Friday, March 25, 2016

Caution- Curves Ahead

One of the things I love about collaborative projects is the things you learn and share. Case in point, a lovely (and slightly irreverent) discussion about piecing, specifically curved piecing that happened  with Bee Sewcialites at QuiltCon over Chinese food. It's remarkable how many ways you can put a curve together and there are so many wonderful, detailed tutorials out there.

For me, I have tried many of these, and have had great success with most of them. But since I'm a garment sewer first and had a few skills from that, I realized that perhaps some of the techniques used to inset sleeve scythes might be helpful when tackling exaggerated pieced curves in quilting.

March's prompt for our Bee Sewcial (#beesewcial/ #inspiredbybeesewcial on IG), was "Layers". A word rich in meaning and potential. One of the things I have thought about, especially after making a fun baby quilt for a friend, was all the different ways maps have influenced civilization, and all the different types of maps that exist. I used a special "map" (flight path map) in the quilting of "Flight Path".
Flight Path
photo compliments of Nathalie Bearden

But, one type of map has been calling to me, A topographical map or topo map. But instead of quilting a topo map and while keeping in mind this months prompt, I tackled piecing one.

Bee Sewcial March Topo  block for Hillary,
Entropy Always Wins

To do that, you need to have a confident handle on curves. I use a mixed skill base for that, and because I dislike using throwaway materials (paper/freezer paper), have developed a modified technique that works, I think, rather well.

Felicity (@felicityquilts), also used this technique in her months Bee Sewcial block and it prompted a discussion of the steps in construction of dramatic curves. So, here goes…..
(disclaimer: I'm a visual person, so I learn most by studying pictures. I read directions only when necessary, and I follow them as needed. I have included both in this discussion, pick what works for you, BUT the only way you'll become comfortable with curves is to actually practice making them).

Fabrics for project
Marking pencil or pen
Sharp scissors (very important)
Hot iron
Sewing machine with 1/4" foot, thread
Water solvable glue (I use Elmers, but any fabric glue that you can was wash out works).

1. Choose a starting fabric. If you have a finished size in mind, have your starting fabric several inches larger in all directions since you'll be trimming to size at the end.
2. If you have a design in mind, and are a planner, great. Just going for it is great too.
3. On the right side of your fabric, using your marking pencil/pen, draw out a curved line.
drawn curve in faint white with making pencil

4. Cut away the fabric leaving a  1/4" seam allowance.

5. Using your sharp scissors, clip the curves with tiny, closely spaced v's.  DON'T clip past your drawn curve.

 Continue along the length of your curve.

6. Turn your fabric to the wrong side and press the seam to the back of the fabric, using the drawn seam line as a guide and ease the curve with your fingers, carefully folding back the fabric and pressing as you do.  Do not worry if you press back more than 1/4". The clipped v's  aid in the pressing especially around dramatic curves.

Concave curves press easier than convex ones. You may have to overlap some of the v's and press slowly on the convex portions. You can use Flatter, starch or just water to help you at this point. Go slow and use a hot iron. Try to keep the pressed curves smooth. Having many tiny cut v's make smoother curves.
7. Flip fabric to right side, tuck any unruly clipped curves to the back, press.
8. Select your next fabric and lay out on your pressing surface right sides up. Place your prepped, ironed fabric right sides up on top and adjust to your satisfaction. Press through both fabrics tucking back any unruly clipped seams.
fabric to be added at bottom.
pieced curves with clipped pressed seams at top

9. Carefully lift the top fabric at one end and add dots or a thin bead of glue part way along the clipped edge. Keep glue restricted to the clipped edge only. Gently place the fabric back in place and iron to set. Keep lifting, gluing and ironing until the entire curved edge is set in place.
I use Elmer Glue in a glue dispensing bottle

Occasionally glue gets on the front. Don't fret , it washes out.

10. Flip to back side and gently trim  using the clipped edge as your guild for the trimming. Be careful here to not cut your recently pieced fabric.

11. Using the clipped and now trimmed edge, as your guide, clip the areas of the added fabric using the already clipped and glued v's as your guide.
make sure your v's are clipped before sewing

12. Sew, in the pressed seam along the crease created by ironing. Go slowly around the curves easing the fabric out of the way, especially around the dramatic curves. I use a 1/4" foot not for measuring but so that I can see what I'm doing.
sew carefully along the pressed crease

13. Go back to your ironing board, pressing the seam to one side. Your fabric will fall to one side or the other. Press to that side.
14. Admire your work.
15. Repeat these steps as many times as necessary to complete your design.

I use this method for inset circles and circuloid shapes (the blue portion of the Topo block) and for the pupil in my other "Layers" March Bee Sewcial block.
Pupil added with identical method. Even with many pieced seams this method works well.
Have fun with curves!!!