Some time ago I wrote about doing circles and wreaths in my 2012 daily hand-stitching project.
Shannon left a comment: "Do you do them completely without marking? I think mine would always look lumpy on one side!"
I posted a short response to her comment, but thought that maybe it was worth a more complete discussion. So here it is. First, I did almost all of my daily stitching without marking, and at the beginning of the year, my circles did indeed look lumpy on one side. I improved with practice. But on many other projects I want to make some guidelines before sewing.
I have a terrible fear of visible marking. I'm afraid that the marks will misbehave and somehow ruin my work. I've heard too many stories of people who have used the alleged disappearing markers, but later found ghost traces, to ever try that approach.
The most I'll ever do is put a pencil mark on the back side of the fabric, but even that scares me. If I absolutely have to, I keep the mark in the seam allowance. I keep a white pencil around to mark dark fabrics if necessary (white pencil seems to wear off more easily than black).
Instead, I like to mark things without writing implements, and that means creasing the fabric. We know that you can press in a straight line with an iron. But you can also set a temporary crease with your thumbnail or with a blunt or round-edged tool.
- a plastic hera tool
- the pointy end of a crochet hook
- the blunt end of a needle
- or this nifty marking wheel. My friend Terry Jarrard-Dimond gave it to me several months ago and I have been delighted at how well it works.
And then another friend, Heide Stoll-Weber, pointed out to me that the marking wheel is also good for making freehand curves. Some time ago I posted a tutorial on sewing freehand curves that depended on a paper template that you made with a rotary cutter. This allowed you to use the action of a rotary cutter to make nice, loose, artistic swoopy lines. Heide noted that if you use the marking wheel instead of the rotary cutter, you can eliminate the template and cut to the chase (or perhaps I should say chase to the cut).
Layer two pieces of fabric where you want the curve to go, giving yourself plenty of fabric underneath (you don't want your curve to run off the edge). Limber up your arm and make a swoopy curve, pressing hard enough to crease both layers of fabric.
The creased lines don't show up all that well in the photos but they do in real life, at least long enough for you to cut and sew as needed.