Materials you will need:
- Hard paperboard or Cardboard
- String or yarn
- Rotary Cutting Fabric Ruler
- Fabric cutting matt
Use your rotary cutter ruler to make a vertical line down the right side about 12” in length. Do the same making a horizontal line along the bottom that crosses the vertical line (also 12” in length).
The red circle in the picture above is the center of your circle. This is where we will be placing the thumbtack to draw our curve.
Now scrounge up some string, or yarn and cut a 12”-13” piece and find a thumbtack too. Now tie one end of the string to the thumbtack.
You will want to tie a pencil to the other end of the string, but it needs to be at 10 1/2”.
If you place your thumbtack along the bottom of your cutting board or along a ruler you can pull the string so it is tight to get a feel for where you want to tie the pencil.
It doesn’t have to be exact. Just try your best to hit 10 1/2”.
Okay, now to draw your curve. Place the thumbtack at the intersection of the two lines on your piece of cardboard. You should be able to bury the tack so it sticks in the cardboard.
Now pull the pencil until the string is tight straight line. Line up the pencil with the horizontal line at the bottom.
Carefully move the pencil up the cardboard keeping the string as tight as you can. You will be going to move the pencil in an arch and not a straight line. The string will help you keep the shape of the arch. I had to do this a couple of times to get the shape right. Grabbing the pencil at the lowest point that is comfortable for you will help as well as making sure the string is as low on the pencil as possible too.
Now cut out your “pie piece”. The curve doesn’t have to be perfect. Just take your time. I used a regular pair of scissors to cut out mine.
You will be using this to trace a curved line on your blocks to cut out the 1/4 circle in the corner of the blocks. The two straight sides of the pie piece will be aligned with two of the sides of your block.
For those of you making smaller sized blocks, you can scale down the length of the string to accommodate smaller circles. If you roughly make your string 2” smaller than your finished block size it should be fine. You can also experiment on how large you want your circle. If you draw a square the size of your finished block on a piece of paper, then use the tack and string to draw different sized circles. Find the one you like and then measure the length between where the circle crosses your vertical or horizontal line from the corner of the square.
Layout Your Quilt Top
Now let’s take a moment to layout all the blocks you have made so far. You will want to make sure that all the blocks are squared down to 13” X 13”. Remember, the extra 1/2” is to account for the 1/2" seam of the curved piece. We are not adding any seam allowance to our template. When we are finished piecing, we will square down the excess to make a 12 1/2” x 12 1/2” block.
Now follow the chart and layout all your squares. Disregard the circle bits in the chart for now.
For example the first row would be (left to right):
- String (stop here for 4x5)
- String (stop here for 5x6)
- 9-patch (stop here for 6X7)
Now before you start cutting out all these curves, I would recommend doing two blocks at a time only; three tops. Otherwise, you will start to get lost. In some cases, you will be using your extra 9-patch and strings to make the pie piece for another block. I will point this out a little later. For now, let’s get started.
I already completed two blocks, the upper left-most block and the one diagonal from it. Let’s call them 1A and 2B, where the number is the row and the letters are the columns.
Now I am going to do the next two in this set of four blocks, 1B and 2A. I use my template to make sure that the orientation of the curved piece matches the diagram. In this case, it is the upper right corner of the 2A block.
When I pulled the block off the wall, I kept the template in the proper orientation. Placing the block and the template on my cutting table at the same time.
After laying the block and template down, I make sure that the straight edges of the template align with the sides of the block. Then I took a washable marking pencil, you can use a washable marker too, to trace around the curve of the template. I have a black pencil for the light fabrics and a white pencil for the dark fabrics. I can switch between the two while tracing that template.
I then started cutting the 1/4 circle out using a small rotary cutter (18 mm). Take your time. It seems harder than it looks. I like to pull the cutter towards me while cutting. I have more control over it that way. Do the cutting in small spurts. No need to try and do it all in one cut. You can also use scissors for this step as well. Keep as close to the line as you can.
You will now have a pie piece circle shape and an arched square piece.
Do the same for the next block (1B).
Pinning Your Curves
Take your two arched and pie pieces and switch the two pie pieces.
Move one of the sets to the side for a moment. Take the pie piece that is left and fold it in half along the curve to mark the center.
Open up the pie piece so that the right side of the fabric is facing you. Use your washable pencil/marker to make a line at the center where your crease is.
Do the same for the arched piece as well. But this time you are going to leave a pencil mark on the wrong side of the fabric.
Place your arched piece on top of the pie piece right sides of the fabric facing one another. Line up the two center marks.
Move the arched piece up until the two edges align.
Place a pin at the center marks.
Now you are going to want to pin your arched piece along the edge of the pie piece from the center out to the edge. Take your time and use as many pins as you like.
As you can see from my piece, I made sure that the arched pieces end was as parallel to the side of the pie piece as I could get it. You will also notice that some of the arched piece is hanging off the side. Make sure it is only less than a 1/2". This is the part we will trim off after we sew and press.
Do the same for the other side now; working from the center out to the side. You will notice that the arched piece becomes all folded during this process. This is expected. What matters is the 1/4" seam allowance area. Just as long as this area is smooth. You will be fine.
Alternative to Pinning
Now, pinning a curve is all fine and dandy. But personally I think it is a pain in my behind! A lovely alternative to using pins is using an Elmer’s Washable Glue Stick to hold the fabric together while sewing. Yep, you read it correctly. Elmer’s Washable Glue. Believe it or not this stuff washes out easily. So it makes a great ‘pin’ without all the hassle.
Let’s use glue on the second set of pieces instead of pinning. Take your arched and pie pieces. Lay them with the pie piece on the bottom and the arched piece on top (right sides facing). Line up your center marks like we did for pinning. Swip a small amount of glue on the edge of the pie piece near the center.
Try to keep the glue within your 1/4" seam allowance area. Then start at the center and work your way out to the sides using glue instead of pins to hold the two fabrics together.
Use and iron to set the glue as you move along the curved edge.
I used some pins to hold down the excess fabric on the arched piece so it was easier to manipulate it. Here is my glued version finished.
See how smooth the seam allowance area is. Also, I don’t have to stop my machine and pull out pins when I am sewing the curve either.
On To Sewing
Place your piece under the foot aligning the edge with your 1/4" mark on your machine.
Start sewing, but don’t try to straighten out the piece. Feed the curve slowly through the foot aligning the edge the whole way. I use my one had to keep the edge in place while the other one pivots the fabric through the foot.
Here is a video if you want to see it in action:
My piece after sewing:
Take your block to the ironing board. Gently flip the arched piece back so you are viewing the right side of the fabric. You are going to iron the right side; gently making the seam flat.
Place your 12 1/2" acrylic square ruler on top of your ironed block. We are now going to square up the block.
You will now see how tight of a margin we have for making the block square. Do the best you can. We can always make up little differences when we sew up the rows.
Do you see how my acrylic ruler has a 45 degree line down the diagonal of the ruler? I use this to make sure that the ruler is aligned with the middle of the block I am trying to square up. The tips of that line are in the corners of my pie piece and the arched piece on top. Once you have your ruler where you want it. Cut away.
Place your squared block back up on your design wall or on the floor where you have your top laid out. Finish your second block. Place the two together on the wall so that the pie pieces are next to each other. You should see the seams line up like this:
Yeah! You now have done curved piecing.
As I mentioned above, there are a couple of spots where you will not be able to just grab two blocks and switch the pie pieces for them. One such spot is the three blocks located at 2C, 3B, and 3C.
Here I have cut out the pie pieces and switched them for 2C and 3B.
But now I have a problem. I need a 9-patch block so I can place it’s pie piece in the blank 3C block. This is where I had to grab from my extra 9-patches.
You will also need to do this for blocks:
3D and 4D
5B and 5C
Here is my layout will all the curved pieces cut out.
Now that you have all your curved piecing sewn. Collect the rest of the blocks, the ones without curves, and trim them down to 12 1/2" x 12 1/2".
You should be ready to sew up your rows when you finish trimming.
Over the weekend I will be posting how I attached my applique circles to the top. I am mentioning them here because I am going to attach the circles as I build the top. That way I am not trying to machine sew them on when the whole top is finished. That way I don't have to manipulate the whole top through the machine.
If you want to do this too, just sew all of your rows together. Do not attach the rows to each other though.
Until then, toodles :) And as always, feel free to contact me with any questions.