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5 top tips for effortless curved piecing

5 top tips for effortless curved piecing

by Christine Baker

I’ve been quilting for over 15 years and up until recently had never tackled curved piecing. I guess I was always afraid that it would be too hard or that it would take too long to cut out the pieces. After I purchased my Accuquilt cutting machine, and saw the dies available to make blocks with curved piecing, I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was! As I got comfortable with the technique I came up with the following 5 top tips for effortless curved piecing.

The best thing to do if you’re just trying curved piecing for the first time is to select a block with large pieces that have gentle curves and to follow these top tips for effortless curved piecing.

Tip #1 – cut your pieces accurately

The easiest way to cut accurate pieces for any block is to use a die cutting machine but if you don’t have one of those you’ll need to use either scissors or a rotary cutter and a template. Below is the pattern to make a template for the Drunkard’s Path block we’ll be using for the table runner. Templates can be made from template plastic or freezer paper. Purchased acrylic templates may also be used for the common shapes that require curved piecing.

Trace the pattern carefully onto your chosen template material and then cut on the drawn line. The little triangle in the center of each template shape is used to match the fabric pieces together, so make sure that you cut that part accurately.

Drunkards path shapes on Accuquilt cutter

Drunkards path shapes on Accuquilt cutter

If you’re cutting the pieces by hand, be sure to follow your pattern or template as closely as you can to keep variations in your pieces to a minimum.

Freezer paper templates may not last as long as ones made from plastic template material but since they are ironed to the fabric, you may be able to cut your pieces more accurately than with templates that may slip.

When working with a rotary cutter, using the smallest size available will make it easier to cut around the curves. When using scissors to cut templates, be sure to move the template material (if it’s ironed/stuck to the fabric) — not the scissors — to ensure an accurate cut.

Tip #2 – Handle with care

When you’re dealing with fabrics pieces that have curves, you’ll be dealing with some bias edges. This means that the fabric pieces can be more easy to stretch out of shape than fabric pieces that are cut on the straight of grain. Be careful when you’re handling these pieces and be sure not to stretch fabrics to try to make them “fit.”

Tip #3 – Pinning is important

You’ll find that many quilters don’t like to pin their pieces together, even when doing curved piecing but I find that I’m much happier with my blocks if I pin before stitching.

By pinning your fabrics, it’s easier to “ease” the fabrics together to create even seams. Some quilters will only use one pin (in the center of the seam) but I personally like to use three pins. I match the centers of the two pieces of fabric and put my first pin there.

Note: For the Accuquilt shapes and shapes cut with the template I’ve provided, the center is the place with the little triangle. The second and third are used to line up the two ends of both shapes.

Match the centers and pin together

Match the centers and pin together

Pin the ends

Pin the ends

Tip #4 – Go slow and use your needle down position

When you’re curved piecing you’re looking for accuracy not speed, so take your time. Start at one end of the seam and if you like, you can back stitch to secure. Sew slowly and as you round the curve, pull the other end of the seam to “ease” the fabrics together.

If you have needle down function on your machine, use it. The benefit of using needle down is that you can randomly pick up the foot and make sure that everything is still lined up and make adjustments if needed. As you approach the middle pin pull it out. When you get to the other end of the seam back stitch again to secure.

Using the needle down position on the sewing machine

Using the needle down position on the sewing machine

Sewing Drunkard’s Path Blocks – YouTube

Tip #5 – Press gently

Once your block is sewn, press it gently and use steam if you think it is needed. You won’t need to clip the curves, so don’t worry about that, but press toward the piece that was on the top and your block should lie flat.

Making the blocks for our table runner

For the table runner we need a total of four Drunkard’s Path blocks. I’ve decided to make mine so that my focus fabric (the elephants) with be the small 1/4 circle shape and my white fabric will be the background of the block. Follow the directions above and the top tips for effortless curved piecing to make your four blocks and tomorrow we’ll start putting everything together to make the top of our table runner.

Keep in mind these 5 top tips for effortless curved piecing, and the task will be a lot easier!

The finished Drunkard's Path block

The finished Drunkard’s Path block


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