8 essential tips for rotary cutting curved templates

Wow – I can’t believe it’s been a year and a half since I last blogged for QUILTsocial! I guess time really flies when you have family illnesses and hospitalizations, you downsize and move to a new home, say goodbye to beloved pets and welcome a rescue dog, become “empty-nesters”, work front-line healthcare during a pandemic, and have to close your brick and mortar quilt shop! But things have finally settled down in my world (knock on wood) and I’m happy to be back!

The last time I blogged, I was talking about making Double Wedding Ring quilts and curved piecing. I have a confession to make – I made two samples with all of my blocks that week and although the first one was finished and gifted to my best friend for her 25th wedding anniversary, the second sample has yet to be bound!

This week I’ll walk you through more curved piecing, but with a much less complicated block. I’m using the Twisted Square Template by Sew Easy to make a lap quilt – an easy project that will introduce you to curved piecing and enable you to make at least one quick and easy Christmas present!

The Twisted Square Template from Sew Easy

materials

For my lap quilt, I’m using a selection of fat quarters from the Forest Friends collection by Fabric Creations. If you want to make your own version of this project, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 7 coordinating fat quarters of quilting cotton – a mixture of large prints, small prints and blenders
  • 1 yd [1m] fabric for the curved border
  • yd [0.5m] fabric for the first outer border
  • yd [0.25m] fabric for the second outer border
  • 1yd [1m] fabric for the third outer border
  • 60″ x 70″ batting
  • 3½ yd [3.1m] backing fabric
  • yd [0.5m] binding fabric

I’ve picked out my seven favorite fabrics from my fat quarter bundles and I’ll cut 6 twisted squares from each fabric. Rotary cutting around a curved template isn’t like rotary cutting strips and squares, so I have a few tips to help you master this technique.

Fat quarter bundles from Fabric Creations

TIP 1 Use a small rotary cutter

Large rotary cutters are great for squaring up fabric and for cutting straight lines for squares, rectangles and triangles. But when you’re cutting curves, that large blade makes it hard to get into the tight corners. So for cutting any curved template, I recommend using a 28mm (1″) rotary cutter like this one from Komfort Kut.

The Komfort Kut 28mm rotary cutter

TIP 2 Use a rotating mat

If you have one, use a rotating mat when you’re cutting around curved templates. If you don’t have a rotating cutting mat, position your mat as close as you can to the corner of your cutting table and use the smallest mat you have, so you can move around the mat and turn it to cut the farthest sides.

TIP 3 Apply pressure to the template

When you’re cutting and rotating your mat at the same time, make sure you apply good, even pressure to the template so there’s no shifting or sliding of either the template or the fabric.

Hold the template firmly with your non-dominant hand.

TIP 4 Don’t rush!

Rotary cutting around curved templates is not a fast job! Take your time and make sure you’re cutting all four sides accurately.

TIP 5 Cut multiple layers

To speed up the job, you can cut up to four layers at a time. If your fabric is non-directional, just fold the fabric in half and then in half again to make four layers. Hold the template firmly to make sure the layers don’t shift.

TIP 6 Be careful with directional fabrics

For directional fabrics, make sure you always have the template positioned in the same orientation when cutting – or else something like this will happen:

Mirror images of the template are cut when the fabric is not layered in the same orientation.

Since I had the fox fabric folded in half with wrong sides together when it was cut, the second fabric square is backwards (and the foxes would be upside down if it was pieced into the quilt). When cutting multiple layers of directional fabrics, make sure all the layers are facing up and in the same direction. Also make sure you can read the name of the template, then you know that you are always cutting the blocks in the same orientation.

Always make sure the name of the Twisted Square Template is right side up when cutting your templates.

TIP 7 Take advantage of fussy cutting opportunities

Since you can easily see through the Twisted Square Template, take advantage of that when cutting fabrics with large motifs. The template has reference holes and lines that can be used for positioning the template on your motif. I decided that my bear fabric would be perfect for fussy cutting, so I positioned the template over top of the bear, making sure that each time I cut, I had the circles over the “shoulders” of the bear. It was a happy coincidence that the hedgehog and fox faces were also positioned perfectly in the template.

Fussy cutting with the Twisted Square template

TIP 8 Use marking points

If your template has places to mark seams, use them! These marks will help when pinning and sewing the fabric sections together. The Twisted Square Template has holes on each corner of the template, so I used a fine-tipped fabric marker to mark a dot through the holes onto the fabric.

Mark the seam allowances with a fine tipped fabric marker.

I’m making this lap quilt with seven rows of six blocks each, so I need to cut a total of 42 twisted square blocks. Since I have seven fat quarters, I’ll cut six squares from each.

As you can see, rotary cutting curved templates is easy when you’ve got the right tools and you follow these eight tips. I hope you now feel confident to try this technique yourself.

Tomorrow I’m working on sewing the curved seams together to assemble to the center of our lap quilt. Until then, happy rotary cutting!

This is part 1 of 5 in this series

Go to part 2: 4 great notions help take the fear out of curved piecing

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