Making Friends with Curved Seams

Do you ever avoid a pattern because it has curved seams? I’m not going to lie – I have. They can be a bit intimidating, but they can also be a lot of fun. There are a few tips and tricks to use in order to make it easy-peasy. If you like to applique on top of a pieced background this is especially for you. A curved background is the perfect canvas for your work.

I just drew up two, very simple examples of curved backgrounds, but the principles remain the same. Here is the first tip –

Pick a day for this project that is quiet and chaos free. I know they don’t come along every day, so when you find one – jump on it!

Now, we’re going to assume you’ve found this day. Lucky you! Let’s look at the first diagram.


We’ll start with the first one, nice simple curves. Nothing major.

  1. The square? That’s not fabric, it’s paper. Draw your simple, curved line with a pencil and use any curved thing you can find in your house. A dinner plate, a spray can of starch, can of green beans – any size of circular will work. Draw a rough sketch of your line. It will be wiggly and wonky looking. That’s okay. Find a circular thing in your collection and pick one that most nearly matches your curve. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Draw around that. If you need another one, go ahead and do that.


Now, just connect your line and smooth out the jaggy parts. There is your line! Make a cross mark before and after the curve. On both sides of the line. Repeat the process for the next line.

Match the cross marks when you pin the seam. Use as many pins as is necessary.

  1. Let’s work on a tighter curve. Use something circular to draw the inner line, and then the outer line. That would be a really big circular thing, I know. Like a barrel, maybe, and who has one of those lying around?

After you draw the inner curve, use your ruler and a pencil and mark 5-6″ away from it. Connect your dots and you’ve got your outer line. For this tighter curve, we have cross marks all the way through the curve. And we’re going to sew a line of stay stitching a scant 1/4″ on both pieces.

On the inside curve, the stay stitching will slightly decrease the length. On the outside curve, it will stabilize the bias edge.

Pin the two pieces, right sides together, matching the cross marks and then sew a full 1/4″ seam, trying to avoid the stay stitching. Clip the seam and press it open. There will be a lovely curved seam, ready for your applique.

I hope you feel confident now about tackling some curved seams. I’d love to hear about your adventures!

curved seams





About Karen

Karen has been a seamstress since the age of 9, and a quilter for the past 25 years. She's enjoyed all sorts of quilt adventures including quilt making, hand quilting, quilt design, quilt magazine publication (Cotton Spice) and now she's the editor of The Quilt Pattern Magazine.  She wrote a book - Log Cabin Quilts: A Brand New Story by Karen Murphy (I've since remarried) with Martingale and Company in 2004. Karen also enjoys knitting, writing and editing, and hunting treasure in thrift stores and estate sales. She has 14 grandchildren and one on the way. You can read her blog on writing and editing at  Or visit her Etsy shop where she sells her primitive stitchery designs

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