Wednesday, January 23, 2019

minimal waste drunkard's path blocks

Hi everyone! Thanks for dropping by. Would you like to know how to cut Drunkard's Path patches with absolute minimal waste? Does that sound interesting? Then keep on reading.

About one and a half to two years ago I started making more and curved blocks and piecing them. Every time, I would do this, I would cut and make templates from Electric Quilt 8. As you know, after using cardboard templates a few time, they get a little smaller with every use. I wondered if there was an alternative such as a multi-purpose cutting tool for cutting curves. So I started researching. I not only found one, but several different brands that were helpful.

The following curved cutting rulers are on the market and come in a variety of sizes:

Quick Curve Ruler (Sew Kind of Wonderful) makes two sizes (one size per ruler). I have not confirmed if it will work for this tutorial. It incorporates STEP ONE in their description and use but does not include STEP TWO. To my knowledge, the curve is slightly distorted.

    Since I wanted the best solution for my money that could make as many different circle sizes as possible, I decided to purchase the Circle Savvy Ruler. It can make whole circles (diameter) in the sizes ranging from 3" to 15". It was very helpful when I designed a quilt that used ringed circles. You might remember the Retro Circles quilt?

    Some of you may fear and avoid curves like the plague, but there really is no reason to fear them. As with everything, practice and a steady slow pace help a lot. There are also a few tricks and tips about sewing curves on how to decrease puckering and reduce pinning. I am not going to talk about those today. There are already lots of tutorials and information out there about that.

    We are here to learn about how to cut out Drunkard Patch patches with little or nor waste. Let's begin with a little anatomy of the block. The concave part of the block should remind you of a "cave," because that is where the word originates from. The sun part of the block is convex.

    Unlike sewing together squares and rectangles, circles and curved edges will not be the same length when sewing them together. The length of the CONCAVE edge (circumference) will always be slightly shorter to accommodate the seam allowance. This is usually where some have problems, because the edge will have to be pulled to fit to the longer convex edge. You may think that cutting one curved edge from one piece of fabric will work but it does not. There are two more steps involved to make it work to produce an exact quarter circle.
    • STEP ONE. Make the lengths of the CAVE edge shorter by reducing the size of the block.
    • STEP TWO: Recut the curve on the CAVE edge so it will fit the curve exactly including the seam allowance.

    If you have a Quick Curve Ruler from Sew Kind of Wonderful, then you already are familiar with the first step. This is done be sewing the CONVEX part of the circle 1/2" into the CONCAVE edge on both sides. Reducing the size of the block and cutting off the edges is actually done after the patches are sewn together. Step two is not carried out.

    So, that's a little bit of the background behind the idea. Now on to the practical exercise. This can be used with any size curve and curved ruler from the four mentioned above.

    For Four Inch Finished Drunkard's Path Blocks

    1. Cut two (5) inch squares.

    2. Mark a 1/4" seam allowance on the bottom and left side. This is where we will be matching up the cutting ruler including the seam allowance. [YELLOW LINES] After you become familiar with this idea, you may eliminate in the future.

    3. Mark an ending line on the top and side right sides where you will be lining up the curved cut. [RED LINES] Starting flush at the bottom left corner, draw lines to make a 4 1/2" square. Why? This includes a 1/4" seam allowance on all four sides. I am also right-handed, so this tutorial is showing the right-handed way. For left-handed cutters, you will rotate everything 90° to the left. 

    4. Line up the edges of the cut square on the seam allowance line of the cutting ruler. Your outer line  (4 1/2" square in red) will match with one of the slots of your circle cutting ruler. This is the 8 1/2" line on the Circle Savvy Ruler.

    5. Cut through the slot using a 28mm rotary cutter perpendicular to the the mat if possible.

    You now have a convex and a concave patch. The fun part begins. We will adjust them for the exact proportion and radius.

    STEP ONE: Measure and cut off 1/2" on each side of the CAVE patch as shown below to make the curved edge shorter.

    STEP TWO: Adjust the radius. Line up the CAVE patch with the seam allowance lines on the curved cutting ruler. Do you notice the number on the ruler is now 7 1/2"? There is always a one-inch difference of the inner and outer curves. Remember this for future cuts. Why is it one inch? That is four times your seam allowance. 

    Your CONVEX patch is slightly longer (8 1/2" cutting line) whereas the CAVE patch is slightly shorter (7 1/2"). Now cut again using a 28 mm rotary cutter perpendicular to the mat.

    Here's what you have - minimal waste, perfectly round, concave and convex patches for a Drunkard's Path block. My tip: speed up the process by cutting multiple pieces of fabric!

    Here is the quick formula to remember. Cut your squares at least ONE inch larger than your finished block size. Draw your lines (finished patch size plus seam allowance on all four sides) on a couple of squares to understand where you will cut. Then mark on your ruler with washi tape or removable marker to eliminate the drawing of lines on your fabric. You can always cut larger than needed and trim down later or make different proportional Drunkard's Patch blocks. 

    You can refer to this video from Creative Grids that inspired the idea for this tutorial. 

    I would love to hear what you think about the tutorial and see if how it works for you. Please Leave A Little Love (LALL). Thank you!


    1. Hallo Karen,
      das ist großartig!!!!
      This tutorial is just gorgeous! I love it and I was just trying to find out how to cut drunkards path blocks without so much waste... now I have an idea. Thank you so much for writing it together.
      Greetings from Bonn,

    2. Liebe Martina,

      das freut mich zu hören! Das Schreiben von dem Blogpost hat sich gelohnt, wenn ich und jemandem geholfen könntest. :) Patchworkstoff ist zu teuer zu verschwenden.

      Liebe Grüße

      1. Mir hast du damit auf jeden Fall geholfen. Ich habe schon so viele Kreise eingenäht aber auf diesen Trick wäre ich nicht gekommen. Gerade bei größeren Kreisen ist der Verschnitt sonst wirklich zu viel und sehr ärgerlich. DANKE!

    3. Karen. I have been struggling for WEEKS trying to figure out just why and how and what the trick was to the different arcs of the drunkards path and then I found this! INGENIOUS and SIMPLE! THANK YOU so much!! I can stsrt my quilt now! Great instructions

    4. I have searched and searched and searched the internet for ‘how to make a drunkard’s path template’. My frustration levels are through the roof. Every single promising page I end up on ASSUMES I a) have a printer and b) can printout a provided template. Or c) ASSUMES I can afford and / or have access to a premade template or ruler!
      I live in a remote area. I am on a low income. I don’t have a computer or printer to print out premade templates, and don’t have money to buy a speciality ruler. I want to know how the math works to create my own from scratch.
      I just wish someone would demonstrate how to do the math to make my own convex and concave template pieces that will fit together as if I’d used someone else’s premade template. And explain how much seam allowance needs to be added or subtracted so the two pieces fit together.
      It’s making me sad that so many people title their tutorials ‘how to make a drunkard’s path template’ but then only show how to USE a template.
      I wish someone would just explain the process from scratch without assuming we all have access to technology and money 😩
      If you know of such a tutorial, please forward to me 🙏

      1. HI there, Magic Rainbow! Sorry I cannot answer you directly, due to your "no-reply" blogger account. So I hope this answer gets to you. Of course you don't need a template or a printer to make circles, however, you will need a compass to draw the circles.

        Here's the formula for cutting those DRUNKARD'S PATH PATCHES or 1/4 circles which have a seam allowance on both sides of the patch.

        The CONCAVE patch has a smaller radius and diameter than the CONVEX patch. First cut your CONCAVE patch. Then, you will need to multiply the seam allowance by 4 and add to the diamter. This will give you the diameter to cut for your CONVEX patch. This applies to all diameters for Drunkard Patch blocks.

        This example uses a 1/4" seam allowance.
        CONCAVE = 6" diameter
        CONVEX = 6" + (4 x 0,25") = 7" diameter

        If you use a 1 cm seam allowance, the example would look like this:
        CONCAVE = 10 cm diameter
        CONVEX = 10 cm + (4 x 1 cm) = 14 cm diameter

        If you are INSERTING a CIRCLE, the formula changes slightly because you no longer have the inside seam of the circle or Drunkard's Path Patch. Now, you only have to double the seam allowance and add to the diameter of the circle.

        CONCAVE = 6" diameter
        CONVEX = 6,5" diameter

        Hope this helps.

    5. Thank you for this!! Also thank you for the excellent tutorial!

    6. Thank you very much for the answer to Magic Rainbow!

    7. I'm still trying to get comfortable with your instructions (using a color girl ruler): I am very excited that your instructions are about getting both the shapes from the same piece of fabric. all other tutorials either use two different pieces, or cut one convex and two concave shapes from two pieces of fabric. thank you!

    8. Fantastic, Thank You!


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