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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Precision Piecing Curves - Drunkards Path - Test Drive With A Kit

During the Make It! Quilt Challenge, SewCalGal will be sharing tips, tutorials and inspirational opportunities to improve our precision piecing skills as well as free-motion quilting. 

red and white quilt show - Make It

Precision Piecing has different meanings to quilters.  A good place to start might be by asking "What does precision piecing mean to you?  Are you happy if your seams do not match or your points have been clipped at the edge of the blocks?  Or do you like to stitch blocks from a 8 1/2" block swap to find they are all different sizes? "  Are you comfortable sewing blocks with small pieces, as well as sewing curves, or do you avoid such designs ?  And, of course, "Are you interested in improving your piecing skills?".

Some quilters are comfortable with precision piecing certain size blocks, yet uncomfortable with small blocks (including miniature quilts), blocks with a lot of pieces, as well as blocks with curves.   There are a lot of ways to tackle piecing curves, and it can be worthwhile to try different techniques, to find your favorite vs avoiding such projects.

Today, SewCalGal wants to chat about piecing of curves and encourage those of you that have never tried piecing with curves, as well as those that are not confident piecing curves, to give it a try.   And practice, to where you are happy with your piecing skills when it comes to curved piecing.  Again, thoughout the Make It! Challenge, I'll be trying to share a variety of tips, tutorials and resources to help all of us (including me).

For piecing curves, some like to pin, some use glue sticks to baste, and some can piece curves quite well without using any form of securing fabrics together before they sew.  My personal preference is to use fine silk pins, or glue sticks, but I've also had good "luck" stitching curves without either.   I also want to emphasize perfect piecing anything for me, when it comes to not taking time to secure, is dependent on luck.  I'll confess I've done more reverse sewing with stitching curves when I haven't pinned or used a glue stick.  Again, what ever method you prefer to do, use one that works for you! 

Some like to lightly dab a glue stick on the center of one of the curved pieces, as well as the edges of the block.  Others prefer to pin in the same fashion.  As you are sewing on the bias, you can stretch the fabric while sewing.  I like to use a bamboo skewer to help hold the two pieces of fabric together as it stitches. (I'll share photos on this later, for those that may not be used to using a stiletto while quilting).

Like pieced squares, there are many designs for piecing curves.  One of my favorites is the Drunkard's Path as there are so many ways you can arrange this easy block to make completely different quilt designs.

The Drunkards Path is essentially a block design that allows you to piece 1/4 of a circle, at a time.  You sew a set in curve where both pieces of fabric are on the bias.

Precision piecing curves starts with accurate cuts.  This can be achieved using templates, marking your fabrics, die cuts, etc.  But your cuts need to be accurate!

Like other pieced quilt blocks, 1/4" seams are also important.  While stitching the curve you want to make sure both layers of fabric are aligned.  You can do this with glue, pinning, or manually lining up before the fabric is stitched.  Some prefer to physically hold these two layers up an inch or so above your sewing bed vs the traditional pieced method of letting your fabrics lay flat on your sewing bed.

Check your seams with a seam gauge to ensure you are consistently sewing 1/4" seams.  And measure your blocks to also check for consistency as they should all end up the same size, or may need to be squared up a minor trim of fabric.

Pressing is also critical for precise piecing of curves.  For the Drunkards Path die, I like to press the seam towards the small circle or pressing an open seam, depending on how I want to assemble my blocks.

Accurate cutting of fabrics for the Drunkards Path can be performed in a variety of ways, but depending on which technique you use you may not want to start off cutting as many layers of fabric as you might cut with a traditional ruler.

Templates are a common way for cutting curves, especially the Drunkards Path block.  click here to download a pdf template of the drunkards path block design created in EQ7.  There are many ways to turn these print outs into templates.  I like the ease of gluing these shapes to quilter's plastic to create your own durable template for cutting your fabric.

Purchased templates are well worth the cost, as they are a time saver over making your own template,  much more durable and tend to provide more accurate cuts than homemade templates. 

One of my favorite acrylic templates for the Drunkards Path is by Elsa of Back Porch Designs to make 7" blocks.  You should be able to find these templates at your local quilt shop, favorite online shop, Almazon, and, of course, Back Porch Designs online shop!

For those that have a die cutting machine, they really do a great job quickly cutting multiple layers of fabric accurately.  The die is more pricey than what it costs to create your own plastic template, or purchase an acrylic template, but they really do make it faster to cut your fabrics.  Here are some price points to consider:
AccuQuilt 7" $59.99
AccuQuilt 3" $39.99
Sizzix die that creates a 7" and a 3" for only $49.99 (excellent value)

Donna Poster has a great YouTube video for cutting this block using manually created templates and for sewing the Drunkards Path. I love her videos and hope to meet her in person one day.  A very talented woman!

If you are on a MAC or have problems watching this embedded video click this link to watch it directly in YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFsyF0t7nM8

While today I shared a few quick tips on piecing curved seams, with an emphasis on the Drunkards Path design, hopefully we are all aware that there are many ways to create a curved seam die (e.g. manually cut templates, acrylic templates, dies, free-form curves, etc.).   

I'm also excited to share insights with you about an opportunity to purchase an inexpensive pre-cut kit that can give you a chance of stitching curved seams without the expense of  purchasing a stencil or die and manually cutting your fabrics.  Pre-cut curved pieces are one of the fastest and easiest options for sewing curved piecing.  

Barb of Bejeweled Quilts has created a super cute pattern to make a Baby Quilt using the Drunkards Path design.  This design is available for purchase on Craftsy  and at Inchworm Fabrics, for a very reasonable fee ($4).  

Inchworm Fabrics provides kits that include pre-cut pieces. 

 To clarify, you can get a kit with pre-cut fabrics to make this Drunkards Path design baby quilt or table topper.  The kit is very reasonably price for fabrics, pre-cuts and pattern all for $20.

While SewCalGal thinks this is an "must" opportunity for anyone interested in working with designs with curves, Jeanette @ Inchworm is also willing to accept custom orders for creating a kit with fabrics that you might prefer.  She has also received a new shipment of fabrics that she is in the process of adding to her online store, which includes a variety of fabrics perfect for the Red and White Make It! Challenge.

The kits, which include fabric and the pattern to make this cute curved baby quilt using die cut fabrics for the Drunkards Path design is an excellent deal for $20/kit.  But again, if you prefer the a custom kit cut with different fabrics contact Jeanette at Inchworm.  While a small online shop, her prices are exceptional and she offers wonderful customer service.  

And, SewCalGal is a big fan of designs by Barb of Bejeweled Quilts.  I've sewn many of her designs and have found them all to be fun and fast projects, which are great to decorate your home or to give as gifts.  

Again, if you haven't tried curved piecing, or don't feel comfortable with it yet, don't overlook this opportunity to get pre-cut kits from Inchworm Fabrics.  With just a little practice you'll master curved piecing during the Make It! Challenge.  And, if you do it in red/white fabrics you can also enter your project in the Make It! Challenge to win prizes too!  Yeah! 

SewCalGal hopes you'll leave a comment to share if you have previously done any curved piecing and if you feel you have mastered such precision piecing.  If not, are there any particular areas of curved piecing that you are interested in?


You can find Inchworm Fabrics at:
You can find Barb at Bejeweled Quitls at:


You can find Donna Poster at:

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Joanna said...

Nice post. Barb's designs are really cute and well thought out. I've come to the time in my quilting life when I am very conscious of points and accuracy, but I also find that even when I am most careful, things don't always turn out right. There are variables that I keep in mind now, such as threads, different rulers, pressing, to name a few. Maybe it's just me, but I still do a lot of fudging even when I didn't set out to. Thanks for the info.

Missy Shay said...

I have a Drunkard's Path Quilt that a friend started and I finished up. She did all of the curved piecing, her mother passed away while she was working on it and did not have the heart to finish it. The closest I have done to curved piecing was sewing yo yo's in the middle of my mom's Dresden Plate quilt.

Dana Gaffney said...

I was practising sewing curves just this weekend, I started gradual then worked my way up as I became more relaxed with it, I'm not quite at a quarter circle, but I'm close.

Barb said...

Thanks for the awesome shout out!! I actually have no fear of curves, like always I just jump in with both feet and worry about the consequences later....and sometimes the consequences are big. Wonderful post. I am so excited to try some of your techniques. I so want to do better.

Jean said...

I've done some curved piecing. It doesn't scare me anymore though I'm probably not an expert at it either!
I think people will benefit from your insights on precise piecing.

Kearstie Grenier said...

I made a double wedding ring for my daughter and her husband. I pinned a lot and sewed very slowly... the resulting rings were great. My guild is planning to do an orange peel style pattern for our next raffle quilt and we have a workshop scheduled for next week on sewing curves using a special foot called a CurveMaster which is supposed to make all curved piecing easier and more accurate. Can't wait to see how it works! Your post is certainly timely. I'll pass it on to the other guild members.

IslandBatik said...

I am completely new to curves. I attempted a NY Beauty block a couple weekends ago (start small and simple, right?! ;) - it went better than I thought! However, I think trying out some Drunkard's Path blocks would be a much better way to practice! Thanks for sharing!! :D

teachpany said...

Since I came into Quilting after many years of making clothes, I find the "fuss" about sewing curves rather silly. It's not much different, because what is happening at the needle and a few stitches before and after is actually straight. You just need to pin the beginning, center and end, and then adjust as you sew. I've made lots of table runners using the Accuquilt GO! Drunkard's Path die (both sizes) as well as Winding Ways. Sewing with a stiletto and using your fingernail to move the upper fabric makes it easy, and a 1/4" foot with guide is all I think I need. I'm glad you are encouraging others to try.

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

I stitched a quilt for my hubby that has curved pieces. I used a template from the designer, but, I didn't use her pattern or even read it, I just dove in blindly. It turned out great (lots of pinning) and is now pictured in her book of patterns using her template as an example of how you can use the template with the patterns. I haven't done curved piecing since. Maybe one day.... I still love that template.