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Tips and Tricks for Sewing Curves – video

How to Sew and Clip Curves

You can make an awful lot of stuff just sewing straight lines, but at some point you’re going to want to sew a curve.

Sewing a curved line isn’t really any harder than sewing a straight line – unless it’s a tight curve. And the tighter the curve, the tougher it is to sew smoothly. In the video I show you a couple of tricks for keeping things together when you’re sewing tight curves.

Even more important – I show you what you need to do to those curves after you sew them, so that when you turn you work right side out those nice smooth curves stay nice and smooth.

You can download the PDF of practice lines here. In the video I show you how to stitch right on those lines – but I advise you to print this page out a few times. Practice sewing on the lines until you have a feel for what your machine can do. Then cut a sheet apart along those lines and practice sewing with a 1/4 inch seam allowance along the cut edge of the paper. You can practice sewing with a 5/8 inch seam allowance too – but only practice that on the gentle curve. Keep practicing until you’re ready to try it out on fabric – then change your needle. It’ll be dull from sewing through the paper and you want a nice sharp needle for sewing through fabric.

Happy sewing!

Applique Wendi (with fabulous hat)


  1. I found you via CraftGossip. My daughter is learning to sew and embroider right now and she’ll LOVE your blog and patters! I can’t wait to show her. Thanks!!!

  2. Anonymous SAYS...

    I’ve been sewing for a long time and I didn’t know some of these tips – thanks so much for sharing this great tutorial!

  3. Thank you for the tutorial; and have no idea what I am doing. I do have a question that I’m embarrassed to ask but I’m going to anyways…instead of clipping notches or just slits how come you can’t just trim the excess down pretty close to the stitch line?

  4. Thanks everyone!

    TCahal – your question is not a silly one. I wondered it myself when I was teaching myself to sew and, of course, I tried it. The result is a VERY weak seam. If you trim your seam allowance too close, the seam is held in with just a few threads – and it’s very easy to poke through that seam. When you clip notches or slits, you’re releasing eliminating bulk or allowing the seam allowance to spread out, but you’re keeping the strength of the seam intact, only clipping down to the seam at one tiny point every inch or so.

    I also wondered if it would be possible to quickly notch the seam allowance around a curve with pinking shears. It wasn’t. 🙂

    I’m all about taking shortcuts, but this is one situation where I haven’t found anything that works quite as well as the tried-and-true traditional way.

  5. Such a fantastic video! Thanks so much for sharing. Shortening the stitch length was a trick I hadn’t heard before, but boy does that make sense!

  6. Thanks Colleen! The trick about shortening the stitch length was a total forehead smacking moment. I was sewing a teeny tiny curve for a bears arm and I shortened the stitch length to make the seam stronger. Easier sewing was a pleasant (and, in retrospect, obvious) side effect that I now do on purpose.

  7. Anonymous SAYS...

    Hi 🙂 Love your tutorials (just bought the birds embroidery pattern – they’re so cute). I have a question about shortening the stitch length – if you have sharp curves and gentle curves on a pattern can you change it as you go? That’s probably a stupid question, but I thought I’d ask :p

  8. That’s not a stupid question at all! Yes – you can change curves as you go, but how you do it depends on the machine. My machine is computerized so I stop sewing, reset the stitch length, and then continue. My daughter’s machine changes the stitch length with a lever (some older machines use dials) and you can adjust those while you’re stitching – if you’re coordinated enough. 🙂

  9. Tammy SAYS...

    I just love your videos on the how-to’s! You are a terrific teacher! I consider myself a novice at sewing and I have learned quite a few tricks from you. I look forward to putting them in action. Thanks for what you do and keep on doin’ it!

  10. I just ordered my first sewing machine – the last time I sewed anything I was 12 … 14 years ago in home ec- failed terribly – I’ve been watching your videos as I’ve impatiently been waiting for it to arrive and I feel so empowered! Thank you soooo much for putting these together!!

    • Thanks so much! I can’t wait to see what you make. 🙂

  11. Anonymous SAYS...

    I’m Crystal…I’ve been obsessively following your tutorials since the day after Christmas! Feeling a bit braver, I will try the curves today. Great tutorial…never would have guessed the clipping and snipping bit on the inside seam…great teaching!

  12. I have a question. I am currently sewing some tough tight curves. I actually had been doing the trick of dropping the needle, lifting up the presser foot and turning the fabric. But I found that where I did that, on the underside of the fabric there was excess thread.
    Any idea why that is happening?

    • Sorry – that’s a new one! I’ve done that with every machine I’ve ever owned and I’ve shown a lot of students the trick when I teach – and I never saw a problem with their machines either. I’m not sure why it would be doing that. Weird.

      • Sandy Schmidt SAYS...

        I might actually know what the problem is since I was seeing the same thing. Make sure when you leave the needle in that before you lift the presser foot and turn your fabric that the needle is starting to come back UP. That way the stitch is completed underneath before you start up again. If the needle is on the way down when you lift and turn then you can get a dropped stitch and excess thread underneath. At least this is what has worked for me!

  13. Maggie SAYS...

    Fantastic and so helpful video. Your tips are invaluable to a newbie.

  14. Hi Wendy, I know this is an old post, but just wanted to say thank you for this, it was so helpful! Hugs, Wendy 🙂

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much! 🙂

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  16. Anonymous SAYS...

    Thank you for sharing. Great info and simple tips that I sometimes forget between projects. I appreciate you sharing.

  17. Judy SAYS...

    Break out those pinking shears for making notches!
    Better yet..draw your pattern on the on the line and cut out with pinking shears

  18. jen SAYS...

    I want tot do this with a class of high school students and then donate them to the hospital for the pediatric floor. We do not have sewing machines, I plan to hand sew, do you think this is doable. Have you ever tried hand sewing this?

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