Most of the workshops that I teach involve curves and I show quilters that they are not hard if you know how to piece them. There are many methods of teaching curves and tools to help. The Curve Master is one of them. Some people swear by it and says it works for them. Others tell you to use a bunch of pins or glue before sewing. Some say to put the convex (outy curve) on top and others say the concave (inny curve) on top. I am going to show you my method of sewing curves to give you perfect, no pleat, curves almost every time. The reason I say almost is because I don't think any method is completely fool proof. But, I can count on one hand how many times I have gotten pleats over the 20+ years I have been sewing curves. And, it is usually because I did not follow my own directions.
Since I will be giving away my Glorified Nine-Patch with a Twist pattern and template set, am using this block as my sample. Let me give you a few tips first. One: I always put the concave piece on top. That is the piece that will get a pleat in it and by putting it on the top, you can't always see if it will get a pleat before you sew it. Two: For gentle curves (like this block) you do not need to cut clips into the concave piece before sewing. My gauge is; if I can pull on the curve (on both ends) to try to straighten it out and it almost creates a flat edge, I don't need to clip the edge. Three: Pinning is the key. There is no need to pin it to death! I used to sew clothing and when I sewed in a sleeve and wanted it to lay nice and flat, I added LOTS of pins. I will show how to use only 4 pins to sew it. Four: Finger press before taking anything to the iron and use only a dry iron until the block is complete. I only add water when I finish a block to set it and make it nice and flat.
Let's begin to sew the block together. My template sets always include the seam allowance and the corners are trimmed so that all of the pieces fit together perfectly. Be sure to put some rolled up tape on the back to the templates so that they do not move around while you are cutting with the rotary cutter.
Step 1: Lay out the nine-patch. Pay attention to the direction of the center outer pieces so that the curved edges face out.
Step 2: Place the center pieces on top of the corresponding pieces, right sides together, to the left. I don't pin them, but you can. If I do pin them (usually because the fabric is stretchy), I pin them at the bottom part of the section so that the bottom edges stay together when stitching down the edge. Stitch one right after the other. Do not trim the threads. Finger press towards the dark fabric.
Step 3: Place the right pieces on top of the center pieces, right sides together, and stitch one set right after the other. Do not trim threads. Press towards dark.
Step 4: Fold top section down, right sides together, and match seams. The seams should butt right next to each other going in opposite directions. I put a pin in front of the seams to hold them together. Stitch across. Press seam up.
Step 5: Fold bottom section up, right sides together, and repeat step four. Press seam down.
Step 6: Crease the center of one edge of the nine-patch and the curved edge of the crescent piece. Tip, crease one with right sides together and the other with the back sides together. The creases will fit inside each other. Place the crescent piece on the bottom, curve and right side up. Place nine-patch, right sides together, on top. Pin at the center. I know it looks funny and doesn't look like the pieces will sew together. Pull the top ends to meet the bottom ends. All of the trimmed ends on the two pieces fit on top of each other.
Step 7: Pin the front end and the back end. This is very important. Because these are the edges that move while you are piecing, you need to weave the pin like you are sewing. This holds the edges together as you are sewing and won't twist when you begin and when you get to the end. I like to use Patchwork Pins by Clover that are 0.4mm wide (not long) that are available on my website. These are great pins that slide through the fabric like butter, especially batiks. I add one more pin. This one I weave at the back end of the strip along the seam allowance to create a "T" with the other pin. You can see it in this photo. The first pin is woven up through the two pieces (same on the front end) and the other pin is perpendicular to it and parallel to the seam line. You can also see that the ends of the bottom patch and top patch fit together perfectly.
Step 8: Sew a couple stitches, leaving the needle in the fabric, take the pin out and then grab the center of the block where the center pin is. This is another important step. Pull slightly on the center of the block where the pin is with your left hand. As you do this you can manipulate the fabric with your right hand so the bottom edge and top edge of the fabric are even. Sometimes you only have to do a minimal amount of manipulation. The edges will come together as you pull on the two fabrics. It is difficult to see here because of the dark sewing machine, but if you look carefully the edges are even as I tug slightly on the fabric. Do not "stretch" the fabric too much. A slight tug is enough.
Step 9: As you stitch down the edge, keep a slight tug on the fabric to keep the edges together. Stop sewing at the center pin and with the needle down, remove the center pin. Grab the end of the strip and repeat the tug pulling and continue stitching until the pin pointing towards the foot reaches the edge of the foot. Put your finger on the ball end of the pin and hold it down as you are stitching. The pin will come out as you are sewing. I place my left hand on the other pin to keep the edges of the fabric touching my mole foam (1/4" seam aid). (I couldn't show my left hand holding the pin because it was holding the camera!) If there is any time that it looks like you might get a pleat, simply put your needle down, lift the pressure foot and pull the fabric straight back to straighten it out and then continue to sew. Press towards crescent shape.
Step 11: Sew the other two crescent pieces on repeating the above process. Start stitching with the needle to the right of the the previous seam line, barely touching it.
Here is what the front and back of the block will look like.
The edges of the block may not be straight so I trim the block to square it up. If you do this, do not do it until all of your blocks are done so you can see what the smallest measurement is. This block was created with my 6" template set so I trimmed mine to 6-1/4" instead of 6-1/2". Place a square ruler so that the 45 degree line goes through the middle of the block and the 6-1/4" marks are on the top left and bottom right corners. Trim off right and top edges.
Turn the block around, place the 6-1/4" lines along the two trimmed edges and trim the remaining edges. You will have a very nice square block.
I hope you will try sewing curves using my method. Please let me know when you do and share your experience. I will post your project on my Pinterest and Facebook page. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to write me.
Now for the winner of this template set and the fat quarter bundle. Congratulation Leona! Please send me your address so I can put your prize in the mail. Here is the bundle you won with my pattern and 4" template set.
I have realized that some people who find out about my blog on Facebook have not been able to post in my comment section at the end of the blog. If you try to do this and for some reason can not, leave a comment on my Facebook page where you saw this notice and you will still be eligible to be in the drawing.
Here is a sneak peek of the next drawing.
This is another group of fabrics of the Bella Suede collection from P&B Textiles. I sure hope that the winners of all of these fat quarters will personally write to P&B to thank them for donating such wonderful fabrics! You can either do it on the P&B Textiles Facebook page or through the contact page on their website P&B Textiles. The bottom fabric is brown and the middle fabric is light grey.
Watch for my next blog as I show you how I used this fat quarter bundle in one of my patterns. As always, do what you love and love what you do. Thanks for reading. Toby Lischko