Of the many things I made in 2021, this table runner is my favourite. Apart from many other qualities, it is an exercise in achieving perfect points. This runner and the accompanying Snowy Days Quilt were the projects in last Autumn’s Virtual Retreat; however, achieving excellent points is a struggle we all regularly have in our sewing ventures. Here is how I gained perfect points, and I still struggle with step 7 below 😊. Creating something you are happy with will take practice and persistence.
- Know your seam allowance – most patchworking seam allowances are ¼”, but make sure. I often make mistakes by assuming I know something when I haven’t checked. Understanding and using the seam allowance correctly is fundamental to achieving the best result.
- Understand when to use a scant seam allowance – a scant seam allowance is a shade under the seam allowance, and it is not as much as an 8th, and it is more like a shade under a 16th. If this confuses you, then look at your fabric. Fabric is made from a weave of tiny threads. With a scan seam allowance, instead of your needle hitting the seam allowance perfectly, it will move into the seam allowance by 2 or 3 threads in the weave.
Only used a scant seam allowance when the pattern requests it. It is used to account for a fabric fold, usually with a diagonal sewing line. Referring to the Snowy Days Table Runner, the centre star comprises four geese blocks. In creating these blocks, I would use a scant seam allowance as in the diagram below.
- Sew with the correct needle and thread – If we draw a fine line, we won’t use a chalk marker. So when we are creating a precise sewing line, the thread needs to be fine. I would suggest a 50w or ideally 60w cotton thread or a fine polyester thread (Glide or Isacord are my favourites). I use a Microtex size 80 needle, and a size 70 needle would also be good to use.
- Understand where your need to sew to achieve the perfect point – When I sew a block with a triangle point on it to another block, I look at where my needle needs to be to create the best point on the top side; this will be obvious on the reverse of your work. Let me show you this example.
- Draw on guidelines if they will help you – When I am starting on a project or tackling something tricky, I often draw in the line I want to sew. If I can’t draw it in, there is no hope to sew it. A ruler which has a ¼” line drawn along it is invaluable.
- Pressing is not ironing – Press each seam before sewing it onto the next piece. However, remember that ironing is not pressing.
Ironing is what the kids and my husband do. It involved dragging the hot iron across the garment. Pressing is the act of laying the hot iron on top of the seam to open it out or move and hold it to one side. We don’t move the iron about on our precious patchwork pieces because it can distort the seam.
- Don’t be afraid to unpick and not get frustrated – Unpicking is part of the process, especially with the first pieces you sew. I expect the first block in a group to take about four times as long as a block will take, then I am in full swing. Allow yourself to learn the block and achieve the look you want.