Monday, June 30, 2014

Tips For Sewing Curves

Blog reading over the past few weeks, I noticed many quilt bloggers expressing an interest in curved piecing, especially using the Quick Curve Ruler, a gadget that is designed to make piecing quilts with spectacular curves easier.  My experience with the ruler is limited but I've made a few quilts with curves so thought I would pass along a few tips.

1.  Starch your fabric before cutting.  I use spray starch; Best Press works too.  Starching helps prevent your fabric pieces from becoming distorted as you tug during sewing.  I say "helps" because you still have to be careful while you press not to distort your pieces or they won't fit together.

2.  Choose a large, gentle curve for you first project.  My first quilt with curved piecing was Aquarium, using the Drunkard's Path block in a large (8") size.  The complexity comes from strip sets that are pieced prior to cutting.  This pattern is in the book Strips 'n Curves by Louisa L. Smith. 

3.  Sew with the concave piece (curve going in) on top.  Ignore any directions that say it doesn't matter; it does matter.  You will have an easier time with the concave piece on top, avoiding puckers and misaligned pieces.  After you have lots of experience, you can try it the other way.  You will then know how it is supposed to work and will be able to tell when things are going right or wrong.

Cider Mill
More large curves; from Winners Bouquet by Atkinson Design
4.  Slow down, take your time.  This is especially important while you are machine sewing.  You want to sew at a speed where you are in control of the stitches.  This will be slower than the speed at which you chain piece straight edges but faster than you can hand sew. 
5.  Use an awl (I use the business end of a seam ripper) to hold pieces together and guide them close to the needle.  It is tempting to use your fingers to control and manipulate the fabric but you can't let your fingers get too close to the needle or this is what happens

Metro Wave
6.  Don't be afraid to sew from the center of the piece out to each end.  Yes, this means you will have to sew twice to finish the entire length of the seam, but it takes less time than unsewing and sewing again.  If it gives you better, more accurate control it will be worth it in the long run. 

Double Wedding Ring
work in progress
7.   Remember that sewing curves when piecing a quilt is not like sewing curves in garment construction.  I got my start sewing with clothing and thought my first curved piecing would be like sewing a sleeve to the shoulder of a dress - easy, peasy, done that many times.  But it is very different.  Curves in clothing are meant to fit the curves of the body.  Curves in quilts are meant to lie flat.   If your pieces are not lying flat after sewing (and a bit of pressing), something is wrong.  (The pieces don't fit together properly, your cutting or seam allowance is off, or something of that nature.)

8.  It's a hobby, it is supposed to be fun.  Give curved piecing a try, but if after some focused effort, it is more frustration than fun, move on to something else.  There are lots of quilt patterns (like curved log cabin) that give the illusion of curves while using all straight piecing.  Try one of those instead.   


Kyle said...

Great tips and suggestions. I've been following all of the curved reinterest too. It makes me almost want to do it. I did appreciate tip #7. We need to be reminded about that every once in a while. Thanks.

Sandy of Mayberry said...

Good tips - although when using the Quick Curve Ruler, she recommends sewing with the concave piece on the bottom (the curve rounded outward piece on top). It works wonderful that way with NO pins required. For that ruler, I would suggest watching her tutorial on sewing curves. I just thought since that is a popular item right now, that might help those trying it for the first time. I enjoy your blog - thanks for keeping us inspired!

Sue said...

Very helpful tips & suggestions THANKS !

Barbie Chiu said...

I am so glad to be given a chance to read your wonderful article. Im looking forward to read more of your works and posts. You did a good job! Try to visit my site too and enjoy.