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.
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.
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Filed under Sewing, Sewing Tips


141 Responses to “Sewing Tips – Clipping Corners and Curves”
  1. 1
    WannaBcrafty says:

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

  2. 2
    Emily says:

    Thanks for the clear explanations and pictures.

  3. 3
    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!

    • 3.1
      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.

  4. 4
    Amy says:

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

  5. 5
    Mel P says:

    These instructions are fantastic! Thank you so much!

  6. 6
    Marisa says:

    Great examples!

  7. 7
    Jill says:

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

  8. 8
    Lisa Cash says:

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

  9. 9
    Kimberly says:

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


  10. 10
    A List Creations says:

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

  11. 11
    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.

  12. 12
    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!

  13. 13
    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. :)

  14. 14
    Team EVANS! says:

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

  15. 15
    Abbi says:

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

  16. 16
    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. :-)

  17. 17
    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!

  18. 18
    Cyndi loves to stitch says:

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

  19. 19
    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.

  20. 20
    Christina says:

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

  21. 21
    Dlsarmywife says:

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

  22. 22
    GirlHouse says:

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

  23. 23
    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!

  24. 24
    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.

  25. 25
    Annette says:

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

  26. 26
    Cher~ says:

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

  27. 27
    GaMtnScrap says:

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

  28. 28
    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!!

  29. 29
    Annessa says:

    Excellent tutorial!

  30. 30
    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!

  31. 31
    DebbieSFL says:

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

  32. 32
    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!

  33. 33
    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.

  34. 34
    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!

  35. 35
    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! :)


  36. 36
    tracyp says:

    Thanks Ashley! Great info!

  37. 37
    Brenda says:

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

  38. 38
    CraftyBrit says:

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

  39. 39
    Laura says:

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

    • 39.1
      Danette says:

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

  40. 40
    Rachel says:

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

  41. 41
    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? :)

  42. 42
    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

  43. 43
    Ashley says:

    Debbie –

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

  44. 44
    Kallie says:

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

  45. 45
    Mommy K says:

    I wanted to let you know I've given you a blog award. You can view it here:

  46. 46
    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.

  47. 47
    Sheryl says:

    This is the neatest trick! Thanks for sharing!

  48. 48
    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

  49. 49
    Theresa says:

    That is awesome! thanks for taking the time to help us out! :)

  50. 50
    The Noalls says:

    I know about clipping curves and corners, so I thought I wouldn't learn anything from this post. But I had never heard the "clip valleys, notch mountains" thing. That's very useful! Thanks!

  51. 51
    sjs says:

    Thank you for the wonderful instructions.:) Learned this in Home E.C and have been doing it since then.:) I haven't heard about the notch mountains, or the clip valleys either. I learned something to. Thanks.:)

  52. 52
    Lara says:

    Thank you! Thank you! I teach sewing to Junior High School students and have tried to teach this concept over and over again. This will make it so much easier for them to understand. Great job!

  53. 53
    Jen @ Just for Rachel says:

    Thank you! I figured out the corner one last night while sewing, but the others I have come across before, and didn't know what to do. As a beginner sewer, this helps a lot :)

  54. 54
    L2L says:

    oh wow this makes so much sense, hopefully my bodices will look alot nicer with the tips you shared, thanks so much!!!

  55. 55
    Misty says:

    Found this at the perfect time! I'm been making some aprons and struggling with the curves- I know what to do NOW! I'm pretty much self taught to, I did know about clipping corners, never would have thought about the mountains and valleys! Off to read some more tutorials!

  56. 56
    Vic says:

    I just stumbled onto your article and I'm now having flash back images of the dress I made a few months ago and hid in my wardrobe out of site. Now I know what to do to make it look half ok. Thanks! It makes perfect sense, can't believe I never thought of it anyway.

  57. 57
    Firey says:

    Thank you! Excellent explanation. Exactly what I was looking for. :)

  58. 58
    Erica says:

    Found your article through a Google search and sooo very glad I did! It helped WONDERS for my latest project :)

  59. 59 says:

    awesome tute! thanks bunches! The pics really helped me to understand what was going on. Now I know why my projects haven't turned out like I wanted ;)

  60. 60
    lulalola says:

    I was just wondering about this yesterday! Great tutorial! Thanks a bunch!

  61. 61
    Jenny! says:

    I just had to come back to this post to remember "clip valleys and notch mountains" in the middle of my project!! THANKS SO MUCH for having this on your blog!!!

  62. 62
    *erin* says:

    Being a newbie to the sewing world, I SOOO appreciate your advice! Things I never would have thought of.

  63. 63
    Snowny says:

    thanks for the tutorial!! But i've wondered how to make the curve pop up, like when sewing the heart.

  64. 64
    Kristina says:

    Exactly what I was looking for before I finished a project with a pretty big curve. Thank you!

  65. 65
    April @ Sewing Novice says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I linked to it on my site.

  66. 66
    kim says:

    Simple but perfect explanation. Thanks!!

  67. 67
    Liz says:

    Thanks! I wondered for a while how to make my curves lay flat when turning!

  68. 68
    Billy says:

    Thank you so much for the clear and excellent explanations of each picture. The step by step. It gives new meaning to my sewing projects. I was frustrated on having my things coming out all puckered. Now they won’t.

  69. 69
    Melissa says:

    Wow! I will deffiently start follow ing this!! Great tutorial

  70. 70
    Dee Gray says:

    I am a newbie at sewing. These photos and information were extremely helpful. Thanks!

  71. 71
    Kris says:

    Thank you. Now I know what went wrong with my project.

  72. 72
    dana says:

    Love love love your blog! You have so many wonderful pictures and information. Thanks!

    I linked up to you in my blog.

  73. 73
    LCYork says:

    I wonder why I didn’t think of that! Perfect explanation and nice pictures. Thanks!

  74. 74
    Lisa M says:

    This blog is FANTASTIC. Thank you for all of this goodness!

  75. 75
    Anonymous says:

    PERFECT TUTORIAL !!! This helped me a lot! THANK YOU SO MUCH! :)

  76. 76
    Lily M says:

    Omg, thank you- thank you. I have steered away from tops, jackets and anything with curves because of these problems. I taught myself to sew and after making a few simple things I thought I’d have a go at a jacket. Well I bought expensive material and everything turned out well except when I got to the sleeves. That was over 5 years ago, so now I will be getting that jacket back out and trying again with my new learnt skills.
    I cannot believe it is as simple as that, other people have tried to explain it. But that shows it perfectly.

    Thanks again….


  77. 77
    Sophie says:

    Seriously. I’ve been googling this for so long now and no one had a proper explanation. THANKS! Much love <3

  78. 78

    you are my favourite person in teh WORLD! gOD BLESS YOU.
    XXX from India.

  79. 79

    Thank you!!!!! I’m making placemats with a scalloped edge, and couldn’t figure out why the scallops looked so dumb and pointed. I’m so thankful for this tutorial! :)

  80. 80
    sandy says:

    i always forget what it means to lay material to cut out crosswise of grain of material,which in turn does affect how sleeeves lay and necklines anybody got helpful hints.

    i love sewing sandy

  81. 81
    Emily says:

    Thank you SO MUCH. I can sew, but I’ve never had formal training. Issues like this make me crazy and I had no idea it was so simple!

  82. 82
    Dolly says:

    I’m all about shortcuts, so when I need to notch and clip, I use pinking shears instead. Does this have the same effect? Should I not be taking this short cut??

  83. 83
    Kim Dung says:

    Thank so much for your tips. now i go it smoothly.

  84. 84
    Priscilla Maye says:

    I am sewing a neckline on a top. I am not using a facing. I just want to turn the top under. I have iron it but when I sew it, it doesn’t look neat. Any tips on how I can make the neckline look neat?

  85. 85
    Stephanie says:

    What I don’t understand is that I clip my corners like you do and they still look bulky and drive me insane… any idea what I’m doing wrong?

  86. 86
    Treva says:

    FANTASTIC! I am very new to sewing. I just purchased my 1st sewing machine. I am attempting my 1st project, a tote bag. The pattern called for me to clip and I was so confused! THANK YOU SO MUCH for your EXCELLENT tutorial! :)

  87. 87
    sirenne says:

    Cela fait au moins UNE heure que je me balade sur ton site avec TRES grand plaisir, tout ce que tu fais est formidable ;)

    Merci beaucoup…

    à bientôt


  88. 88
    Danielle says:

    A big THANK YOU for this blog post. I found the cutest tutorial and had no idea what snipping the inner and outer curves meant!

  89. 89
    Charlotte says:

    Thank you SO MUCH. I’m working with a sewing pattern for the first time, and this cleared up SO much for me :)

  90. 90
    Nick says:

    Perfect description! Too many sewing tutorials online have these detailed verbal descriptions filled with technical jargon, and little (or sometimes no!) pictures. Your tutorial, with the concise descriptions followed by the clear photos, is SO helpful. I will always remember to “clip valleys and notch mountains.”:-) Thanks so much!!!

  91. 91
    Theresa says:

    I never really got this until this post. I’ve always seen it as convex and concave curves and although I am familiar with the terms it never really “clicked” for me in relation to seams. I said all that to say, thanks. :-)

  92. 92
    theresa says:

    I never really fully understood this until coming across this post. I’ve always seen it referred to as convex and concave curves. Although I’m familiar with these terms, it never really clicked in relation to seams until now. I said all that to say thanks.

  93. 93
    Mariposa says:

    I don’t know if this question is related to this particular post, but you’re so very good at explain things so…
    I researched how to make a gored skirt and this particular instruction confuses me: “Create a shallow convex curve at the hem and a concave curve at the waist.”. Why would a panel skirt need curves? What purpose does it serve?

  94. 94
    Neil Moore says:

    I am designing a “guitar” shaped back pack and if I am reading your tips properly, I think I will need to “notch” the top and base plates and ‘clip’ the vertical side pieces before sewing them together. Am I on the right track? Thanks for the information :-)

  95. 95
    Becky says:

    I would just like to thank you so very much for this tutorial. I have been struggling with sewing on a curve and despite reading several books and magazines, I have not found an explanation that is as simple as yours. I am now well away with all my sewing projects, thanks again!

  96. 96
    Zenia Rene says:

    Thank you for this handy dandy little tidbit!