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Why is my 1/4″ seam allowance never quite right?

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Question from a reader: "I always try to be very careful about my 1/4" seam allowances, but my blocks always seem to end up smaller than they are supposed to be. For example, I just made four Maple Leaf blocks for a table runner made up of pieces 2 1/2" square and 2 1/2" half square triangles. The finished block should be 10 1/2", but mine are all 10 1/4". Where am I going wrong?" You are very wise to be concerned about your 1/4" seam allowances. And by using that term, right away you can get in trouble. If
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