Category Archives: tutorial

Piecing Big Curves Without Losing Width

My friend, Tam, and I met for a sew day. She had a patchwork top that she wanted to add curves to, but couldn’t spare any width. She had a plan, but I was a skeptic. So we tested it on stash fabric that can become a charity quilt, and width won’t matter on it. Spoiler: She was right. The method is a bit fiddly, but when a detail is important, fiddly is worth it.

We laid the curved piece (green) on top of the whole fabric (print)–both right sides up–and marked along the curve.

curve-first mark

We used a hera marker because the fine line helped accuracy. Next we marked a second line half an inch UNDER the green.

curve--second mark

Note: we took photos from both sides of the table, so you can’t tell from the above that the second line was under the green. The measuring gadget helped accuracy, but any ruler would do.  We could not make continuous lines because the straight line of the ruler didn’t match the curve. So we made many single marks and joined them. Again with the hera marker, though I had to go back and use chalk on the cutting line. Tam’s eyesight was better than mine–she needed only the hera marked line.

Before cutting, we marked registration marks to aid in matching the two pieces.

curve first dot

We laid the green back matching the line drawn along the edge. The first mark was a short right-angle line across the cut line, marking both fabrics. We started with an erasable marker that was aqua–it showed up fine on the green but minimally on the print, so we supplemented with chalk. So that we wouldn’t confuse the marks, we used one perpendicular line, then two, then three, then back to one, etc.

So that we could see the mark when joining the pieces and when stitching, we needed a second mark on the cutting line under the green.

curve--inner dot

These too were 1,2,3,1 … little perpendicular lines.

Next we cut along the line that was half an inch from the edge under the green (had it been lying there). (If there is any mistake I’d make doing this, it would be to measure the second line the wrong way or to cut on the wrong line. I paid close attention, and Tam helped keep me on the correct line.)

curve-cutting line

We used scissors; it would have been possible, freehand, with a rotary cutter–whichever helps you be most accurate.  You can see how wide the chalk line is, so had I been able to use only the hera line, it would have been more precise.

The green is returned and placed edge to edge–right sides up. One will be turned so that they are right sides together.  Whichever piece has the concave curve (or the most concave curves) goes on top. In this case, the green had two long concave curves and the blue only one small one.

curve--concave on top

I am pointing to the blue convex curve.

Next, because marks were so hard to see on the print, we pinned at the registration marks.

curve--matching dots

The three little lines are clear on the green and the white barely visible on the print.

Notice that the pieces don’t look like they fit.


However, only about an inch has to fit at a time.

Sew a quarter-inch seam.


Had the marks shown better, I would have done my preferred no-pin method–it gives more flexibility in aligning the two pieces. When doing no-pin, I keep looking ahead to see how close the registration marks are and tug gently on the piece that looks like it might fall short. The gentler the cut curve, the easier it is to sew.

Press from the top, whichever way the seam wants to lie.


Finished, it lies almost flat.

curve--lies flat

The first curve lay perfectly flat–no photo, kinda like the fish that got away. This bit of pooch will quilt out. I think it happened because of the S-curve, the change in convex/concave. Or it could be because my chalk mark wasn’t as precise as Tam’s mark with the hera marker on the first curve.

But what is important is that the edges meet.

curve--edges even

Here is the finished section to show how large the curves.

curve--finished piece

Large curves, though unwieldy, tend to be gentler, so easier to manage.

A few more sections, also with curved piecing, and it will be a child sized top.





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Tutorial for Tilted Square Framing

The tilted/tipsy square frame is a useful way to enlarge a block. Here is the sample I will use for measurement examples:

Unnamed block

Finished center 7 1/2 x 7 1/2; Unfinished block 12 1/2 x 12 1/2

Measure your center (and remember you will lose 1/2 inch to seams. Mine measured 8 inches, so it will become 7 1/2 inches finished.

You will be cutting two rectangles then cutting on the diagonal to get four triangles.

To get the width needed for the triangle, subtract the finished measurement of the center from the desired finished measurement of the block to get the needed width to add (12 – 7 1/2 = 4 1/2 inches in the example) .  (The principle here is to design from finished measurements then add seam allowance when planning the cutting.)   To plan the rectangle to cut, add an inch and a half to the finished width for seam allowance to be on the safe side, and cut a strip (6 inch strip for the example). The extra is for the loss when seaming sharp angles. There will be some trimming at the end. The very daring quilters can experiment with smaller seam allowances if you are willing to trim smaller than your desired  size if necessary. Remember that 7/8 inch is the exact amount to add to HSTs, so no less than that.

Now for the length of the rectangles. Add an inch and a half to your desired  finished block size. (For the example, the end result desired is 12 inches so I cut 13 1/2).

Cut two rectangles, then cut the diagonal to get four triangles.  About that diagonal. If you want to be able to put the pieced center on top when you sew, cut the diagonal from upper left to lower right. (If using a solid, it doesn’t matter because there is no right and wrong side to most solids. If you don’t care which piece is on top it doesn’t matter; if you cut the opposite way, start sewing on the other side.)

diagonal cut

Lining up for the first partial seam.

Lining up the pieces

Note that the STRAIGHT edge lines up with the left side of the center and the top is a straight line. Flip the center piece onto the triangle so that right sides are together and start sewing at the top corner, ending about 2 inches from the bottom of the center piece.

First seam

You will fix that hanging bit of the triangle after the third seam.  Press the seam however you like.

Now you are ready to make a complete seam with the next triangles.

second and third seam placeent

Note how you always attach the straight edge to the corner away from the previous triangle, and now it is possible to sew the whole length of the seams. Press after each seam.

For the fourth triangle, fold up the tail of the first triangle to where you stopped sewing.

fourth seam position

Now there is room for a complete seam. Sew then press. Then simply fold down the first triangle and finish that seam and press.

Use a square ruler to trim the block to the UNFINISHED size (in the case of the example, 12 1/2 x 12 1/2). Position the ruler so that the four points of the center  square are as close to an equal distance from the 12 1/2 edge as possible. (Mine are usually 1/8-1/4 off.  But it is a tipsy square, so a little variance doesn’t really matter. You will be trimming all four sides. (The photo of the example looks like the right is off by more; I don’t remember if that is a fact of the photo or the block itself, and the blockis already gone, so I can’t check.)

Don’t you love the high tech illustrations? 🙂

Linking with “Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays”–link in sidebar.


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MQG Challenge Progress: Piecing That Odd Center

The blocks are finished–now I can get a better idea than when I had only a sketch and a few rectangles on the design wall. The block is a traditional block, Brackman #2583, Lacy Latticework.Layout--first trial

I’m not sure I like the flower placed as I’d originally planned. While I think about that, let me tell you about the challenge of that simple-looking block. (If in doubt about what to do next on a quilt, blog about it.) Because I’d used the technique for block borders, as in this round robin addition, I’d expected it to be a breeze, and it was, almost.

Here is a mini-tutorial on the block, with emphasis on piecing those overhanging pieces around a one-inch square (The construction is called partial seams (though only one seam is partial). I don’t know if the border has a name, does anyone?)

The pieces to cut for each 7 1/2-inch block (7 inches finished):

1 square 1 1/2-inch (preferably matching four of the triangles)

4 rectangles 1 1/2 x 4 1/2

8 triangles , 4 of each color, to make rectangles 2 1/2 x 4 1/2.  These I cut using the Rec Tool of the Tri-Recs ruler set, cutting from two 4 1/2 strips. It was good I’d reread the directions as one layers the two fabrics both with right side up.

First assemble the split rectangles, then attach them to the cut rectangles. Because I am geometrically challenged, I have either a finished block or a drawing of the block at my side while assembling these so that I get the color that forms the tilted square sewn to the correct side! The pin marks the upper right orientation for the block in the finished quilt–only needed if arranging prints precisely.

Now you are ready to wrap around the center square. Lay out the pieces. This block will be worked counter clockwise, so I have numbered the components accordingly.

components numbered

placement of squareFirst partially attach #1 to the 1 1/2-inch square, note the position of the piece in relation to the wide end of the matching fabric. Stitch from the edge where the pieces match to about 3/8 inch from the edge in the middle. The loose flap will be needed later. This is where the small piece makes the construction more tricky than when bordering a larger block. If you don’t leave enough flap, you won’t have room to make a 1/4-inch seam later. If you leave too much, you will end up with a gap in the final seam.

partial seam and loop

I felt the need to knot the sewing thread here, though usually I would consider stitching over it later enough to hold it.  Here the seam is short and there will be fiddling with it (and the first one I made ripped out while I was fiddling). I am not one who normally adds extra steps. 🙂 Have you knotted the old fashioned way by pulling up the back loop with the top thread, then pulling it through and tying an overhand knot? Imagine when that was the only way to knot before reverse stitching was possible. Cheers for reverse stitch, but here the accuracy of placement makes it worth doing it the old way. IMPORTANT: Press toward the rectangle, not the square.

adding 1 to 2

Now it is smooth sailing for two seams as you Adding 3

attach the #2 unit to the #1 unit, then the #3 to the #1-2. I continued to press toward the rectangle, though it is not so crucial here. Sewing unit#4 is what you saved the flap for.

Adding #4

Fold the excess of #1 out of the way so you can line up units #3 and #4 and make a 1/4-inch seam. If your pieces are not perfectly lining up, as mine do not, let the excess hang off the edge; keep the center seam even. It will make the next attachment easier. Start the seam from the center. Now all that is left is to complete that first seam sewing #1 to #4.

Seaming 1 to 4

The pin with the white head marks the end of that first partial seam. (The one with the red head is my way to remember which quadrant goes in the upper right of the block.) This is the spot where the size of the center square makes a bit of difficulty.

Needle placement

Place the needle on the previously made partial seam as far back as you can while keeping it all flat. I leave the pin at the edge of the partial seam till I get the machine needle placed, then remove it. As in this photo, so in life–you can’t always see the stitches. So far the most I’ve been able to sew over is the last three stitches of the initial partial seam. I usually knot a thread by hand if I can’t overlap at least five stitches.

Finished block

Press, and trim if you need to (as I will here) and your block is complete.

Chain piecing is possible if you are not keeping track of placement of various print rectangles as I was here. It works for all but the partial seam  attaching #1 to the small square and the completion of the partial seam as you stitch #1 to #4.

ETA measurements for a 10 1/2-inch (finished) block (which would make the center square at 1 1/2 inches finished a bit easier). ETA corrected math. I added several times and got the same answer–making the same mistake. 10 1/2 is correct.

Per block, cut

1 square 2 x 2

4 rectangles 2 x 6 1/2

8 triangles (largest possible from Tri Recs ruler) from two different 6 1/2-inch strips, both cut right side up.

If you don’t want to get the ruler, you can make a template. Angles are 30 degrees, 60 degrees, and 90 degrees.

3/3/15 Another traditional block in a non-traditional setting. My one and only tutorial. Linking to Tuesday Archives. Such fun to revisit old posts.


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