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seam allowances
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Seam Allowances Straight And True
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Seam Allowances Straight And True

Seam allowances are not something you're generally thinking about when the notion of learning patchwork becomes an enticement to you. I remember the first course I ever did. I don't remember what had appealed to me about doing it. It certainly wasn't the enticement of sewing precise straight lines!

Perhaps it was my love of fabric and sewing in general. Maybe it was just because I lived in a small town and opportunities didn't come that way very often.

I didn't know the first thing about patchwork. All I had was a list of class requirements and a happy glow about learning something new and interesting.

I remember getting a surprise at a couple of things in those early days.

The first was at the cost of all the bits and pieces. If this is a concern to you than be assured that much of what you need to begin with will last you for years. Apart from the obviously disposable items such as fabric of course.

My mat and cutting blade have been going for twenty almost twenty years!

To start patch working you will likely need the following:

  1. A sewing machine (unless you're going to do hand pieced work). It doesn't need to be anything fancy although if you're going to be quilting your creations a walking foot attachment will be necessary. Check it's available for the model you intend on buying even if you don't want to buy it straight away. Of course the better the machine that you can afford the more comfortable your sewing experience may be.
  2. A self healing cutting mat.
  3. A rotary cutting blade
  4. Assorted complimentary fabrics to suit the project or pattern you're undertaking. Most patchworkers will always use 100% cottons.
  5. Dressmaking pins. I find quilting pins too long for my liking. I just use regular dressmaking pins and always the ones with a big plastic head on them in case I drop one.
  6. Scissors for snipping threads.
  7. A neutral but complimentary thread. Many people recommend cotton thread for their patchwork believing that the stitching will break before the fabric will tear in an heirloom quilt. I have personally moved away from this concern as I haven't found cotton easy to find here while polyester thread is readily available.
  8. If you have other assorted dressmaking tools it can be useful at times but not essential.

The second thing that surprised me was the beginning of the class. It was all about seam allowances. They had to be straight and true.

Twenty years on I can understand why my teacher started on that point. Precision is perhaps the most important concept for any patchworker.

Seams must be a quarter inch. Always. Without fail!

When a seam waivers from that exact measurement then everything else ceases to join with precision. Seams don't meet at the corners and triangles don't marry to make the right sized square!

If the 'wonky' bit is in the middle of a row of stitching a block won't sit flat.

The first thing any new patchworker needs to do is take a sample of fabric and draw a line on it that is a quarter inch from the edge of the fabric. Sew along this line on your sewing machine. When you're SURE it's exact tape a piece of masking tape onto the sewing plate of your machine to mark the exact position your fabric needs to feed so that your needle is always hitting the mark of the quarter inch seam.

This is the first thing I learnt.... well right after the realisation that this hobby was going to cost me something... and I've been using the knowledge ever since. In fact, all these years later that peeling piece of masking tape is still attached to my machine!

Street Talk

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