How to Sew Curves: Problem Solving Tips from Angela Pingel

Detail of Orange Twist Quilt by Angel Pingel
Orange Twist Quilt by Angela Pingel

Orange Twist Quilt by Angela Pingel

Curved piecing can be a daunting task, but one well worth the effort!

For me, it’s a quilting technique I want to excel at, but usually feel the urge to tear out my hair. In an effort to keep my hair on my head and out of my hands, I decided to immerse myself in tutorials for sewing curves–and there are some excellent resources!

There’s no doubt about it, Angela Pingel, self-taught quilter and modern quilt designer, has perfected the art of curved piecing. She has written an entire book on the subject featuring 16 quilts using the Drunkard’s Path block. For those of us who are visual learners, Angela brings her expertise to the set of Quilting Arts Workshop for a video tutorial filled with information on how to sew curves.

I found her tips on what to do when mistakes arise the most helpful (because let’s be honest, we’ve all encountered these mistakes while sewing curves).

Mistakes Happen!
by Angela Pingel

Sewing curves quickly and simply is definitely doable, but some mishaps can occur. Here are three of the most common problems and the solutions for fixing them.

To prevent stretching in the first place, be gentler with your handling of the curved pieces. Since the curve on both pieces exposes the bias of the fabric, the pieces are vulnerable to stretching. This can happen when cutting, sewing, or pressing, or a combination of all three. Try to determine at what point in the process you are putting the most stress on the bias. Also note that some fabrics are more easily stretched than others, even though you are using the same technique to sew them. Some can make you feel like a rock star seamstress, and others make you want to throw in the towel.


Problem #1: When sewing the curve, you end up with a tuck in your fabric. The fabric has bunched in one or more places and overlapped. (figure 1)

Solution: Make friends with your seam ripper. Tucks in the seam allowance of a curved piece are actually a very easy fix. Use your trusty seam ripper to rip out just a few small stitches over the offending tuck. Then take out one stitch on either side. Now you can easily stretch the fabric smooth. Re-stitch the seam in place. (figure 2)

curved-piecing-problem-2Problem #2: The ends of the curves do not align properly. One of them stretched and the curve is uneven. (figure 3)

Solution: The fabric is not evenly eased throughout the curved seam. Seam ripper time again. Your best bet is ripping out the entire seam and starting again, carefully pinning the fabric together. Depending on where the ease went off, you might be able to partially rip the seam and re-sew it.


Problem #3: Your finished block is obviously out of square. (figure 4)

Solution: If it isn’t too far off square, simply trim your block back into shape.

For more helpful curved piecing hints and projects from Angela Pingel, take a look inside her book A Quilter’s Mixology. Download your copy today to get started mastering the curve. Or if video tutorials are more up your alley, check out her video Sewing Techniques for Accurate Curved Piecing available as a DVD or video download.

Happy quilting,

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