Although most sewing machines have seam measurement distances stamped into the throat guide plate, and you can purchase specially designed feet that sew quarter-inch seams, these can’t adequately serve their purpose if your machine isn’t sewing accurately. Quarter-inch seams are especially important for quilters. Fortunately, it’s very easy to check if your machine is sewing the correct seam allowance using a lined index card because the lines on an index card are spaced out exactly at ¼” increments.
With the needle and the presser foot in the raised position, slide the index card under your needle with the lines on the index card going the same direction as your seams would be sewn. Using the handwheel, slowly lower the needle until it is almost touching the index card. Align one of the lines on the card with the needle. Then lower the needle into the line on the card and drop your presser foot.
Does the edge of your quarter-inch foot line up with the next line that is ¼” over on the index card? If so, you’re set to sew quarter-inch seams accurately. If not, you’ll need to make adjustments to the needle position until you obtain the correct distance, then check your seam again using the index card.
You can also use an index card to check other seam allowances. Align the edge of the index card along with the seam allowance markings on the guide plate. Lower your presser foot and then turn the handwheel to lower the needle into the index card. Remove the card from the machine and measure the distance between the hole the needle made and the edge of the card. Is the distance correct? Does the measurement equal the distance the guide plate indicates? If not, adjust the needle position until you obtain the correct distance. Repeat these steps until you receive the correct measurement.
What if you have a sewing machine that doesn’t have lines stamped into the throat plate or you don’t have a quarter-inch foot? How can you easily get the correct seam allowances? It’s easy! On the index card, draw a thin line parallel to the edge of the card equal to the distance of your desired seam allowance. Slide the card under the needle and drop the needle into your drawn line just as we did earlier. Align the index card parallel to the edge of the presser foot so that the card edge is exactly where your fabric edge would be if you were sewing. Place a piece of painter’s tape or washi tape (any low residue tape will work) onto the throat plate along the edge of the index card. Feeding the fabric to follow the edge of the tape, you can now use the tape as a guide for your seam allowance.
What can you do to make sure your sewing machine continues to run smoothly and sew accurately?
Thread matters. Use a high-quality sewing thread to protect your machine and to get high-quality results.
By following these easy tips, your machine should maintain its sewing accuracy, making sure you and your machine have “sew” many happy days ahead.
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