Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What size should seams be on a quilt?

Elizabeth asks:
I’m just starting to make quilts…all quilt patterns call for ¼” seams. However, I’ve seen quilts, after many washings, that fray at the seams. Can I use 1/3” seams instead of ¼” seams? I’m thinking the quilt will not come undone as easily under repeated washings…Thanks!

If you are making a quilt like a log cabin or some type of scrappy quilt that could work but if you are making a quilt with blocks that have points or other shapes that match at the seams it won't work. As quilt blocks are designed for 1/4" seams any matching shapes will be off. For instance a star block is designed so when you sew your 1/4" seam the point will be right up by the seamline. With a 1/3" seam you will sew into the point and you'll lose the point completely. Your quilt would also end up smaller. I suppose you could always cut your strips and pieces wider to make up for a bigger seam allowance but that could be an engineering nightmare.

There are a couple of reasons quilts might fray. One reason is that the quilter didn't sew a true 1/4" seam and/or they didn't have the two fabric pieces aligned. Another reason that quilts fray is due to the quality of the fabric used. A thin fabric is more likely to fray due to a lower thread count. A quick test to see if a cotton fabric has a decent thread count is to hold it up to the light and see if you can see your hand through it. If you can it's probably not the best material to buy. Thread also makes a difference - you can piece with cotton thread rather than polyester thereby equalizing the stress points of the quilt ( If you use a good quality fabric and good quality thread fraying should not be a problem and you can sew a 1/4" seam.

Hope this helps!

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