Tools of the Trade: Add a Seam Allowance

What better way to start off this series than with a tool that you already have lying in your desk drawer?  Clever AND frugal…I like it.

It just so happens that, in their infinite wisdom, the creators of The Pencil engineered the distance between two pencil tips held side-by-side to equal 1/4.”  As they were no doubt good friends with the engineer of the standard sewing machine foot, the two parties concurred that 1/4″ was indeed the divine proportion, forever marrying the utility of pencils to the needs of sewing.

So you have a pattern that does not include a seam allowance?  Problem solved.  Two pencils and a few pieces of tape are all you need to add 1/4″ to the pattern before cutting your fabric.  Simply trace the innermost lead along the perimeter of the pattern and the other lead will add an adjacent line 1/4″ from the pattern’s edge.  You could trace directly on to the fabric or on to a larger sheet of paper, making a new pattern piece.

This is also useful for making your own patterns, as long as you roll with a 1/4″ seam allowance.  If not, dig deep into your school pencil bag and pull out the compass you haven’t used since geometry class and measure and mark your desired seam allowance width.  I’ve just added “compass” to the shopping list myself; emptying my cupboards for bowls to trace for various-sized circles is no longer working for me.

Elevate the status of your pencils!


The rest of the Tools of the Trade series is here.

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33 Responses to “Tools of the Trade: Add a Seam Allowance”

  1. anie says:

    You should alert Amy over at angry chicken of this clever trick! You’ve no doubt noticed she’s been lauding the new BBW dress book and evidently the patterns are sans seam allowances. This would be a perfect way to add-and-not-forget that critical pattern drafting element!

  2. Nicole says:

    I am also impressed your pencils would actually be able to write with in a pinch. Any I find around my house are usually dull or never been sharpened causing me to try to sharpen with a kitchen knife to scribble down anything…

  3. Debbie says:

    This is so brilliant…and so needed (by me) as I embark on my first quilt. Thank you.

  4. Mary says:

    Second that brilliant! I’m wanting to dive into Japanese clothes pattern books and this makes it seam less intimidating!

  5. maya says:

    I love tips like this… very clever and at our fingertips! thank you… looking forward to the rest of your series.

  6. Mimi K says:

    This is brilliant! I’m going out to spread the word :-)

  7. julia says:

    I am in awe of the simple brilliance of this tool!! I will be making one today! I’m sure to need it soon!

  8. tammie says:

    oh my gosh. so very brilliant. thank you!

  9. How fabulously simple! Thanks so much for sharing this tip. I know that it will come in handy for me down the road.

  10. Melissa says:

    Thank you for being brilliant.

  11. Robyn says:

    So simple! So Brilliant! Jealous I didn’t think of it :-)
    Thank you!!!

  12. tanja says:

    That’s so clever! Love it – and I’ll give it a try next time! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Rachel says:

    Hilarious post! The funny thing is I was hoping you’d be sharing how to add a seam allowance to already cut fabric (oops!). I know, I know, you’re not a miracle-worker.

  14. bruinbr says:

    This is awesome! Found you via Sew Mama Sew and am so happy I did! :) Thanks for the great tip!

  15. […] Five Green Acres shares a tip on her blog for quick and easy to mark seam allowances.  If you make your own patterns, alter patterns, or use patterns that don’t come with seam allowances then you know how long it can take to measure and mark consistent seam allowances.  Get the tip. […]

  16. i love your humor! this is why i’m addicted to my blog reader–thanks for an informational AND enjoyable post!

  17. Seriously clever tip! Thanks!

  18. robbiekw says:

    A W E S O M E.

    I cannot believe I never thought of this!

    I am glad I can find all kinds of new friends through my work, curiosity and the internet.


  19. Loree says:

    Holy Cow, thank you so much! I bought a cute pattern that I had never made because it didn’t include a seam allowance, and now I can get started! Thanks SEW much! LoL!

  20. Jeff says:

    This is also a great way to quickly pencil outline of letters in a calligraphy style- try it!

  21. This is just about exactly what I do. I use two artists’ charcoal pencils with a clothespin in between, and secure them with a rubber band. That gives me a seam allowance of about 3/4″. If I need it bigger, I can squeeze the two pencils to lever the clothespin open, and wedge a bit of paper or something inside to keep it at the distance I need.

  22. Martha says:

    Thank you for ending my struggle to “get it right” when tracing those little appliques !

  23. neslihan says:

    this is brilliant thank you for sharing

  24. Julia says:

    Reblogged this on juliaalbertsoncostumetechnician and commented:
    I think I just felt forty minutes slide off of pattern drafting time.

  25. […] like to use a trick my friend, Mary Jo taught […]

  26. […] Para facilitar nossas vidas encontrei no blog Five Green Acres uma solução muito simples para este probleminha. É só unir dois lápis com fita adesiva, de forma que as duas pontas fiquem alinhadas! O link do post original é este aqui ó! […]

  27. […] Fonte: […]

  28. virginia says:

    Love it! Definitely will try! Thank you.

  29. […] A ideia é do blog Five Green Acres (em inglês) e você pode conferir o post original aqui! […]

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