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How to use a Quarter Inch Foot

Foot for accurate patchwiork seams

This how to use a quarter inch foot guide was written by Linda from Sewing Bee Fabrics – an online fabric shop offering a selection of interesting fabrics, sewing accessories – including sewing machine feet – and haberdashery, with free delivery in the UK. 

How to use a quarter inch foot

Getting a precise quarter inch seam is especially important in patchwork and the quarter inch foot aims to make it easier. It is a very simple but effective foot that allows you to keep a uniform distance by keeping the edge of the fabric against a guide bar as you sew.


Attaching the Quarter Inch Foot 

Snap on sewing machine foot
As with any snap on foot, most sewing machines will have a lever or button to press to release the current foot. As you can see with this machine, the lever is at the back of the foot. To swap feet out, simply release, place the new foot underneath and lower the presser foot to clip in position.
How to use the Guide Bar
Position the guide bar on a quarter inch foot

It really doesn’t get more simple. Position the needle centrally, and place the fabric up against the bar. As you sew, keep a gentle pressure on the fabric towards the bar (too much pressure and it will fold over, or not enough pressure and the fabric will drift away).

What are all the Markings?

Understanding markings on a quarter inch foot

The markings on the foot are all measurements to help keep your sewing position as accurate as possible. Obviously the distance between the needle to guide bar is 1/4 inch, but what about the others?

Needle to the edge of the right side of the foot is 3/16 inch

Needle to the edge of the left side of the foot is 1/8 inch


Measurements on sewing machine feet

Needle to first side notch (N.B. this is offset and on the smaller part of the foot away from the others) – 1/4 inch

Needle to second notch – 1/8 inch

Needle to third notch – level

Needle to fourth notch – 1/8 inch

Needle to fifth notch – 1/4 inch

So in total, front notch to back notch – half inch


Benefits of Sewing with a Quarter Inch Foot 
Quarter inch foot tutorial

The foot is the quickest, easiest and most foolproof way for getting a good accurate quarter inch seam on normal fabrics.

 The first quarter inch side marking on the narrow part of the sewing machine foot is fantastic for knowing when to start turning the fabric when you get near a corner. Simply stop stitching when you are level with that mark, leave the needle down and pivot the fabric before you start sewing again.

The 3/16 inch width is a nice width for top stitching most items (but in some cases 1/8 inch will be more appropriate for more intricate or pieces where you want the stitching to be less visible). It is simple to switch from sewing your seam to turning right side out and lining the fabric up with the outer side of the foot instead of the bar. However, there is no 3/16 inch marking on the side for turning so you have to stop just before your first side marking (or use a permanent marker or dab of coloured glue or sticker to add your own mark!) 
What to Consider Before Sewing with a Quarter Inch Foot
Your accuracy will only ever be as good as your cutting and measuring of your fabric before your sewing. If it was only estimated, then don’t be surprised if it doesn’t line up perfectly! You may find that using a magic seamer helps you to add 1/4 inch to your patterns to help your accuracy. Keep in mind also that people tend to cut differently with scissors than the do rotary cutters. It’s easier to keep a rotary cutter flush to a template, whereas a lot of people will cut outside a pencil marking. If you are combining methods it may have an affect on your accuracy too.

If your pattern tells you to sew a scant quarter inch seam, then this means to sew just short of quarter inch. Generally this is considered to be about a pencil’s line width difference. It is to allow for the small amount of fabric that is always lost when pressing a seam open. This means you would have to keep your fabric just short of the guide. 

You cannot change the needle position out of central for this foot. This is great in that it makes sure you can’t accidentally leave it in the incorrect sewing position. However, if you want to quickly zigzag over an area to reinforce it before continuing your straight stich, you would have to change feet.

If you are sewing materials that slip around or with many layers, the friction under this foot (as with any static foot) means that the top layer will move at a different speed to the bottom layer. This is because the feed dogs pull the bottom fabric through while the presser foot holds the top fabric. In this case use a walking foot  – you can buy quarter inch walking feet for some sewing machine models. 

If you are sewing something with texture, for example cuddle fleece, toweling or fur, then the fibres have a tendency of getting caught in the guide bar. Sometimes I will still use this foot if I really want accuracy but I will sew slower and keep a close eye for any signs of catching. Otherwise, a roller foot is better suited.

It is not ideal for sewing with the guide bar over the top of another fabric as the corner of the guide bar may snag on the fabric and damage it. Therefore I would always switch this foot out before moving on top of fabric to sew.

Mark quarter inch with tape

If you are using a different foot to get your quarter inch seam because of the fabrics you have chosen, then simply clip this foot to your machine, place masking tape on the machine flush to the outer side of the guide, and use this as a marker to help guide you when you change feet. Double check your placement with a ruler to the needle if required.


Tips on Getting Accurate Quarter Inch Seams 
Sewing machine tutorials

Some machines struggle more than others at the start and end of a line of sewing, especially on small pieces of fabric. This can be because the feed dogs are pulling at the fabric unevenly where the whole area of the feed dogs aren’t covered. You can reduce this by starting on a piece of scrap fabric and running straight onto your real piece (remembering a couple of backstitches or stiches on the spot or it will unravel a little after you snip the thread to separate the fabrics). Once you get to the end, simply do the same – a few back stitches then stitch over the edge of your fabric and finish on the scrap.

For other sewing machine feet guides visit our techniques section and click the sewing machine tag.