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