May: Circling the Brain QAL with Patti Auten


 By Patti Auten

So hopefully by this point, we’ve all wrapped our brain around the mind-blowing possibilities when we “circle the brain”. Here’s where you should be at this point:

1)    Picked out a color palette for your rings.

2)    Received your instructions and pattern and cut out your pattern pieces.

3)    Started designing how your rings will look.

4)    Started piecing your center pieces (4).

For the next month, you will start designing and sewing your next set of rings. Don’t forget to play with fabric, particularly with stripes, circles, prints, etc. What about using orphan blocks? How about cutting up those extra blocks into stripes and sewing them onto your paper pieces?

****TIP*** If you are going to sew quilt blocks onto your paper pieces, you may need to use spacer pieces in between in order to keep the design “circling” and emphasizing the center of the rings.

The idea of Circling the Brain is to design, sew and trim all the pieces of the project before sewing them together. HOWEVERRRRRR. . . . . some of you may be working ahead and/or chomping at the bit to see how your designs are going to look when sewing together. And some of you may be experiencing “curve anxiety” when confronted with sewing those curved seams. So, I’m going to blow your mind again and give you a cool tip that I picked up years ago at a workshop held by Victoria Findlay Wolfe. We were learning to sew curves on a Double Wedding Ring block and she said something very profound which I’m calling the RSR.

RSR – or, the RIGHT SIDE RULE!! (dun, dun dunnnnnnn. . . . . )

 When sewing the curves, they are pinned carefully. . . and then all you have to worry about is what’s on the right side of your needle. Specifically, you should have a nice ¼ inch seam delineated somehow to the right of your needle (whether using your foot, a seam guide on your machine, or even use a measured piece of blue painter’s tape). All you have to worry about is keeping your ¼ inch seam even on the RIGHT SIDE OF THE NEEDLE.  You may have to do a few stitches at a time. It’s okay. It’s more important to keep the ¼ inch seam allowance correct than to rush through. It does get easier with practice. Also remember that some of your pieces may be on the grain and some on the bias. DON’T overstretch. . . everything should be gently eased and pinned, rather than pulled.

Here’s how to sew the quarter circle piece to the inner ring:

1.     Fold your quarter circle piece in half, marking the center with a pin.

2.     Fold your inner ring piece in half, marking the center with a pin.

3.     With right sides together, line up the edges of the quarter circle and inner ring and pin. Then line up the pins on the centers of your quarter circle and inner ring and pin.

4.     Gently pin your quarter circle and inner ring together securely. Use as many pins as necessary to keep both edges together.

5.     Now it’s time to sew – take your piece to the machine. Line up your pinned pieces and SLOWLY sew your seam, always keeping THE RIGHT SIDE RULE in mind. Make sure to remove pins as you get within a few stitches of the needle (don’t sew over pins – it can break your needle and mess up the timing in your machine, necessitating an expensive trip to the sewing machine repair person.

6.     After you finish sewing, open the piece. You should have a beautifully sewn seam. If it looks a little wonky or weird, go back and check your quarter inch seam and make sure you have used the RSR and kept a consistent quarter inch seam. Pick out the boo-hoo and repin and resew if necessary.

7.     Once your seam is sewn, press the seam back from the quarter circle toward the inner ring. DO NOT OVERPRESS! Remember that your pieces may be on the bias, on the grain or a combination of both. You don’t want a twisted wonky looking piece.

8.     Once your piece is pressed back from the center, take your quarter-circle/inner ring piece to your measuring area. Place the quarter circle on the corner and it should be at a 90 degree angle. If it is, you’re a super sewist! If it’s not, then gently trim the piece so it will be at a 90 degree angle. Do this with each of the four pieces. You should have four pieces with quarter circle and inner ring each that if laid flat, will fit together like a circle. Place those pieces on your design wall and admire how creative you are!

 Any questions? Please contact Patti on our SFMQG Members only page, by FB messenger or by email at! Happy sewing!