I almost hate to admit that after over 25 years of quilting I’ve come to rely on Foundation Paper Piecing a great deal. Almost every block I piece that is 6″ and under, I try to find a way to foundation piece it. The accuracy can’t be beat and with just a little pre-planning, cutting the fabric sections can be done with your rotary cutter the same as you would for machine piecing but without the need for such accuracy in your cutting.
Patterns for foundation paper piecing can be found in many places on the web or you can purchase programs for your computer that are made especially to print these type of patterns. I love my Electric Quilt 5.0 Design Software. It gives me the flexibility to draw my own pattern in addition to using the blocks in their libraries. www.electricquilt.com
I also have installed on my computer the Sew Presise series of foundation paper piecing patterns. They are not design software, just patterns for piecing. They are also available from The Electric Quilt Company.
Following is the information I would give to the beginner students in my Foundation Paper Piecing 101 Class. Hopefully it will answer some of your questions.
Caution! – paper foundation piecing is an addictive quilting behavior. You have been warned!
“Paper piecing” is way of sewing through the lines on paper to do crisply detailed block designs without any cutting of fussy template pieces.
Things to Remember
- The side of the paper with the patterns lines and numbers is the BACK (wrong side) side of the block.
- Set your machine stitch length to 14-16 stitches per inch. On computerized machines set the stitch length to 1.5 The close stitches will help perforate the paper and will make it easier to remove the foundation paper later. Using an 80/12 or 90/12 needle will aid in perforation.
- My students often start with a simple block like the Square in a Square block that is pictured. Here’s a Square in a Square block for you to try.
- Cut a piece of fabric large enough to generously cover section #1 with more than 1/4 inch all around.
- Turn the paper pattern over to the blank FRONT side. Place the first fabric RIGHT SIDE UP on the blank paper side. Hold up to the light to make sure the fabric covers section #1 with more than a 1/4 inch seam allowance all around. . A small tabletop Ott light is perfect for this. Pin the first fabric piece in place.
- Cut a piece of fabric large enough to generously cover section #2
- Place the fabric for section #2 RIGHT SIDE DOWN on top of the first fabric aligning raw edges over the seam line between sections #1 and #2. The two pieces will have right sides together. Hold the fabric in place.
- Turn the paper over to the printed BACK side, still holding the fabric in place. Stitch on the line between section #1 and #2. Sew one or two stitches beyond the beginning and end of the line. Clip threads closely.
- Turn the paper over to the FRONT. Fold the paper away from the seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance of the seam you have just sewn to 1/4”. Remove pin.
- Fold the #2 fabric piece back exposing the right side of the fabric. Press lightly with an iron. A Clover mini iron or small travel iron and a pressing board right by your machine is a real timesaver.
- Cut a piece of fabric large enough to generously cover section #3. Place it RIGHT SIDE down on top of section #1 aligning the raw edges over the stitching line between sections #1and #3.
- Hold the fabric in place and turn the paper over to the BACK side. Stitch on the line between section #1 and section #3. Again, sew a few stitches beyond the beginning and end of the line. Clip threads.
- Turn the paper over to the FRONT, fold paper back from seam allowance and trim the seam you just sewed to 1/4”
- Following number sequence, cut , sew and trim remaining sections of the block.
- Trim the block from the BACK side along the OUTSIDE seam allowance lines so the block has a 1/4” seam allowance on all sides. The paper backing can be left on until the blocks are assembled for quilt top.
- Some people prefer to sew the blocks together with the paper backing on to ensure accurate seam allowances.
- Label the colors on your your foundation patterns for faster piecing.
Leave your paper foundations in place until you’ve sewn your blocks together. You’ll have greater precision and less distortion from outer edges having bias edges and you won’t stretch the fabric when removing the paper from individual block sections.