Constant Comment by the Quarter Inch


It's a dreadfully dreary April day (looks and feels like March, a month I detest) and perhaps a spot of tea would brighten my outlook.

Constant Comment tea was created by two interior decorators (as designers were called in the 1940s) who loved tea, Ruth Bigelow and Bertha Nealey. Bigelow Tea Company is still 100% family owned...a feat today! Thank you to Wikipedia for the story of how the tea got its name. Legend has it the yet unnamed tea was served at an afternoon luncheon on Park Avenue and its flavor and aroma created such a buzz, such a "constant comment" that the tea was hurried to market with that name. And is still here today.

Which is my very convoluted lead in to today's posting about consistency.

If I could only make ONE suggestion about quilting it would be to maintain a consistent seam allowance. The standard is 1/4". Books and patterns sometimes just assume you know this but there are many newbies trying their hand at quilting and may not yet be ingrained to this standard (which is significantly less than the typical 5/8"). And if 1/4" isn't doing it for you, choose something that works. Just be consistent and know that bigger than that is going to mean a lot more fabric bunching up between layers of batting and the back. It may be a look you're after but unless you're doing an art quilt or following a pattern, know that it'll probably look amateurish and probably cause you or your long arm quilter problems.

Most likely, your sewing machine's presser foot isn't 1/4" from needle to its right edge. And it probably didn't come with that foot in its tool bag. Luckily, there are inexpensive presser feet available for most machines. I've purchased mine online at (full disclosure: I receive absolutely NOTHING from this company, I just want to pass on the info). The first one I purchased was for a 10 year old Singer and the latest was for my brand spanking new one. Very helpful company that responds to email and phone questions.

Keeping your seam allowances consistent keeps your quilt "square". A slight diversion from one corner to the far corner can make your quilt go on the machine off kilter and make it much more time-consuming (and dollar costing) to get you the results you want. Besides being easier for long arm quilting, keeping that 1/4" will make that difficult piecing job somewhat less harried. Less crazy = more fun. And life's too short to live it miserably!

What to do until you get a guide (unless your mind is quilting ingrained to 1/4" and can sew it blind)? Measure 1/4" from the needle to the right and use a colorful piece of duct tape starting at that 1/4" and laid to the right. Oh yes, I've done that trick of "just a smidgen to the right of that burr of metal".... Works for...a smidgen. Old dogs can learn new tricks and this dog has gone the route of a 1/4" foot. If for anything else, it brings some mental calmness to that time when I'm furiously piecing and just WANT TO BE FINISHED!!!!!!

So, here's to Ruth, Bertha and the Consistent Quarter Inch.