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How to Sew Curves

Today’s guest blogger is Melissa Corry. You can follow her blog at happyquiltingmelissa.com!

*Just a note before we start: We will be making a slightly modified Drunkard Path blocks as the “crust” section of the block is skinnier than your traditional Drunkard Path blocks. This way, our seams from the blocks will line directly up with the seams in our surround, and there won’t be that little gap 🙂 This means that if you have Drunkard Path templates at home already, you might want to double check before using them as they are most likely for traditional blocks.

Making the Template

Alright, Let’s get our Curved Piecing on! To start, you will need to print off the Drunkards Path Template for your designated size block. You can find the Drunkard Path Template by clicking right here. Depending on your size block, this will depend on what size template you need.

2 1/2″ Finished Modified Drunkard Path Template is for the 20″ Block
3″ Finished Modified Drunkard Path Template is for the 24″ Block
3 1/2″ Finished Modified Drunkard Path Template is for the 28″ Block
4″ Finished Modified Drunkard Path Template is for the 32″ Block
5″ Finished Modified Drunkard Path Template is for the 40″ Block

Be sure to double check that the 1″ square on your printed page is a true 1″ square. Now, cut out the two template pieces. I made a note on my templates what sized starting square I was using and the finished size, just so they wouldn’t get mixed up.

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From here, we are going to use our paper templates to make a sturdier template. So, whatever supplies you had at the beginning to make your template on, it is time to pull them out. I am using Extra Thick Plastic Template Sheets. Place your two templates onto the corner of your template material and trace around them. The reason I do it in the corner is because that is two fewer sides I now have to cut.

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Now, go ahead and cut out your two permanent templates. I know you all know this, but it never hurts to remind: Don’t use your fabric scissors to cut these out. Cutting the templates will ruin them. (However, if you happen to have a pair of fabric scissors that your children have used on paper and dulled already, feel free to use those!)

Cutting the Pieces

Now that you have your templates ready, you are all set to start cutting out your Drunkard Path units. So, go ahead and grab your stacks of DP (Drunkard Path) squares. These should be the only ones you have left, but just in case, the sizes of them are listed below.  I will be showing you first how to cut out the pieces and then explaining what parts you need in the quilt, so be sure to keep reading on before you start actually cutting.

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We start by cutting the Concave piece, or what is easier remembered as the “Pie.” Align the Pie Template so that it is flush in the corner of the square and the sides are aligned. Then, holding the template in place, gently cut along the outer curve of the template. This is the easier of the two curves to cut, so just try to stay relaxed and let your blade follow along the outside arch.

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Now, onto the Convex piece, or the “Crust” as we will refer to it. Start by rotating your square 108 degrees as shown so that the cut is more natural for your hand. Place your Crust Template onto the remaining piece of square so that it is flush in the corner and the sides are aligned. Start by cutting along the top and side edge of the template to square it up. Then, holding the template in place, gently cut along the inner curve of the template. Again, gentleness is the key here. This curve takes a little practice to get used to, but just relax and you will get it. The key is when you are coming out of the curve to not press so hard that you cut into your template. Relax and just let your cutter glide along the edge. I had to keep reminding myself to relax my hand and let the cutter do the work. However, no worries! By the end of cutting your pieces, you will be a pro 🙂

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For each square you cut, you will have a Print Pie and Crust piece and a Background Pie and Crust piece. You will alternate the Pie and Crust so that they match up with a Background Pie and Crust as shown below.

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Once you feel that you are getting the hang of cutting, you can speed things up a bit by stacking up 3-4 squares at a time.  Be sure that your blade is sharp so that it will go through all the layers, and again, practice on single squares before you jump into this. Once you feel confident, this will save a lot of time.

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Where Pieces Go & Some Practice

Now you know how to cut them, so let’s go over how you will sew them together. Once again, the 1 x 1 layout is going to differ from the 2 x 2 , 3 x 3 , or 4 x 4 layout.

Let’s start with the 2 x 2, 3 x 3, or 4 x 4 layouts.

If you are doing any of these layouts, the easiest way is to cut both pieces (Pie and Crust) from all of your Drunkard Path squares as explained above and then place them into two large grouped sets. One group will be the Print Pies with the Background Crusts, and the other group will be the Background Pies with the Print Crusts.

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With that said, when you start sewing up your two groups above, you will have some extras when you are done. For each block, you need 4 Background Pie/Print Crust blocks (used in the Center Star) and 8 Print Pie/Background Crust blocks (used in the Surround). This means that you have 4 Extra Background Pie/Print Crust blocks multiplied by however many blocks you are making. These are great practice and wonderful “oopsie” blocks . . .  What I would suggest is sewing your entire group of Background Pie/Print Crust blocks first. This will give you lots of practice on your curves, and you can go through this pile later and pull out the best 4 of each print from the group to be used in your Summer Solstice quilt. That way you can save the “learning” 4 from each print in the group for another project, or scrap.

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Onto those doing the 1 x 1 layout!

If you are doing the 1 x 1 layout, you should have (8) squares from your Surround Fabric, (4) Squares from you Center Star Fabric, and (8) Squares from your Background Fabric. I know that it has been super confusing that there aren’t the same number of squares, but it will all make sense now.

DP 1

Once again, the easiest way is to cut both pieces (Pie and Crust) from all of your Drunkard Path squares as explained above. However, now you are going to be grouping them a little differently.

You want to make the following sets to make your blocks:
(4) Background Pie/Center Star Fabric Crust sets.
(8) Surround Fabric Pie / Background Crust Sets.

That way, you will have some extra pieces. I suggest making these extra pieces into the following sets:
(4) Center Star Fabric Pie/Surround Fabric Crust Sets
(4) Background Fabric Pie/Surround Fabric Crust Sets.
I would highly recommend sewing these extra sets together first to use as practice on sewing with curves. Once you feel confident in your curved sewing, move onto the sets you will need in your quilt. You can use the extra blocks in another project or for scrap 🙂

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Sewing A Drunkard Path Block

Now that we know how our pieces all go together, let’s learn how to sew them together! I will be showing the process with one block, but of course, you will be making lots, and your fabric layouts will be different on about half of the blocks. Be sure to keep the groupings that you made above.

One last note before we get into it: I like to use 3 pins when sewing curves. Some people use 1, and some people use a ton. If you find you want more than 3 pins, fabulous! If you find you like 1, that’s wonderful, too. Do what works best for you 🙂

Okay, to start, we need to find the center of our pieces, so to do this, fold your pie and crust in half and finger press the crease.

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Now, with right sides together, place the Crust onto the pie aligning the two creases. Pin the two pieces together along the crease.

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Now, grab the end of your Crust and align the two sides with the two sides of your Pie. These should align perfectly, just like if you were sewing a square together. Pin in place. Be careful when you are pinning not to stretch your fabric to much as these are cut on the bias. I like to pin pretty close to the edge so that that alignment won’t shift on me.

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Repeat for the other end, again making sure that the two sides are aligned perfectly, just like a square and pin it in place. Then, your block is pinned and ready to sew. (Like I said above, if you get going and find you want a few more pins, then that’s great! It can especially be helpful if you are doing some of the larger size blocks. Just center another pin between your current pins and be careful not to pull the fabric too much, as these are cut on the bias.)

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Now you are ready to sew! Before we start sewing, take a deep breath. The more relaxed you are, the easier curves are to sew. If you get frustrated and tense, it just gets harder, so remember, this is all about having fun 🙂 The biggest key I have found when sewing curves is to only worry about what is directly in front of your presser foot. The rest of the block won’t line up until it gets there, so don’t stress about it. Just keep focused on what is about to go under the foot.

Using a 1/4″ foot on your machine, align your pinned edge with the foot and begin a few stitches. I like to backstitch 2 stitches once I have started. This isn’t necessary, but I just like to do it where I pull on this piece when sewing a little more than traditional square blocks.

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Now, just try to imagine that you are sewing just like sewing straight lines. I like to use the finger on my right hand to keep the two edges of my fabric aligned and the fingers on my left hand to smooth or pull out any bubbles that are in the way. Just smooth those outward; you only have to have a 1/4″ of flat sewing space. Again, just worry about smoothing out your sewing patch right before it goes under the presser foot.

Keep aligning with the right hand and smoothing with the left hand. The fabrics will ease into position right where they should be as long as you be sure to keep the edges aligned. Every once and a while, you might find that you need to lift your presser foot to smooth out a stubborn crease, and that is all good; just be sure your needle is in the down position.

When you get close to the edge, I find it helpful to slightly pull down on the edge. This just helps to pull out any last creases, especially when you are dealing with 1/2″ width on the crust piece.

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Just like starting, I like to backstitch a few stitches on the end. Again, it isn’t necessary; I just like the idea of holding that bias seam in place.

Now, I know I just went through that super fast. It can be hard to tell from the pictures, but just remember, work slowly and steadily and try to relax. Practice, practice practice, and trust me, within a few blocks you are going to be flying through these!

Pressing Your Blocks

Now, you are ready to press your blocks. We will be pressing towards the Pie piece. And I know: It seems like it would be easier to press towards the crust, but we press towards the pie so that when we sew these Drunkard Path blocks into our Summer Solstice Blocks, we don’t have 4 layers of bulk right where we only have 1/4″ of fabric to sew in.

Begin by grabbing the corner of pie with one hand and gently pulling it outward. At the same time, press the center of the crust seam inward. Pulling gently will just ensure that we don’t have any little bubbles in our seam.

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Then, adjust your pulling finger to pull upward and turn your iron point towards the side. Really be sure to use the point of your iron to press into that seam and keep it nice and flat. Again, pulling gently will help pull out those bubbles.

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Again, change the direction of your pulling to pull outward and rotate the point of your iron into the renaming corner, being sure to use that point to help get right into the edge of that seam. It really gets fast when you get the hang of it and you won’t have to lift your iron or let go with your other hand; it’s just a matter of shifting the way you pull as you go.

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Finally, I like to flip my block over and give it a nice press from the front, just as a double-check that I didn’t get any little bubbles in my seam allowance.

And that’s how it’s done!

You can follow Melissa’s blog at Happy Quilting here!

What’s your best sewing advice? Let us know below in the comments!