Seam Allowances

You have your pattern pieces cut out and stacked up. You have your machine threaded, and you are ready to get sewing. Before you start, have you considered your seam allowances and the approach you want to take with the garment you are about to create? Here, I am going to go over the basics of why seam allowance is the most crucial part of sewing.

What is the Big Deal about Seam Allowance?

Whether you are crafting, quilting, or sewing apparel, knowing what the seam allowance is and how to use it accurately is the most fundamental aspect of sewing. Without it, you may end up with an inconsistent fit or poor alignment.

The design of a sewing machine makes it work in concert with what your pattern or tutorial recommends. Getting to know how to work with your device to accommodate your seams will allow you to produce impeccable projects.

Seam Allowances and Your Sewing Machine

Before you start sewing, consider your machine’s settings to provide you with handy guidelines to keep your allowances equal throughout the whole project.

The following outlines how to ease your sewing:

  • Extending from the seam line out to the edge of the fabric. The seam allowance has three standard measurements going from ¼-inch to 3/8-inch to 5/8-inch.
  • The standard sewing machine needle plate has corresponding lines representing the standard seam allowance guides.
  • To help establish your line measurements, you can use a seam gauge or a ruler to figure out how your needle plate is set up.
  • For more precision, most machines will allow you to set the position of the needle either right, left, or center.
  • You can lay down a piece of masking tape to help you keep your guideline in clear sight as you sew. You want to remove the tape when you’ve finished working to avoid gumming up your needle plate.

The Purposeful Measurements and Their Use

Typically, those who sew use the smallest allowance of ¼-inch for quilting. There is a presser foot for each measurement to help avoid that the fabric ends chewed up in the feed dog. Meanwhile, the typical use of the 3/8-inch allowance is garments and other sewing projects. The 5/8-inch allowance is the standard apparel seam one.

Stay on your appropriate lines for accuracy in stitching and do not stray from that measurement. When you are sewing straight seam lines, it is easier to allow the machine to pull your fabric through without much work from you other than helping keep things flat and unencumbered. It is when you are sewing curves or changing direction for angles that you need to become accustomed to your machine.

For instance, sewing pockets means changing a right angle direction on your seam line. Maintain the same seam allowance measurement by stopping your stitching while the needle is still penetrating the fabric. You can lift the presser foot, turn the fabric to the next seam line, and lower the foot back down. This way, your seams remain firm.

At first, it can be tricky to determine the visual limits. If your seam allowance either falls short or extends too far, go back and reposition to either add or remove a stitch. With practice, you will become acclimated to the distance and can quickly eyeball when to stop and turn the fabric.

Matching Notches When Fitting Pattern Pieces Together

Another feature marked along seam allowances is the notch. Notches are the best method of fitting pattern pieces together that tend to curve such as sleeves and crotch lines. For the fit to work where fabric is shaped for the body, notches help to keep things aligned.

The pattern has these notches, which you can transfer onto the fabric. I have advanced from chalking them as outward notches to making a tiny v-cut that goes inward along with the seam allowance. I make these notches in the fabric as I cut out my pattern pieces.

When matching these notches that act as road signs to their corresponding mates, you can be sure your sleeves will meet adequately end to end without ending up with one piece longer than the other. Ignore these handy little markers to your peril. These notches are how your garment will fit together and fit the body for the necessary ease of movement.

Following these technical features will help you spend less time with your stitch ripper. Your great reward comes when you or your subject try on the garment for fit and everything looks and feels good. If these tips and tricks have been useful for you, there is more to explore regarding a variety of sewing subjects on our website or you can contact us for more information.

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