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Reduce bulk in the seams of your quilt blocks

 

Welcome back to another week of QUILTsocial, as we explore more exciting features of the Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC. I also have some great sewing tips that I’ll be including in the posts this week, like how to reduce bulk in the seams of your quilt blocks.

It’s going to be another fun week. Stay tuned!

 

Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC sewing machine
Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC sewing machine

 

Today, I’m going to spend some time on a couple of cool features that I discovered by spending some serious time with the Designer EPIC.

I mentioned last time how wide the bed of this sewing machine is. It’s a full 12 1/4″ from the needle to the end of the work space. The reason for this large size is to accommodate a larger hoop when you’re doing machine embroidery. Since this is also a sewing machine, this extra space will be extremely beneficial when machine quilting as there’s a lot of room to handle a larger project.

But where I found that extra space extremely useful was in ordinary sewing. I usually sew with an ender and leader project (small bits that get sewn in between my main project so I can chain piece without breaking the thread). There was loads of room on the bed of the Designer EPIC to place my bits so they didn’t fall on the floor or I had to keep them in front of the machine on the table. I LOVE this as it made it very handy to have those pieces handy.

Notice how much extra space I still had. Keeping those bits in no way cut down on my sewing space.

 

A very large throat space allowed me to keep small project bits handy.
A very large throat space allowed me to keep small project bits handy.

 

Even when I placed larger blocks (waiting to be sewn) on the bed of the Designer EPIC, I still had a lot of space and still not hindering my sewing area.

 

Room for larger blocks on the work space
Room for larger blocks on the work space

 

At some point, over the last couple of weeks, I was sewing on my own sewing machine and immediately noticed how cramped the sewing area was on my machine. There was definitely no room to keep those bits handy!

 

No bounce!

I had forgotten to mention this the last time I posted.  Let’s face it, the Designer EPIC is a large sewing machine and it’s heavy. It weighs 35 lbs. While I do have a very solid sewing table, I don’t have an insert for the Designer EPIC so I had to place it on my folding banquet tables and I was afraid that the bouncing would be a challenge for sewing.

I noticed right from the beginning that there wasn’t the amount of vibrations that I would have anticipated. Now if I were sewing at a very high rate, then I would get more bouncing, but who sews flat out anyway? You’re just asking for inaccuracies when you do that.

Then as I was browsing through some literature on the Designer EPIC, I came across an explanation. The sewing machine was designed to lessen the vibrations! How cool is that!

There are times when I think the engineers for the Designer EPIC were reading my mind about what I like and dislike about a sewing machine. What little details like this show me is that someone with a very thorough knowledge of sewing has had input to how the Designer EPIC was put together. That’s very important to me as a quilter!

 

Very little bouncing, even on a folding table
Very little bouncing, even on a folding table

 

The best screwdriver – EVER!

Speaking of thoughtful designs, this next tool is fabulous and again, extremely well thought out. We’ve all been in this position – you need to change the needle or you need to remove the presser foot ankle and those little screws are so small and so far under the head of the sewing machine that you just can’t get a good grasp on them. Right? Well problem solved. Have a look at this screwdriver – it’s just the best and I need about three of them!

 

Brilliantly designed screwdriver
Brilliantly designed screwdriver

 

What happens with a normal screwdriver is that it’s hard to keep the tip in the slot of the screw and it slides all over the place. Not so with this brilliantly designed screwdriver. There’s a opening that fits over the head of the screw so that it won’t slip. And it’s stubby so you can get a good grasp on it. It doesn’t get any better than this.

 

Easy to get to the screw to change the needle
Easy to get to the screw to change the needle

 

Easy to get to the screw to remove the presser foot ankle
Easy to get to the screw to remove the presser foot ankle

 

Perfecting those scant ¼” seams

Let’s face it – it would be nice to sit down at the sewing machine and get that perfect SCANT ¼” seam allowance every time. It just doesn’t happen, no matter how good you are! But I’ve got some tips on how you can improve your chances of getting that perfect scant ¼” seam allowance.

I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll say it again, the Quilter’s 1/4″ Piecing Foot P is just fabulous. I use it all the time, on all my sewing machines and I get the same seam allowance no matter what I’m sewing or which machine I’m sewing on. It’s a fabulous time saver, takes the thought process out of getting started and well worth buying one for each of my sewing machines.

 

Let’s get started with some advice. Below it looks like I’m just going to be seaming two regular pieces of fabric together.

 

Getting ready to sew what looks like a straight forward seam
Getting ready to sew what looks like a straight forward seam

 

When I flip over the two pieces, you can see there’s a half square triangle on the reverse side of that seam and that extra thickness at the beginning of the seam can cause some issues.

 

A half square triangle on the reverse side of that seam and that extra thickness at the beginning of the seam can cause some issues
A half square triangle on the reverse side of that seam and that extra thickness at the beginning of the seam can cause some issues

 

The Designer EPIC does have several options including the Needle Up/Down feature which helps to solve the problems when you’re sewing something like this. Two things can happen – if you don’t have the Needle Up/Down feature, then you’ll have to lift the presser foot up manually to allow space for that extra thickness to fit under the presser foot. If you don’t, the pieces are going to be pushed and shoved and you won’t have a nice match at the beginning of the seam. Other times, there’s a lot of bunching at the top and the piece won’t press flat.

The Needle Up/Down feature raises the presser foot ever so slightly when I stop. I can then put this thicker seam (or any seam) right up to the needle. The presser foot doesn’t have a chance to push the fabric.

Now even with this feature, I still have to be careful. I start the seam SLOWLY to ensure the sewing machine starts to stitch properly and I sometimes will assist it with my quilter’s awl or stiletto by giving it a bit of a push.

 

Starting the bulky seam with the assistance of a quilter's awl
Starting the bulky seam with the assistance of a quilter’s awl

 

Once I get over that bulky seam and have stitched about one inch, then I match up my next intersection. There’s plenty of room in front of the needle on the Designer EPIC to line up that seam intersection. I use my finger to feel that the seams are nested together and once they’re aligned to my satisfaction, I use my quilter’s awl to keep them from shifting.

 

Lining up the next intersection and holding it in place with the quilter's awl
Lining up the next intersection and holding it in place with the quilter’s awl

 

I know that many people feel the need to pin these intersections, however if you’re using ONE pin at each intersection, those pins will shift and cause the seams to not match. If you think about it, we’ve been taught to not stitch over pins which is a good thing. So the moment you take that pin out (close to the needle, but not under it), guess what happens? Yep – your fabric shifts and all that care of pinning was for nothing!

When I use the quilter’s awl, I keep control of the intersection right up to the needle (I’ve only broken one needle in 20 years of sewing with the quilter’s awl) and I get pretty good matches on my intersections.

 

Keeping that intersection "pinned" until it's stitched
Keeping that intersection “pinned” until it’s stitched

 

Not only is it a good practice to pin those intersections with the quilter’s awl, but look what can happen with the seam allowances. See how the seam allowance of the diagonal seam is caught on the edge of the presser foot in the picture below? If we allow that to happen, you won’t be able to get a nice pressed end of that seam. That in turn can cause issues with matching of the seams on the next intersection.

 

Seam allowance is caught on the presser foot and will turn over unless tamed with the quilter's awl
Seam allowance is caught on the presser foot and will turn over unless tamed with the quilter’s awl

 

Once I get near the end of the seam, I match the end as well and keep it in check using the quilter’s awl. I like the amount of room in front of the needle on the Designer EPIC. There’s plenty of room to match up seams. If my seam happened to be longer than the space in front of the needle, I would match the seam up (more or less) and hold it with my hand until the intersection comes in contact with the sewing machine. Then I would “pin” it with the quilter’s awl and finish the seam as shown below.

 

Matching and "pinning" the end of the seam
Matching and “pinning” the end of the seam

 

Here’s another important aspect of that seam. You want a consistent scant ¼” seam allowance for the entire length of the seam, including the start and the finish.

 

The width of the seam allowance at the end of the seam is consistent with the width of the seam allowance in the middle
The width of the seam allowance at the end of the seam is consistent with the width of the seam allowance in the middle

 

Check out the sample below. See what happened at the end?  It’s not a scant ¼” seam allowance and this can cause some major inaccuracy issues, especially if it happens a lot.

 

 

The width at the end of the seam allowance is NOT consistent with the width in the middle
The width at the end of the seam allowance is NOT consistent with the width in the middle

 

Why does this happen? Most times, it occurs because we take our hands off of our pieces as the seam nears the end. We’re in that much of a hurry to grab the next pieces and the sewing machine takes control and let’s the pieces do whatever.

This frequently occurs if there’s a diagonal seam on the reverse side (which there is). The bulk of that seam, will push the fabric to the left or right and you end up with this inaccuracy.

It’s very important that you stay in control of those pieces and “man handle” them with your quilter’s awl until the absolute end of your seam. Stop sewing and then pick up your next piece.

Yes – there’s a lot of stopping and starting when you’re piecing. I’d rather be stopping and starting to position fabric and line up seams, than sew like crazy and then have to rip out.

None of the seams in the pictures below were pinned or measured in anyway and you can see how beautiful the intersections are. I know where my scant ¼” seam allowance is by using my Quilter’s 1/4″ Piecing Foot P, I pin on the fly, using the quilter’s awl and I take control of my seams and match things up as I go. This process saves a lot of time and yet I get pretty accurate results.

 

Perfect intersection
Perfect intersection

 

I do twirl my seams on the reverse side (it’s an old habit that I can’t shake, but I like the way it looks on the front) and reduces bulk in the seam allowances particularly with diagonal seams. I touch on how to reduce bulk in the seam allowances on a previous QUILTsocial post.

 

Twirled seams that are pressed flat
Twirled seams that are pressed flat

 

Intersection is absolutely flat with the twirled seam
Intersection is absolutely flat with the twirled seam

 

I love surprises and each time I discovered something on the Designer EPIC, well it was exciting. There are some absolutely amazing design features on the Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC. I hope you enjoyed reading about those features and the little tips on achieving those scant ¼” seams.

As Carla promised earlier this week, I’ve got a tutorial tomorrow on making the perfect Quarter Square Triangle. See you tomorrow.

Have a great day!

Ciao!

 

This is part 1 of 5 in this series.

Go to part 2: 2 critical tips to perfect Quarter Square Triangles

Elaine Theriault is a teacher, writer and pattern designer who is completely obsessed with quilting. Elaine’s Tech Tips column (originally published in A Needle Pulling Thread magazine) is now available online in e-book format at QUILTsocial.com. When not quilting, she enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Lexi and Murphy, or can be found cycling across the country. Her blog is crazyquilteronabike.blogspot.com.

2 Comments

  1. michele breault

    I was wondering whee you found that screwdriver. Looks to be a pretty handy one.

    • The screwdriver comes with the sewing machine, if you want one you could ask your dealer to order one.

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