Sewing Curves. That phrase used to make me break out into a cold sweat. Back when I first started quilting, there were two things that terrified me: running out of fabric (ha!) and sewing curves. Once I realized that I have zero chance of running out of fabric, I decided to tackle my other quilty fear: sewing curves.
Just the thought of sewing curves can be a little intimidating if it’s something you’re not used to. Trust me–I get it! But I am here to say that once you get the basics down and get some practice runs in, it’s actually quite fun!
In this step by step tutorial, I will show you exactly how I like to sew my curves. Keep in mind that there are MANY ways to sew curves (pins, no pins, pressing seams to one side, pressing seams open, etc.) If you find that this way isn’t your jam, that’s ok! There are a plethora of tutorials and YouTube videos out there for alternate methods of sewing curves. This is just the method that I’ve found works best for me.
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CREASE YOUR PIECES
After cutting out the curved pieces to be sewn, I fold each piece in half carefully. (You want to handle curved pieces very carefully to avoid stretching.) This marks the middle point of each piece with a crease.
After marking the center point with a crease, flip the larger curved piece over so that is is now on top of the smaller piece with right sides together. This is demonstrated in the photo below.
Pin, Pin, and then Pin Again
There are two camps when sewing curves: Camp Pin and Camp Pin-Free. As you will see shortly, I’m definitely in Camp Pin. I’m practically the mayor of Camp Pin.
Begin by placing a pin right on the creases you lined up in the previous step. Then gently line up the edges of your two pieces at the starting and ending point of the curve. It feels a little unnatural to do this and it looks wonky. This is normal!
As you can see from the photo below, I was not kidding when I said that I’m a pin enthusiast. I find it very helpful to pin along the entire curve prior to sewing; it really helps keep things lined up. These pins are my favorite because they are extra fine and don’t get in the way as much as thicker pins.
Time to sew! Slow and Steady Now.
Once you have your pins in place, take your curve to the sewing machine. Decrease the stitch length a bit, around 2.0, and engage the “needle down” function of your machine.
Note: You’ll notice the photo below is a cell phone snap of different fabric than the blue in the photos above. My original photos of this step didn’t come out, so that’s why the photo below looks a bit different.
Slow and steady really wins the curvy race. I decrease my stitch speed on my machine to remind myself to slow down. Start sewing slowly along the curve with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Stop often with your needle down to remove pins and to ensure the two edges of your curved pieces are still lined up.
It is totally normal to have creases of fabric next to the seam you’re sewing, as shown in the photo below. The important thing here is to make sure you’re not sewing OVER the creases. Stop with your needle down, lift up your presser foot, and move these creases aside as needed. As long as they stay to the side of your seam, they will press out.
The photo below shows normal creases after sewing your seam. As long as they are to the side of your seam, they will come out when pressed with a hot iron. If I have a stubborn crease, I use a bit of steam when pressing. This is my favorite fine mist spray bottle to use when I need some steam.
If you’ve sewn over a crease, don’t worry! Simply rip out the stitches over the crease and sew that section again, stretching the fabric taut gently if needed. The more you practice, the better you’ll get!
Press, Press, Baby
Once your seam is sewn, gently press the seam to one side with a hot iron. As mentioned above, using some steam for stubborn creases can come in handy.
For these Rainbow Falls blocks, it’s ok if the curves aren’t perfectly lined up at the beginning or end. The blocks are a bit oversized and the pattern includes squaring up instructions.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Repeat the above steps for each curved piece you sew. Before you know it, you’ll be a curve pro!
For Rainbow Falls in particular, the first two curves are the most challenging since they are the tightest curves. Each curve gets easier as you move outward. Woohoo!
I hope this tutorial was helpful! Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Happy curvy sewing! If you’d like to see what these pieces became, check out the finished product here.
Until next time,