Today I’m sharing a photo tutorial on how to create a 12″ finished curve star block, like the 6″ finished versions that I pieced in the borders of the Mum’s Garden quilt. If you are comfortable sewing drunkard’s path blocks, you can sew a curve star block! I am really excited about the possibilities of what these blocks can do, and I hope you give them a try.
May 2023 Update: Purchase a PDF file with 6″, 5″, 4″, and 3″ finished drunkard’s path templates here!
To make your own curve star block, you will need a 12 1/2″ square of the star fabric and (4) 6 3/4″ squares of background fabric. Note that the background fabric squares are over-sized (exact piecing would use (4) 6 1/2″ squares); I recommend piecing the block slightly over-sized and then trimming down. In this photo tutorial, my star fabric is yellow and the background fabric is black.
You will also need 6 1/2″ unfinished / 6″ finished drunkard’s path templates. I use acrylic templates from Jen Carlton-Bailly, but you can use any others that you may have or print out paper templates to trace and use. If working with acrylic templates, I recommend using a 28mm rotary cutter to make cutting the curves easy. I also recommend pins to assist with curve piecing (pinning tip), but if you are comfortable glue basting your curves, please stick (ha!) with what works best for you.
Other tools that I will use throughout this tutorial that are not pictured here:
- Pencil (or fabric marking device of your choice)
- 12 1/2″ square acrylic ruler
Using the 6 1/2″ unfinished / 6″ finished drunkard’s path convex template, cut the background curves and prepare them for piecing. Because the 6 3/4″ squares are over-sized, align the template as shown above, leaving 1/4″ to the left and bottom of the template. After cutting the curve, but before you remove the template, use a marking device of your choice to mark the edges of the template, and if your template allows, also mark the center of the curve (above, lower left).
If your template does not allow you to mark the center of the curve, you can simply fold the cut curve right sides together and align the edges and finger press the center of the curve (above, lower right).
To mark the quarter points along the curve, fold the sides in and align the marked edge of the template with the center of the curve (above, upper right).
When complete, all (4) background pieces should have (5) marks or finger pressed locations: the edges of the template, the center of the curve, and the quarter points along the curve (above, upper left).
Prior to making the first curved cut in the star fabric 12 1/2″ square, finger press, iron, or measure and mark the center of all (4) sides of the square. Make sure that the mark you make is at the very edge and less than 1/4″ long. NOTE: If your star fabric is directional, place the print in the orientation you would like it to be pieced in the final block and make the first cut in the upper left hand corner.
Using the 6 1/2″ unfinished / 6″ finished drunkard’s path concave template, make the first curve cut in the star fabric. Align the two short straight edges of the template with the sides of the square, and if your templates have reference seam lines etched into them like the templates I use from Jen Carlton-Bailly, you can double check that the marked center lines of the star fabric square line up with the reference sewn seam lines.
TIP: Reserve the cut away quarter circle for a future project, noting that it can be used with a 5 1/2″ unfinished / 5″ finished drunkard’s path convex template.
After cutting the curve, but before removing the template, if your template allows, mark the center of the curve. Otherwise, fold the cut curve right sides together and align the edges and finger press the center of the curve. Fold the edges of the square in to meet the center of the curve and finger press / mark the quarter points along the curve as well. When complete, the curve should have (3) marks or finger pressed locations: the center of the curve and the quarter points along the curve.
With the star fabric on top, pin the cut and marked star curve to a marked background curve right sides together. Start by aligning the centers and pinning. Next, pin the edges of the star curve to the marked edges of the template on the background (approximately 1/4″ in from the edge of the background square). Finally, pin the marked quarter points along the curves.
Note: I recommend pinning with the heads of the pin facing away from the seam.
With the star fabric on top, use a scant 1/4″ seam allowance and sew the first curve seam. (Note: I use an adjustable seam guide that is bolted to the top of my machine.) A scant 1/4″ seam is a seam that is a thread width smaller than a true 1/4″ seam allowance. It is important that the first two curve seams in the curve star block are sewn with scant 1/4″ seams and that the third and fourth seams are sewn with true 1/4″ seam allowances. More details about this importance are included when the third curve seam is sewn.
TIP: Use a stiletto with your right hand to keep fabric aligned and gently nudge the pins out of the way of your needle with your left hand as needed.
After sewing your scant 1/4″ seam, press toward the star fabric.
Repeat the cut, mark, pin, sew with a scant 1/4″ seam, and press toward the star fabric process for the second curve, making sure that the second curve is cut from the opposite corner of the first curve.
When cutting the third curve in the star fabric, you may find that the concave template does not align with the remaining edges of the star fabric, as shown above. The most important thing to keep in mind when aligning the concave template is that the reference seam lines should touch the already sewn seams; these will be the points of the star.
When folding in the edges to create the quarter curve reference points, be sure to align the edge of the star fabric with the center mark (not the edge of the background fabric).
Prior to pinning the third curve pieces together, I highly recommend trimming the ends of the two ends of the curve seam you are about to sew. This will reduce bulk and allow you a bit more flexibility and ability to match the curve edges at the start and end of the third seam.
When pinning, remember to align the edge of the star fabric with the marked edge of the template on the background fabric.
Using a full 1/4″ seam allowance, sew the third curve seam. Note as you are sewing that the new seam should fall outside (to the left) of the first curve until 1/4″ beyond the beginning of the star fabric. If the third seam crosses to the right too soon, the edge of the star point will be clipped when sewing the block together with other blocks, and if the third seam crosses a bit later, the star point will not go all the way to the edge of the block. It is better to error on the side of having the seam cross just a little after 1/4″ than crossing too early. The same holds true as you finish the third seam; you will want the new seam to cross to the left of the earlier seam a little more than 1/4″ away from the end of the star fabric.
Press the third curve seam toward the background fabric / away from the star fabric.
Repeat the cut, mark, pin, sew with a full 1/4″ seam, and press toward the background fabric process for the fourth curve, remembering to trim the ends of the two ends of the curve seam prior to pinning and sewing.
The final step is to trim the curve star block to 12 1/2″ square. It is especially handy to have a 12 1/2″ square acrylic ruler to help, but any larger ruler will work as well. Make sure that the star points fall at 6 1/4″ on each side, and trim the first two edges of the block. Rotate the block and trim the final two sides.
This process will work for any square drunkard’s path templates. For example:
- To make a 6″ finished (6 1/2″ unfinished) curve star block, use 3 1/2″ unfinished / 3″ finished drunkard’s path templates and begin with a 6 1/2″ square for the star fabric and (4) 3 3/4″ squares for the background. Trim to 6 1/2″, making sure the star points align with 3 1/4″ on each side.
- To make an 8″ finished (8 1/2″ unfinished) curve star block, use 4 1/2″ unfinished / 4″ finished drunkard’s path templates and begin with an 8 1/2″ square for the star fabric and (4) 4 3/4″ squares for the background. Trim to 8 1/2″, making sure the star points align with 4 1/4″ on each side.
- To make a 10″ finished (10 1/2″ unfinished) curve star block, use 5 1/2″ unfinished / 5″ finished drunkard’s path templates and begin with a 10 1/2″ square for the star fabric and (4) 5 3/4″ squares for the background. Trim to 10 1/2″, making sure the star points align with 5 1/4″ on each side.
I’d love to see your pieced curve star blocks and how you use them, so be sure to tag me @quiltingjetgirl and use #curvestarblock when sharing!