Friday, June 26, 2020

Modified Drunkards Path Units Tutorial!!

I love Curved Piecing!!!  And one of my favorite things to curve piece is the Modified Drunkards Path Unit.  It is such a great little building block!!!   It is the Unit I used in my Nordic Nights pattern, and many of my Quilt Along's.  So, just in case you are new to Curved Piecing, I have put together this Modified Drunkards Path Tutorial to help you make your own from start to finish!!!  So let's get going. 

First up . . .


  To start, you will need a Crust and Pie Modern Drunkards Path Template.  You can either purchase custom acrylic templates or you can make your own.  To make your own, print off the Drunkards Path Template or have it from a pattern.  If you print it off, double check that the 1" squares is actually 1".    Trace your templates onto a sturdy surface like thin cardboard or Extra Thick Plastic Template Sheets.  Trace your paper templates and then cut them from your template material.  Don't use your fabric scissors to cut these out.  They will ruin them.  Once your templates are cut double check them back to the pattern to make sure they do not need to be trimmed in any areas. 


Now you have your templates ready and you are all set to start cutting out your Drunkard Path units.  I cut Modified Drunkard's path units in 3 ways.     What you need to cut whether from Print or Background Fabrics will be specified in your pattern, but I will show you all three types of cuts just so you can see how I make them.   From the Largest Square (4 3/4" in this sample) you will cut 1 Crust piece and 1 Pie piece.   From the Medium Square (4 1/2" in this sample) you will cut 2 Crust  pieces.  And from the Smallest Square (4" in this sample) you will cut 1 Pie piece. 

To cut the 1 Pie Piece from the Smallest square:
Align the Pie Template so it is flush in the corner of the square and the sides are aligned.  Now, holding the template in place, gently cut along the outer curve of the template.  You'll be trimming off just a bit as the square is made to fit the template.  This is the easier of the two curves to cut, so just try to stay relaxed and let your blade follow along the outside arch.

To cut the 2 Crust Pieces from the Medium square:
 Start by placing your Crust Template onto the corner of your square so that is flush in the corner and the sides are aligned.  Holding the template in place,  gently cut along the inner curve of the template, gently is the key here.  You will need to cut a tiny bit to start and finish that has no template guide but just keep it straight and aligned with your template.   Then slide the now Pie looking piece out of the way and and then Cut along the Top and Bottom of the template to trim off the excess fabric.

Now spin that pie looking piece 180 degrees and once again place your Crust Template onto the corner of your square so that is flush in the corner and the sides and top and bottom are aligned.    Holding the template in place,  gently cut along the inner curve to give you your second Pie Crust.  This will also give you a Bonus Petal that you can use for Applique on another project, and if your not quite sure what to do with those Bonus Petal's you can see my video tutorial on Applique to get you started!!!

To cut the 1 Pie Piece and 1 Crust Piece from the Largest square:
Align the Pie Template so it is flush in the corner of the square and the sides are aligned.  Now, holding the template in place, gently cut along the outer curve of the template.  

Now spin that large crust looking piece 180 degrees and place your Crust Template onto the corner of your square so that is flush in the corner and the sides and top and bottom are aligned.    Holding the template in place, Cut along the top and bottom of the template to trim the excess squares.  Then gently cut along the inner curve to give you your Crust piece.

Once you have your pieces cut, regardless of what size square you cut them from, simply match the Background Pie pieces with the Print Crust pieces and the Print Pie pieces with the Background Crust pieces as shown.  Then you are ready to start sewing curves!!!

Cutting out curve takes a little practice to get used to  but just relax and you will get it.   The key is when you are coming out of the curve to not press to hard that you cut into your template.  Relax and just let your cutter glide along the edge.   I had to keep reminding myself to relax my hand and let the cutter do the work ;)   And if you have a small 28 mm rotary cutter it really helps in those curves.  But no worries, by the end of cutting your pieces, you will be a pro!!!    

Once you feel that you are getting the hang of cutting, you can speed things up a bit by stacking up 3-4 squares at a time.  Be sure that your blade is sharp so that it will go through all the layers, and again, practice on single squares before you jump into this.  But once you feel confident, this will save a lot of time.


So now your pieces are all cut,  let's learn how to sew them together!!! I like to use 3 pins when sewing curves and will share this method.  Some people use 1 and some people use a ton :)  If you find you want more than 3 pins, fabulous, if you find you like 1, wonderful!!  Do what works best for you :)

Okay, to start, we need to find the center of our pieces, so to do this, fold your Pie and Crust in half and finger press the crease.  It doesn't matter if you are using a Print Pie or Background Pie, just so long as the Crust is the opposite. 

Now, with right sides together, place the Crust onto the Pie aligning the two creases.  Pin the two pieces together along the crease.

Now, grab the end of your Crust and align the two sides with the two sides of your Pie.  These should align perfectly, just like if you were sewing a square together.  Pin in place.    And I like to pin pretty close to the edge so that that alignment won't shift on me.

Then repeat for the other end, again making sure that the two sides are aligned perfectly, just like a square and pin it in place.   And your block is pinned and ready to sew. 


And now you are ready to sew.   Now before we start sewing take a deep breath :)  The more relaxed you are, the easier curves are to sew.  If you get frustrated and tense, it just gets harder, so remember, this is all about having fun :)

The biggest key I have found when sewing curves is to only worry about what is directly in front of your presser foot.  The rest of the block won't line up until it gets there so don't stress about it.   Just keep focused on what is about to go under the foot.

Using a 1/4" foot on your machine, Align your pinned edge with the foot and begin a few stitches.  I like to backstitch 2 stitches once I have started.  This isn't necessary, but I just like to where I pull on this piece when sewing a little more than traditional square blocks.

Now just try to imagine that is just like sewing straight lines only a little more aligning as you go.   I like to use the finger on my right hand to keep the two edges of my fabric aligned and the fingers on my left hand to smooth or pull out any bubbles that are in the way.   Just smooth those outward, you only have to have a 1/4" of flat sewing space.  And again, just worry about smoothing out your sewing patch right before it goes under the presser foot.

Just keep aligning with the right hand and smoothing with the left hand.   The fabrics will ease into position right where they should be as long as you be sure to keep the edges aligned.   Every once and a while, you might find that you need to lift your presser foot to smooth out a stubborn crease and that is all good, just be sure your needle is in the down position.

When you get close to the edge, I find it helpful to slightly pull down on the bottom right corner, this just helps to pull out any last creases, especially when you are dealing with 1/2" width on the Crust piece.

And just like starting, I like to backstitch a few stitches on the end.  Again, it isn't necessary, I just like the idea of holding that seam in place ;)
Now, I just went through that super fast, and I know, it can be hard to tell from the pictures, but just remember, slow and steady and try to relax.   Practice, practice practice and trust me, within a few blocks you are going to be flying through these ;)  Really, it takes longer to pin them then to sew them.


Now you are ready to press your blocks.  You will always be pressing towards the Pie piece. And I know, it seems like it would be easier to press towards the Crust and that it might be the darker fabric, but we press towards the pie so that when we sew these Drunkard Path units together we don't have 4 layers of bulk right where we only have 1/4" of fabric to sew in :)

You can either press from the front, or the back, whichever you prefer.

To Press from the Back . . .
Begin by grabbing the corner of pie with one hand and gently pulling it outward and at the same time pressing the center of the crust seam inward.  Pulling gently will just ensure that we don't have any little bubbles in our seam.

Then, adjust your pulling finger to pull upward and turn your iron point towards the side.  Really be sure and use the point of your iron to press into that seam and keep it nice and flat.  Again, pulling gently will help pull out those bubbles.

And now again, change the direction of your pulling to pull outward and rotate the point of your iron into the remaining corner, being sure to use that point to help get right into the edge of that seam.   It really gets fast when you get the hang of it and you won't have to lift your iron or let go with your other hand, it is just shifting the way are pulling as you go.

Finally, I like to flip my block over and give it a nice press from the front, just as a double check that I didn't get any little bubbles in my seam allowance ;)

To Press from the Front . . . 
I like to start by first finger pressing the seam towards the pie piece.  I don't use a roller or anything, just press it enough so that it isn't trying to flip to the crust piece.

Then I simply take my iron and using the point of the iron at the seam, press the seam flat.  I find it easiest to start at the top and move to the bottom when doing this and sometimes I will run my finger right in front of the iron point to ensure I don't have any bubbles in my seam.

Then, I like to flip my block over and give it a nice press from the back, just as a double check that I didn't get any little bubbles or creases in my seam allowance ;)

And that is all you need to make a Modified Drunkards Path Unit!!!   But one last little. . . 

Helpful Hint - SPEEDING IT UP :)

So if you want to speed things up, you will want to Chain Piece lots of units at a time.  Just sit down and pin a whole bunch of units first.   This is a great time to put in a movie or listen to a great book, or have a chat with a friend on the phone.   Pin up as many as you like!!

Then you can chain stitch your blocks.  To do this, just keep feeding them through your machine one after another.   Once your blocks are all sewn. go ahead and clip the threads between blocks and remove the pins.  And yes, you will note that I don't take my pins out, but rather sew over them.  I don't like my ends shifting, so I just be sure to slow down when I get to a pin (and I only had one needle strike through my whole pile and the needle didn't even break)   With that said, I know I should never recommend sewing over pins so do what you are comfortable with ;)

Then just turn that movie, or book back on while you sit and press your pile.   And just like that . . .

And just like that DONE!!!

You have conquered curves with the Modified Drunkards Path Unit!!!!   I don't square my block up as I don't want to loose my seam allowance and I use the seam rather than the edges to align my pieces when sewing them together.  But if you want to trim your units, they should be trimmed to the size of the Smallest Square from your original cutting (4" in this sample).    When the unit is sewed into your block it will finish at 1/2" smaller than the Unfinished/Trimmed size. (3 1/2" in this sample)

And that is how it is done!!!  An easy 3 Pin method of making Modified Drunkards Path Units from Start to Finish.  I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and find just how easy it is to do Curved Piecing!!!

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to leave them in the comments  :)

Happy Curved Quilting!!!!

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  1. Thank you for an awesome tutorial!

  2. I love sewing curves too. I absolutely love the result of this that you shared. Lovely quilting but I really love the pattern, so elegant Melissa.
    Right now, I am digging in to my yellow fabric and making black eyed susan blocks
    Just testing out a few blocks and deciding what I want to make.
    Sewing curves is super fun and yes, just like everything else, practice

  3. Wow - this is a great technique tutorial -- thank you!
    Kathleen - kakingsbury at verizon dot net

  4. Thanks for the tutorial. I bought the pattern earlier this year and it's not too far down in the lineup to get started. Before I realized I could order the template from your Etsy shop, I took the printout to the local glass company and had one made. They charged me $38!!! Lesson learned. Investigate more thoroughly next time. I have done several MSQC Waves with the layer cake drunkards path, and the last one I made (for a grandson graduate) I didn't have to rip anything at all! I also did a couple of AccuQuilt apple core picnic size quilts, so the curves don't scare me anymore at all. Thanks so much for this classy pattern.

  5. This was very helpful. Thank you.

  6. I am excited to try this out. I am very afraid of sewing curves, bought this pattern and templates for a friend's wedding quilt. Tutorial seems very clear. Off I go to give it a try :)


Thank you so much for your sweet comments. I just love hearing from you!!
Have a Happy Quilting Day :)