When I first began sewing clothing for my girls, successfully navigating curved seams was nearly impossible. Any pattern that required a sleeve quickly caused me to break out in a cold sweat! The same problems kept coming up: bunched fabric along the curved seam, uneven seam allowances, and shortened fabric lengths after sewing.
A little trial and error (and some patience!), made mastering curves easier and sewing a whole lot more fun. Here are some tips:
Practice really is necessary. If you’re new to sewing or are trying to master new techniques, scrap fabric will be your best friend. Grab some scraps and outline a few curves; some easy, some more ‘curvy’ to challenge yourself. Then, practice sewing along the curves to help master navigation around each curve.
Be absolutely sure the thread tension is appropriate for your fabric type. Sometimes it is easier to get away with having improper thread tension than others. But when it comes to making curved seams, thread tension which is too tight can pucker and bunch fabric.
Be sure to cut seam allowances around the curve as evenly as possible. This will help you line up the edge of your fabric better and ensure a smoother finished seam. If you have engraved guide marks on your needle plate, use them while sewing around the curve. Trying to guide fabric by ‘eyeballing’ it alone can actually entice you to sew crookedly. If you don’t have engraved guide marks on your sewing machine, use a straight edge and draw one on your needle plate with a pencil.
Don’t pull or push the fabric as you sew your curved seam. Its second nature to want to ‘help’ the fabric along as we sew, but too putting too much resistance on the fabric as you sew a curve can cause the fabric pieces to become uneven. This is where practice comes in. Once you’ve sewn a few curves, you’ll be more included to let the fabric feed itself as you sew with gentle guidance around the curve.
Most of all, don’t give up! A little practice goes a long way towards making it easier to create all those fun summer outfits and craft projects. Now, go sew something with a sleeve!