Creative articles about quilting

Curved paper piecing: again, but different

Reading my Blog from January 13th, you know that curved strips can be sewn on a paper piecing Unit, which doesn’t have to be that complicated. But did you know that you also can sew multiple curved strips to get curved patchwork? Again, it is sewn on a (large) paper piecing Unit, which will be cut into smaller Units afterwards. 

Many quilters will be in doubt at this point. ‘Is that even possible? Paper piecing lines have to be straight, don’t they?’ They often are, but they can be curved too, working in a certain way. I came across this, making ‘diamonds’ for the Dinner Plate Dahlia Wall quilt (pattern pack Judy Niemeyer).

With this quilt, a lot is curved: concave and convex pieces are sewn together. Even the Units themselves are curved, so the fabric pieces are cut that way too. Not with just a single Unit, but with multiple Units. These paper piecing Units – picture above – are showing three smaller Units with two shaded areas: that means that they have to be cut again, after finishing. The shaded areas are ‘scraps’: you can discard them afterwards. They’re there, on the large Unit, because of the way the strips are sewn, to make it easier and faster, instead of working on a lot of smaller Units.  

To be sure the right fabrics are used, swatches have to be glued onto the Units before cutting the fabrics: per row, and also on the templates. This is important, so you don’t get confused and accidentally use the wrong fabric. Always cut via the paper piecing templates, and group the Units per colorway. 

All the number 1 sections of each Unit will be glued onto the ‘wrong’ side of the papers, as usual with the Judy Niemeyer patterns. Normally the seams are cut back, using the Add-a-Quarter ruler and a folding template, BUT… in this case, you won’t. Of course your rotary cutter will be used, working on a cutting mat. A special curved ruler is included in the pattern pack, for accurate cutting. And – if available – use your rotary cutting mat, 30x30cm. You can be sure that works great.

Paper piecing the curves.

The directions – accompanied by diagrams with every step – will show you how it is done. Always read the preparations carefully, no matter how often you have made a paper piecing quilt. Because the way to make these larger Units – containing 3 smaller Units – is different from ‘single’ Units, ‘reading the manual’ is essential. I have placed two blue arrows to point you to the parts which are scraps: they will be discarded afterwards, but are covered too, when the curved strips are sewn on the solid lines. 

There are two different sewing lines on these special Units: a dashed line = Basting Line, and a solid line = Sewing Line. Numbers are indicating the sequence, so be sure to pay attention to the order of stitching. 

First, the curved strip of fabric is glued to the number one sections: placing a tip of UHU or Pritt on the three separate sections is all you need to do. The first fabrics are always sewn, so nothing new there. Next, the Basting Line = no.1 – has to be sewn. Setting the straight stitch of your machine to a much higher number (3.30 with my B770QE) will do the trick. Be sure to follow the dashed line properly, working on the printed side. The blue arrows are pointing to the basting lines: there is no trimming at this point.

The picture above shows you where the diamonds will be placed: because of their shape and color, they are forming a rimmed circle in the quilt: doesn’t this look wonderful? There are 24 curved large Units with diamonds to cover: 12 L (left) and 12 R (right). Don’t mix them up.   

The basting line is used to position the next fabric. It will be placed against these stitches. I will use Bohin Glue pen  to hold it in place, before sewing, making sure it covers the seam allowance, not beyond (I don’t want glue on my machine needle). The fabric has to be placed right sides together, although that’s not important with Batiks, because most of the times both sides are the same. It is important NOT to stretch the strip, but gently press it against the stitches, starting in the middle, working your way towards one side, then from the middle to the other side. 

The fabric is placed. Don’t worry about the puckers: when turning the Unit to work in the printed side, puckers are pushed down when holding the paper just off the surface of the sewing machine. For sewing, I have decreased the stitch length to 1.90. 

Following Sewing Line 2 with the center of my presser foot, starting just outside the Unit, beyond the seam allowance, ending on the other side the same way. 

To trim off the excess fabric, I have placed the Unit with the fabric side down, folding back the paper and cut just above the basting stitches. Although this also could be done later, as indicated in the directions, I made this step ‘in between’, because I wanted to work the same way as with the single curved strip from my Blog from January 13th. Am I stubborn to do this, even though this step is not mentioned in the directions at this point? Perhaps, but sometimes you want to do things different… If you are making the same quilt, you can stick to the plan: it will save you time.

The front = fabric side, is now cut back – paper Unit flat. Again, you can skip this step if you want to.

Folding the second fabric to the right side and ironing it, making sure again not to stretch both fabrics. 

The next strips are glued and sewn the same way. Basting Line (3), gluing and Stitching Line 4). 

The completed Unit: fabrics are ironed and all is ready for recutting.

12 Units are done: turned to the right side (left) and the wrong side (right): I’ve just placed them for you to see them all.  

Recutting the Units.

All Units are recut – using the special curved ruler, which is included in the pattern pack. Alternating the concave and convex side of the ruler, placing the dashed line of the ruler onto the solid sewing lines on the edges of the Units, cutting along the side, giving you a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Making sure the rulers won’t shift, cutting carefully and slowly.  

I am using my (old) rotary mat: fortunately they are available again, because this is an easy way to cut. Not shifting the Units, but turning the mat to be able to cut the next side, works just fine. First the outer edges are trimmed.

To recut, the curved ruler is placed along the indicated lines on the Unit, discarding the ‘scraps’ after cutting.  

This is one Unit, recut, which yields three smaller Units. 

Upper left is one Unit, right side up. To the right one Unit, wrong side up with all cutting lines. The three smaller Units are already cut. 

I have stacked the smaller Units. With regular paper piecing, the papers are torn from the back, but not with this method. 

Here the smaller Units have to be placed like this, paper side down, folding the last sewn fabric away to reveal the seams/extra fabric. Cutting through both fabrics and paper, just UNDER the basting line, will trim off all excess seam allowances. The remaining measurements will be a scant 1/4 inch.

Removing the paper along the seam allowance, and folding the second fabric/part away to trim the next seam allowance just under the basting line. 

The last paper is removed under section 1, leaving just a fabric Unit. All Units are trimmed off this way, ready to assemble. This technique-of-the-month quilt is not for novices, but it is really interesting how to work with curved paper piecing and curved seams.

I still have to make many more Units, before assembling the entire quilt. See you next time with another topic.


Happy Stitching

Sylvia Kaptein
Sylvia’s Art Quilts Studio

Difficulty level: Intermediate
Time to Complete: Weekend
Used Material: Bohin Glue Pen, Curved ruler, Dinner Plate Dahlia Wall pattern, rotary cutter, UHU or Pritt glue

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