Sewing Techniques for Stitching Curves

29 Apr 2014

What do you do when quilting throws you a curve? Stitch it!

how to sew a quilt drunkards path projects
What beautiful curves! They're easy, too, once
you know the right sewing techniques.
I know, I know, curves are problematic, whether you use straight stitching or free-motion. Many people who sew and quilt avoid projects calling for curved piecing for that reason. Who needs the stress?

Learning how to sew a quilt with curved piecing takes practice. All sewing techniques do. But experienced quilters know that some simple tricks can also make it easier to piece curves.

Once quilter Angela Pingel fell in love with the Drunkard's Path, she knew she had to figure out a way to make piecing curves easy and fast.

In her new book, A Quilter's Mixology: Shaking Up Curved Piecing, 16 Projects Using the Drunkard's Path Block, Angela reveals her sewing technique for curves--and it's not all about the sewing machine.

"The trick is to ignore the fact that you are sewing a curve. Pretend you're sewing a straight seam. Mind over matter can really help you sew a curve. And, truly, when the diameter of the curve is large, you practically are sewing a straight line," Angela writes. "Make sure the section of the seam where the needle is piercing the fabric always has the ¼" (6mm) seam allowance, and forget about the rest."

sewing technique for piecing curves
Sewing technique for piecing
curves, by Angela Pingel, from
A Quilter's Mixology.
Here is Angela's method for piecing curves quickly and easily:

1. Mark the center of each piece along the curved edge (both convex and concave). To do this, simply fold the piece in half and give it a quick press just at the curved edge (fig 1). Then use one--yes, just one--pin to pin the convex and concave pieced together at the center, right sides together (fig2).

2. Sew the pieces together in two steps. First, align the two pieces together along one straight edge of each (fig 3), and sew from that edge to the pin at the center, easing the two pieces together (fig 4).

3. Stop. Trim your threads, and repeat from the opposite side (fig 5).

"I find that this method give me really clean ends to my quarter-circle curves, which is very helpful for the patterns that require precision," writes Angela. "Plus, sewing to the middle each time gives me a chance to double check my first seam allowance when sewing the second half. No one is perfect, and sometimes a bit of re-sewing is necessary."

If I were you, I'd practice on some "ugly" fabric or muslin a few times to get the hang of it. Then dive into the 16 gorgeous quilt projects from A Quilter's Mixology.

P.S. For more advice on sewing machine techniques for stitching curves and circles, be sure to check our our Know Your Machine Premium Collection, with advice from Libby Lehman, Nicole Vasbinder, and other notable experts. 


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Comments

12drawer wrote
on 29 Apr 2014 7:50 AM

I am not avoiding curves, just haven't done any yet - still on HST's as i'm a newbie.... but my mum used that way of sewing curves like facing on dresses & fitting sleeves.....she doesn't quilt so i wonder where she learned it.....

NorthBabe wrote
on 29 Apr 2014 10:53 AM

I used to be intimidated by curves until I sewed a whole quilt of curved blocks. I loved the tip to iron to find the middle. To me, the trick in sewing a curve is to pin, pin, pin! It is exactly like sewing a puffy sleeve in dressmaking. I pin the middle like Angela, then pin the straight edge and pin the middle of the first side of the curve making quarters. Then pin the middle of the quarters making eighths. Keep pinning until you have a flat straight seam. The material will be all wrinkly on both sides of the seam line but flat where you have to sew. As you sew, remove pins and rearrange the excess fabric out of the way. As Angela says, you are really just sewing a straight seam after all your pinning! As a general comment, quilting is as much pressing and pinning as it is sewing.

on 29 Apr 2014 12:17 PM

No, I don't shy away anymore. A few years ago, I decided it was time to tackle something new and took on curves and a double wedding ring. Patience and determination saw me through and I know they only look hard. They really aren't.

MGQuilts wrote
on 29 Apr 2014 10:41 PM

Oh your article and the simple directions make me want to go out and start a Drunkard's Path quilt right now! Thanks for the inspiration.

Rosieq wrote
on 4 May 2014 9:50 AM

I find an easy trick is to  press as directed, pin the two layers together at that center crease with the concave piece on top (think cave in for which curve is which).  No more pinning required,  your machine just feeds this together perfectly.  Sew a tad slower than straight line sewing.

12 drawer, this curved seam technique has been used by dressmakers forever.  That's how I knew to sew my pieced curved seams for a quilt.