Hi all! I'm Anne from over at Play Crafts. I'm a huge fan of Oakshott quilting cottons so I've been entering Lynne's Made With Oakshott giveaways every chance I can. In June, Lynne and Michael at Oakshott gave me the opportunity to put together a mini-quilt using the Water Oakshott bundle. The mini-quilt is similar in spirit to a project I made last year using an Autumn bundle. While the previous project was inspired by Antelope Canyon in Arizona, the water bundle reminded me of closer to where I currently live, the San Francisco Bay area. The greens and blues were reminiscent of the clear water, blue skies, and green rolling mountains found in this area.
To keep in spirit with the calm, pastoral feeling, I knew I wanted to do gentle improv curves for this project, and thought I'd share a tutorial on improv curved piecing. Because of the nature of improv pieces, I can't give you exact directions to make your own similar project, but I'll describe the techniques I used to make this quilt. And I'm always happy to answer any questions you may have!
Even though this is an improv piece, I still find it helps to sketch some ideas down to get a feel for what type of curves are best suited for your desired effect. Even spending just a couple of minutes sketching curved lines helps narrow down the possibilities. Think about how wavy of a line you want, as well as how deep or shallow the waves should be. For this project, I especially liked the idea of the waves going across multiple colored strips, so I made sure to allow for that in my design.
The next step is deciding what order you want your fabrics to appear. If you want to go totally random, there's always the paper bag approach, where you put each fabric in a bag and whatever you pull out gets sewn together. For this particular project, I wanted to go roughly from dark to light, but didn't want it to be exact, so I made sure to mix it up a bit. I changed the order a little bit as I went, but having a rough idea means you don't need to worry about it when it comes time to cut the fabric.
Now that the design decisions are out of the way, it's time to cut! It's good to be relaxed for this step, because you want to cut your curves in one sweeping motion if possible. It will give you the smoothest lines. I worked from the bottom up because I wanted my curves to lay on top of each other. Working from the top down would give a different feel. Choose which direction you want to go, and pick your first two fabrics.
Lay one fabric partially over the other, taking into account the desired depth of your curves. I laid my ruler where the bottom fabric ended, so I knew how much room I had for my curves. Then use your rotary cutter to cut a curved line through both fabrics.
Remove the bit of fabric above the curve from the top fabric, and the bit of fabric below the curve from the bottom fabric. Those are scraps. The two pieces left should meet at your curved line. Fold them right sides together and you're ready to sew your curved seam. Some people mark both fabrics at the top and bottom of their curves just to make sure things line up. Also you can pin your curves if you want, but I don't do any of these things. I have a rather strong aversion to pins, and I just never found the marking to help. However, if you're having trouble with things not lining up, these are two ways that might help.
Then lift your foot, and hold up the top piece in your left hand. Don't pull, just lift and keep it somewhat taut. With the foot up, you should be able to line up the top fabric with the next section of the bottom fabric. Once it's lined up, lower the foot, but keep the top fabric in your hand and somewhat taut. The fabrics only need to line up where the needle is, so don't worry about what's going on with the rest of it, just focus on getting it lined up under the foot. Take it slow and steady, and use your top hand to guide the top fabric to line up with the bottom fabric as you go. If things ever start going astray, stop with the needle down, lift the foot, realign, lower the foot, start again. It'll all work out fine even if the seams aren't perfectly aligned.
When you're done, press the seam to one side. I usually do open seams, but pressing to one side works much better for curves. I learned how to sew improv curves from Pam Rocco who likes to say that you shouldn't be afraid of really ironing your curves (I think her exact words might have been "don't be afraid to torture the fabric.") The bias of the fabric has a lot of leeway and can hide a multitude of sins. A few things to watch for when you're sewing the curves:
1. If the top fabric isn't held taut enough, you will sometimes get puckers in your seams like shown above. Don't worry about it, just adjust and keep going. When you're done, pick out those stitches and re-sew that area after the whole seam is done.
2. If when you iron the fabric, the fabric just isn't laying flat, check your top edge. If it's curved, it means you probably sewed that piece on upside down. Yah, I did that. No idea how that happened! Unpick, flip over, sew again. Maybe skip that next glass of wine.
Continue working your way up (or down) with each strip of fabric.
Once you're done with your top, square up, quilt, and bind as desired! Sewing curves is a lot easier than it looks, and I hope you'll give it a try! If you want to see the method I describe in a video, I found this video by Leanne at She Can Quilt to be very helpful! It's for drunkard's path curves, but the idea is the same although I skip the tweezers at the end since the pieces of fabric are big enough to hold. I hope you found the tutorial helpful, and if you have any questions, please leave a comment on this post or on my blog! -Anne