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The Learning Curve

The Learning Curve Ruler allows you to add perfect circles to your machine pieced quilts, easily and accurately.

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  • Set machine to a small stitch length (1.6 or 18 SPI).

  • Sew SLOWLY. Set machine on SLOW speed if possible.

  • Always start sewing on a piece of scrap fabric, leaving it attached to hold the threads.

  • Sew units right-sides-together, with concave unit on top (Background Fabric).

  • Line up the curved edges of the two units at starting end, leaving a small "dog ear" of the top piece hanging over.

  • Use a ⅛" seam allowance. It helps to use a see-through presser foot and/or one with a ⅛" mark.

  • All machines are different, but I like to move my needle to the far left, which keeps the feed dogs close to the fabric edge, which helps control the fabric.

  • Sew only 4-8 stitches at a time, and then stop to reposition units.

  • Use "needle down", if your machine allows it.

  • GENTLY reposition top unit so edge in front of needle lines up with edge of bottom unit. Do not stretch or pull too much. Lift presser foot if necessary. A knee bar helps.

  • You will be able to speed up your sewing, with fewer stops and starts, as you get more comfortable with the technique.

  • Chain piece.

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Can I make more than one size circle with TLC? No, the circle created with TLC is a specific size, approximately 9". Without getting into the math, the curve is different for different size circles. Two more rulers are in the works; they will allow you to make smaller circles. However, there are lots of other shapes you can make with TLC besides the 9" circle.

What other shapes can I make with TLC besides a circle? Wavy curves, scalloped borders, overlapping circles, a crescent moon, and anything else your imagination can come up with. A good way to discover new shapes is to make some units with methods 1 and 4, then put them up on a design wall and play. About eight of each will be a good start. Combine them with 4½" squares, and any other 4½" (uf) units you can think of.

Do I have to sew the curve with ⅛" seam allowance? No, the large size of the starting squares and rectangles allows for seam allowance up to ¼". ⅛" or slightly larger is recommended to get a smooth curve that will lay flat, and to give you lots of leeway when trimming units.

Am I limited to 9-patch blocks? No. You can also get circles by arranging units in a checkerboard arrangement, such as the Over the Moon pattern. The overlapping circles in Well Rounded are also achieved with a checkerboard arrangement. Lay the units out on a design wall, and sew them together in rows.

What size do I cut the plain squares shown in many of the sample blocks on the insert that came with the TLC ruler? The TLC units are all 4½" unfinished, 4" finished. If the block you want to make contains any plain (non-pieced) squares, cut them 4½".

How do I make the stars shown on the insert that came with the TLC ruler? Follow the TLC instructions for the method indicated to make the units for the desired block. Cut eight 2½" squares from your star fabric. Use the same method as in a snowball block to add triangles to the two inner corners of each TLC side unit. Lay out the units in a nine patch so the curves form a circle, and the triangles form the eight points of the star.

Where can I find a good tutorial on Free Form Curved Piecing? The best online tutorial I have found is at Red Pepper Quilts. Remember: It doesn't matter if your straight edges line up exactly at the beginning and at the end of the curved seam. Those edges will get trimmed away. The keys to success are: (1) Practice, and (2) Sew Slowly!  

Can I take a class if I want help learning how to use TLC? Absolutely. You can learn everything you need to know in a half-day workshop. Ask at your local quilt shop if they would be willing to offer a workshop. Check the Classes page of this website to see when and where Linda will be teaching.

Can I start with smaller squares to minimize waste? You can try, but you're on your own! The technique is designed to be easy and fuss-free, and that is partly achieved by starting with oversized pieces. If you master the techniques for using The Learning Curve, and you use a ⅛" seam allowance when sewing the curves, you may be able to start with smaller squares and rectangles. Always try it first with scrap fabrics before planning a whole project. Adjust ruler placement when cutting the curve.

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Virtual Quilt Market Video by Linda Warren

Method 1 Demo Video by Linda Warren for Brewer Sewing

Method 1 by Quilt and Sew Forever

Method 2 by Quilt and Sew Forever

Method 4 by Modern Quilt Relish

Method 6 by Jo's Country Junction

Free-Form Curved Piecing by Red Pepper Quilts

Free-Form Curved Piecing by Grannygoodstuff

Free Pattern "Serene Garden" by Quilt and Sew Forever

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