Sewing Curved Seams – Drunkards Path Cushion

Drunkards path cushion cover

Drunkards path cushion cover

Sewing curved seams worries many quilters, but it really only takes a bit of care.  You need to sew the seam slowly and adjust the fabric as you go.  I find this easier than coping with lots of pins all along the seam.

This Drunkards Path cushion cover is an ideal way to try sewing curved seams as you only need to make four of the blocks.  In this tutorial I have also used a very simple method of making an envelope closing for the cushion cover.

Cutting requirements for the Drunkards Path quilt block

You can download the templates here – or you can find many templates on the internet.

Four of the squared off template in lilac.

Two purple and two green of the wedge templates.

Cut two 2.1/2″ green strips across the width of fabric and one 18″ green strip across the width of fabric.

Lay the pieces in position

Lay the pieces in position

Pin the ends before sewing curved seams

Place one of each shape next to each other, both with right side up.  This will help you to be sure that you are sewing along the correct seam.  In the photo the purple is just placed in position while the green one shows the completed block.

Flip the purple wedge so that it is right sides together with the lilac shape.  You need to pin at each end of the curved seam.  If you look at the shapes as they are in the first  photo you can see where the purple edge along the top will form a straight line with the lilac.

Pin the ends only

Pin the ends only

So pin the purple to the lilac along that straight edge as shown in the left hand part of the photo.  Repeat at the other end of the curve.  Those are the only pins that I use because I find that I can adjust the fabric as I’m sewing curved seams without too many pins getting in the way.

Begin sewing the curved seam

Begin sewing the curved seam

Sewing curved seams

Begin sewing at one end, making sure that it is the curved seam that you are sewing along.  You will find on the internet some people saying you must have the lilac shape on top and others saying that you must have the purple shape on top.  I find it easiest to sew with the lilac shape on top, but I prefer to say to you try both and see which way you find easiest.

Keep the fabrics lined up

Keep the fabrics lined up

So, back to sewing curved seams.  Do a few stitches and then stop so that you can adjust the fabrics.  Line up the fabrics to be in line about an inch or two along the seam.  Put your finger on this point and then with your other hand gently ease the purple fabric to the left so that it is in line with the lilac fabric.  Sew that inch or so along the seam then stop and repeat the process.  Smooth the lilac fabric so that it is always lying flat – that’s why I find it easiest to have the lilac on top.

Continue along the seam until you reach the other end which is pinned.  I have described this procedure as best I can, but I think that this is one of those occasions when the video will help (link given at the bottom of the page).

Make small clips into the seam allowance, taking care not to cut the stitches.  This will help your block to lie flat.  Press with the seam allowance towards the lilac section.  Make two in green and two in purple.

Lay the blocks to form a circle

Lay the blocks to form a circle

Assemble the Drunkards Path cushion cover

Lay the blocks out in two rows of two so that the green and purple wedges form a circle.  There are loads of ways of varying the placement to give different designs, but I have gone with this simple placement for the cushion.

Sew the pairs of blocks together.  The important thing is to match up the seam allowances to form a smooth circle.  Match these seams first and then sew the seams.

Finally sew the two pairs of blocks to each other, again matching the seam allowances at the ends of the curved seams.

Add the border

Add the border

I’ve added 2.1/2″ strips of green to form a frame around the blocks.  For mine I used two strips of 14″ for the top and bottom with two strips of 18″ for the sides.

Before you do this, measure your block.  The template that I used had 7″ sides but I have a feeling that if you use my templates they do not print to the same size.  It doesn’t actually matter:  as long as all four of your blocks are the same size as each other, your blocks will form the circle.

For your border, measure the sides of the block, then cut two strips of that length for the top and bottom and two lengths 4″ longer for the sides.

Lay the quilt block on the backing

Lay the quilt block on the backing

Making the cushion backing

I haven’t used a zip to complete this cushion cover.  Instead I have used the most simple method for making an envelope closure that I know.  It also provides a lining for the front of the cushion to protect the seam allowances.

Take the 18″ width of green fabric and turn under a small double seam at each short end.  These will be the edges of the envelop closing.  Lay the strip with right side up.

Place the drunkards path quilt block exactly in the middle of the green strip, also with right side up.  Fold the bottom of the green strip up over the top of the quilt block.  The bottom of the quilt block should lie along the fold line.

Fold the top down

Fold the top down

Now fold the top of the green strip down.  The top of the quilt block should lie along the top fold line.  The end of the top of the backing will overlap the bottom edge by about six inches.  This provides the opening for you to insert a cushion pad.  The quilt block is completely enclosed within the backing strip.

Back of the cushion

Back of the cushion

The advantage of using this method is that you now also have a layer of fabric backing the drunkards path quilt block, protecting the seam allowances.

Line up all the edges of the fabrics and pin in place.  Sew all round the edge of the square.  I tend to use quite a large seam – about 1/2″ or 3/4″ – so that I can be sure that all layers of fabric will be caught in the seam.

Turn the project right side out through the gap in the back, check that all the layers of fabric were caught in the seam and insert a cushion pad.

I hope that this simple project will show you that sewing curved seams is not difficult.  Sew the seam slowly and try a project like this with fairly large blocks first before tackling one with small curved seams.

Here’s the video:

St Pete's Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica

Last month I managed a flying visit to Rome.  What a breathtaking city it is!  I haven’t had time to sort out all the photos yet, but I hope that I’ll be able to bring them to you next Friday.

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  1. Jill Blankenship says:

    Lovely! Sweet colors. I have simplified the drunkards path block by fitting a circle inside a square block. Stitch it down all around then cut it in fourths. It is simple to do and makes the process faster with less worry. Enjoy!

    • Hi Jill. Yes, I agree the faux drunkards path is an easy block. I chose this method because I wanted to show how to sew curved seams.

  2. Debra (Canada) says:

    Rose – Thank you for this different method of making the pillowcase cushion cover. It is a keeper!

    • Thanks, Debra. It’s certainly a very quick and easy method. I just have to overcome my natural feeling that I should be putting a zip in!

  3. Marie Randell says:

    Love your patterns, always look forward to your Friday post.

  4. Lucky You! I would love to visit Rome again. I missed the Vatican while we were there. Next trip I hope. Thank you so much for the great patterns. I have made a baby quilt from the Drunkards Path. I was supposed to be a twin quilt. I had so many problems with the curves that I made it smaller. Your video helped a lot. Now I can try a twin to match the baby quilt. The child is 4 and ready for a big bed. Thanks again. April

    • Hi April. My hotel was just round the corner from the Vatican, so we were able to visit early – and saw the Sistine Chapel when it was relatively empty. What a treat. Hope your twin drunkards path quilt works out.

  5. Helen Bett says:

    This is very interesting, Rose. This method is the one I always use, but every other instruction I have read insists on lots of pins and working the other way up. Lovely to find a fellow quilting traveller!

    • Hi Helen. I’m a great believer in quilters choosing the method that works for them in any technique. I offer my method as one option but try to suggest that others experiment and find the method that works best for them.

  6. What a neat way to put on the backing! I would probably add a lightweight batting (wadding) under the block and quilt it before sewing the sides and turning it right side out. Must try this. Thanks.

    • Hi Pat. I agree – a layer of wadding gives some depth to the cushion front. I tend to use it for a cushion cover with lots of seams. Apart from anything else it makes the cushion more comfortable to lean against.

  7. Linda Mooney says:

    Thank you for the instructions on how to sew curved seams easily. I have been sewing for many years and always struggled with them. Proof that you are never to old to learn something new!

    • Hi Linda. I think that a lot of quilters sigh in despair when they see curved seams. I think the trick is to master them with larger blocks before you try really fiddly small ones.

  8. Thanks Rose. Once again a very useful and informative tutorial. Looking forward to your Rome visit pictures.

    • Thanks, Colleen. My problem is that I forget which photo belongs to which building if I don’t sort them out straight after a trip.

  9. Barbara Harrison says:

    Fabulous colourway, Rose!

  10. Thank you Rose will be trying this out. I haven’t sew around many curves successfully but I’m sure now that you have shown how its done, It will be a doddle. x

    • Hi Jean. I certainly hope that you do find it a doddle! Being able to sew curves definitely opens up more design options.

  11. it is beautiful thanks for sharing

  12. Rose,
    Nice pattern with clear and concise instructions as usual. Thank you.
    Was it cold in Rome? I was there a few years ago and one night we
    went to the Piazza Navona beautiful place
    it was well worth the terrifying taxi drive (lol)

    • Hi Mary. No, Rome was no more cold than I’d expected. I also visited the Piazza Navona. Beautiful. I didn’t use taxis but walked most places. I’m not very good with Google maps so sometimes I ended up somewhere different from where I’d intended to be – but that didn’t matter as everywhere was so beautiful.

  13. Carole Yoxall says:

    Love this pattern Rose, great way to enclose pillow without using a zip .Looking forward to seeing the Rome photo’s xx

    • Hi Carole. I always feel that I should put zips in cushions, but in fact the envelope closure does the job just as well.

  14. Sandra Barnett says:

    Oh Rose,
    Love the pattern. I to did and envelope closing on a pillow Did not know it was called that. I made 2 pillows for my friends for Christmas They were red with a white poinsettia on the font .Each petal was sewn on and then stitched I guess like an applique. Our weather is great today 60′ but tonight and tomoorow it is going down to 20. Oh well one day of nice in the middle of winter. Hope you have a great weekend and Happy Quilting.

    • Hi Sandra. Your pillows sounds lovely – very festive. That’s a huge drop in temperature – hope you’re tucked up safe and warm. I think it’s time for spring, but I can’t see it happening just yet.

  15. Irena Mangone says:

    Thank you for your tutorial. Lovely Colours. It Been extremely warm here in Brisbane. Its 38 today. I hate the heat. Need some snow. Which of course won’t happen. I like the envelope back for the cushions. Thanks.

    • Hi Irena. Like you, I tend to wilt in extreme heat – somewhere half way between your temperatures and ours would suit both of us.

  16. Beatrice Lovell says:

    Love waiting for your next pattern. I’m new to quilting. Thanks

  17. Hi Rose, I didn’t get an email from you last week and I just found this quite by accident. I was looking for instructions on how to make sashings and was surprised when this popped up about you in Rome. I was there visiting with my mother in 1956. We were on a bus touring (more like breezing through) the mail cities in 11 countries and Rome was one of the great cities. We enjoyed every moment of our visit and it was one that was well worth remembering.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Claire. Sorry you didn’t get the email last week. It was sent out as usual. Sometimes my system marks some of them as ‘undeliverable’ so maybe your system put it into the junk file. What a wonderful (but exhausting) trip that must have been for you when you visited Rome and so many other countries. Usually when I’ve visited somewhere I feel that I want to go somewhere different next time, but with Rome I felt I could happily visit it again to see all the parts that I didn’t have time to see this time.

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