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running in circles tutorial

Thanks so much for all the kind comments on my running in circles quilt. I had so much fun making it! It was great to start and finish a quilt in one fell swoop. It's been quite awhile since I did that. I took photos along the way so I could share a tutorial. This is June's free stash buster quilt pattern. I hope you enjoy it!
Materials Needed:
40 pieces of fabric at least 9" x 19"-a total of 5 yards (I used 36 different fabrics)
60" x 74" batting
3 1/2 yards backing fabric
1/2 yard binding fabric
Special Tools:
Elisa's Backporch 7" crazy curve acrylic templates A and B. (they are sold as a set) Avaliable here or here. (Or else you can google it.)
28 mm rotary cutter-this is a must! It really helps you cut the inner curves with ease.
Optional: rotating cutting mat

Cutting:
Fold each piece of fabric in half, so you can cut 2 layers of fabric at once. I wouldn't recommend cutting more than 2 layers at once, for accuracy sake. Layout your templates on the fabric and cut carefully!
After cutting, you should have 2 pieces of the outside curve and 2 pieces of the inside curve.
Cut a total of 80 pieces of each.

Assembly:
All seam allowances are 1/4" throughout.

Take a piece of fabric from each pile and pair up ALL your fabrics before you sew. You don't have to do this, but it will help you avoid ending up with 2 pieces of the same fabric at the end. It will also help you avoid ending up with some unpleasant fabric combo in the end. I did a fair amount of matching and rematching before I sewed anything. I'm so glad I did!

Take one pair of fabrics and fold each piece in half. Cut a very small notch in the inner center of each piece. This will show you where to pin.
Match up the notches. Pin in the center. Put the smile piece on the top. :)
Pin at the top and the bottom of the block. All you need is 3 pins per block.
When pinning the top and the bottom, go up and down through the fabric twice. This helps keep the fabric in place much better than if you only put the pin through the fabric once. It's a little tip that yields great results. Try it!
This is what it looks like when it is pinned. It looks pretty funky. But it WILL come together!
Put the piece in your machine and sew slowly. Try to maintain an accurate 1/4" seam allowance.
Pull any bulk up and away from you as you sew slowly. This little tip is key! This will help ease the curves together.
Continue sewing slowly while matching up the edges of the curve as you go.
Remove from your machine and check your work. It looks pretty good! It is a bit off on the bottom, but not too much. Definitely nothing to worry about.
Don't iron anything yet!
 Sew all 80 pairs together first.
Layout all the blocks and take a photo (or several), arranging the blocks until the colors are evenly distributed.
Now it's time to iron! I started assembling the quilt from the bottom, so I took the two left blocks from the bottom row. For the block on the left, iron the seam toward the center.
For the block on the right, iron the seam toward the outside.

A few pressing tips:
Do a quick press with the block upside down first. This allows you to see where you are ironing. This is helpful because sometimes the curve wants to flip in the middle of the seam. Then, flip the block over, so it's right side up. I found it very helpful at this point to do a quick spritz with some spray starch. Press again.
Place the two blocks together and pin. Again, only 3 pins are needed. One at the top, one where the seams meet, and one at the bottom. Pin the one where the curved seams meet FIRST! The seams should be pressed in opposite directions, so they should nest together neatly. Starting to pin at the middle pin will help you get accurately pieced circles. If the ends are a bit off, don't worry. Those will be hidden in the seam allowances. If your ends are way off, you may consider doing some stitch ripping.
Sew the two together, and press the seam to the right. Sew the remaining blocks in the bottom row in pairs, then sew the pairs together, until all the blocks in the row are joined. Press all seams to the right. The bottom row should be complete!

For the next row up, press the seams in the opposite directions.
So, for the first two blocks in this row:
The first block's curved seam will be pressed toward the outside of the block. The second block's curved seam will be pressed toward the center. After joining those two blocks, the seams will be pressed to the left.

The diagram below will help explain what I mean. The goal is to get all the seams in the two rows pressed in opposite directions so the seams will nest and lay flat when sewn together and pressed.
It looks complicated, but really, it's not so bad!
Now that the bottom two rows are assembled, it's time to pin. Again.
Pin at each seam intersection, for accuracy sake.
I had a little bubble in this block, so I pinned in the middle of the curved piece. It will help me ease the bulk evenly in the space. If there aren't any bubbles, pinning in the middle isn't really necessary.
Sew and press. Then admire your work! It's so fun to see the circles come together.

Repeat these steps for the remaining rows. Once the pairs of rows are together (there are 5), sew together and the quilt top is complete!
The quilt top measures 56" x 70".
Baste, quilt, bind and snuggle!
You can see the completed quilt here.

I really, really hope that I've taken the fear out of piecing curves, because it's not that hard. I hope you try it and have fun with it! A huge thank you to my neighbor Marcia, for letting me use her templates AND for taking the time to teach me this method. Plus, she was kind enough to let me share all her handy dandy tips with all of you. Thanks Marcia!

Disclaimer: I realize that there are special curved piecing feet for your sewing machine. (Haven't tried them.) I also realize that there are no pinning methods. (I tried one method and hated it.) This is simply one way to piece curves, but it's worked for me beautifully. So, while this isn't the ONLY way to do it, it is the method that I would recommend. At least at this point in time. :)

If you use this tutorial to make a quilt, I'd love to see it!

Happy Monday to you!

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