Back to Basics

BW.Block1Duck Track Block

To me, September is like a reboot month. We make all these New Year resolutions to do better, be more organized, blog more regularly blah blah blah and then we fall flat on our face after a few months. But in September, it is like I can hit the re-start button. We’re headed into a new season and for some reason I can refocus on my goals. (Maybe it’s because my household has gone back to school and to work and I have more time for me!)

Sew let’s get back to basics. Accuracy is always on my list of improvements. I dislike seam ripping and I like to get it right the first time. When I teach a class, we always start off checking the seam allowance. The seam allowance is usually the guilty party when the block doesn’t turn out the correct size. However, there are really four elements to making the block the correct size.

  1. Cutting
  2. 1/4″ seam
  3. Alignment
  4. Pressing

Cutting your fabric. Be sure you iron out all wrinkles and folds (steam is fine). Have good lighting, your proper glasses, and a sharp rotary blade. Always stand when cutting. Sitting is convenient but standing over your ruler allows for better accuracy. Always cut once away from your body and don’t see-saw back and forth. If your blade is skipping or you’re having to cut several times, time for a new blade. If you’re ruler is sliding, try non slick grips on the back and anchor your pinky on the non-cutting side of the ruler.

Your 1/4″ seam needs to be accurate. Most modern sewing machine come with a programmed setting for piecing. It is marked by a P. I can’t tell you how many students I have helped find the correct setting for their quarter inch seam. They’d been using tape when all along their machine had a perfect setting for them. Be sure to know your machine’s settings and have the proper foot. MEASURE that quarter inch before you start.

Alignment is so important. Some ladies sew like it is a race. I’m guilty too. And none of us like to be last in the class room. But it isn’t a race and accuracy is more important than finishing first. Take your time. Align that fabric up perfectly. Take time to pin. Ask yourself, “What’s the point?” When sewing points, be sure to align the ends at the point. If the fabric is slightly long or short at the other end it isn’t going to matter as much as getting your point to be at the quarter inch seam.

Pressing Matters. Press first with the seam closed (no steam). Open the pieced item and from the wrong side of the fabric, knock the seam, with the side of the iron, the direction the arrow shows in the instructions. You’re just knocking it over. Then from the front do the same, making sure the seam hadn’t folded over on itself. When pressing, I hold one side of the fabric taunt while pressing with the iron – not tight enough to stretch the fabric but to enough to press the seam well. No steam in my iron unless I want the piece to grow. This is where so many blocks fall short, is in the pressing.

If your block doesn’t turn out the size it was supposed to, examine these four elements to find the culprit.

Feel free to reboot along with me. September is a new month, a new season, a new day. I hope these tips help you with your accuracy.

Sew on my good friend,



What do you think?