Have you ever thought about how hard a straight line is? Do a quick check. Grab a pen and paper and draw a line. In fact, draw several. Start with a short one and make them progressively longer. If yours are anything like mine the short one isn’t bad, but they get progressively worse. Any small wiggle on the short line is amplified with the longer lines.
This is how it works with sewing our seams. Our short seams tend to not have very many problems. And this makes the foundations of our blocks nice and flat. But as things start to get bigger up to the borders (which are the longest seams in our quilts) our seams tend to get much less straight. Most of the time this doesn’t matter too much. A little wiggle here and there isn’t going to be noticed. The problems starts when the seams get too small or have drastic wiggles.
When your seams get too small you run the risk of having your threads pull through. This will make a hole in your top. This is an unfortunate thing that we find occasionally with some of the tops we longarm. The really sad part is that by the time we have found these pulled seams we’ve typically quilted a good chunk of the quilt. We can’t pull it off the rack and fix it. If you’re quilting on your home machine, you might be able to swing things around to fix it, but often you’ll have too much quilted to be able to get to it. The only way to fix them at this point is to top stitch over the seam. (I would put a picture here, but we haven’t had to do it since I started to write the blog. Thankfully). This puts a big, unintended line in your quilt. Sometimes, it’s not a big deal. But can you imagine something with a plain, muslin back and a nice big, loopy pattern? That straight line is going to scream at you.
The best way to deal with seams that pull out is to make sure they never happen in the first place. This saves many grey hairs on your longarm quilter’s part. The first part of making sure your seams don’t pull was covered last week in the Quick Quarter Inch Check article. If your seams are at least a scant quarter inch, they shouldn’t pull out (unless your fabric is brittle or has a ridiculously low thread count. Use quality fabric and you shouldn’t have this problem). Now that you know exactly what is a scant quarter inch looks like on your personal machine, you have to sew those straight seams we’ve been talking about.
When we learn to sew lots of us look at the needle. It’s the scary part that is going to bite our fingers if we don’t watch it carefully. This is the exact wrong thing to watch. Now that you’ve found the 1/4 inch line (or made one with painter’s tape) you should be watching the edge of your fabric on that line. If your fabric kisses this line the entire time you’re sewing, your seam can’t possibly be too small and it will be as straight as possible.