Quilting with Curves: 7 Tips when Sewing Curves

Updated: Mar 12

by Tori McElwain from The Quilt Patch by Tori

 

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Curves feel a bit like doing magic when they come out exactly as you planed! However, they can also be dumbfounding!

The last few weeks I have spoken to quite a few quilters who have been working with and learning curves in different patterns and techniques such as paper piecing and appliqué. Many were struggling to match up their ends or get the curve to look graceful with out puckers or straight edges.

If you've found yourself struggling with curves, here are a few tips to help you!

1. Use a Smaller Stitch Size

Using a smaller stitch size helps with control and to avoid straight areas/edges if your curves are on the smaller side or on the steep side. A gentle curve is a little easier to stitch, but a steep curve can be a struggle. Using a smaller stitch side can help with control.

Also, if you are working with paper piecing or improv piecing, a smaller stitch size can help secure smaller seams if you didn’t quite get the ¼ you needed for that piece.


2. Work from the Middle Out

Seriously, hear me out! Curves tend to be cut on the bias or cut on the stretchier side of the fabric. There are several ways to prevent them from stretching, but one way I found very useful, without adding extra steps to the prep, is to work from the middle of the curve to the end, rather than end to end.


Here is my process:

  • Fold in half and press the curves to find the middle

  • Mark the middle of the curves on both sides of the fabric

  • Match the middles and pin together with 1 pin

  • Backstitch and sew to one end using your hands to match the edges of the fabric a little at a time (see tip 3 below!)

  • Flip, backstitch and sew to the other end



3.Take your Time

This one is big for me personally, so I added it just incase you can also relate. When I quilt or sew I like to get the project done quickly. I love having a finished product to show after I have been sewing for awhile. This can be a single block or several. This motivates me to stitch quickly! However, with curves, taking your time and making sure those edges are together will really ensure that your curves come out graceful and meet at the ends.


4.Take the Full Seam

In quilting, we generally use a 1/4 inch seam and perfecting the 1/4 inch seam is essential in piecing. The same goes for sewing curves. I have the bad habit of thinkin that 1/8 in seams will make my curve look better! It really doesn’t! Taking the full seam, whether it be ¼ in or ½ inch (depending on your pattern) will help your curves line up and your edges line up.



5. Fringe the Seam

This will help your curves lay nice and flat, allowing the seam to over lap itself. This can be used in both turned edge applique and piecing – paper pieced or traditionally pieced blocks.

When you're working with appliqué fringing the seam before you turn the edges will help your curved seams over lap so the curves come out smooth.


With traditional piecing or paper piecing, fringing your seam after its sewn helps in the same way, overlapping your seam to help everything lay down nice and flat. I would wait to fringe your curves paper piecing/traditional piecing until your full happy with your block.


I fringe my edges at about ¼ inch apart. If the curve is steep, I’ll be sure to cut closer to the thread, if it’s more gradual I snip like you see below. just don’t cut your thread!


6. With Paper Piecing

Before piecing curves with a paper piecing pattern, I either baste around the paper with the large stitch size on my machine or take out the paper completely. Paper is slippery and can be bulky depending on what you're using. Basting can help everything stay in place. Taking the paper out can eliminate the bulk and allow a natural stretch was your sewing.

Either way, stick with one or the other. Consistency is important. Either leave the paper and baste for all of your curved blocks OR take out the paper and sew the curved blocks together. Switching back and forth will cause your blocks to be wonky.


7. With Applique

I like to use the inside out method using Pellon 101 (a cloth like, lightweight. one-sided, stabilizer), especially with circles! It allows you to fold in all the edges at once and my circles come out wonderfully round, as long as I stick to the full seam (tip 4)! You can find a link to the YouTube Video I first saw it in at the end of this blog post.


I learned a lot when creating the centers for the Sunshine Table Runner pattern above. You can see a few straight edges and a bump or two as I worked out how to fix those mistakes. By the time I reached the last sun, everything was shining! My steep, appliqué curves were looking good!


Let me know if you have any to add! What have you found helpful when sewing with curves?


Try these tips out with a free Sunflower Pattern from my Skill Building Block of the Month!






 

Links:

Sunshine Pattern

More Info on the Skill Building Block of the Month

Get your Free Sunflower Applique Pattern

See the turn inside-out turned edge appliqué technique, here.


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