How I Learned the Truth About 1/4″ Seams

One of the reasons my Odds and Ends quilt stayed a UFO for so long is this…I have a Bernina sewing machine with a 1/4″ foot with the guide along the side…often referred to as the #57 foot.

I assumed that I was to the keep the fabric just to the the left of that guide and I’d have a 1/4″ seam…NOT!!  Not at all!!  I would go to put my pieces together and they would be off.  Off by quite a little too!!  I was so frustrated.  The pieces weren’t coming together.  I would put pieces together and where the edges were supposed to meet, they would be off  by almost 1/4″.  Well I am very good at “fudging” a seam allowance but some of these were going to be dangerous “fudges”.

Then when I saw Bonnie Hunter talk she mentioned that even people with the 1/4″ foot should check their 1/4″ seam and that not all feet are not true…especially those with the guide bar on the side.  Well I checked mine and she was right.  If I were to use that foot, I would have to have the fabric UNDER that guide to have it be a true 1/4″ seam.  Well knowing that, I now understood why those blocks weren’t coming out right.

I also got rid of the foot.  I just couldn’t make it work right.  Bonnie sells a great little seam guide on her blog. You can find it here.

If you don’t want to do that, try this.  Take a ruler.  Lay it on the bed of your machine.  Put it under the presser foot and put the foot down.  Turn your needle down so it is on the 1/4″ line.  Where ever the edge of the ruler comes down is where the edge of your ruler should be…for me, this foot wants me to put he fabric right along the edge for a perfect 1/4″ seam.


I recommend to EVERYONE.  STOP.  Take the time to check your 1/4″ seam allowance.  You will be SO less frustrated with the results of your quilt if you do.  Even if you think you know where your 1/4″ seam is, just check it to make sure.  You just might be glad you did!!

Back when I first started sewing I made one of my first Country Threads’ quilts that had hundreds of pieces I tried to make one of those…epic fail.  At the time I thought it was me…in was partly me, it was my seam allowance.  I had bought a kit and it was impossible to finish with my mish mash mess.  Had I know back then about seam allowances and checking them I would have saved so much heart ache and money…so go check yours!!  PLEASE!!

7 thoughts on “How I Learned the Truth About 1/4″ Seams”

  1. I also have a Bernina sewing machine. My quarter inch foot is #37, which does not have the guide bar. I have tested it (in 2 BH classes), and it gives me an accurate 1/4 inch seam allowance. This foot might be a good option for you.

  2. I tried that same foot because someone told me it was guaranteed accurate 1/4″. I had the same problem you did and was so frustrated. What a waste of time, fabric and money for the foot. I’m glad I read Bonnie’s blog several years ago and took her advice to check my 1/4″ seam allowance. I switched to a different foot and marked the accurate seam on the machine bed and have been much happier and had better results ever since.

  3. I have a Janome machine & the quarter inch foot is way out, the ordinary foot has a groove on it, I line the fabric up with the groove and I get a scant quarter inch seam.

  4. It DOES make a difference. Thanks for sharing. I found on my Pfaff that the flange on the 1/4″ foot hit the feed dogs and also splayed over time and was no longer accurate. I also like to move my needle over to the right to get as much fabric on the feed dogs as possible. Now I use Bonnie’s seam guide or one of the other two I have and create a guide with Q-Tools Sewing Edge. Every time I start a new project or change a bobbin (which requires moving the table insert where the guide is) I double check to make sure I’m still in line.

  5. Jo ….. Here’s my two cents worth. ha… I too have a Bernina and I do use the #57 foot…. but I move my needle over to the right one notch and this produces a perfect scanty-ish 1/4 seam. I frequently check my seams and so far so good. I also have used Bonnie’s guide but don’t like using it when sewing hst the old fashion way with a line down the center of the hst square. When sewing hst’s I use the #37 foot. I keep both feet in a little basket by the side of my machine and interchange them frequently. I also use the #37 for paper piecing.
    Every so often I test my seam allowance by sewing three 1 1/2 strips together and then measuring the center strip which should measure an inch.

    I love reading what other quilter’s do – I pick up lots of tips. I also like Bonnie’s tip to use an emery board to draw a line down the center on corner squares and hst squares – really like the way it clings to the fabric and doesn’t shift so drawn line is accurate


  6. I just checked my Bernina and its quarter-inch foot (#37) produces a perfect quarter inch seam with the needle in its current position. Now all I need to do is to slow down a little so I can make sure that the edge of the foot butts up to the edge of the fabric perfectly. I had a Janome with a quarter-inch foot with a flange … that flange had way too much give to it and I could never be sure that I was getting an accurate quarter inch seam. I’m much happier with my Bernina’s #37 foot. ;-)

  7. When I use the #57 foot I move the needle position over to the right one click. I get a great scant quarter inch seam allowance.

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