I saw a very inspiring exhibit at the Fuller Craft Museum a couple of months ago, Circular Abstraction: Bull’s Eye Quilts. It was amazing! Huge quilts, freehand curves, bright color and some of the most interesting work I’ve seen in a while.
I was so inspired by the exhibit, that I decided to teach myself to sew curves. In the quilting world, there’s a bit of a mystique or fear about sewing curves. I’ve also been intimidated by curves, with my only experience being on the Meadow Quilt, which found really frustrating once I learned that thin fabric has way too much stretch.
For this attempt at curves, I decided to just wing it – no pattern, no paper piecing, no pins, just play. I don’t think I do enough of “just play” in quilting and I’d like to do more. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos (this one and this one were the best!) to get the hang of sewing curves and pulled out some polyester fabric that I bought by accident and just went for it.
You know how they say that you need to practice something for 10,000 hours before you become an expert? Let’s just say that I have many more hours to go! I think there’s something to be said, however, for admitting that you’re learning and you’re not an expert. There are days/weeks/months/years where I feel like every quilt I see on the internet or at a quilt guild meeting is perfect and the quilter was born knowing how to perfectly piece, sew and press. My first few sewn curves, were kind of a hot mess:
I cut all of these freehand – no pattern, following a chalk line or using a plate as a “curve guide”. It took a few times before my muscle memory kicked in. (and there are a lot more samples that were such failures I immediately used them as dust rags!) When I sewed the pieces together, I didn’t use pins so it took a few tries to figure out where to match up the seams. Working with the polyester was kind of a nightmare – the stretch was unbelieving and when I tried to press, it smelled like I was burning down a Barbie factory. What gave me hope was this one perfect block:
So beautiful! :-)
Once I felt comfortable with the polyester, I moved on to a much heavier weight fabric and the difference was unbelievable! The fabric didn’t pull when I cut it and it held its shape during the sewing. This is when I realized that I was on to something! I pulled a bunch of fabric, figured out the measurements and just started playing.
This is the start of my latest quilt and I am loving it! For size reference, each finished block measures 8″. This has been such a fun experiment and learning opportunity for me. Now that I have all the blocks cut out, I can see how tentative I was at the beginning with my cuts and re-cuts, and how much more creative and confident I got as I made more blocks. This project has been such a great reminder of a couple of things: everyone has to start somewhere; if you mess up – it’s just fabric; and wow is it fun to learn new things! Stay tuned for the finished quilt . . .