I had a request from the audience to publish a tutorial on curved piecing to go along with the Polka Dot Bikini pattern. I plan to do lots of tutorials related to skills, along with tips and ideas for my patterns, so I thought this made a perfect place to start. **Important note: when you print your templates for the Polka Dot Bikini, make sure they print at actual size. Check your settings to make sure the printer isn’t resizing “to fit”. The straight sides of the template A should measure 9 1/2″ and the template B should be 8 1/2″. Check your templates prior to cutting fabric.
This tutorial is meant to accompany the “Polka Dot Bikini” pattern by Color Girl. If you are working on the quilt and find you need a little extra help with the curves, here goes! First, you have a concave curve (right, above) and a convex curve (left, above). In order to match the edges of the fabric, one of them is going to have to “bend”, which sometimes seems awkward for sewing. In order to piece the curve accurately, it is important to find the center of each piece as well as the quarter point of each piece.
To find the center of each curve, fold the fabric units in half and pinch or pin the center. Next, fold one end in so that it meets the center point, and pin or pinch the fabric to mark. Repeat for the other side. This should result in your two pieces being divided evenly into four parts (see white marks in photo above).
Turn the fabrics so that right sides are facing. This is when the piece with the concave curve has to “bend” to fit the other. Match the marked points, plus each end, and pin.
Important: Make sure the straight edges at the ends of the two fabric units are lined up straight and pinned. It is easy for the concave fabric (on top in the photo) to shift so that the ends aren’t lined up with the fabric beneath. Once pinned, the entire unit should be shaped like the original piece with the convex curve.
Use a quarter inch foot on your machine and start sewing the pieces together beginning at one end. Sew slowly and be careful to keep the edges of the fabrics matched up (take advantage of the bias edges to work in the curve). Remove the pins as you come to them.
Important: as you sew the curved seam, make sure the top fabric doesn’t get pushed forward by the foot of the machine. If needed, use your free hand to help “feed” the top fabric. It is easy for the bottom fabric to get fed through faster than the top, but then your block won’t be square. It might be helpful to loosen the presser foot pressure, if this is an option on your machine. That reduces the chance of the top fabric getting pushed forward by a tight presser foot.
open and press carefully, avoid distorting the block.
- if you are getting pleats in your seam: sew more slowly and be extra careful to keep the fabric edges together. (I find it helpful to set my machine to “needle down”, which leaves the needle down in my fabric each time I stop sewing.) If the fabric edges get off track, you won’t have a smooth curve or you may get a fold in one fabric that makes a pleat. Try pinning more places along the curve and double check that your marked points (half and quarter points) are accurate.
- your block isn’t square when you finish sewing the curve: if the corner of the concave side isn’t exactly opposite the other corner, you may not have been feeding the top and bottom fabric at the same rate. Try pinning more frequently to ensure the fabrics stay lined up along the entire curve and make sure you pin each end straight.
- If you are struggling: try lengthening your stitch. Also, try turning the piece over and sew with the opposite fabric down. I prefer to sew curves with the concave side up (the one with the fullness), but it might be easier for you to sew with it on the bottom (and let your feed dogs help ease the fullness).
- it takes practice. don’t give up if you don’t have a perfect curved seam the first time. (-:
**added 12/30/13: Here is a tutorial on completing steps 13-14 of the pattern, which are a bit tricky.** Steps 13 and 14 are the trickiest part of the cutting and sewing for the Polka Dot Bikini Quilt. Since I had limited ability to convey the steps with the graphics in the patterns, I will show how to do this part with photos. You are at the point where you need to cut the second gray strip to surround the inner pod shape. You are using the dashed line printed on the template to line up your cut. I used a clear acrylic template to show the placement. The solid black line above is the edge of your template, the dotted black line corresponds to the dashed line on your template. For this step, you must cut a curve through the gray fabric, forming the strip that surrounds the pod shape. Line up the dotted line (1/4″ seam line) with the point where the gray fabric meets the blue solid fabric as shown above. Do this at both ends of the template/gray pod and then cut the curve of the template. Your next step is to sew this curved edge to a second solid fabric cut from template A. Imagine that the gray pod shape is now equivalent to template B. Use the end of the gray pod to mark your center and quarter points, not the edge of the first solid (orange) fabric, see how it is pinned below: and then sewn: As stated in the pattern, the two fabrics do not reach a full corner, but overlap 1/4″ for seam allowance outside the pod. In a later step, you will trim this corner to sew your triangles on, forming the full corner of the blocks. I know this is a hard step. I really hope the photos help. I am so excited to hear from people starting their own Polka Dot Bikini quilt! When I asked before if there was interest in doing a quilt along, I think it was a unanimous “yes!”, so let’s do it in 2014. We are almost finished with the Midnight at the Oasis quilt along, so my plan is to start a Bikini Quilt along in February. I have a few ideas up my sleeve to keep it interesting, including ideas for variations and ways you can use the pattern to create other quilt designs. Are you in? If you are already working on it, use #colorgirlquilts on instagram to show off your progress. Or link up with the flickr group or on Facebook (fabrics & flowers blog) We’ll talk more about this later, including post schedule, button (tell your friends!) and prizes(?) Sharon