Two Approaches to Curved Piecing and Finding Time to Create

I’ve discovered a trigger for my own neuroses, my anxieties. It’s not getting things done early in the day before I go to work. You see I am very much a creature of habit. I get up early with my dog and cat. Harold, the dog, needs medications before breakfast and the cat, Maude, she just starts meowing early. The only way to calm her meowing is to get out of bed. Also, my whole life (up until my current profession) I’ve been a morning shift kinda gal. I like to get up, get things done, and then relax in the evenings.

Well, now I work evenings. So what have I done in order to be more productive in the mornings? I have an online class and I’ve started this wonderful blog. Along with the blog comes a lot of sewing. Well, I guess the sewing came first and then the blog.

So what do you do when you want to get something done quickly just to get that crafty fix like me? I swear it’s like an addiction, but like a more productive and healthier one than, say, illegal drugs. (Don’t do drugs).

The lesson I’ve learned is to pick small projects or find satisfaction in accomplishing milestones for any larger project. I’m going to show you a few highlights from the past few days first; examples of small projects and milestones that gave me that fix I needed to feel accomplished enough to get on with the rest of my day. Later on I’ll show you what took me about an hour of cutting last night and about three hours of piecing and ironing today. You’ll hear about the two methods to curved piecing I tried out and which one my machine like better. I’ll explain why I agree with my sewing machine on that matter, too.

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Highlights of smaller projects and milestones

Before getting into the next bigger project, I want to share with you my little projects and milestones that gave me that creative boost I needed throughout the week. These were during times that I didn’t have enough time or all the things I needed to complete a bigger project. Without further ado I finished these two tiny quilts way back from my first days of quilting class maybe seven years ago or so. I was experimenting with these triangles. The middle piece on the left is terry cloth and on the right is luxurious black velvet. The finishing touch it took me, I kid you not, seven years to finally put on was the binding. So silly. I had thought of maybe putting these together or in another project, but finally just decided to bind them and call them done. They are slightly wider than my big smart phone and just as tall (roughly 5″x 6″).

Experimental Mini Quilts
Completed mini quilt experiments.

Another small project I had about two hours to complete is this fun one pictured below. It’s a zippered pouch I made from the fabulous and incomparable Angela Walters. She made a great series recently on holiday gifts that don’t take as much time as a full blown quilt. I was so delighted with the video and free pattern and, more so, the fact that it took such little time. It does in fact zip. The middle picture is evidence of where I accidentally started sewing my corners on the wrong side. Thank goodness for the seam ripper. Check it out:

My last milestone to mention was cutting out all the pieces needed for my next project (even though I haven’t yet added borders to my project from last week; I know!). I really wanted to go to town on the curved piecing and play with the new template. First step is to cut the darn fabric, people. So I found a dollop of happiness that evening with all of my pieces nicely organized by size and fabric color. I absolutely love the Robert Kaufman fabrics and got these maybe two months ago. I didn’t know what I’d do with them, then didn’t want to cut them, but ended up biting the bullet. I got half yard of each to give you a better idea.


The Four Circles Quilt

I’m calling this the Four Circles Quilt and I quite like the arrangement. Technically it’s two circles and two ovals, but that wouldn’t sound as nice, right? I’m going to show you practically step-by-step how I got through the piecing for this one. Soon I’m hoping to provide a pattern for you, so let me know if that’s something you’d like to see by leaving a comment at the end.

I used Heat and Bond Ultrahold to do this method to curved piecing as demonstrated in Jenny Doan’s video for Missouri Star. I’m not too sure if I got the right material as I ended up having some issues with it during the applique and piecing process. (I will say this product would work better if I hand sewed appliqued or if I wasn’t using it for a quilt in the first place. The bond is pretty strong). In the middle picture you can see the handy template I got at Joanne’s (but I’ll talk more about that in the next segment). This part seemed fairly straight forward. I used the template to help me cut out the circles of the fabric which helped quite a lot. As opposed to cutting them entirely free-hand.

The instructions are fairly straight forward. Cut your Heat and Bond down to the correct size (you don’t want any extra flaps that can stick to your ironing surface). Place the fabric face down on your ironing surface, then the Heat and Bond with the smooth side facing up towards you and your iron. DO NOT USE STEAM. Hold the iron down for two seconds at a time to adhere everything together. Pick it up and place it down to move to any new spot and repeat until it’s done. I went over the whole thing maybe twice to make sure.

Once you’re done with all four circles, peel away the back and place on top of your background fabric square. Make sure it’s centered and then iron it on with the same process of picking up and placing the iron, but holding for eight seconds at a time.

The main advantage I found in this technique is you get sixteen curved pieces from four big blocks. I thought that sounded pretty great and like so much less work. Once you have the four pieces, find your center and cut them into four equal pieces. My blocks were 8.5 inches, so I cut at 4 and a quarter inch in both directions.

Pattern pieces with fabrics laid out
Laying out the pattern with all of the pieces.

Puzzle time; this is where you lay out all the pieces and figure out the plan of action. It’s important while sewing the pieces together that you sew them in an order that makes sense. For example, you wouldn’t want to start by sewing the whole top row together. Hopefully, the next few pictures will give you an idea for the chronology of piecing.

When you have everything laid out it’s easier to keep your seems along the correct edge. I like the pinch the edge as I pick it up and then feed through the machine. Pinning or clipping is good for that, too. Did I mention how amazing chain-piecing is? I’m a fan.

I wanted to include a glimpse at the order of piecing. Of course, there’s no absolute right way to piece this. There are, however, ways to make it go more smoothly. I like to work in small chunks of 2’s and 3’s.

Four Circles Quilt Top
Finished the central piece to my quilt top.

I’m loving this focal point to my quilt top. I still want to add borders. Heck, maybe even add some more curves. For now I’m at a good stopping point until I can get some fabric for the borders.

These two animals were of absolutely no help besides entertainment purposes and petting breaks. Harold and Maude are pretty cute, though, huh.

Two curved piecing approaches

There seem to be quite a few methods to curved piecing. I want to show you the pros and cons of the two methods I attempted. First, I wanted to try the pinning method. I did so with some fun fabrics from a past project.

Curved piecing using the pinning method

The tutorial walks you through how to pinch the middle of each piece and then pin along your seam edge. I was daunted by this method at first because using the template and getting the right measurements seemed intimidating. I just decided to take my time and only focus on these four pieces that day. I was sure with four pieces I’d at least be able to get one done correctly. Below you can see that I got all four pieces looking pretty decent to my surprise. And this is before ironing. The finished blocks are around eight square inches, but I could certainly cut it down to fit a specific project. I was happy with how these turned out, but wanted to try out the other method, too.

The iron on method is what I used for my Four Circles quilt and looking back I sort of wish I went with the pinning method. Now I can’t be sure I used the correct brand or type of Heat and Seal. That may have been the problem. My machine was not happy with the choices I made that day. After ironing on my fabrics I tried to figure out how to make the blanket stitch. Well, I couldn’t figure the dang thing out! So I went with a different one.

Stitching scrap test fabric
Testing block for stitches

I don’t know if you could tell from the photos above, but my Brother XR3774 was not loving the Heat and Seal material. She was yelling and banging and snagging at me the whole time. I was ripping out stitches and restitching and coaxing her to, “Please work.” Asking her, “Why aren’t you happy?” It was stressful. I kept picking off little chunks of gunk from her needle and back stitching so the stitches wouldn’t skip. By golly we got the piecing done and it took a team effort. I would prefer not to subject my machine to that again, though. Do you know if I was using the right type of Heat and Seal? I’m open to comments and ideas if you know what may have gone wrong for me or how to do a blanket stitch.

Maybe I’ll try the glue basting method as shown on Fons & Porter one of these days and report back to you. There’s also the option to just sew on top with the machine and no fusing in between. In this video Pat from RYCO Creative Sewing Center is also glue basting.

Once again, thank you so much for reading and sticking it out to the very end. I hope this post has given you some ideas and maybe nudged you to try something new in your own creative endeavors. If anything, carve out a few moments of your day to create. Drop me a line or two about your latest projects. See you next time with updates on more projects.

About Your Brain On Quilts

I'm an artist and novice quilter here to share my thoughts, process, and to help other quilters.

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