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Sewing Tips – Clipping Corners and Curves

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Sometimes the simplest little technique can really polish off your project.
By taking an extra moment or two to finish something off right, you will start to see huge improvements in your projects.
And I’ve had a few questions on clipping corners and curves……..and why it’s necessary.
So here’s why…
It really removes bulk from the insides of seams and allows for nice and smooth curves and corners. 
 And it keeps things sharp and even.
 (And this may help those of you who wonder why you can’t get things to turn right side out without it puckering all funny.  Is that you?)
So first, clipping corners.
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Once you have sewn 2 pieces of fabric together that have corners, you are left with this:
And if you turn it right side out without clipping those corners, you will have messy looking corners that you can’t poke out because there is too much fabric in there jamming it up.
And those corners are also very bulky and won’t lay flat for you.
But if you trim off those corners at a diagonal, cutting near the tip of the seam, but not too close……….
and then poke out the corners with something pointy……….
………you will have nice and sharp looking corners.
That lay perfectly flat.  Make more sense now?
Now how about those curves.  
Remember these instructions……..”  clip valleys, notch mountains”.  
Got it?
When you have a curve that looks like a mountain, like this:
Then you want to notch the mountain, like this:
It’s kind of like the corner method from above.  You are trying to take away some of the bulk so that it will lay flat.  So that when you turn it right side out, it will look nice and smooth, like this:
See what I mean?
And from the inside, you can see that those notches are closed up and are almost laying next to each other now because the curve forced them that way………perfect.
Now onto the valleys……which would look something like this:
And if you tried to turn a “valley curve” right side out, it would not lay flat for you at all.  It would just bunch and pucker and will fight you…….grrrrrrr.
So clip the valley like this:
So that when the curve stretches open a bit, the clips allow it to move.
And I even needed to add little notches at the top where there are slight little mountains.  See?
So then after turning it right side out, the valley lays nice and flat, like this:
If you open it up and peek inside, you can see that the little “clips” are being opened up, allowing for the nice curve of the fabric from the outside.  Make more sense now?
Now, go on and try some of these techniques (if you aren’t already) on your next project.
You will notice a huge difference in how your fabric lays and how much better the end product looks.
Yay for crisp edges.
 
Thanks for checking out my Sewing Tips – Clipping Corners and Curves post. Check out my full collection of DIY Sewing articles. Find even more sewing projects, patterns, and tips for beginners and advanced sewists by Liz Call, Mariah Leeson, Randi Dukes and Tauni Everett.
 

Comments

  1. Kari says:

    Well, if you had been here with me, you would have needed sunglasses from all the light bulbs that went off over my head! Thanks for the explanation and your great pictures. You are why I keep coming back to your site…hehehehe

  2. Sheryl says:

    This is the neatest trick! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Shae Ko says:

    I really appreciate the tutorials on even simple things. I always think I'm missing tricks of the trade because I've never had any sewing lessons. Do you have a category where all of your tutorials are gathered? Keep them coming.

  4. Mommy K says:

    I wanted to let you know I've given you a blog award. You can view it here: https://mommykellogg.blogspot.com/2010/08/i-just-received-my-first-blog-award.html

  5. Kallie says:

    clip valleys, notch mountains, I'll remember that!

  6. Ashley says:

    Debbie –

    Great explanation and perfect example. Thanks for sharing with us all! :)

  7. Debbie Cook says:

    Ashley – nice tutorial and explanation!

    Anonymous – one instance where you would clip before sewing the seam is when you are joining convex and a concave curves together, like on princess seams or a collar to a neckband, or in quilter's terms a block such as drunkard's path. The reason is because while the actual sewing lines are even and will fit together, the seam allowances are not the same length as the sewing line and you need to clip them so the SA's can open up to help the pieces fit together without puckers. HTH

  8. Ashley says:

    Laura – Yeah, the phrase is catchy but it's not my own. I have heard it several places and thought many more had too. Glad it helps though!

    Rachel – Haha, nope the pieces aren't being made into anything……they were made just to show the corners and curves. I sure peaked your curiosity though, huh? :)

  9. Rachel says:

    Thanks. Curious what you did with these pieces after your tutorial… are they becoming something?:)

  10. Laura says:

    Wow – I love this tutorial. I have always used the clipping and curving method. But I love you catch phrase.

    1. Danette says:

      I’m a beginner, never sewn before. When you make pillows, how do you close up the seam without the tread showing?

  11. CraftyBrit says:

    Great tips! I consider myself a "struggling sewer" but also willing/wanting to learn more and get better :) Thanks!

  12. Brenda says:

    I am a self-taught sewer, and never knew this, so thank you VERY much!

  13. tracyp says:

    Thanks Ashley! Great info!

  14. Ashley says:

    Good, I'm glad this was useful. I'll keep adding more and more tips when I can…

    Distressed Sewer – Hmmmm, I'm not sure about those vest instructions, it's hard to tell since I can't see exactly what's going on. But it seems strange to clip before sewing. (But maybe the real professionals do it that way??) So I wouldn't see any harm in basting, then sewing, then clipping and trimming. But I am known for getting ANGRY at patterns and just figuring out my own way. haha! Sometimes they make no sense to me at all! SO my advice is to switch around the order of that and do it the way that makes most sense to you. And it's all a learning process……and there really are many ways to come to the same outcome. So good luck! :)

    Ashley

  15. two_girls says:

    Thank you for the terrific tutorial explaining this, I have a huge problem with collars and armholes too, can you explain them as well? Thank you!

  16. SewPaula says:

    This is a fabulous tutorial. I sort of knew why to clip and notch, but your pictorial makes it so obvious now.

    Thank you for sharing.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I am a clipper and a notcher — my mom taught me that at an early age, but I love your tutorial, especially the parts where you show what the clips and notches look like from the INSIDE! Thanks!
    olsoncieslak

  18. DebbieSFL says:

    Ashley, I have been sewing for years and had never heard of the notches for mountains, I always just clipped. THANKS!!

  19. Lynn from For Love or Funny says:

    My daughter is just learning how to sew, and I'm going to show her this tutorial! Thank you!

  20. Annessa says:

    Excellent tutorial!

  21. Natalie says:

    I love your blog! It is so fun to read and has tons of great information to help those of us who need a creative nudge in the right direction. Thanks for taking the time to post such great stuff. I know we all love it!!

  22. GaMtnScrap says:

    I love your tutorials, I always learn so much here! Thank you!

  23. Cher~ says:

    Great samples and detailed instructions. Love how you showed the inside peeks too. Thanks.

  24. Annette says:

    Thanks! This is awesome! I love the basic sewing tips! :)

  25. Ashley Mason says:

    Your tips are so easy to understand. I was wondering if you might be able to answer a silly sewing question for me. I recently made Amy Butler's Birdie Sling and I had trouble with ironing the seams open. (in the end it came out just fine, but for next time…) I'd say my sewing level is intermediate, but I burned all my fingers and felt like there had to be an easier way. Any tip? Thanks.

  26. Joel, Liana and Jaxon Brown says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I have been making the stuffed animals you featured a while ago and I can not get the curves to look normal… at first I thought it was my sewing job so I tried again more carefully and there were still ripples in the "valleys" especially! So I gave up. I think you just fixed my problem!!! I am going to go fix them right now!

  27. GirlHouse says:

    Thank you so much for the pictures!!! This has really helped!

  28. Dlsarmywife says:

    Fabulous tips! THis makes so very much sense. Thanks for making my sewing even better!

  29. Christina says:

    I'd never heard " clip valleys, notch mountains" before- great advice!!!

  30. Cyndi loves to stitch says:

    another trick for sharp 90 corners is after clipping corner, fold extra seam allowance over at corner one way, then fold the other seam allowance over it. Using your finger and thumb grab the corner and seam allowances and flip out to the outside keeping hold of the corner. corner will pop out fairly well. Onece awhile you still have to push it out a little with a blunt item, I like the backside of a small crochet hook. It's small but not so sharp as to poke a hole through the front.

  31. Cyndi loves to stitch says:

    My favorite curve clipping tool is a pair of pinking shears……best ever, makes for every smoothly rounded curves!!

  32. allison says:

    I love to sew, but have never been officially taught and these kinds of tips are priceless for me! Thank you for this! Book marking this post for sure!

  33. Suzanne Sergis says:

    Thanks for the tip! I am such a perfectionist that I've been too afraid to even start. Now I'll at least have a little know-how to help me once I do. :-)

  34. Abbi says:

    Thank you so much!!! I'm a beginner so these little tips help!

  35. Team EVANS! says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!
    I've never heard that saying, "Clip valleys, notch Mountains." So thanks for teaching.

  36. Me says:

    thank you thank you! I have always "cut corners" on these things and now I can see why things haven't turned out as well. :)

  37. Roeckers says:

    I have always been intimidated by curves. You make it look so easy I want to find something to sew curves onto now. Thanks for the tutorial!

  38. jennifer says:

    wow. Thanks. I guess this is another reason to leave seam allowances…I have sometimes tried to sew 'real close' to the edge. That leaves no room for clipping.

  39. A List Creations says:

    That makes a lot of sense! Thank you for explaining :) It helps self taught newbies, like me!

  40. Kimberly says:

    i've taken sewing classes and still didn't know this. (what does that say about the teachers? ;) )

    Thanks!

  41. Lisa Cash says:

    Awesome! Great tips – especially for us self-taught beginners!

  42. Jill says:

    Thanks so much for the super understandable instructions and pics!!

  43. Marisa says:

    Great examples!

  44. Mel P says:

    These instructions are fantastic! Thank you so much!

  45. Amy says:

    Thank you for such clear directions and wonderful pictures. Very helpful:)

  46. Anonymous says:

    I have a question, not a comment…I am attempting my first vest, the pattern says to pin and clip the edge(for a curved surface like the photos), then baste, then stitch. So I am wondering that means I am clipping to allowance BEFORE I sew the sides together? Thanks for any help!
    DistressedSewer

    1. April says:

      They are saying to clip in the seam allowance, so that when you pin, and sew, your curves will be right. Sometimes the pieces will bunch while sewing if you don’t clip them first.

  47. Emily says:

    Thanks for the clear explanations and pictures.

  48. WannaBcrafty says:

    Huh I've always wondered WHY? Thanks for the tutorial. You make everything seem so simple :0)

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