Curved Piecing Quilt Tutorial: A Curvy Roundup

In the March/April 2022 issue of McCall’s Quilting, we rounded up some of our favorite designs with curves. Consider that you might create curves with a variety of different techniques—not just the one technique described in the pattern. While curved piecing is an important tool in any quilter’s repertoire, there are several workarounds if you just don’t want to piece them. With a few tips, and a thorough understanding of the alternative options, you can get the look of curved seams without any trouble.

Streamers & Confetti by Pam Nourse

Every curved block or unit has two main parts—the convex patch and the concave patch. The convex patch is usually the largest, curving outward. We’ll call this patch the A patch. The concave patch curves inward, and often has very small corners on two sides This will be the B patch. Measuring one long side of the B template can give you the overall size of the block or unit, which you will need to know to do some of the techniques described here.

Curved Seams

Cut A: A template

Cut B: B template

Make plastic templates (with marks indicating match points), and use the templates to cut and mark the fabric patches. Finger press both A and B patches in half diagonally (Photo A).

With right sides together, place the B patch on top of the A patch, aligning folds, and pin (Photo B).

Align raw edges and match points at one corner and pin; repeat on remaining corner (Photo C).

Align raw edges of curves of both patches and pin at intervals. With the B patch on top, begin stitching a ¼” seam, sewing slowly while turning and easing the raw edges together (Photo D).

Remove pins as you approach them. An awl or stiletto can help control the fabric and keep it in place as you sew. Continue slowly stitching around the curve, adjusting and aligning all the way to the end (Photo E).

Clip seam allowance to allow unit to lay flat and press (Photo F).

Fusible Appliqué

Cut A: A template, without seam allowance on curve only

Cut B: square (finished size plus ½” seam allowance)

Trace the A template (with seam allowance removed on the curve) on paperbacked fusible web and cut out patch, leaving a bit of space beyond the marked line (Photo A).

Fuse the A to the wrong side of A fabric and cut on the marked line (Photo B).

Peel off the paper backing and place A patch on the B fabric square, aligning the straight raw edges; fuse in place according to manufacturer’s instructions (Photo C).

Fabric: Talisman by Katia Hoffman for Windham Fabrics

Secure the curved raw edge by stitching a straight or decorative stitch directly next to the raw edge. You can wait to stitch the A down until the quilting process if you prefer.

Fused Finished Edge Appliqué

Cut A: A template

Cut B: square (finished size plus ½” seam allowance)

Using the A template, cut a patch from a lightweight fusible interfacing (not the paper-backed variety) and from the fabric. Layer the fabric and interfacing patches, with the right side of the fabric facing the fusible side of the interfacing. Join along the curved edge only; trim the seam allowance close to the seam (Photo A).

Turn right side out then push out and finger press the seam (Photo B).

Do not press the A unit until you are ready to fuse it to the B square. Place the A unit on the B square, aligning straight raw edges; fuse in place (Photo C). Secure curved edge by stitching close to fold by hand or machine.

Fabric: Fire & Ice by P&B Textiles

This method creates a little pocket under the convex patch, ideal for inserting a piece of batting for a trapunto effect. If you do add extra batting under the patch, make sure you cut it a bit smaller than the template so there is no batting caught in the seam allowance when blocks are sewn together.

Contrast Bias Edge Curve

Cut A: A template, without seam allowance on curve

Cut B: square (finished size plus ½” seam allowance)

This technique is a really nice way to add a cool, graphic look and a polished finish. You will also need to cut a bias strip from a contrast fabric, 1″-wide. Make sure it is long enough to completely cover the curve, with a little extra. With right sides together and matching raw edges, sew the bias strip to the A curve with a 1/4” seam, curving the bias to match the raw edge (Photo A).

Turn and press the bias strip open, seam allowance toward the strip (Photo B).

Then fold the bias strip over the curved edge, easing the bias strip to cover the curve without wrinkles; pin in place (Photo C).

Align the straight raw edges of the A patch and the B square; pin in place.

Secure the A patch to the background by stitching in the ditch between the patch and the bias strip (Photo D).

Fabric: Believe by Kim Schaeffer for Andover Fabrics

Folded Bias Curve

Cut A and B: 1 square each (finished size plus ½” seam allowance)

This technique provides a gentler curve, plus a bit of texture for extra interest. Fold the B square in half diagonally and press (Photo A).

Baste the folded, pressed triangle to the remaining A square, aligning raw edges on two sides (baste just shy of ¼” from the edge) (Photo B).

Gently bring down the diagonal bias fold with your fingers, folding it towards the corner and smoothing out any wrinkles (Photo C).

Press well. Stitch folds down with matching thread, directly next to each of the folds (Photo D).

Fabric: Painted Patchwork by Sue Zipkin for Clothworks

Improvisational Curve

Cut A and B: 1 square each (at least 1½” bigger than finished size)

This technique provides a basic framework; it’s up to you what your curve will look like, and each completed curve unit will be unique. Layer the contrasting squares face up on a cutting mat, raw edges aligned. Using a rotary cutter, slowly cut a freehand curved line through both layers, taking care not to shift the layers as you cut (Photo A).

A small 28mm rotary blade makes it easier to cut tight curves.

You will have an A and a B from each fabric (Photo B).

Sew the A to the contrasting B, using the curved seam technique (Photo C).

With this technique, you may want to use a smaller seam allowance to help the fabric patches fit together better; There will be some easing required. Once sewn and pressed, trim unit to desired size (Photo D).

Fabric: Bubble Up Basics by Wilmington Prints

Curves in any pattern can be completed more than one way—if you bring a bit of creativity and knowledge to your project planning. If you like to make an existing pattern truly your own, these techniques will empower you to do so. Feel free to apply these techniques to any of the patterns in this issue, though of course the yardage requirements may change depending on the different techniques. Your quilting journey may have many curves ahead; enjoy them!

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