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Monday, November 8, 2010

Sewing curves

I think I sewed my first curved block in 1995. It was a New York Beauty block. (Still one of my most favorite blocks.) I had sewn clothes most of my life and remember sewing in sleeves. Lots of pins! I felt that these curves were much easier and I worked on using as few pins as I could. Some things frustrated me while working on them. The edges wouldn't stay together at the beginning and end so the finished edges were not straight. I would somehow end up with more fabric on top at the end of the piece and it would overlap the end. Pleats were the most frustrating things!

The more I worked on curves the better I got at it and the more ways I found to make them look good every time.The first thing I worked on was getting the beginning and ending edges to stay together while I was sewing. I played with pinning techniques and came up with this one. The trick is to  use super fine pins (0.4mm) and "weave" them at each end. That is after you match the centers of the sections. This keeps the ends secured until you have sewn through them. I use only 3 pins, one in the middle and one on each end and then add one more pin.

This one I place perpendicular to the pin on the end. This is the pin that is used to stabilize the edges even more as I am sewing towards the end. When sewing curves I always have the concave piece on top. Different teachers will tell you they prefer the convex piece on top but I find that the concave piece (inny curve) is the one that is the most flexible and the one that usually gets pleats in it, so if I continually manipulate that one then I can avoid those pesky pleats!

The other trick to sewing curves is a consistent 1/4" seam. I use a small piece of Dr. Scholl's Molefoam Foot Pads to set my 1/4" seam and make sure that the raw edges always touch the molefoam. I also set my needle to the furthest right position my machine will allow so I can always see the edges of the fabric.

Stitching slowly is the key. I always take my time when sewing curves. Start by taking a couple of stitches at the beginning of the seam. Leave the needle in the down position and grab the center pin holding the pieces together. Give the fabric a slight tug, just enough to manipulate the fabric edges to be together. You are not stretching the fabrics, but easing the top concave curve to meet the bottom convex curve. Stitch slowly, constantly checking the edges and keeping a slight tension on the fabric at the center. Once you get to the center, stop with your needle down and grab the pin at the end of the block. Give it a slight tug as you did in the center and again manipulate the top fabric to meet the bottom fabric.

Continue stitching until your sewing foot gets close to the pin that is pointing to the foot. Place your finger on the head of the pin, continue slowly sewing and with your finger holding down the pin, it will slowly come out of the fabric as you are sewing. I use my left hand to lightly hold on to the final pin making sure that the edge of the fabric continues to touch the molefoam. Voila! A perfect, no fuss curve. Now this will work with any type of curve. The trick is the more gentle the curve the easier it is to piece. If the curve is tighter, as in drunkard's paths, you do need to make small clips in the concave curve about 1/4" to 3/8" apart. 

Sorry I don't have photos of the sewing technique but it is hard to sew and take photos at the same time. I would have to get my husband to take pictures for me while I'm sewing and he is not that good with a camera (or taking instructions)! At some point I hope to get a friend to help with a YouTube video so I can do a better demonstration.

I hope this helps. The best way to learn it is to do it while you are reading the descriptions. I am a "learn by doing" person. I can read instructions until the sun comes down, but until I do it, I won't learn it. If you belong to a guild, consider having me come teach. I have a wide variety of curved piecing workshops.

You still have one more day to leave a comment to be in the drawing for a copy of the magazine or templates. I will draw names on Wednesday. I will pick 2 winners. The first one to respond will get to choose either the magazine or my templates and the second one will get the prize that was not chosen.

Come back tomorrow and I will give other setting options for this block, including a table runner.

Until next time, always do what you love and love what you do. Toby


Michelle MMMM4 said...

Very nice tutorial on curves. Thank you. I've bookmarked your page so I can return!

Quilting Diva said...

Thank you for the clear and easy to follow instructions on sewing curves.
Love your philosophy. will be coming back to learn more. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

I use the moleskin as a 1/4" guide. Curves are a must accomplishment for 2011.

Becky said...

Thank you for such a great tutorial. This is getting bookmarked.

mascanlon said...

Thanks for the tutorial!

jybquilter said...

thanks for the tutorial. I've struggled with curved piecing. I love your block.

Kathy H said...

Your directions for sewing curves seems to make them look easier than I thought.I usually stay away from curved projects because they look too difficult.

Kathye said...

Your curved piecing instructions are great! I will now attempt curved piecing!! Thank you! and great block!!