Magic Paintbox Quilt – Curved Piecing (and Drunkard’s Path tutorial)

Omigosh. I’ve wanted to make this quilt for years. Then I started and had doubts. Then I continued and had doubts. Then I sewed it together and I LOOOOVE it!

It’s a drunkards path quilt. I’ve loved these pieced circles for so long, but I firstly I was concerned about cutting all those curves and secondly about sewing all those curves! Turns out there was really no need to worry.

This was the first set of blocks I sewed. The template is great; I got it from Amazon but it’s made by Silesian Quilt and fits 5″ charm squares. You can get both pieces out of one charm square, or two of the convex pieces, which is very useful if you only want circles from your printed charm squares like I did! The individual block is 4.5″ when made up (4″ when sewn into the quilt). I got myself a 28″ rotary cutter to cut the curves – really easy. A normal 45″ wouldn’t fit into the curves and I didn’t want to use scissors (although you can of course!).

I got lots of advice on Instagram about how to sew these without pins but having tried I personally prefer using 2-3 pins. A lot better than the 5 pins I started with! It’s not as difficult or as slow as you’d think. These are the few tips I have:

1. Mark the centres of the convex and concave curves by folding the shapes in half and finger pressing to make a mark.

2. Like this:

3. Line up the marks, wrong sides together and put a pin in the centre:

4. Line up the top edge of the curve. Unlike any of the tutorials I’ve seen, I found my curves fitted better and lay flat when I matched the first part of the curve and not the top straight edges. This means there is a little triangle of background fabric showing as below. It looks weird, but works for me – the two edges look straight in the end.

5. Pin the top and bottom. You might not need to bother with three (or any) pins, I just like it better this way.

6. Sew curve, matching edges and sweeping any bunched-up fabric out of the way. I made a video of me doing one, it’s not brilliant, I know you’ll find better on the web, but it might help reassure you that these curves are not a problem. You might think it’s slow going, but this video is 36 seconds. That means, including pinning, you can do each block in about a minute, once you get into your stride. Not bad for a “difficult” block!

These were my first nine and I wasn’t sure. They seemed garish, too low contrast… Just not as beautiful as I’d envisaged. The ever-supportive Instagram crowd, however, said they were the bees knees, so I persisted. I tried to create better contrast thereafter – at the time I was a lot happier with them, although now I think I was probably fussing over nothing!

That’s my box of “uncut scraps” – i.e. not cut into strips or squares, which I do with some of my scraps. I used scraps because I wanted to test out whether I liked sewing curves and didn’t want to cut up fat quarters in case I abandoned it. I adore the scrappiness though… I wasn’t sure at first – but I think all the low volume fabrics calm down the crazy brights.

Well a bit.

I didn’t need to use any pattern, I made the blocks with the templates, sewed them together and trimmed them to 7.5″ square.

After that I just joined them together, made an inner and outer border of 2.5″ wide low volume scraps and middle border of 2.5″ wide bright prints and that was really that. The quilt finished at 58″ square.

I used my favourite Quilters Dream Orient batting. I’ve been using Sew Simple light 100% cotton for a while, as I’d bought a half board of it, and whilst I liked it, I’d forgotten how soft and silky Dream Orient is, and how lovely it is to quilt with. And Quilters Dream Select cotton is not far behind the Orient. It is heavier than the Sew Simple light though and is heavier than my leaves quilt which is bigger. That suits me, but it pays to pick your batting to match your needs. The quilting shows up nicely too and it’s a huge bonus that you can quilt 8″ apart.

See that middle block? With the glasses and dresses? That’s my favourite of the whole quilt. It’s somehow really delicious. I quilted it with loops/”bubbles” to mimic the circles theme.

Ahhh. I’ve no idea what to do with this quilt as I kind of accidentally fell into making it, but I do really like it. Thanks to the cheerleaders on Instagram for making me stick with it when I was ready to make it into a cushion! I need to remember that the final quilt is always much nicer than the individual blocks.

And on that note I’ll love you and leave you.

Till the next time,




P.s. If you fancy making your own or even a few blocks for a pillow and didn’t want to buy an acrylic template, this Moda Bakeshop tutorial has a template for 5″ charm squares that you can cut it in cardboard or template plastic! The pictures are not working for me on the site, but at the bottom it says “printer friendly version” – click it and it opens a PDF showing all the pictures and the template. Have fun!