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Guest Post: Creating Curved Pieced Blocks and Landscape Quilts with Sue Rasmussen (+ a Special Offer

Many of you commented so favorably on Laura’s interview with the talented Sue Rasmussen last summer that we’ve decided to invite Sue back to share more of her quilting “wisdom” in a terrific two-part guest post. Enjoy Part 1 today (Sue’s ingenious technique for making curved pieced blocks and landscapes), and don’t forget to check back on Friday, March 8, for a “virtual quilt show”  featuring more of Sue’s amazing quilts.

Grizzly Bear by Sue Rasmussen

Grizzly Bear by Sue Rasmussen

And now . . . here’s Sue!

Hi! I’d like to introduce myself to you. My name is Sue Rasmussen and I LOVE to make pieced landscape and pictorial quilts. I made my first quilt about 35 years ago, and since then have made hundreds of quilts and many items of quilted clothing. Today, I’d like to share my approach to pieced landscape/pictorial quilts with you, and to introduce you to “curved piecing” with gently ‘bent’ seams. I will walk you through a very simple way of approaching this idea, in the hopes of changing the way you look at curved pieced landscapes, and perhaps enticing you to try it.

Have you ever noticed that when quilters hear the words “curved piecing,” they have that terrified ‘deer in the headlights’ appearance on their faces? I often see that look when I talk to quilters about sewing curved seams. They immediately think of a Drunkard’s Path block with past horror stories and frustration, so let’s just start off right here and now by calling the seams that I will teach you to do as “bent” seams. That doesn’t sound nearly so intimidating, does it?


Look at this familiar Star block. Most quilters have certainly seen this block, and have probably made some quilts with this block in it. (OK, I added a line to divide the center square)


You know how this block is easily broken down into sections that need to be pieced together first, before they can all be joined together to make the block itself. As you see, in the following illustration, there are five pieces in the bottom section, which are sewn together to create that section.


If we take that same Star block and simply ‘bend’  each of those seams to create the little flower block below, we see that the little flower block is made up of the exact same number of pieces,  the same number of seams, and the same sewing sections. The ‘bent’ seams in this little flower block are so much gentler than a Drunkard’s Path, don’t you think?!


Look at the ‘bent’ seam line between the background green and the purple petal. That doesn’t look too hard, does it?  Essentially, these are nothing but very elongated ‘S’ or ‘C’ curves.

In the Star block above, the five pieces that make up the bottom section – two green background squares, one green background triangle piece, one purple triangular piece, and one pink triangular piece– are now bent. They are shown below as their curved equivalents – three green background pieces, one purple petal, and one pink petal.


I hope, by showing how similar these two designs are, I can dismiss any concerns you might feel about sewing with ‘bent’ seams, and perhaps encourage you to look at curved, pieced quilt blocks (and a landscape quilt) in a new light.

Next, I would like to introduce you to how I create a simple curved flower pattern.

Designing a Curved, Pieced Flower Pattern with Gently Bent Seams: A Simple Introduction

The concept of taking an image, a photo, or a drawing, and making it into a pattern using ‘bent’ seams might seem daunting and overwhelming. By sharing with you some very simple concepts, I can show you how to do this.

Let’s take the little tulip flower in the next illustration. As it stands here, this tulip must be appliqued (machine or hand appliqued, fused, glued or raw edge, etc.) to the larger background rectangle, in order to make a quilt block/mini quilt.


If we want to translate this tulip into a PIECED tulip, we have to draw some lines on the pattern to create the seam lines. Using a pencil, we can draw and extend the lines of the stem and petals up and out to the edge of the paper (shown below with dashed lines). Just by drawing those lines, and extending them all the way to the edge of the paper, or the block in this case, we have created seam lines. See how the lines are slightly ‘bent’? No difficult, sharp curves here!


By extending those seams to the edge of the paper, we have divided this tulip image into three sections, 1, 2 and 3 (shown below), which can easily be pieced together.

To help clarify the sewing order in each section, I have numbered the pieces in each of the three sections. For the top section, we would sew 1a to 1b along that seam line, and then add 1c to complete the section.  Section 2 consists of two pieces only–that’s simple! Section 3 has a few more pieces in it, but we just follow the numbering system, sewing them together in order.

Those three sections then get sewn together (section 1 added to 2, then 3 added to that) and “Voila!” we have a little tulip block.


The curved piecing approach described here produces a quilt with clean, finished seams. No raw edges, or the stiffness found in a fusible quilt here! A pieced quilt is soft, washable, ‘fold-able’ and ‘roll-able’, unlike quilts made using fusing, gluing, or raw-edge techniques.  Curved piecing done this way gives you this option without taking that much more time or effort.

Of course, when we work on a larger, more complex image such as the Bitterroot Flower below, there are tricks and ways to draw and design the pattern that will allow for easy piecing of the sections. Basically, it comes down to translating your image or photograph into smaller sections for piecing.


The best way to think of this piecing process is as comparable to sewing a sleeve into the shoulder seam of a garment. With proper marking, pinning, and–of course–matching the front and back notches on the pattern, the sleeve fits right into the shoulder. That’s exactly what we do in this technique to ensure that the pieces go together. Each template piece has several registration marks or ‘tic’ marks on it, which, similar to a sleeve pattern, make the pieces match up and fit together perfectly to create a flat seam.

Students in my one-day guild workshops learn the basics of this process using my pattern of a Single Tree Landscape quilt (below). In the 3-5 day workshops, I help students work with their own photo or image, taking it all the way from choosing the image, to designing the pattern, auditioning fabrics, and piecing the quilt. If you’ve sewn a sleeve into a shoulder, or made any kind of curved seam, then you can create your own, one-of-a-kind landscape/pictorial quilt.


I hope you enjoyed this introduction to curved pieced landscape quilts, using gently bent seams.  Come by and visit my website at, where you can find more examples of landscape quilts using these techniques. You will also find a listing of my upcoming classes. I look forward to quilting with you, and helping you make the quilts of your dreams!


Thank you, Sue, for inspiring our readers with this informative tutorial! BTW, in a happy coincidence, Sue is the featured artist in the current episode of The Quilt Show, and–as a special gift to our See How We Sew readers–The Quilt Show is making Sue’s episode available for FREE now through next Tuesday, March 12. Here’s the special link: Episode 1205: Picture This-Simplified Pictorial Piecing. Check out the TQS site for more about Sue, including puzzles featuring her quilts, Woodland Doe and No Room for Tires.

See you Friday!

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