Monday, May 03, 2010

Smooth curves

I have a real thing about curves.I'm not talking about anybody's figure, I'm talking about lines in art. Curved lines. I have a thing about smooth curves, that's what it is. There are undecipherable (for me) mathematical descriptions and definitions of what a smooth curve is, but to me it is more a "know it when you see it" sort of thing.
For example: top=clunky, un-smooth curve. Bottom=smooth curve.
In my opinion nice smooth curves are something that you don't really notice (as it should be) but clunky curves make a piece look amateurish and graceless.

I really want to avoid those clunky un-smooth curves. To me they jump out of an otherwise nice piece of artwork like a sore thumb. I really worked hard on the curves in my 12 x 12 volcano piece (last post). There is still one little bobble that bugs me. I won't tell you where it is, but I'm sure if you look closely you will see it.

Drawing smooth curves takes practice and has a lot to do with using your whole arm  and drawing the curve in one action rather than just your hand making ee-ee-ee little curve sections. Painting, the same. For technical drawings there are templates called "French Curves" that are made to assist in drawing smooth curves. My Dad had a set of these in his mechanical drawing supplies. I was always intrigued by them and thought the one on the top right looked like a sled. Kind of pretty, aren't they? 

Another curve drawing tool is called a "flexible curve". It is like a flexible ruler. You can bend it into a variety of curves, then trace along the edge. I have one that I used a lot when drawing up patterns to sell.

Nowadays one uses a computer drawing program for most of these kind of tasks and the Bezier curve pen tool is the best tool for making smooth curves.

I am pretty good at drawing fairly nice smooth curves, but I find sewing nice curves is challenging. I am doing a lot of curved quilting on the glass float quilt, so I made myself a little cardboard template of a nice curve. I can just lay it down on the fabric, hold it in place and stitch alongside the edge. It is also very useful in deciding where the next line of quilting will go and what the angle of the curve should be as I work. You do have to be careful not to stitch into the cardboard. (I have done it several times—maybe you can see a little fuzzy edge where I had to pull stitching out!)

So, there's a little tip that might be useful to someone else.


  1. Thanks for a great tip! I agree with you about smooth much nicer than wobbly ones. Love your 12 x 12's too.

  2. Terry, what a great tip for using a template for curves! I'll be sure to try it!! Thanks for sharing! Even if it is a pet peeve!

  3. Clever you! Thanks for sharing ... especially the tip about the cardboard template edge as a guide for machine quilting.

  4. What a great tip. I love your curves in your work. I will have to give this a try. :-) Thanks

  5. That's a great tip, Terry. Personally, I don't think you could make a clunky curve if you tried ... but I trust that you work on it to make it look just right.

  6. Anonymous3:03 AM

    Instead of cardboard, why not freezer paper for the templates? You can iron it down to hold it, reuse it several times, and if you accidentally sew through it, it's no big deal.

  7. Great tip and one that works particularly well for repeated curved parallel lines of quilting. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Your quilting looks great.
    Can you tell me how you hold the cardboard template in place as you stitch beside it>


  9. Anonymous7:10 AM

    Great tip! Bet you could layer cardboard to make it thick enough to use with a free motion foot too. I think I will try that on my Long Arm Machine. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Well I have already made my template.
    Great idea.