Sewing patterns will often tell you to clip corners and curves. The reason we do this is so that when your curved or pointed seam is turned the right way out it will sit nice and flat. If you left your seam without clipping sewing curves and corners, they would wrinkle and pull and not look attractive.
After sewing, clipping corners and curves help give a professional look to your finished projects. If you don’t clip your finished item can end up bunching or pulling strangely which is definitely not what you want when you have put so much effort into your sewing.
Look at the difference between these 2 curves. The pink one has been clipped and the green one hasn’t.
See how the curve in the pink fabric sits flat and the curve looks smooth. In the green fabric, it was not possible to press the curve flat at all as the fabric underneath was stretched and caused bunching at the seam.
The method used to clip corners and curves depends on its shape.
How to Clip Corners | Clipping Sewing Corners
There are 2 types of corners
- Outward corners – Like those found at the edge of a blanket
- Inward corners – Like those found in a neckline
CLIPPING OUTWARD CORNERS
Where you have an outward corner you will need to clip the point at a diagonal on the seam allowance to reduce bulk.
Once you have turned your piece the right side out find something pointed to further push out the corners.
You can purchase point turners (also called turning tools) but you can usually find something in the house to improvise with. Look in your kitchen junk drawer (yes everyone has one!) for chopsticks, sewers, old forks and anything else that looks pointy but not too sharp.
Notice how nice and sharp the clipped corner is when turned the right way out.
If the corner you are sewing is pointed really sharply, you may need to cut some of the excess fabric from the seam allowances as well. I have a full tutorial on this – how to sew corners.
See how I first cut the corner triangle and then shaved some off the top edges of the seam.
CLIPPING INWARD CORNERS
To clip an inward corner, make a small cut almost up to the seam allowance into the corner.
This will let the seam open up and give a nice shape when it is turned the right way out.
How to Clip Curves | Clipping Sewing Curves
There are 2 types of curves
- Convex – These are curves that curve outwards
- Concave – These are curves that curve inwards
I have a full tutorial on sewing curves but if you are beginner sewer, here are a few tips to get you started.
- Set your stitch to a shorter stitch length. If your regular stitch length is 2.5-3.0, try decreasing it to 2.0
- Try stitching in one go without stopping. When you stop and start your stitching, the line tends to look a little jagged.
- If it is a really tight curve you may need to stop and adjust the needle if the fabric starts bunching up and you go off track. Stop with the needle down in the fabric, lift the foot and pivot.
- It may help accuracy to make the seam allowances with a marking tool. This gives your eye something to focus on as you sew.
CLIPPING CONVEX CURVES
Convex curves shaped like a mountain can be found on sweetheart necklines, scalloped hems and round sewing projects like a potholder.
If you have a convex shape then you will need to put little v-shaped notches along the curve.
Try taking notches out every 3/8 inch (1cm) of the seam allowance. For a gentle curve, you may need less.
Clipping sewing curves that are convex takes out some of the bulkiness of the fabric when you turn it the right way out.
When the convex curve is the right way out, the notch edges will curl up and touch each other at the edges, eliminating all the bulk that would be impaired the seam’s appearance.
Instead of manually cutting these notches a pair of pinking shears will also do a good job as it cuts a zig-zag edge close to the stitching line.
CLIPPING CONCAVE CURVES
Concave curves are commonly found in necklines and armholes when sewing clothing.
If you have a concave shape (like a valley) then just put little snips along the curve almost up to the stitch line. Careful not to cut through the stitching.
I prefer using small sharp embroidery scissors to do this as it is faster to snip away.
The distance between the clipping is usually around 3/8 inch (1cm) but you can adjust this depending on whether your curve is gentle or steep. A gentle curve will need less clipping than a steep curve.
Be conservative as you don’t want to weaken the seam having it pull apart after washing.
After you have turned the curve the right way out and pressed you can always go back in a give a few extra clips in the areas needed.
How to Press Corners and Curves
After you are done clipping sewing curves and corners, it will need turning and pressing. Your item may still look quite rough until you start pressing.
When you turn your curved piece the right way out, use a blunt object such as a point turner, chopstick or even a butter knife to smooth out the curve before pressing.
Give the curve a good press. You will be surprised how much flatter it now looks. For stubborn fabrics, a little steam or spray of water will also help.
Do you have any extra tips you use for clipping sewing curves? Please share below.