Friday, December 20, 2013

Drunken Circles {January do. Good Stitches Block}

Hello Good Stitchers, and Merry Christmas!! I am posting the instructions for the January block a bit early in case any of you want to use some of your holiday vacation to get a jump on the sewing.

(See the finished quilt here!)

This month's block is one I am calling "Drunken Circles."  Now before you freak out about the circles, don't worry! We are only making one block each and I have complete confidence in all of you. If you have never tried sewing curves before you are going to be amazed at how easy they are!

First things first, you needs to choose six black and white fabrics and six bright prints which read as solids and cut a 6.5" square from each.

Mark your curves on your fabric
You'll need to mark a curve with a 4" radius on each block. I recommend using a compass (like this one). This is seriously one of my most used quilting tools and you can get them cheap just about anywhere.  To use it set the point at 0 on one of your rulers or cutting mats and extend the leg out to the 4" mark.  Then just set the point at the corner of your fabric blocks and sweep the marking leg across in an arc.  Then cut along the marked line.

Alternative ways to mark your circle include finding a pot or bowl 8" in diameter to trace or using a pencil on a string.  If you use either of those methods I recommend making a template out of cardboard or a plastic milk jug to trace around.

I created a template you can hopefully download from here.  When you print it be sure you are printing "actual size" (may need to uncheck "fit to page" or "scaling" in the print menu.)  Double check that the 1" square is actually 1 inch before using it. In any case, your quarter circle should have straight sides 4" long with a smooth arc between them.

Mix up your curve pieces, matching colored and black and white pieces into pairs.  I can't find the original tutorial I learned how to sew curves from, but I am linking up to several below as well as demonstrating my method.  First I fold the two pieces each in half and finger press a fold right in the middle.

Match up the folds with the fabrics right sides together. I begin to sew from this point, sewing from the center out to one edge.  There are two schools of thought with sewing curves. The first is to pin, matching the outside corners first, and ease in the excess. The second is to sew from the center and let the fabrics end where they will, then trim off the excess. Obviously I subscribe to the second method.

The trick to sewing curves without pins is to maneuver both pieces of fabric simultaneously so that they are lined up just as they pass under the needle. It's impossible for me to take a picture of what both my hands are doing when I'm sewing, so I definitely recommend you watch the videos below to see what I'm talking about in action. Your inside piece will be shorter than your outside piece, don't try to make them match.

After sewing the first half of the curve flip it over and sew the other half, starting in the middle again and sewing out.  Press the finished block, pressing the seam to the outside. I don't notch my seams and have never noticed any problem from it.

Trim the blocks to 5.5" square by first aligning your ruler with the 3.75" mark falling right on the seam of the two fabrics. Trim the outside of the curve first.

The picture below has more description of what you're looking for.

Arrange your finished blocks randomly in a 3x4 layout. Make some whole circles, some 3/4, some halves, and some lonely quarters. Be sure to leave some "open" blocks on the outside edges so your block will be able to match up with another one.  Sew the blocks together and press. The finished block should measure 15.5"x20.5".

Here are some more resources for sewing curves.  For sewing easy curves withOUT pins (!!) there is a great video here.  And here's another tutorial at She Can Quilt with a video.  If you want a little more security and don't mind pinning, Jackie of Tallgrass Prairie Studio has a tutorial with lots of pictures here.

(See the finished quilt here!)


  1. I love this block - will be so fun. Thanks!

  2. This ended up being easier than I thought it would be - thanks for the good instructions. Not sure I'll do it again but I'm glad I tried it.