Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tutorial - Learning Curve Ruler - Method 1

This is THE LEARNING CURVE ruler created by Linda Warren of Linda Warren Designs.  If your local quilt/fabric shop does not carry this tool, you can order one directly from the website.

If you are reading this blog post from an e-mail version, the website address is:

The endless uses of this ruler, and the amazing, limitless possibilities are mind blowing!  The following photos are just a teensy, tiny peek into what you can do with this ruler.....

Linda Warren, the designer, has broken down the basic "instructions" into what she calls "METHODS".  The  combination of "methods" appear to be never ending.  The above blocks (measuring 12 1/2" unfinished) are a result of using METHOD 1 and METHOD 4.

The construction of the above pictured blocks are as follows:
METHOD 1 - Top, Bottom, Left & Right middle/center "squares"
METHOD 4 - All four corner "squares"
Center section is a basic 4 1/2" square

Today's tutorial will focus on METHOD 1

Choose a dark fabric and a lighter fabric.  If working with Fat Quarters, cut 2 strips that are 5 1/2" wide from each fat quarter.  Then sub-cut into 5 1/2" squares.  You will need FOUR - 5 1/2" squares from each fabric for a total of EIGHT - 5 1/2" squares (this will actually result in enough pieces to make the required METHOD 1 sections for two separate coordinating 12 1/2" blocks.)

As you can see, I am using the dark turquoise and lighter pink.  Stack the 5 1/2" squares for cutting.  You may want to begin with cutting two squares at a time.  As you feel more comfortable with the ruler you can increase the amount of squares you are comfortable cutting at one time.  Also, it does not matter what "side" of the fabric is facing up or down for this part (right sides can be facing the same direction, or not).

Line up the left edge of your 5 1/2" squares with the "A" marked line on The Learning Curve ruler.

Helpful Hint:  Because you will be making a curved cut, it is best to use a medium (45mm) or smaller rotary cutter rather than a larger 65mm, etc.

Make the cut SLOWLY, and remain focused on following the curve of the ruler.  It really is not difficult at all, but if you go too fast, or lose focus, you will more than likely start out beautifully and by the end of the curve your rotary cutter may "straighten out" the curve on it's own accord and not result in the nice, clean curved cut that is needed.

(Helpful Hint:  Shorten your stitch length to approximately 18 stitches per inch...sew extremely slow and using a "needle down" option is nice if your machine offers that feature.)

Notice how the pink piece looks like the letter "D".....and the turquoise piece looks like the letter "C" (a backwards "C' anyway. :) :)  The "D" piece will be on the bottom, and the "C" piece will be the top piece (rights side together of course!)  Yes...it will look strange and look like there is no way you can sew the two pieces together. :)

****Prior to sewing the block pieces....to prevent the machine "eating" the pointy ends of your pieces, or the strings getting caught....always start the seam with a scrap piece of fabric (or leader/ender project).  This will save you a lot of headaches!

When you prepare to sew, the "C" piece (turquoise) should extend past or overlap the "D" piece (pink) approximately 1/4".  It does not have to be precise, just approximate.

Also, notice in the above picture that the bottom piece (pink) is visible and I don't have my two pieces of fabric perfectly aligned, edge to edge like we do when piecing other quilt blocks.  Because we are sewing a "curve", it is wise to keep that bottom fabric visible so you can be confident it hasn't accidentally slid away as you sew the seam.

Helpful Hint:  We've always been taught to sew a "scant" 1/4" seam allowance whenever piecing our blocks. But for this we will BREAK THE RULES and use anywhere from 1/8" - 1/4" seam allowance.  We also have the luxury of not having to be perfect....meaning, you may find that you start the seam with 1/8" seam, by the middle of the seam you have slowly increased to closer to 1/4", then by the end of the seam you have slowly gravitated back to 1/8".  That's okay!!  To quote Linda Warren - "That's Perfect Enough!"  

I'm working on a video to demonstrate actually sewing this together and will add the link to this tutorial when finished....but until then, looking at the above photo, envision holding the top "C" piece with your right hand, and holding the bottom "D" piece with your left hand (my left hand was holding the camera so pretend you see my left hand in the picture. :)  Holding both pieces in this fashion will allow you to gently sew, easing the curved sides together....again....sew SLOWLY!!!!!  

Linda Warren pointed out to me that she actually instructs others to do this completely opposite from what I described.  She uses her left hand to hold and guide the top "C" pieces and then uses her right hand, underneath, to hold and guide the "D" piece.  

I think my mind works on a different frequency than most at times...so even though I attempted the way she instructs....my natural tendency is to always have my right hand on top, guiding.  My advice would be to do as Linda suggests...and if you have difficulty, maybe your brain is crooked like mine, so give my way a whirl! :)

After pieces are sewn, place them face down on your ironing surface.  You will be able to see how the seams will naturally "lean"....

We get to BREAK THE RULES once again.  Typically we are taught to press our quilt blocks with dry heat...never using steam.  BUT, when piecing curves, we will use steam!

From the back side of the block, gently steam press the seam in the direction it naturally wants to lay.  Don't pull tightly or distort the block.

Now flip the block over to the front and gently steam press down once more.

Now it's time to go back to your cutting mat....

Place the ruler with the curved edge pointing towards your stomach.  Do you see where my fingers are pointing to the "#1 Dot" on the left and the #2 Dot" on the right?  Simply align the center black dots on the CURVED SEAM.

Using your rotary cutter, trim the fabric overage from the right and top sides.

Now flip the block around, keeping the curved edge of the ruler pointing towards your body.

Notice the "C" lines on the ruler (where my fingers are pointing, left and bottom), align the left and bottom edge of the block with the "C" lines.

Trim the fabric overage from the top and right sides.

The result is a perfect 4 1/2" square.  Now you have mastered METHOD 1. 

This photo shows the layout I chose to sew my blocks together.  As long as you use an accurate 1/4" seam when sewing the block sections together, the curved seams of the circle line up perfectly in the finished block!  I must say, my finished blocks are MORE than "perfect enough"...they truly ARE perfect! :)

I plan to continue providing a tutorial for each METHOD (there are six) and then additional tutorials are planned as we learn to mix and match the different METHOD segments to produce an endless array of finished block designs.

Doesn't this look fun and easy?  You know you really want this ruler, so go ahead and make the splurge and order one.  And just in case you are wondering....NO...I have no affiliation to the product, nor do I benefit monetarily from any purchases you may make. :) :)  I'm just excited to share what I've learned with you!


  1. Great Job, Theresa! Actually, an AWESOME job!

    The class was extra fun with the resident harassment and your tutorial is a perfect "reminder". Can't wait for the next!

    See you at Guild!....Candy

    1. Thanks Candy...whenever we take another workshop together, I hope I can sit near you to continue the "harassment". haha

  2. looks so easy, lcb

  3. Theresa,
    It's been a while since I looked at this tutorial. I just reread it, and it is fantastic. I'm so happy people have this resource to refer to when mastering The Learning Curve. Thanks for doing it. I will continue sending people to this link, but now I'll be even more enthusiastic about it.

  4. I want to use method3 and 6 but Iam not sure how to do #3 it's not clear to me is there a video of #3 instead of just #1

  5. in your diagram that came with the ruler shows that you have the a line up not on the edge of the material??? very confussing now to watch this