A literal learning curve


As usual I cast an eye over this week’s Project Quilting challenge, by Kim of Persimmon Dreams.  The challenge is to make a quilt in a week starting from scratch and this week’s theme was a stitch in time. Frankly nothing sprang to mind so I settled down to cleaning up my sewing room after a too long gap from the time before. In its awfulness here it is….


As always my scraps were taking over, particularly the blues. With the Bee quilts I make for Siblings Together I typically go for gender neutral colours like blues/greens and often use a blue quilt backing so I have a disproportionate amount  of blue strings of varying widths. Things had got out of hand and it struck me that it would be a stitch in time to use up these scraps before I needed to find another scrap storage system. Yes I agree a bit of a tortuous link to the theme but there it is!


But how to use them? I had been much inspired by the quilts at QuiltCon, the recently held modern quilt show and the showcase of the Modern Quilt Guild.  The quilts displayed push the boundaries and there’s fierce competition to get a quilt entered. There is always much angst when the rejection/selection slips come out in November. Although rejected entries should take comfort for one of the winners this year got rejected last year!

Anyway I wanted to try out an idea on a small scale before trying it on a larger scale. So let play time begin.

The best bit was digging out all these scraps….


and then combining them to make a scrap block like this.


When I say scrap I don’t mean the useful sizeable  off-cuts from a fat quarter but those awkward small sized pieces or strings. This was such fun. You are playing with scrap fabric so if it goes pear shaped it’s bonus fabric to start with. As long as you pair vaguely contrasting tones and values you can’t really go wrong. And it uses a huge amount of scrap.

Then to the design. There’s always a stand out quilt for me at QuiltCon and this year it was the raffle quilt. It was made by Hillary Goodwin a seriously talented quilter who always has a fresh take on quilting. She uses lots of inset circles and it was Hillary’s quilts which inspired me to make  this quilt for the Festival of Quilts last year.

Well she has taken inset circles to a new level with this quilt. I loved the way there was a pattern behind the circles. You can see it here on Cathy’s excellent blog post which features that particular quilt (it hasn’t yet made it into Hillary’s blog) and a very interesting first hand account of QuiltCon this year. One day I will go…

For this mini I  wanted to use the same type of cut out revealing a pattern beneath. Curved but not circles. So I decided on this shape.


A sort of cathedral window shape. But the fact that it had points meant that the inset circle technique wouldn’t work and each curve had to be pieced separately. Which made for a wonky first try until I came up with a template. I also had to think through how to combine the curved pieces to make a whole quilt.

Most quilts are made from squares which are then sewn together like my FoQ quilt  but this would be different. After some thinking I approached it like a foundation paper pieced  design where you separate out the main joins. Once I did that this became my guide. 8BDFD252-74BB-4DDC-8D05-0D1F97539A59

You can see I’ve separated it into 3 sections, A, B and C and worked on B first. For this I used freezer paper, as you would with inset circles. But working on a convex curve as opposed to a concave was much harder. As I muttered away on these curves my daughter said it seemed so stressful why did I do it? I told her I was pushing myself and it was a challenge. She didn’t seem convinced. As you see the resulting ‘block’ had its issues.


Yes a nasty pucker. But this was playtime so I pressed on with the next section. This time I abandoned the freezer paper and went with improv curves. This is just where you lay your two pieces of fabric down and cut a curve through both layers and then sew them together. But the problem with this approach is it will never, unless it’s a very shallow curve, lie flat. Geometry dictates this  because to lie flat when sewn together the two cut curves need to have different radii. If you look at two drunkard path pieces they don’t have the same curve. They do have the same curve 1/4” in from the curved cut but not the edges themselves. So these curved seams looked like this, again not great.


So for the third section I went back to freezer paper because it had dawned on me that of course concave one way is convex the other. This occurred to me during my Pilates session when I probably should have been concentrating on my breathing! (But to be fair I never do, it’s just a question of surviving the session) Then all was joy and ease, OK a bit fiddly because of the size of the curves, but flat curves were back in vogue.

To see the stark difference between an improv curve and using freezer paper look at these two pictures. The top picture is the joining seam between two sections, the first just by the improv curve technique (I’d used pins and carefully matched the curved pieces) and the second using freezer paper. No contest!!


After I’d found out the hard way what worked and didn’t work I revisited some of the curved seams to make the most obvious faults go away. That pucker went for a start.

If you are new to doing curves using freezer paper then I had thought about  including a short ‘how to’ but this post is already long so I will do that next time. In the meantime if you can’t wait this approach it is simply a step on from the famous and very wonderful 6 minute inset circle technique found in this post which includes a link to the tutorial.

As to quilting I decided on a simple hatch so the focus was still on the motif. I chose a variegated thread, not sure I like the effect if I’m honest but if you don’t try…..


All in all I’m pleased with this mini quilt and I learnt loads which of course was the purpose. The true irony of this quilt is firstly my room is in an even more devastated  state and secondly my blue scrap drawer is only marginally reduced because this design makes a lot of scrap…. there is something circular about all this quilting lark!

Post Script

As this blog is where I record what I’ve done and learning points, below is a list of pointers so I don’t forget. Having re read them it sounds a mixture of part rant and part dictatorship!! But don’t forget it’s to remind me what to do for the larger quilt but you’re welcome to use it if you want to have a go at these freezer paper curves.

1. Use freezer paper, forget improv curves unless the block is small and the curves are shallow

2. Devise a plan for the design, where the cathedral window motifs will be and crucially the joining seams. As a general rule you need to do the opposite sides of the motif then the two other sides. Make copies. You lost the paper with the design on it under mounds of fabric about every 5 mins….

3. When doing the design decide whether to have precise motif shapes or go with a more improv look. Precise is difficult but you could perhaps mark the motif shape on the fabric and glue curves accordingly. I quite like the mix of precise and  wonky.  The children thought the wonky just looked wrong! I think I’d try for a bigger motif not smaller.

3. Get plenty of the fabric you want for your background. It eats fabric…. And fabric, even the same solid by name/brand, can vary by bolt.

4. When prepping your curves remember its the motif, because of its concave curves,  that needs to be snipped and attached to the freezer  paper and then glued to the background fabric.


5) The trickiest freezer paper cuts are the ones that not only include the curve of the template but extend beyond that curve. Here you need to cut the curve you need with the freezer paper sticky side up, positioned under the fabric which should be facing rightside up and then using the template or free hand cut the fabric and freezer paper. Then iron the freezer paper about 1/2” away from wrong side of the fabric and then after snipping glue down the tabs to make the curved piece. This gets glued down and sewn as usual onto the background fabric

6) When sewing you need to position it so the freezer paper, having been peeled back, is to the right of the needle and the two pieces being sewn together are to the left of the needle. The curve should be concave. If in doubt sew a small section and check.


7) As to general points I didn’t double up the batting which I do for minis, it was a test piece after all, but it does lose a certain sense of quality and substance when it’s thin. Continue to use double thickness

8) In respect of quilting I think I still prefer random verticals lines but possibly the double thickness works well here in respect of texture. I’m so tempted to quilt out orange peels in that grid!

9) Random idea. I preferred the look of the quilt top after I’d stitched in the ditch round the motif but before the all over quilting. I wonder whether a smaller mini backed onto canvas board would work well.

linking up with Amanda Jean, Crazy Mom Quilts and Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation.

7 thoughts on “A literal learning curve

  1. With each quilt we make or new technique we try, we always learn something new! You did an amazing job at figuring out what works for you and in the end its an amazing quilt. I tend to jump in and figure a lot of things out as I go…the ‘there are no rules’ approach to quilting and designing is what keeps me going!!


  2. Pingback: Perfect curves….well as perfect as I get anything! | The Lilac Cat

  3. Pingback: Review of 2018 | The Lilac Cat

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