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Piecing Curves: How to Make a Clamshell Quilt

If you’re feeling a bit adventurous in your quilting and are up for a challenge in curved piecing, why not make a clamshell quilt? Clamshell quilt patterns are known for their symmetry and repetitive curves. They are also perfect for displaying a wide variety of fabric prints and colors.

If you choose to piece your clamshells together by machine, you might use lots of pins or invest in a curved piecing foot to simplify the process. If solid clamshells aren’t to your liking, you can also get the look by sewing together Drunkard’s Path blocks into a clamshell pattern. There’s also another option in clamshell quilt designs, which is the hand sewn, English paper-piecing method.

Let’s take a closer look at how to make a clamshell quilt with these patterns and projects!

Clamshell Quilt - www.craftsy.comPhoto via Bluprint member Latifah Saafir

12″ Pieced Clamshell

The 12″ Glam Clam is a free Clamshell quilt pattern on Bluprint from quilter Latifah Saafir. These large clamshell blocks work well to show off novelty prints, and they’ll help you make a larger quilt in less time. The free PDF quilt pattern includes printable templates you can tape together and transfer to template plastic for easy fabric cutting. 

Tip: Latifah recommends cutting through a few layers of fabric at a time with sharp scissors to get the most accurate clamshells.

Get the FREE Glam Clam Quilt (6″, 8″ or 12″) pattern.

Curvey Clamshell Quilt Pattern Photo via Accuquilt

Die-Cutting Clamshells

If cutting out individual clamshells is not to your liking, there are several fabric die-cutting templates available to help you cut out your project quicker. For instance, Accuquilt makes a 4″ clamshell die (great for working with charm squares) and an 8″ clamshell die. The GO! Beachcombing Quilt Pattern demonstrates how the blocks can be twisted and turned to change up the clamshell quilt design.

Pieced Clamshell Quilt - Project by Bluprint Member Photo via Bluprint member LisaLakeJohnson

English Paper-Piecing Clamshells

Slow down with a relaxing hand-sewing project like Bluprint member LisaLakeJohnson’s English Paper-Piecing Clamshell Quilt. She made this project from 91 hand-sewn 2″ clamshells using fabric and clamshell paper templates.

Clamshell Quilt, Machine Pieced

Quick Machine-Pieced Clamshells

This Moda Quilt Top Kit utilizes a quick piecing method and more than 600 laser cut clamshells. The bottoms of these pieces are rectangular, and the tops can be secured via appliqué. This is a great way to make a large clamshell quilt in a fraction of the time.

Colorful Patterned Clamshell Quilt Photo via Sew Crafty Jess

Drunkard’s Path Clamshells

If you’ve sewn together a Drunkard’s Path quilt block before, you can trim the blocks so that they’ll create a clamshell quilt when arranged. Jessica’s Summer Scoops Scallop Quilt was made using this method. She says, “The trick is to trim the background fabric to just ¼” beyond your arc portion so that when it is sewn together, the arcs meet as a point. Also, plan, plan, and plan some more, so you know what fabrics to sew together.”

For more tips on piecing together your Drunkard’s Path blocks to make a clamshell quilt, you can refer to Ali Winston’s machine pieced clamshell tutorial.

Tomorrow on the Bluprint blog, we’ll share fun ideas for quilted housewarming gifts.

Have you ever made a clamshell quilt? Which assembly option did you use?



Great post- I’ve admired some of the clamshell quilts I’ve seen out there recently, but never considered using a larger clamshell template to showcase some of those “too beautiful to cut” fabrics. I’ll definitely head over via the link to get the templates. Thanks for sharing! (And thanks to Latifa, too!)


Is there a website to get templates for printing off clamshell papers for EPP?

Tamelann Miller

Thanks Lindsay for this post, I love the clamshell look… The greatest thing about cutting the clamshell shapes with the AccuQuilt Die and GO! Cutter is that it cuts the notches out on the curved sides. This allows for accurate piecing..

Sandi Johnson

I was given 500 or more clam shell pieces, saved from the dump in fact, 30’s fabric. They are about 4.5 inches across the widest part. How do I put them together? Love the look and would love to honor the original seamstress/ quilter who cut them all out by hand. Thanks

Rebecca Grace

I’ve got to say, I’m disappointed that the title of this post is “HOW TO MAKE a Clamshell Quilt,” but you don’t share any information at all on how to make one. 🙁 This is a nice overview of different design options for clamshell quilts, with different cutting options, but what I really need (and what others have said that they need in the comments) are instructions for assembling the quilt once the clamshells have been cut out. I purchased the 4″ clamshell die from Accuquilt with the handy alignment notches, and the Accuquilt video seems to allude to machine piecing, but they don’t show how to handle the extreme curves. I know that the clamshells were traditionally assembled by turned edge applique of the curved upper edge of clamshells to the previous row, by hand, and I’ve considered doing mine that way with invisible machine applique and monofilament thread. But if there’s a way to successfully machine piece clamshells accurately, with smooth curves, I’d definitely like to try that first. Is there a Craftsy class or tutorial follow up to this blog post that I’m just not finding??


The link doesn’t work. I also was looking for information about the actual sewing. The free pattern mentioned in the post does not seem to be available.


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