Bright Sisters: Drunkard’s Path Units

I made 160 curved units without using a single pin. Here’s how:

The Long Version

Stack of curved units
Completed curved units

Bright Sisters, the colorblock quilt I’m making for my sister, contains 160 curved patches (drunkard’s path units). On these units, the edge of the circle comes within 1/4″ of the edge of the block, meaning that the circle should be right up against the seam when the units are attached to their neighboring patches. This is unusual for drunkard’s path, and scary for me — not much room for error!

So I was a bit nervous about making these, especially since most of my previous attempts at drunkard’s path involved a lot of pins (an unreasonable amount, really) as well as some guesswork about where the edges of the curve would land on the background piece. This quilt calls for precision if it’s going to look right, so I wanted to make it easier to have these pieces turn out correctly. And I was a little concerned about spending the rest of my life pinning curved pieces together.

But I did a little research and discovered the Curve Master Presser Foot. I have to tell you, I am in love. I have no idea why it works — I assume it’s witchcraft — but 160 patches later, I used zero pins, zero, and I got perfect curves on every patch. Look at the test unit I made while learning to use the foot:

Two finished patches stitched together to make a half-circle
Test unit — came out great!

Before I started cutting or sewing the fabric I’d bought for the quilt, I made a couple of test units from scraps. They look great here, don’t they? I confess I sewed these two patches, ripped out the seams, and resewed them about four times each until I finally got the hang of the presser foot. It does take a little careful study and practice. But after that, everything went super smoothly and I whipped through the quilt’s units with no problems.

The tutorial on the CurveMaster website (PDF) was hugely helpful. Take a look at my video above to see the foot in action.

Steps for Making the Drunkard’s Path Units with the Curve Master

1. Cut the square patches to the size you need. I cut 3.5″ squares for the quarter circle and 4″ squares for the L-shaped background. The 4″ squares were oversized on purpose to give me a little more wiggle room so I could trim the finished units down to the right size, rather than risk undersized blocks because of uneven or too-wide seams.

2. Make pattern shapes out of template plastic. The quilt pattern from Craftsy (link is to the kit; sometimes they have just the pattern, sometimes they have the kit) provides the shapes that you can trace onto your plastic. No fabric scissors were harmed in the making of these templates.

3. Trace the pattern onto the squares. For the L-shaped background, I lined up the two short edges of the pattern with two edges of the block and just traced inside the curve. This gave me the extra fabric on the two long edges that I wanted so that the patch would be oversized.

Stacks of fabric squares with marking traced on them
The L-shaped piece is oversized
Plastic template overlaid on fabric square
The quarter-circle template is the same size as the patch on two sides

4. Once all the shapes are traced, cut on the traced line. I recommend putting on a movie that you don’t have to actually look at, or maybe listening to an audiobook, while you do this. By the time I was done my hand hurt, even though I was using my very comfy Fiskars scissors!

Fabric squared trimmed to shape
The trimming begins
Fabric squares trimmed to shape
Trimming the second color
Two stacks of trimmed shapes
All ready to go!

These are actually the same pieces as above, just in better light.

Two patches placed right sides together
Two pieces lined up, right sides together

5. Place the pieces right sides together, with the quarter circle flipped off to the side of the curved piece. This takes a little getting used to if you’re accustomed to pinning the curves together, but it does make sense. You lay the two pieces next to each other, right sides up, oriented as if they were a finished block, then simply flip the quarter curve over to the left to get it like this.

They look odd because the curves face away from each other when lined up correctly for this foot — not like when you pin and sew with the curves lined up properly. But trust me, this works!

(Ignore the washi tape in the photos. It’s not needed for these units, it’s just left there from the strip piecing I was doing before this.)

Fabric patches lined up under the presser foot
Ready to start stitching

6. Line up the pieces with the guide on the presser foot. In the photo above, you can see the Curve Master foot on my Husqvarna Viking. Next to the seam guide is the notch that the tweezers fit into (the notch on the right) — totally separate from the space for the needle (the notch on the left).

7. Then you sew! See the video above or the PDF tutorial on the Curve Master website for tips on how to hold the fabric and guide it through the foot properly. That’s the part I had to practice, but once I got it, I got it!

Here’s what the finished seam looks like on the reverse of the block after pressing:

Seam allowance on underside of unit
Underside of unit after pressing

The seam above looks a little distorted but that’s just the photo (honest!). I squared up the edges of the photo to correct the keystoning, and it made the seam ends look wonky. The seam actually goes straight off the edge in line with the curve like it should.

The featured image at left shows the front of the unit after pressing.

Violet and purple drunkard's path units
One color set finished and ready to trim!

Here’s what the units look like right after sewing. Next, I trimmed the L-shaped background on each unit so that the finished units are 3.5″ square. In hindsight, the presser foot works so well that I probably could have cut the L-shaped squares to the correct size and still had them come out right, but I didn’t mind the extra step to ensure accuracy this time.

Raspberry and cranberry patches
Another color set of completed units, ready to trim

The photo at the top of this post shows these same units after trimming. Now I have 160 curved units, complete and ready to place in the quilt blocks!

Tools I Used

Amazon links below are affiliate links, FYI. Thanks for helping support this blog!

The fabric is Kona Cotton Solids (shown here: crocus on lupine for the purples and cerise on bright pink for the reddish ones). I’m using Aurifil 50/2 white cotton thread for the piecing.

Just Curves has great customer service, by the way. I had trouble attaching the foot to my Bernette 730, and they emailed back and forth with me until I got it working. I recommend them highly.

What do you think?