Sometimes we run across block pieces that are odd shapes not easily measured and cut using a rotary cutting ruler. What to do? Well, it’s not a problem when you know how to make good old-fashioned templates.

Buy good pliable acrylic plastic to make your templates instead of using paper, which wears out quickly. In addition, there are companies such as Marti Michel’s who make excellent thick acrylic templates for a large array of shapes.

Marti Michel Template packages

Marti Michel Template packages

Even so, manufactured templates can’t cover every odd shape so it’s handy to know how to make your own. A sheet of heat resistant Mylar used for appliqué is okay if you can write on it with pencil. I prefer plain unmarked sheets of translucent or clear template plastic. I find the grid lines on some products too thick and visually confusing if what you’re drawing doesn’t fall on the grid lines.

Clear and translucent template plastics

Clear and translucent template plastics

Decide whether to make full-size templates with 1/4″ seam allowances included or finished size templates without seams included. Generally, but not always, use full size templates for machine piecing. For hand piecing finished size templates are best because the lines you trace around your template are sewing lines showing you where to stitch by hand.

Begin with an accurate rendering of your shape whether finished size or with seam allowances added.

Sample pattern pieces. The inner line is the finished size and the outer line includes 1/4" seams.

Sample pattern pieces. The inner line is the finished size and the outer line includes 1/4″ seams.

Place the plastic over the shape and trace. If you’re drawing straight lines, mark the points with pencil. Then use a straight edge to connect the dots. For anything else, carefully trace free hand—but not after drinking a pot of coffee

With the clear plastic over the pattern, trace either the finished or cut size template. In this case I'm making finished size templates.

With the clear plastic over the pattern, trace either the finished or cut size template. In this case I’m making finished size templates.

Before moving your plastic, write a designation on each template such as A, B, C or 1, 2, 3. Also draw the grain line arrow on your template. The reason for marking your template immediately is that the side with the marks is the called the right side of the template.

Name your template before you move it or flip it so you know which is the right side.

Name your template before you move it or flip it so you know which is the right side.

Templates of asymmetrical shapes create mirror image versions of themselves when you turn the template over. If you mark with the incorrect side up you’ll have the wrong image. That’s why you’ll see templates designated A-R or 1-R. The R stands for the image reversed.

Template A, right side up, is on the left. The mirror image, or A-R is on the right.

The pattern for Template A, right side up, is on the left. The mirror image, or A-R is on the right.

Cut out your templates on the lines you drew using sharp craft scissors.

Place your fabric right side down on a piece of sandpaper. Place your template right side DOWN on the back of the fabric aligning the grain arrow with one of the straight grains. Trace around it. To mark reverse templates, mark with the template right side UP.

With your fabric face down on sandpaper, place your template right side down and trace around it. A is always marked right side down.

With your fabric face down on sandpaper, place your template right side down and trace around it. A is always marked right side down.

The pieces on the left were marked with the template FACE DOWN. The mirror image pieces are marked with Template A face up.

The pieces on the left were marked with the template FACE DOWN. The mirror image pieces are marked with Template A face up.

If you are working with finished size templates, trace around your template onto the fabric and leave about 1/2” between tracings as in the photos above. Cut out your pieces between the lines you drew.

If seams are included in your template, there is no need to leave space between the markings.

If seams are included in your template, there is no need to leave space between the markings.

If seam allowances are included you can mark the pieces right next to each other in a group and then cut them apart on the line. Cut them out with a rotary cutter and ruler or with sharp fabric shears.

To sew pieces cut with seam allowances included, align the raw edges and sew the pieces together with a 1/4’’ seam allowance as usual by machine.

For pieces marked with sewing lines, pin-match the sewing lines on the two pieces to be sewn, not by aligning raw edges. To do so, spear the corner of the top piece running the pin into the corresponding corner on the back piece. Secure the pin vertically. Repeat on the opposite corner. Then pin-match the lines between the corners with one or two pins. Hand- or machine-piece on the marked pencil line.

 

Pin through the corner on the front.

Pin through the corner on the front.

Make sure the pin also pierces the corner of the back piece precisely in order to match the sewing lines.

Make sure the pin also pierces the corner of the back piece precisely in order to match the sewing lines.

Add pins in between the corner pins as needed for the length of the seam.

Add pins matching front and back lines in between the corner pins as needed for the length of the seam.

As much as it seems like a little extra work, marked sewing lines makes it possible to accurately cut and sew odd or funky shapes.

The Starry Path block is fast to sew but requires templates to cut the odd shapes.

The Starry Path block is fast to sew but requires templates to cut the odd shapes.

 

Keep templates in mind the next time you see a block with funky shapes. It’s easy!

Best Stitches~

 

Donna