Learning how to sew curves is just like learning how to ride a bike. Do you remember that first time riding without the training wheels? As a little girl, I would have been quite content to cruise around the neighborhood with my training wheels still on until my bags were packed for college. My dad, on the other hand, would never have allowed it.
You see, I was blessed/cursed with a father who wouldn’t let me quit. I guess now I’m happy to not be a 33 year old scooting around with training wheels, (I’m actually not sure I could find some to fit my bike) but at the time I was learning, I didn’t see it that way. I only saw pavement, handle bars, and fear.
I can’t remember if I fell off while practicing, and I have no memories of skinned knees or bruised palms. I do, however, vividly remember feeling the wind in my hair for the first time as I charged ahead, balancing on two wheels. I remember feeling invincible. I remember flying.
Sewing curves on a sewing machine is a lot like learning to ride a bike. At first you may just see bizarrely shaped templates, bias edges, and fear. But let me tell you that as long as children can learn to rides bikes, you can learn and master sewing curves.
Ready to fly?
The pattern featured in this post is the Modern Fans quilt pattern – get it here!
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There’s no wrong way to sew curves, just the finished way
Don’t get bogged down worrying about which way of sewing curves is the “right” way. There are different ways for different people for different patterns for different reasons for different fabrics...oh dear, now I’m dizzy. What was I talking about?
Oh yes. The right way to sew curves is to find a technique that you enjoy and gives you success. For some that is pinning every ½ inch. Other quilters will fold the templates in half and use a single pin in the middle. Some wild and free quilters use no pins at all and simply let the good times roll!
How to sew curves – the training wheels
When learning how to sew curves, there are two things I recommend for optimal success: keep your sewing machine needle down and sew slowly. You will probably need to lift up your foot as you sew around your curve – especially the first few times around. But by keeping your needle down, the fabric will stay exactly in place.
And why sew slowly? This is just to prevent stretching and puckering as you glide your way over the bias edges. Eventually you’ll pick up the pace, but not all the way to full speed.
The How to Sew Curves video tutorial below uses templates from an old SQ pattern, Propeller. That pattern has been altered and expanded and is sold as the Modern Fans quilt pattern. SQ lead a 9-week Modern Fans sew along with tons of detailed instructions, videos, and tutorials for sewing curves. Check out all of those blog posts here!
Here’s a push and now you’re on your own
Place right sides together and line up the edges. Some people like to crease both pieces in half first and pin in the middle of the pieces where those creases meet. Doing this will ensure that by the time you hit the center, it will truly still be the center of both pieces. But do you have to do this to get a pretty curved block? Of course not! Just like I mentioned before, this is a preference and personality thing on how to sew curves. Do it if it feels right.
I demonstrate this technique in a video in the Suzy Quilts Patterns Facebook group and in the public IGTV forum. (Same vid. Different locations.) You do not need an Instagram profile to view a video in IGTV. In fact, all of the videos I post in the Facebook page I also post publicly in IGTV so anyone can see them.
At this point, with fabric pieces right sides together, everything is going to feel very wrong. You will have one curve swinging one direction and it’s partnering curve veering off in the opposite direction. Have the wheels fallen off? Fortunately for us, although our block appears to be cross-eyed, it is, in fact, right where we need it to be.
As you sew, gently adjust the top fabric edge to line up with the bottom fabric edge. Keeping your needle down and sewing slowly, make your way around the curve. Stop, lift up your foot, and readjust at any time. Think of it as taking your feet off the bike pedals for a second to catch your breath and give those breaks a test squeeze. Maybe even tighten your helmet strap. I’m assuming you’re wearing a helmet while sewing.
Once you get very close to the end, you may need to use a pin, tweezers, or even a toothpick will suffice to act as a tiny prosthetic finger. Your own finger will be too large (promise I’m not saying you have fat hands) and I wouldn’t want it getting this close to the sewing machine needle anyway. Use your tiny tool of choice to hold the last ¼ inch of fabric together.
And there you have it! Take your freshly sewn block to your ironing board and carefully open up the fabric and give it a nice press. Use starch if you like and a square ruler to trim off any wonkiness that occurred. Don’ be turned off if you see a pucker or two in your first couple of blocks. It happens! This is also a great time to use a tailor's clapper. Now who’s going to start a fast wheelin’ curve-sewin’ biker gang so I can join!?
See more pics of Desi's earthy Modern Fans baby quilt here!
And here's an adorable picture of two-week-old Desi. He's so cute I can't even HANDLE IT!