Monday, April 9, 2012

Retro Flowers QAL: Curves are friends not foe

Ok everyone. The day is here. Time to tackle curves. Now while curves may seem daunting, they are actually not that scary once you get the hang of it. Pinning curves is the most traditional way to do them and is the method I will be using.

You may have heard of the curvemaster foot from some people in the flickr group and/or the pattern. It is another great tool in tackling curves. I personally have never used it, but I hear its fab! If you have any questions about using your curvemaster foot, I am sure everyone in the group would love to give you tips.

A couple quick things -

  • If you are new to curves, you might what to give it a trial run on some scrap fabric before using your beautiful quilt fabric, just to get the feel for it
  • Expect to un-sew. My stitch ripper is never far from me, and I do find myself having to un-sew on the regular
  • Remember this is fun! Don't stress yourself out over curves. 
  • If you need any more tutorials or explanations, you tube and the blog world have tons of videos and posts about curves. 

On to pins. I went out and bought a whole extra box of pins for this project. With curves, the more pins you use, the better your curve will turn out. Side note, this same process can be used with dissolving fabric glue that you can find at most craft stores. I have heard a couple people talk about substituting the use of it for the pinning.

Step one. Fold your pieces of fabric in half (right sides together) and press them tightly with your fingers in the center of the curve. This will leave a crease that is easy to see but not as permanent as one made with an iron.

Then, you lay your pieces (right sides together) on top of one another like the picture below matching up your creases. This ensures you are matching the centers of each piece.

Then pin through the pieces at the crease

And at each end. Once all three pins are in, your pieces should look like this. 

The next part gets tricky. Here is where you have to really watch your fabric. You want to start filling in pins between the ends of the curve and the center pin. As you do, make sure to wiggle your fabric to get the edges to line up all the way around. Since the fabric is cut on a curve (that goes through the bias) it will STRETCH. It is very very important to be cognizant of just how easily the fabric will stretch.

This is why pinning is important. You don't want to stretch the fabric to make it fit, more try to mold it into place. Also, you want to try at all costs to avoid pleating you fabric accidentally. After a couple tries, your finished pinned piece should look like this. 

I have done so many of these in the last few days that I have gotten comfortable with just six extra pins, but I encourage you to use more than that! There is no such thing as too many pins!

Sewing your curve is just like sewing any other seam, only you follow the curved edge of the fabric with your presser foot instead of just going straight. 

Now, I have a secret. I know it is wrong, and I know it is bad for my machine, BUT, I sew over my pins. Gasp, I know. Anyway, I find this helpful when it comes to keeping the fabric in place.

The biggest thing to watch out for while you are sewing is pleats. If you see one coming, put your needle down, lift your presser foot up, and wiggle the excess fabric around to help the edge lay flat. Pleats in the seam will show up in your background fabric after it is pressed, and we all know how much fun unsewing is. 

Continue to work your way around the edge of the fabric and that's it! 

Another tip: it is important to make sure you are sewing with a 1/4 inch seam. Don't trust that just because you machine says it is a 1/4 inch, that it actually is. If you measure the seam with a ruler, you can be sure of how big it is. If you find that your machine is off, just move your needle position or change the foot. I have to move my needle 2 places to the right to get a 1/4 inch!!

Once your are finished, your piece will look like this (the pins remind me of a peacock tail)

When pressing, I have found that pressing the seam towards the 'petal', or in my case the print fabric, is very important. 

If you have a light background and you press your seams towards the background, you will be able to see them after you make your quilt sandwich. I made that mistake when making my single girl. It's not the end of the world. I was 14 rings in when I realized it so needless to say I did not fix it. But, if you haven't started yet, its something to be aware of.

Phew this post is long. Lastly, to make this whole process go faster, I have found that it is much easier to pin a whole bunch of petals and then sew them. If you pin one sew one pin one sew one it is never ending. It is super easy to just sit in front of the TV or whatever and pin until you run out of pins, and then chain piece them on the machine. I have no idea why, but it feels like it significantly reduces your time. 

Well there you go. I hope this helps to put rest the fear of curves. Once you get to know them, they are just like any other seam, they just need a little extra love and care. I cannot wait to see all of the beautiful pictures of your petals start popping up!!!! If you have any questions still, feel free to ask and/or check out the flickr group. There is always lots to learn! 


Since there was an amazing cry for pin-less curves, I figured I would look into some resources for you all. For those who took Rachel's curves class, likely none of this will be new to you. Nova graciously let me borrow the video she made for the Single Girl Quilt Along, but the same principles apply. 

I can't for the life of me figure out how to embed it so I will link you to it here.

This is another great resource that someone shared in the flickr group. 

You can also find the Curve Master Presser Foot here. This foot helps to guide your fabrics together without pins and maintain the 1/4 inch seam you need for this quilt. It seems you can apply this same method using a basic 1/4 foot with a side guard. 

The biggest principle of sewing pin-less curves is making sure you DO NOT stretch your fabric. I can't emphasize enough how easy it is to do this. I am not sure if the Single Girl Support Group is a public group, but if this link works for you, you can see why it is important to be mindful of stretching. 

In the videos I have watched, everyone seems to make a conscious effort to never actually hold the fabric pieces, but just to guide them along in an effort to mold them under the presser foot. This seems to reduce stretching issues significantly. You want to minimize pulling on that bias edge as much as possible. 

Don't forget, you have a lot of great resources in the Flickr group! Numerous members were part of the Curves Camp, and I am sure would be glad to pass on their knowledge on the subject. Feel free to put your questions out to the public. 

If you find curves daunting, I would say give the pinned method a try. Once you are comfortable with that, give it a go without the pins. There are so many ways to skin this cat, I don't want anyone to get discouraged with their curves! Hopefully you will find the way that works perfectly for you. Happy piecing!


  1. I have to say the curve master foot has made sewing curves stress and pin free. It is seriously worth every penny.

    1. Diane - this is my first time with curves and I got this foot. Any pointers you can share? Thanks!!

  2. On the drunkards path I did in Rachel's Curves Class we did a no pin method that was fast, didn't require the special foot and once I got the hang of it the finished product was great. Spraying the fabrics with bestpress and using my 1/4 in foot with guide worked really well. I tried using my walking foot (I know some use theirs for everything) but it seemed to bunch up my fabric.

  3. I have never used pins or the special foot either but I guess you have to do what works for you.

  4. I thought this post would show people how to sew curves without pins. It is too easy & quick not to try! I don't think I would sew any kind of curve if I had to pin, especially 'retro flowers'!

    1. I justed wanted to add that until recently, I was totally new to curves. Had not even attempted one because I had no interest in all the pinning. As soon as I found out you could do them without pins or a special foot, I was sold. Been on a curve binge ever since! :)
      Loving all the retro flowers popping up as a result of this QAL!

  5. Great tips if you go with the pinning method!!!

    I actually would never have thought of pinning all the pieces first. I would torture myself and do one by one!!!! I always like a sit on the couch project so my husband doesn't think I am cheating on him in my studio ;)!

  6. I use/d this method with my single girl rings. But unfortunately I found out too late that my 1/4 inch seam allowance wasn't 1/4 inch... That's why my rings don't fit the background. *sigh*
    For the retro flowers I tried sewing without pins. I use my 1/4 inch foot with edge (and adjust my needle position as well) and it works great.

  7. What is the big deal about pins??? In the time it takes you to move the fabric all around and get it set under the presser foot you could have pinned and sewn a perfect retro petal. It might seem old school but it sure does work.

  8. Good post Megan, those links are a terrific help! Thanks for searching them out :-)

  9. Thanks for including the link to my video.

  10. Both pins and no pins are worthy approaches. Whatever floats your boat! Great post, Megan =)

  11. Just ordered the pattern and templates. Can't wait for them to get here so I can catch up! Thank you for the great tutorial on curve sewing....


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