Aaaarrgghh! Do you ever not follow your own advice? Despite knowing full well that it’s a must to check my seam guide any time I mess with my machine I didn’t do that. Now I’m paying the price for my mistakes.

Aaaarrgghh! Do you ever not follow your own advice? Despite knowing full well that it’s a must to check my seam guide any time I mess with my machine I didn’t do that. Now I’m paying the price for my mistakes.

I use Kari Carr’s Clearly Perfect Angles on each of my machines as a sewing guide for seam allowances and folded corners. On my big BERNINA 790 in conjunction with Kari’s CPA, the dual feed foot, the single stitch throat plate, and the 97D foot I get absolutely perfect seam allowances. I couldn’t make those tiny miniatures I so love let alone anything else without that essential combination of tools.

Clearly Perfect Angles

Kari Carr’s Clearly Perfect Angles


So I tell my students that any time they disrupt all their settings and guide tools to clean their machines, change a bobbin, or move the machine, they need to do a strip test after it’s set back up to ensure all is well in their quilting world. Otherwise there will be frustration and mistakes.

To conduct a strip test, cut three strips precisely 1 1/2” wide and about 3” long. Sew them together side by side using your best sewing skills and the 1/4” guides you have on your machine. Make sure your edges are perfectly aligned.

strip test

Sew three 1 1/2″- wide strips together side by side.

Once sewn, finger press the seams away from the center strip. If all is well in the quilting universe, a 1” wide ruler should plop down exactly onto the center strip from seam ridge to seam ridge. You shouldn’t have to force it in and it shouldn’t have any excess on either side.

measured strip test

A 1″ ruler should fit perfectly between the seam ridges

If that isn’t the case, check everything!  Make sure the strips were cut precisely 1 1/2” wide, you matched the raw edges exactly the full length of both seams, the seam was sewn a consistent width the length of both seams, and you sighted in on the guide properly. Make adjustments as necessary until you can produce a perfect strip test.

The strip test tells you if everything is back as it should be and you are sighting in on the guides properly. In addition, if you’ve been sewing with other seam allowance widths or doing some free-motion work, it’s a good idea use a strip test to warm up and get your brain back into gear for 1/4″ sewing so you don’t make mistakes like I did.

I’ve also found in classes that on quite a few machines, the needle does not return to precise true center if it’s been sewing zig-zag or free motion stitching.That’s where the beauty of Kari’s CPA kicks in—it positions the 1/4” sewing guide according to where your needle ACTUALLY is, not where it is supposed to be. This makes a huge difference for many quilters and prevents all kinds of sewing mistakes as a result.

So what did I do wrong? I’ve started sewing together parts of my mosaic quilt. I sewed one section just fine. Then I cleaned my machine, removing the CPA to do so. When I put it all back together, I neglected my own advice and didn’t do a strip test afterwards.

corner of mosaic quilt

corner of mosaic quilt

I sewed a second section and look what happened! This section consists of fifteen 1” finished size squares. With one seam allowance still unsewn on the end, it should measure 15 1/4”. But no, it measures 15 3/4”. That means it is 1/2” too big because I was lazy and rushing. Each seam is about 1/32” off which when added together becomes that 1/2” error. What a mistake!


Look at the top of the ruler on this section. You can see the slight discrepancy grow with each seam across the section. At least I was consistent right? That’s not much help, because although it’s not off by much, as it adds up it and becomes a big mistake. Ugh.

close up of error

It’s too much to try to ease in so now I’ll have to take it apart and redo it. I could kick myself. So that’s a lesson well learned yet again until I’m lazy some day in the future and make another totally avoidable mistake.

This is the stuff that keeps you humble and patient as a teacher. I can confidently assure my students that I’ve made all the same mistakes they have!

So, I’m off to do some ripping–

Til, next time



PS: You can find more tips like this in my Craftsy class, Piece Like a Pro. Use this link to get the class at $20 off.

To buy the CPA, go to Kari’s website: