went together comfortably with a standard 1/4″ seam allowance, finishing up at the correct 6 1/2″ needed.  The center block, however, is my first attempt at Block 4, using a standard 1/4″ seam allowance without thinking much about it. It’s at least 5/8″ too small all the way around. The block on the left is a remake if Block 4, using scant 1/4″ seam allowances.

Meh. 5/8″ isn’t all that big of a deal, right? Actually, it’s not the end of the world, until you’re trying to put a bunch of blocks together that are supposed to be the same size. 5/8″ can be a lot and I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to have to stretch my seams that much to make them line up comfortably.  This is where the proverbial ‘scant 1/4 inch’ comes into play and why it is sometimes a pretty handy and necessary process for making our blocks the right size.

A scant 1/4″ is really nothing more than this:

Scant 1:4" Jane.jpeg
A scant 1/4″ is merely defined as a slightly smaller than 1/4″ seam allowance than a standard 1/4″ seam allowance. Where it’s useful in particular, is when you’ve a small block with lots of small pieces.

Essentially, it all boils down to just how many seams we’re incorporating into any given block.  Think of it this way – the more seams, the more seam allowances; the more rows, the smaller each block has the propensity to become as we go along, depending on how much attention we pay to seam allowance with each seam we create.

ALSO! In case you wondered – the fineness of the thread we use can make a difference as well.  It’s why when I first tried Aurifil 50wt , I switched to it without even passing Go or collecting $200 (Monopoly never really leaves your psyche once you play it as a kid, ya know? But lest I degress…). Anyway, while you wouldn’t think the density of thread would matter much, I find that it makes my seams less bulky, which can make a sizable different across the span of a quilt, not to mention – a bunny outfit.

Sophie Daytime Nighty Aurifil
According to the bunnies, their clothes fit a whole lot more comfortably when the seams are less bulky.
4 Sampler Shuffle Blocks
As I go along making 30 – 6″ blocks, it matters in the grand scheme that they’re all as close to 6 1/2″ (unfinished) as possible, if I want them to line up fairly comfortably in a finished quilt.

“What did you do with the poor, little too-small block?”

Great question.

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I made it into a little 6″ placemat I can use at my desk for a bowl of soup while I’m working over lunch. It also makes a great little nightstand mat for my cell phone. In all, what I appreciate about Sweetwater fabric collections is how versatile they are.  for the binding of my little mat, I used a fabric from the Cookie Exchange, a current Sweetwater holiday line. My point is, when it’s altogether – it’s festive and Christmassy – but often, when used individually, Sweetwater Christmas fabrics are versatile enough not to scream CHRISTMAS! unless you want them to 🙂

In the end, the question begs: is it really critical to pay so much attention to precision at the tiniest level with respect to seam allowances and thread density? Well, yes and no. It really comes down to two things – the longer we’ve been quilting, I think, the more it begins to matter to us that our work reflects our level of experience. Secondarily, every little seam, whether attentive to exactness of seam allowance or what kind of thread we use, adds up.  For the purpose of this post – I’m just giving you a little food for thought 🙂

I wish you happy sewing my friends,

Pam

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4 thoughts on “The Sometimes Perplexing Scant 1/4″ & What’s Thread Got to Do with it?

  1. I had wondered after seeing it mentioned, I think, in the splendid sampler quilt a long. I thought maybe the scant 1/4 inch was needed to correct an error in design. Oops. It’s good to now understand. Please do continue to post these teaching moments. Thanks,colleen(happy scrappy teaching moments?)

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    1. Happy Scrappy Teaching Moments – love it, Colleen! Believe me, these sorts of teaching moments pop into my day regularly, often in a EUREKA! sort of fashion. It’s that I have enough experience to know what a good deal of such terms mean from the standpoint that I can follow them all day long – but it’s nice when the occasion arises that I clearly see (without an instruction) how a certain technique would apply – and I want other people to feel that sort of independence too! Maybe ‘Fishing Pole Moments’ are what they should be called, because I can give you fish all day long, but if I teach you how to fish, you’re lots better off in the long run! Thanks for chiming in, Colleen 🙂

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  2. Greetings! I wanted to drop a note and say I have been thoroughly enjoying your blog, as well as your eye for color and attention to detail! Your cheerful images make me want to make a quilt (at least a mini one). Best wishes to you :-).

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    1. Oh! How very thoughtful of you to say! I’ve had an eventful day and it sure is nice to feel like what I write makes a difference to someone. It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, but I’m actually working on a block that I’ll be posting about, and if I play my cards right – a once a week followup for the quilt that will come together as a result. Very excited about it – it’s right up my alley 🙂 Thanks so much for chiming in. Sometimes we don’t realize that we really can make someone’s day – and you have made mine by sharing your very kind compliments. Cheers 🙂

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