Joining Two Opposing Curves
Joining opposing curves can be daunting, but with the right sewing technique, it really isn't all that difficult. I've chosen to demonstrate by sewing a partial muslin sample of the pattern pieces for Heidi Boyd's sweet Baby Bear project shown at right, from Stitch Spring 2009. The pattern requires two opposing curves to be joined to create a curved seam between the upper and lower body of the bear, joining the bear head and arms to the bear torso and legs in a curved seam (scroll down to Figure 3, front view, below, to see the muslin pattern pieces joined).
This technique is also appropriate for joining a curved edge to a straight edge, a longer piece to a shorter piece, and is even similar to setting in a sleeve. Each of these processes requires easing the pieces together for a smooth seam that is free of tucks or gathers.
I hope these tips will give you the confidence to tackle that sewing project you've had your eye on.
Step 1: Place the two pieces right sides together (unless otherwise instructed by the pattern) and pin the edges together at the center. There will usually be central notches to match up, but if not, find the center point of each piece and mark this point at the raw edge, then align the marks.
Step 2: Pin the pieces together at each end or at the indicated notches. Then continue pinning the edges together between the pins, easing the pieces together. Allow the fabric to "bubble" evenly between pins, making sure that the edges still match up as smoothly as possible. You will be forcing the excess fabric away from the edge by smoothing it back, away from the edges as you pin (Figure 1).
Step 3: With the edges pinned together, sew the seam. Go slowly, adjusting the fabric as necessary to avoid sewing tucks into the seam by smoothing any bubbles away from the edges and into the fabric below the seam allowance with your fingers. You may have to stretch the fabric gently as you sew to keep the fabric smooth along the seamline. Just be careful not to pull the fabric too much, you don't want to warp the piece, you just want to keep the edges as evenly matched as possible. Although this step will take some time and concentration, you'll be much happier with the result if you go slowly and keep your eyes peeled for unwanted tucks.
Make sure that you are not pinning tucks in place as you go, and don't be afraid to use a lot of pins! Generally, when easing two pieces together, the more pins you use, the easier it will be to sew them together.
As you pin the opposing curves together, you will find that you have to gently pull the edge of one curve (probably the convex curve) up to meet the edge of the other curve (the concave curve) as you move outward from the center point, as shown in the sketch below. Make this adjustment with small movements, pinning the fabric often. If you try to pull up too much fabric at once, you'll just end up with edges that are not evenly matched and tucks in your seam.
Step 4: Clip the seam allowances at intervals, being careful not to cut through the stitching. Press the seam allowances open, pressing over a tailor's ham if you have one (it will be easier to press the curved seam over the rounded shape of the tailor's ham). This allows the seam to lie flat (Figure 2).
Figure 3 shows the finished seam from the back and the front. You want the seam to be smooth, without tucks or gathers caught in the seam. Once the teddy bear is finished and stuffed, the curved seam will be smooth, which means success!
FIGURE 3 - BACK VIEW
FIGURE 3 - FRONT VIEW
How do you tackle sewing seams, especially with tricky projects? Let us know in the comments!