Our brand new issue 27 is out this week and with so many classic curves to sew up, we’re here to help you practise your curved piecing. Our Technical Editor Laura has created this Drunkard’s Path quilt block tutorial for you. Give it a go and we can practise together…
If, like us, you’ve added Carolyn Forster’s Compass quilt from issue 27 to your ‘must make’ list, or one of Lynne Goldsworthy’s Foundation pieced blocks has caught your eye, this tutorial is a great place to refresh your curved piecing skills.
How to sew a Drunkard’s Path quilt block
We’ve chosen one of our favourite quilt blocks to practise curved piecing and it’s much simpler than it first seems. We’re going to make four blocks and stitch them together into one gloriously curvy 8in block. Let’s go!
You will need:
- Two (2) to four (4) different fabrics,
- Template for a 4in Drunkard’s Path block, which you’ll find here.
- Rotary cutter and ruler
- Thread to tone with fabrics
Step one: If using two fabrics, cut from each two (2) background pieces using our template above, and two centres.
If you have chosen four (4) fabrics cut one of each shape from each. First draw around the template and then carefully cut out with a rotary cutter or scissors.
Step two: Pair up each background piece with a centre piece from a contrasting fabric then press each piece in half to mark the centres.
Step three: Next, place the background piece on top of the centre piece, right sides together, aligning the centre creases and the raw edges. Pin through the two layers.
Step four: Line up the flat raw edges of the background piece with the edges of the centre piece. You will need to ease the background piece to line them up properly. Pin at each end. To begin with, we’ll add some more pins. With practice, you’ll be able to piece together the curves together without them!
Step five: Using your fingers, nudge the raw edge of the background piece around the centre background and pin in place. We added an extra two pins on each side.
Step six: Take the unit to the sewing machine. Keeping the background concave piece on top, so you can see how it’s easing around the convex curve, start stitching at one end.
The key to stitching smooth curves is to take it slowly, and stop with the needle down and pivot every few stitches. It’s a great opportunity to use a knee lift if you have one as this will help keep your hands free to control the fabric.
Use your fingers to ease out the top fabric if it starts to fold or pucker up, but remember to handle bias edges gently to avoid stretching them out of shape.
Step seven: Once you get to the end, take extra care to make sure the raw edges of the two pieces stay aligned and continue pivoting to keep the seam curved. If you find you have caught any puckers in the seam, you can unpick a few stitches either side, ease it out and restitch.
Step eight: Press the seam towards the background fabric, it should naturally lean this way. Use some steam if you need. Trim the block square to 41⁄2in. Repeat to make three more Drunkard’s Park blocks.
Step nine: Stitch the four blocks together in a layout that pleases you. Your block will be 81⁄2in square.
Tips and tricks for curved piecing
- Sometimes a template will be marked with dots or notches to help you line up the two curves. Transfer these onto the wrong side of the fabric and pin together at these points.
- If you find your block has a tight curve and won’t sit flat after pressing, the curves may need clipping. Make a few notches up to but not over the seam, evenly spaced around the convex curve only.
- Start stitching your seam on a piece of scrap ‘leader’ fabric, this will avoid thread tangling into a birds nest on the reverse of the fabric.
- If a quilt has a lot of curved blocks, like Drunkard’s Path, Apple Core or Rob Peter to Pay Paul blocks, you might consider investing in a die cutter for cutting lots of shapes accurately. Alternatively, a small rotary cutter blade will make it easier to cut accurate curves than the standard 45mm.