When I'm in the process of designing a sewing pattern I design without adding seam allowances to the pattern pieces because I need to see exactly how the pattern pieces come together. But when I cut the pattern pieces from fabric I add a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Here is how to add a 1/4 in seam allowance quickly and easily!
Freezer paper is a vital tool in my design process for a whole host of reasons, but one of them is the ease with which it allows me to add a seam allowance. After I sketch my design I trace it onto freezer paper and then draw all of the pattern pieces there. I cut out all of the pattern pieces from the freezer paper and then place them shiny side down onto the wrong sides of the fabric and press with a warm iron to adhere them temporarily.
Why use freezer paper instead of tracing paper or cardboard? With freezer paper you can skip the step of either having to pin the tracing paper pattern pieces the fabric or tracing around the cardboard templates with a pencil or a disappearing fabric marker. Freezer paper saves time! Once you've cut out the fabric, just pull the freezer paper off. It won't leave any residue and you can reuse it at least a dozen times before it will no longer adhere. (For more on using freezer paper to create sewing patterns look at this post from my Elements of Soft Toy Design series).
So if my pattern pieces don't have a seam allowance included, how do I add it? I eyeball it! Softies are small so a 1/4 inch seam allowances is sufficient. Once the freezer paper is adhered, I just cut the fabric a 1/4 inch away from the pattern pieces! Really it's easy to eyeball this. Because the pattern pieces are adhered to the fabric and not just pinned in place I can feel confident that I am cutting a true 1/4 inch away with no slippage.
When I teach softie making there are always people in the class who are comfortable eyeballing the seam allowance like I am, and there are those that want or need more of a guide. For the non-eyeballers among us I recommend a seam gauge.
You've got two options for using the seam gauge. You can add the seam allowance to the paper pattern before you cut it out if you'd like. Just set the seam gauge to 1/4 inch and run it along the edges of the pattern piece, making a dot every now and again. Connect the dots and you've got a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Cut out your pattern piece around this new line, adhere it to the wrong side of your fabric, and cut directly around it.
Another option is to cut out your freezer paper pattern pieces and then add the seam allowance on the fabric itself. Adhere the pattern pieces to the wrong side of the fabric and then, instead of eyeballing a 1/4 inch seam allowance, run your seam gauge around the pattern piece making dots with a disappearing fabric marker or chalk every now and again. Connect the dots and you have your cutting line.
I like patterns that show you the exact stitching line. Whether or not the seam allowance is included doesn't matter to me, but I want to know where, exactly, the designer wants me to sew the pieces together. Some patterns say, "a 1/4 inch seam allowance is included," but don't show you the stitching line. I don't love this because even if I'm following the 1/4 inch mark on my machine's throat plate, or using the side of my presser foot as a guide, there is no guarantee that I'm stitching exactly on the stitching line if no stitching line has been drawn in. I want that exact information.
So there you go! Adding a 1/4 inch seam allowance is quick and easy.
Like this tip?
Check out my new book for lots of information on designing and sewing your own soft toys!
Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction, published by Lark Crafts in 2013.