The Free Motion Quilting Project: Curvy Quilt as You Go Technique

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Curvy Quilt as You Go Technique

So we've all learned how to attach quilted blocks together using straight binding strips.

Now let me share how I'm attaching the block of the Winter Wonderland Quilt together for a curvy twist on this technique!

free motion quilting | Leah Dayfree motion quilting | Leah DayStep 1 - Secure the backs

This technique is all done by machine, so first we need to connect the blocks together from the back using 1" strips.

Attach one side of the strip to the back side of one block using a perfect 1/4" seam allowance.

Press the strip away from the block and attach the other side to the back of the next block so that both blocks are joined perfectly together with no overlapping or gaps.

free motion quilting | Leah DayRemember, if you find your blocks overlapping, you can cut your strips a little wider.

Now let's finish the top so that these blocks can be connected to the next part of the quilt!

Step 2 - Make your bias binding

Bias binding is absolutely essential for this technique. If you don't know how to make bias binding, or you would like a better technique, try Sharon Schamber's instructions right here.

I learned how to make bias binding from this video and have used it ever since. Sharon's folding method is easy and makes cutting the strips straight much, much easier than any other instructions I've ever found.

If you follow Sharon's instructions, stop when your fabric is fully folded and ready to cut.

Now square off one end and cut 2 1/2 inch strips.

Make a pile of the long strips and a pile of the short strips. Some may be too short to use for this technique. If the strip is shorter than your blocks, you can either discard it or save it for another project.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow take your shorter strips, fold them in half, wrong sides together, and stitch a 1/4" seam down the length of the strip. Don't press the fold in, just fold it and stitch it.

Now take the strip to your ironing board and finger press the seam open, then press again with your iron.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou want to press the seam allowance open and the whole bias strip flat, creating a 1" piece of stitched binding with the seam allowances on one side.

Step 3 - Create a Curvy Jig

In woodworking, carpenters use a "jig" to make cutting or drilling several pieces of wood easier.

We're going to take this same idea and use it for quilting.

free motion quilting | Leah DayFirst you need to take 2 pieces of freezer paper and iron them both. This shrinks the freezer paper and makes it more stable for this project.

Now press one piece of freezer paper, wax side down to your ironing board. Press the second piece of freezer paper on top of the first so that they stick together making a thicker, sturdy piece of freezer paper with one paper side and one wax side.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow take a wave edge ruler or a wavy design that you like and create your curving template. All you have to do is draw it on the freezer paper and cut it out carefully with sharp scissors.

This is now your curvy jig and can be used repeatedly until it loses its stickiness. Press this jig firmly to your ironing board.

Note: These techniques - the bias binding and the jig - will be hard to do with a regular ironing board. Check out another one of Sharon's terrific videos on creating the perfect pressing surface. Trust me - it's worth it to make your own!

Step 4 - Curve Your Strips

free motion quilting | Leah DayTake one strip and spray the side with the seam allowances lightly with starch. Flip it over and spray the other side lightly with starch as well.

Now starting on one side of the jig, lay the strip along the curve and press it into the curve with your iron.

In the photo, the top curve is the jig and the bottom is the strip. You're not going to be able to make a perfectly curving line, but you can get close if you take your time and are patient.

You will want to work about 2" at a time, very slowly down the strip, pressing and gently manipulating your strip into the curvy shape.

1" binding is pretty thick and you can't curve it sharply. Just be gentle and allow the curve to take shape. Don't force your fabric or it will form unsightly pleats or ripples.

One the binding is pressed into shape, take it off the jig and press again from the front and the back.

Step 5 - Attaching the curvy binding to your quilt top

Now take your curvy binding strip and lay it over the top of your connected quilt blocks.

I aimed to have the valleys of the curves hit right at the seam allowance line of my blocks. This helped to keep the curvy strips "straight" along the block.

Pin the strips securely to your quilt top and take the whole thing to your machine. I set my machine to a slightly fancy zig zag stitch. Play with the different stitches on your machine and decide which you like the best.

free motion quilting | Leah DayStitch right along the edge of the curvy binding along both sides, removing the pins as you go. If you like, you can also stitch a decorative stitch through the center or add more free motion designs within this area.

Because you're stitching from the top, you will see this stitching from the back. If you match thread color with the back of your quilt, this will show only very slightly.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou can see a hint of the curve from the back on this block, but it really doesn't take away from the look of the quilt at all. Certainly not enough for me to want to stitch all that curved binding down by hand!

So there you have it. Curved binding definitely is more involved and complex than the regular binding strips, but it's also a beautiful finish that you just can't get any other way.

I was really hoping to have the whole quilt bound and finished by today, but it just didn't happen. I'll definitely post a final picture when it's all together!

free motion quilting | Leah DayLet's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Thank you for your tutorial, I've always hated working with curves. Now I know I've been doing it the hard way.

  2. Leah, I am just catching up and I am amazed how well this is turning out. I orginally learned the quilt as you go about 20 years ago and rarely use it. I especially like the curvy waves on this. Great job, as usual.

  3. i've never done a quilt this way~!
    something else to learn... I'll put it on my list for 2010! it looks fantastic...

  4. Thank you for the tutorial. Nice job!

  5. I love how you take a technique and run with it. I read your post yesterday about joining quilted blocks, and I thought that was ingenious. But this one is even better! Keep up the good work.


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