Curved Piecing with Debbie Bowles

Last month I had the privilege of taking a workshop with Debbie Bowles. If you don’t know Debbie, I encourage you to take a long look at her website. Debbie has a unique way of using space in her quilt designs, breaking out of the mold of traditional blocks. In fact, Debbie was modern before modern was a thing!

The workshop was on curved piecing, and Debbie was a wonderful teacher. Her calm, pleasant manner helped us feel at ease. She was very efficient in her lessons, and kept track of us while we worked to answer all questions. She showed us various settings and blocks for the small lessons we did, letting us envision how we can incorporate curved piecing into our own work.

Here is a video that shows the basic process. Having a really sharp rotary cutter is important. You’ll notice Debbie doesn’t use pins. In fact, you don’t need them and using them simply slows things down. With all of her blocks, you trim to size after sewing.

Here are a couple of photos of blocks I made in her workshop.

Two blocks, each made with 4 fabrics.

Two more, each made with only 2 fabrics.

This technique isn’t only useful for blocks. I’m more likely to use it for borders than blocks. Also think of how fun quilt backs could be with curved piecing.

Do you ever used curved piecing for block quilts? For borders? Do you pin? Do you have any tips to share?

13 thoughts on “Curved Piecing with Debbie Bowles

  1. OSuzyQuilts

    I just recently did some apple core pieces to make a block from pieces my mom had cut. I pinned like crazy and it was rather difficult. I told a friend “NEVER AGAIN!” But, after seeing this video, I’m inclined to try curves with no pins. Thanks!

  2. Thread crazy

    Great post Melanie; honestly as a “sewer” I’ve sewn many curves through the years (set-in sleeves, etc.) but honestly haven’t done that in quilting. The video was very informative and wow, what a treat to be in one of her classes. I’ll take her hints from video and put in the back of my mind and “chew” on for a spell but must try that process myself.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yeah, it was a good class. The video represents it well, too. She told us she’s spent 15 years distilling the lessons into just a few minutes, and that’s basically what you get with the video.

  3. snarkyquilter

    Many years ago I bought Debbie’s book, and I’ve used gentle improvisational curves in several pieces. Patty Altier, a friend of mine, uses curved piecing in almost all her work. Here’s an example of her technique I totally suggest not pinning. Just sew an inch at a time and don’t worry about having the ends match. I does help to cut your pieces oversized and then trim them down after sewing. Of course, I do that pretty much all the time, given my inability to piece accurately.

  4. treadlemusic

    Having done so many curved seams in dressmaking, I prefer not to pin but start/stop to align the edges. The finish results in a smoother curve (IMHO) with less distortion.

  5. farmquilter

    I have made a couple of quilts with curved blocks. Some I pinned like crazy and others I used no pins. Both resulted in blocks that needed to be trimmed down to make them square, so I am totally inclined to not pin when sewing curves!!


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