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).

SAMSUNG CSC
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:

SAMSUNG CSC
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.

SAMSUNG CSC
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

Save

A BOM Update & Why You Need a Sewing Corner

SAMSUNG CSC
A tiny upcoming BOM hint.

First – a BOM update in the form of the above photo.  Yes indeed, kits are being assembled and gorgeousness is about to happen, friends!  We’ve still got a little over a month before the July 22nd first ever Serendipity Woods Block of the Month project kickoff and I’m pleased to announce that already – the response has been extraordinary!  Rather than spend too much time reiterating about it (of course if you need a refresher or are newly in-the-know about it and want more info – DO click the link – quicklikeabunny!), I want to inspire some thoughts on sewing spaces and why they matter.

First, let me start by saying I completely GET that for most of us, available space is at a premium, especially in busy homes with children. Often that means sewing machines come out of a closet when needed, only to be tucked back into that closet when we’ve whipped up whatever something we wanted or needed to make.  Sometimes that’s unavoidable and it is what it is; yet its hard to feel inspired to sew when the process of sewing involves SETTING UP all the time.  Ideally, having a space somewhere where all our sewing happiness can live without having to be put away is so great because it allows us to sit down to sew whenever the mood strikes or whenever the free time presents itself (like naptime…oh yes, I remember naptime!).

When my kids were small, my machine was set up in a fairly large space in our basement.  It worked great because for one thing, my sewing space didn’t have to be neat all the time! It was also right off our family room so the kids could be playing nearby and I was close if they needed me.  The other great thing about basement sewing spaces is that often there’s plenty of room to spread out. I took a moment to search ‘Basement sewing room’ (since I just don’t seem to have a photo of mine from the past) and just LOOK what I found:

Miss sews a lot Sewing Space Progress
This space belongs to Miss Sews A Lot and reminds me a fair bit of my (past) basement sewing studio – in a word: SPACIOUS!

Now, while I do miss the spaciousness of my basement sewing studio, I learned a couple of things – first of which is that I honestly don’t technically  need that much space all in one spot (but trust me, I love spare closets!). Not to mention – the biggest drawback to having a basement sewing studio is DINNER; rather, having to drop everything to go upstairs and make it.  I realized what I really wanted to do was to sew some and work some, then sew some and work some more.  I found that with a basement studio, I was less inclined to volley back and forth between the two and more inclined to do one for a long period, then the other. That wasn’t really working for me.

So. Enter a room like this:

Phamplet 1971 Governor's Residence
This isn’t MY formal dining room, nor was it ever (not even in 1965, before I was born, for the record). It’s the formal dining room of the Minnesota Governor’s Residence , just for fun – I picked it so we could all bask in its superfluous, nonsensical (and especially golden) formality.

Formal.  I am not. WE are not. Never have been. But still, for the last few houses, we’ve been graced with a superfluous room – a formal dining room…usually right off the kitchen where clearly I make dinner…or someone (like my handsome Superman) does. Did I mention not technically needing all that much space in one spot?

Fast forward to this afternoon when I took this photo:

Sewing Corner
Yep – you guessed it.  This is a small corner of my dining room, right off our kitchen.  Were it not for the fact that the rest of the room is occupied by bolts (and bolts and bolts) of fabric, I may have more room for my sewing space; but remember – I technically don’t need very much room all in one spot (I could use a little more room for bolts of fabric, however, as evidenced across the hall in Superman’s office. That’s obviously where Bonnie & Camille’s Little Ruby Collection lives).

For sewing – I really just need one corner.  You really just need one corner.

SAMSUNG CSC
A foldable TV tray covered with several layers of quilt batting and a layer of Insul Bright with my favorite pretty fabric makes for a great block pressing table.  My iron lives on the little wrought iron shelf/stand too, so it’s handy but not taking up space on the mini ironing table I may want to fold and put out of the way.  See my little basket of fabrics I’m using for one of my active projects? And my scrap bowl, for just especially the scraps I’m using for our BOM project (for reasons I can’t possibly share just this very second)?  All handy and only what I need – not what I don’t. Don’t get me wrong – there are nearby closets for the ‘don’t need right this minute,’ and you’d better believe I use them!
SAMSUNG CSC
A portable block pressing board is a must as far as I’m concerned so I can carry my pieces from wherever I’m cutting (in my case, an adjacent table that always has my mat set up, but maybe yours is on your kitchen counter temporarily for the day).  Mine portable pressing board/carrying tray is a Quilter’s Cut & Press by June Taylor that I simply recovered on the one side with my favorite happy fabric. There are a variety of brands out there, but I like this one best because I can hang the handle from my next favorite studio tool…
3m hooks
Never underestimate the value of the almighty 3M Command Hook . I’ve mentioned it in previous posts – I use them everywhere.
SAMSUNG CSC
I get it. It may not be practical for you to hang your projects from 3M hooks in your sewing corner, but I love them. What you see are the 3 projects I’m currently working on as well as some clip boards for shop happenings. Even my wire file holder on the wall hangs from 3M hooks. Also, because I can see my WIPs, I’m a whole lot more inspired to spend a few minutes here and there to make progress on them.  It also keeps me thinking twice about starting a new project if I can see the ones that aren’t yet finished. I like to have a few projects going at once, but not too many or my crafty brain gets cluttered.
SAMSUNG CSC
Two more magical words: Binder Clips. Another one: Brilliant.

 

Sewing Corner
You’ll obviously see that a good amount of what also occupies this corner is shop stuff – superfluous to your needs as a sewist who just needs a corner of space for sewing.  The printer, the monitor, the patterns on the wall (with more 3M hooks – I’m telling you, they’re genius). The bottom line is that everything is handy and nothing is there that I don’t need to just sit down and sew when I have a free minute or two.  Even my sewing machine…
Charlotte and Jane
…is Jane, my 1956 Featherweight. She’s small, portable, and great for piecing.  I do have other machines and sometimes get them out for various reasons – but I love Jane most because she’s small and usually all I need to sew a nice little seam (or two, or a hundred).

So ‘What’s the update on the Modern Heritage Block of the Month prep,’ you ask? Okay, okay…

Large Cross Block
…one more sneak peek photo of my progress in prepping for our upcoming Modern Heritage Quilts Block of the Month. Of course click on the link if you haven’t yet signed up to join us. It’s going to be incredibly fun!

I’m really excited for us to get started on our Block of the Month project too.  In the meantime though, I wanted you to have a chance to spend a little time thinking about your space and how to make it most inspiring for you to create, JUST when you want to create. I hope you have at least a little sewing corner you can call your own.  I’d love to know more about it, if you feel like sharing.

Until next time – happy sewing 🙂

Pam