Quilting tip: Scant 1/4 inch

As you know, a 1/4″ seam allowance is the gold-standard in quilting.  Keeping your seam allowance consistent is an important key to good-looking quilts but using a scant 1/4″ seam is even better. Let me explain.

Typically lining up the edge of your fabric with the right side of your presser foot is a good guide for keeping your seam allowance consistent.  You can buy a specific quiter’s foot with a 1/4″ seam allowance for your machine (newer ones may come with it) but if you’re like me, I didn’t want to spend the extra money and it seemed close enough.  Then I took a class from Leslie Ison where she explained how much more effective it is to use a scant 1/4″ when pieceing – especially when you are piecing a more complex block.

Above is are two seams on either side of a drawn line. On the right I just used my regular presser foot with the needle centered. On the left I adjusted my needle one space to the right and still used my regular presser foot.

Here is the difference. On the right you can see that the seam allowance is actually slightly bigger than 1/4″. On the left you can see that the seam lies just slightly inside the 1/4″ line. This, my friends, is a scant 1/4″.

So get out your ruler and measure your seam allowance.  Making adjustments may be as simple as moving your needle one notch to the right, but sewing with a scant seam allowance will make a difference in your piecing. Especially if your piecing smaller, detailed blocks – like those cute Farmer’s Wife blocks. Give it a whirl and let me know if it makes a difference for you.


  1. says

    Nice of you to draw the &#39;scant&#39; to attention – I&#39;ve just recently started using it and is much more successful – very accurate!<br />Hugs – Lurline♥

  2. says

    Thank you. I have always wondered what that meant. Being a new sewer, I&#39;ve never really had to come across anything that required it, but I have heard/read it in passing. :)<br /><br />You&#39;re so good to us! Thank you for sharing.

  3. says

    Hrrrmmmppph. My needle doesn&#39;t move to the right. Just one giant step to the left for zippers and whatever else you sew all the way over there. I do have a 1/4&quot; foot, but I don&#39;t think I am as consistent with my seam allowance with it. But my regular foot is a little over 3/8&quot; seams… which ends up being really big! Hmmm… must find a new solution!

    • says

      Measure out 1/4&quot; from your needle. Then place a piece of tape on your machine bed, so that guiding fabric along the edge of the tap ewill allow you to achieve a seam that is just slightly less than the 1/4&quot;.<br />

  4. says

    This works out great because when you have to press, that scant part is the fold from the seam to the top over the seam allowance bulk. It works really really well when you have lots of points you don&#39;t want cut off as well.

  5. says

    I`ve just bought a new machine and the quilter`s kit came with a quarter inch foot – is this the same as a scant seam? Before, I used to use a line of masking tape on the machine as I wasn`t able to move the needle right or left.

    • says

      No, chances are it will give you a regular 1/4&quot; seam or maybe even a bit more than that, just as the author of the blog found when she tried her&#39;s out. Just move your needle to the right a notch. That should do it. Move the needle over and test your 1/4&quot; foot with it. If you end up with just slightly less than 1/4&quot;, you will have the &#39;scant&#39; 1/4&quot; seam.

  6. says

    Thanks for this tip, I&#39;m just about to start working on a block for a block of the month and was reluctant because I didn&#39;t love home my Farmer&#39;s Wife blocks looked! Will definitely try this!

  7. says

    I have been sewing for about 45 years- but only quilting for about 4 months. Talk about the &quot;aha!&quot; moment…it never occurred to me to move the needle to get the scant 1/4 inch!! Thanks for the tip!

  8. says

    I have a 1/4&quot; foot that came with my machine and I couldn&#39;t live without it. It gives me the perfect seam allowance every time. For those who don&#39;t have one, it is definitely worth the investment.

    • says

      Unless you move your needle position, it probably still will not be a &#39;scant&#39; 1/4&quot;. I used to figure that as long as I was consistent, it was OK. But using the scant 1/4&quot; seam really does make a difference.

  9. says

    My 1/4&quot; foot was only $5 — and well worth it because I can&#39;t move my needle either (a Janome mechanical). BUT . . . you have to check your seam regardless, because the first 1/4&quot; foot I bought was defective — nowhere NEAR a scant 1/4&quot;. I had to exchange it for one that was right.

  10. says

    I SO wish I had known this before I started the quilt I&#39;m currently working on. I had no idea what it meant and was just eyeballing it, so now I&#39;ve got wonkiness. Thank you for clearing that up for me!

  11. says

    Thanks for this info! I used to use the right side of my foot, then I switched to the inside of the right side of my foot which was a 1/4 in. That&#39;ll be so much easier if I just move the needle. GENIUS!

  12. says

    @Annabella – I don&#39;t have a return email address to respond to your comment, so I&#39;m hoping you&#39;ll see it here:<br /><br />So nice that your machine came with a 1/4&quot; inch foot. I would just sew a seam and measure it with a ruler to check and see if it&#39;s a scant 1/4&quot;. If not, the masking tape is definitely another good option.

  13. says

    yes! this is genius!! I have a 1/4&quot; foot but I don&#39;t think it&#39;s genuine bernina because it doesn&#39;t fit my machine well and it&#39;s super slippery. I think i&#39;m going to ditch it and start doing this. you just changed my life!!<br /><br />PS – do you have an Bliss laying around?

  14. says

    I think you just solved all my problems and made all of my wildest dreams come true. Move the needle! *smacks forehead* Now why didn&#39;t I think of that? (&#39;cause I&#39;m not you, that&#39;s why!) THANK YOU!

  15. says

    Only yesterday the exhibition of the hobby of Rome, I discovered the basics of quilters. It &#39;nice to see how much passion and love are created these masterpieces. Congratulations you are very good! I follow you always with pleasure. Hello!

  16. says

    You know, I have read so many blogs that talk about using a 1/4&quot; seams and I really didn&#39;t get it until I saw your visual. I had been trying to figure out exactly where is the scant? lol Thanks for the visual!

  17. says

    Wow, I just had an &#39;aha&#39; moment. I&#39;ve heard people talk about scant 1/4&quot; seams but never really got it. Thanks so much for the visual, that&#39;s exactly what I needed!

  18. says

    Thanks for sharing this! I know that&#39;s it&#39;s better to use a scant 1/4&quot;, but it never occured to me how simple it would be to achieve it. duh.

  19. says

    OMG!!! I&#39;m so glad I read this before I started my new project… it&#39;s my 3rd quilt and I did as best I could with the first two… just wanted to tell you that I&#39;m 2 blocks in and I can tell the difference in how the pieces are going to fit together. Thanks for the explanation and hint… although my needle only moves to the left so I feel backwards. :o)

  20. says

    You know, I&#39;ve been quilting for 6 years and it took going to the Summit for me to FINALLY measure it up and resign myself to adjusting my needle position every time I turn on my machine to get the scant 1/4&quot;. WHAT a Difference!! Funny you should post this like 3 days after I finally saw the light!

  21. says

    Thank you for the visual! I have a new Janome that comes with a 1/4&quot; foot. I checked it before I started a new quilt &amp; still is bigger than a 1/4&quot; if I go by the guide. I had to move my needle over to the right &amp; I&#39;m going by the 1/4&quot; mark on by extension table for right now.

  22. says

    Thanks for the tip! I&#39;ve been using the edge of my foot and some of my blocks aren&#39;t turning out correctly. Maybe this will help me.

  23. says

    It&#39;s good to hear you say this Amy! I recently realized that my Singer&#39;s 1/4&quot; measurement is more than that! I&#39;m working on the Swoon quilt right now and find my HST aren&#39;t quite large enough so I&#39;ll definitely be switching to the scant measurement. Thanks!

  24. says

    I just found this and wanted to thank you so much for explaining it so perfectly … I didn&#39;t even know I could move my needle! Now I know the exact number to program it to to get the perfect seam!

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