Has this happened to you before? A stunning and cute quilt block catches your attention, you read the description, and it says it’s “foundation paper pieced”. A moment of dread washes over your face and you say, “I cant do that”!
But I can assure you, YES YOU CAN! I’ve been in that same position, reading the same tutorial over and over trying to figure out how they do it.
Do you want to master foundation paper piecing once and for all? Do you want to stop missing out on all those stunning quilt blocks that are foundation paper pieced?
Then read this blog post slowly, with your pattern in hand, and I will try my best to help you hurdle through your beautiful design. If you need a free foundation paper piecing pattern to work with, we have a couple options. A free star pattern is here.
First and foremost, take your time to practice now and you’ll be good to go for ever.
1. The pattern
the pattern usually consists of
-a numbered overview, with letters and numbers on it.
-a colored overview ( so you have some inspiration)
-a blank overview (this is for you to color yourself)
-and your pattern segments, again lettered and numbered,
Each segment features only one letter, but has several numbers, this is the sequence of your sewing.-Think of your pattern as a puzzle, each segment is one piece of your puzzle.
2. A few simple tips
Place the numbered overview in front of you.
Cut out the pattern segments, along the dotted lines (this is the seam allowance).
Place the segments beside your pattern according to the numbered overview.
This is pretty obvious with the star pattern,
but it becomes really important and comes in super handy with more complex patterns.
3. Reverse side or mirrored image:
As I mentioned before, foundation paper piecing is done on the reverse side of your paper.
This means your pattern is your sewing aid only.
Not as with ‘normal’ patterns, where you cut the fabric according to the pattern.
I think this is the most important part about foundation paper piecing, and can’t be emphasized enough.
NOTE: The paper is just your sewing aid .
The paper is your base where you sew on, the lines of the pattern are your sewing lines. The block will emerge on the unprinted side of the pattern. And will therefore be a mirrored image of the numbered overview.
4. Start sewing
It doesn’t matter which segment you sew first, you want to sew them all anyways,
so start wherever you want.
I will start with segment A here, just because I like starting from the right today.
– set your sewing machine to 1.5 mm or 16-18 stitches/inch,
this will make sure the stitces perforate the paper nicely,
but are not too close, so they don’t rip the paper.
This will also make it easier to remove the paper after you finish sewing your block.
– Turn the first segment over so the wrong side (unprinted side) is facing you. Place the
piece of fabric for section 1 right side up, onto the paper,
making sure there’s ¼ to ½ inch of fabric around the perimeter of section 1.
Be generous in the beginning; once you are familiar with foundation paper piecing,
you can cut your fabrics a bit smaller.
– Pin or glue this fabric in place. I prefer fabric glue. Everything stays nicely in place.
– Turn the pattern segment over so the printed side is facing you. Fold the pattern on
the line between section 1 and 2. (I do this using a postcard, this gives you a nice straight and crisp fold)
-Trim fabric 1 to a ¼” seam allowance using an acrylic ruler and rotary cutter.
There is a specialty ruler for this, it’s called ADD-A-Quarter-Ruler , which has a 1/4″ lip and
gives you a perfect 1/4″ seam allowance.
– Choose the fabric for section 2 the same way you did for section 1, making sure the
fabric covers the whole of section 2 and aprox ¼ – ½ ” around the perimeter of
– Place fabric for section 2, right sides together with fabric 1.
Aligning the raw edges of the two fabrics along the fold between section1 and 2.
– Now, stitch along the fold between sections 1 and 2, right on the line. The more precisely
you sew, the easier it will be to align your segments! If the line that’s being sewn starts
or finishes at the ¼-inch seam allowance, extend that line right through the
seam allowance by sewing all the way through it!
– Flip open fabric 2 so the right sides of the fabrics are showing and press with a hot iron
(no steam, as this can distort your fabric and paper ).
Now you choose the fabric for section 3 the same way you did for the other two sections.
Folding now the pattern at the line between section 2 and 3 and so on.
You then sew each section the same way. Adding the fabrics in numerical order, as they appear on each segment.
– When you’re done sewing the segments, cut excess fabric along the dotted line.
– Place the trimmed segments as they are on the numbered overview. This just
makes your life so much easier when sewing the segments together.
– Now sew the segments together according to the assembly instructions in the pattern.
– After sewing two segments together, remove the paper only from the seam allowance
and press the seams open with hot iron (no steam) as flat as possible. (This is where
the tailors clapper comes in very handy , see blog post about clapper here. ) This helps
reduce bulk, especially when there are several layers of fabric. It also helps keep
your overall size accurate.
- After piecing all the segments, remove the remaining paper and use the iron to press
your finished block.