Inset circles to 4-at-a-time curves

The Will-O-Wisp pattern was inspired by a vintage quilt found at a local antique store that was a combination of an Irish Chain and Drunkard’s Path. It took my breath away. So I bought it, took it home, and began trying to dissect the way it was assembled. To be honest, I’m still not certain of the block pattern used, but it became clear that each one of those little curves were pieced individually. That would be like making a throw size quilt of 4” HST’s, but cutting and piecing each HST 1-by-1. It would take forever.

Surely there is a faster way to create these pieces. Would you believe that the answer came to me in a dream? It sounds crazy, but in the dream that I was making this quilt from banana bread (stay with me), and couldn’t get the two curved sections to connect. It turns out that it is hard to stitch a pastry. But, “dream me” reasoned that if one could take a square banana loaf, cut out a circle from the center, fill in the circle with a second round of dough, then cook it again - the two pieces would fuse. Then it could be sliced it into 4 sections to create the curved pieces.

I know it sounds like I’m making this up, but if you watch my instagram stories, you would have heard all about it.

Well it turns out the banana bread method was actually applicable in real life. Why not take an inset circle and section it into 4 pieces to streamline the piecing process? Now maybe you’re going to say, “Curves scare me!”, “I don’t know how to do inset circles.”, “I’ve never sewn curves before.” I learned everything I know about sewing curves from YouTube, Insta tutorials, and mistakes, so if I can do it then you can too. I’m hoping to pass along a synopsis the information that I’ve gleaned.

What you need:

Inset circles to 4-at-a-time curves

Step 1.

Take the templates or use a half circle ruler (like this one) as a guide, and cut Piece 1 from Fabric A and Piece 2 from Fabric B. There should be a 1/2” difference between the radii of Piece 1 to Piece 2 (1” diameter difference). It will look like there is no way these two pieces can smoothly fit together, but it’s possible!

Step 2:

Fold each piece in half twice to create 2 sets of creases running through the center of each piece.

Step 3.

Pin the pieces together. Begin by aligning the creases created in Step 2 and pinning each together. Be sure to pin Piece 2 to Piece 1, as pictured. Once the 4 creases are pinned, continue filling in pins based on preference. Some prefer minimal pinning and to guide the fabric with their fingers, others use as many pins as possible to hold the fabric in place. It’s up to you! Personally, I place 1 pin in-between each creased section (8 total), and that seems to do the trick.

Step 4.

Stitch the pieces together. This part can be a little challenging, so don’t be discouraged after the first attempt. Because we are working with the bias cut of fabric, which in layman terms refers to a diagonal cut (here’s a more in-depth description), the fabric stretches and is prone to distortion.

It is important not to pull the fabric one way or the other while feeding it through the machine. It will seem impossible that the two circles will come together, but trust the math! It knows better than we do. Slowly stitch along the edge of the two pieces. Piece 2 will have ripples in it, which is fine, but try to avoid puckering. The ripples will smooth out once the fabric is pressed.

Step 5.

Finger press* the seam towards the center of the circle or open, whichever the pattern suggests. I have found the fabrics are smoothest when pressed to the center, and since the Will-O-Wisp Pattern doesn't not require nesting seams, all circles can be pressed in the same direction. Gently iron.

*Finger pressing- use fingers to gently maneuver the fabric into the proper position for ironing. Finger pressing helps to minimize distortion in the fabric.

Step 6.

Using the markings from the previous creases, take a ruler and rotary cutter and section the circle into 4 curved pieces. Trim to the dimensions required (pictured below). For Will-O-Wisp, that is 4”x 4”.

And there you have it! 4-at-a-time curves. Doesn’t that make a queen-sized Drunkard’s Path quilt feel so much more approachable? If you are looking for a pattern to test your new skills on, my Will-O-Wisp Pattern will be releasing July 8th and I would love to see your version of it. If you have any questions, email me at or DM @wellspringdesigns_co.

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