• Sarah Hunter

5 Can't Miss Tips for Sewing Curves

Today I'm sharing five things I learned thru trial and error when sewing my first Sonic Bloom Quilt. Once you've read this article, you'll have no excuse for avoiding curved piecing!

Petal shapes in a rainbow of colors
The concept quilt for Sonic Bloom

The quilt in the picture above was the concept quilt for the Sonic Bloom pattern, and how I learned the ins and outs of Orange Peel blocks! She just came back from her "longarming spa day" with Katie at Modern Textiles, and WOW does she look good or what? CHECK. OUT. THAT. QUILTING.

If you plan on making the Sonic Bloom Quilt and want to get ahead of the curve (that was my one and only pun!) read and Pin this post. Even if you're not making the Sonic Bloom Quilt, you might pick up a couple of pointers for your next curved quilt!

Skip the Starch

I am a big proponent of using starch to stiffen your fabric before cutting, EXCEPT when it comes curves. It helps to have a bit of give in the fabric while you are gently aligning the edges as you sew.

Starching can also cause little creases in your fabric around the petal, which will eventually wash out, but can be unsightly when taking quilt photos. Here's an example of those annoying little creases in one of the test blocks I made using starched fabric:

Orange peel quilt block creased around the edges
Avoid annoying creases by skipping the starch


Have you ever made a miscut and as a result, had to buy more fabric to finish cutting your pieces? Ahh, you are in good company, my friend! I am infamous for miscutting my fabric, so I included enough yardage in the fabric requirements to account for the occasional miscut, while minimizing fabric waste. It's saved my bacon more than once!

No matter which method you're using to cut (templates or the Classic Curves Ruler, the pieces are normally cut parallell to the selvedge across the width of fabric.

Fabric cutting diagram of convex pieces
Petals are normally cut paralell with the selvedge (left edge) as shown.

If you have an "oops" and make a bad cut, you can get a few extra pieces by cutting perpendicular to selvedge with the leftover yardage. Here's what this will look like if you're using traditional templates:

a quilting template on a purple piece of fabric
Lay out your template to fit on your scrap fabric.

If you are using the Classic Curves Ruler, cut your remaining WOF into a rectangle using the following cheat sheet:

  • Crib: 7.75" x 4"

  • Throw: 8.5" x 4"

  • Twin: 11.25" x 5.25

In the example below, I'm cutting a crib size petal, so my cutting groove on the ruler is

5.5". (Use the appropriate cutting groove for the size you are making.) Line up the points where the cutting groove meets the CONVEX lines on either side of the ruler (red circles). Make sure that the highest point of the cutting groove (red oval) is near the very top of your fabric and make your cut.

Classic Curves Ruler aligned over a rectangle of purple fabric
Be sure both ends of your cutting groove meet the convex lines on your ruler.
A rectangular piece of fabric with a curved cut
The first cut

Flip your fabric around and line up the point where the cutting groove meets the CONVEX line on the ruler with the very tip of the petal (red circles).

Ruler aligned over a piece of fabric
Ruler is aligned at the previously cut points of the petal

Make your cut. Voila, crisis averted!

Coming Up Short

Let's say you're merrily sewing your corner onto your petal, and as you approach the end you realize that your corner piece is about an inch too short. As Scooby Doo would say, "Ruh roh....."

A white and coral colored orange peel quilt block
Printing your template at the wrong size might be the culprit!

This happens when at least one of the fabric pieces has been cut to the wrong size. On the template page in the pattern you'll find the measurements for each piece. Use a ruler to measure the template you cut. If it doesn't match the measurements, you've found your culprit! I highly recommend comparing your template's measurements to the those listed in the pattern before you cut all your fabric pieces!

Although the blocks have a lot of wiggle room, staring with the right size templates is super important. If precise cutting isn't your strong suit (🙋‍♀️I'm awful at it), then give the Classic Curves Ruler a shot. It allows you to make quick, accurate cuts every time.

Another common cause for coming up short is pinning out of order. Following the diagram on page 7 of your pattern (Fig 9), start with the center pin first, then add pins to the ends. If you want to add any extra pins between the center and the ends, do it after you've placed the first three.

two pieces of fabric pinned together
After pinning, your pieces should look like a wavy saliors hat!

"Fluffy" Petals

They're not fat, they're fluffy! Fluffy petals are not uncommon, I've had more than a few and so did a couple of the pattern testers. I can assure you that the fullness will shrink out with quilting and washing. There are a few ways you can minimize "fluffy petals" though.

1. Try a little wider seam allowance. Because the blocks in this pattern are oversized (not all curved piecing patterns are this way) you can safely use a full 1/4" seam allowance without fear that your blocks will be undersized.

2. Double check the size of your fabric pieces. As mentioned above, cutting accurately is key. Even 1/16" of extra fabric on either side of of the petal piece can make a difference.

a cardboard template laying on a piece of yellow fabric
This fabric petal was trimmed too big.

3. Press toward the corners. The pattern instructs you to press toward the petal to create a 3D effect and to minimize seam bulk, but the truth is that you can press in any direction you like. Just know that you may get bulkier seams in some places, especially where where four petal corners come together.

Trimming the Blocks

You might be wondering why the pattern instructs you to trim 3/8" away from the corner of your petal. Why such a awkward measurement? It IS awkward, but there's a method to my madness, for once! Ideally, the corners of the petal should be close to the corner of the block, but not so close that we stitch thru them when we sew our rows together. By trimming 3/8" away from the tip of the petal, we're allowing for the 1/4" seam required when assembling the rows, and just a bit extra. Bonus: This is another way of minimizing seam bulk.

Four quilt blocks of different colors sewn together into one large block

It took me a while to work out the easiest way to do this, but I promise it's easier than it sounds. In fact, trimming the blocks down is one of my favorite steps because there is something so satisfying about squaring up a block. Maybe that's just me? Yeah, probably. At any rate, here's my trick for getting 3/8" outside the petal without any fuss! 👇

On your square ruler, find the point where the 3/8" measurement on both sides meet. It will fall on the 45 degree diagonal line of your sqaure ruler. Mark it with a fine tip sharpie. (You can rub it off later.) Align your block so that the tip of the petal on the right hand side is toward the top of the block. And don't make fun of my bad drawing skills on the photos!

a ruler on top of an orange peel quilt block

Place the marking you just made on your ruler over the tip of your petal. Make sure the 45 degree diagonal line runs thru BOTH points of your petal as shown below. Trim the top and right hand sides of your block.

Now flip your block around, and line up the left hand side and the bottom of the ruler with the appropriate meaurements for your block size. For the crib size block, the unfinished size is 5.5" so that's where I'm aligning the ruler, as shown below.

Again, make sure the 45 degree diagonal is running thru the bottom left and top right corners of your block. Trim away the excess on the top and right hand side of your block. I see you laughing at my bad drawings, stop it!

a quilt ruler on top of a curved quilt block.
Be sure the 45 degree line is running thru both tips of your petal

You should now have a perfectly square block with approximatly 3/8" between the tips of the petal and the corner of the block!

a white and purple orange peel quilt block trimmed square
You did it!

I hope this post will help you avoid the mistakes I made. Be sure to Pin it on Pinterest so you can refer to it later to troubleshoot any issues you might be having. If you still have questions, I'm only an email away. Click on my email addresS below to get in touch!

Which tip did you find most helpful? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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