Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Paper Piecing

I started paper piecing out of desperation. I think I have shared with you that I was taught to quilt by my illiterate grandmother. I used cardboard cereal boxes as templates and looked at pictures. My blocks were not the most accurate and yet, I still love those old quilts. Since the invention of the internet (should I say a sarcastic thank you to Mr. Gore?), I have discovered that for all these years I have been doing everything WRONG! After hours of drooling, I am now the proud owner of a rotary cutter or two, a few cutting mats, and a quilt pattern library at my fingertips. Along the way I discovered paper piecing. Huzzah! I love to paper/foundation piece. It is a great for sharp points and accuracy. Lord knows I can use all the accuracy I can get. I love paper piecing. It is like coloring a picture with your fabric. If you can follow the numbers, you can certainly paper piece! Now generally speaking, most paper/foundation piecing patterns have a built in seam allowance for joining all your pieces together. However I have run into a few that require you to add the 1/4 inch yourself. Make certain you check this out before you jump in feet first. Ask me how I know. You may remember how enthusiastic I can be. Another thing to remember is to set your stitch gauge to a very short stitch. I like my setting at 1.6 or 1.8

Paper pattern ~ I like to print out my patterns using construction paper or scrap pads from the $ Stores - lightweight and tear off very easily
Assorted fabric scraps in various sizes
Straight pins
Jack the Ripper
Paper scissors
Rotary cutter

When you are ready to sit for a bit and give this a try, first off look for an easy beginner block to try. Quilters Cache has quite a few. The one I am using for this example is from Ula Lenz's drool worthy site:

Using your paper scissors, cut the blocks apart but keep the small picture of the finished block handy. This is important if you have a tendency to get lost in the pattern or get interrupted frequently and forget what you are doing.

Cut out enough fabric to make sure you are going to be able to catch some of it on the next piece of fabric. This will generally say 1 or A . You may want to use a straight pin to anchor it temporarily.
Place this piece right side up. In other words, wrong side of fabric to the back of the paper pattern.

Next you will begin to add your next piece. You will place this piece right side down. Your fabrics will now be right sides together. Sew on the line that says 2. once completed, flip over press and trim close to the seam. Be sure you sew until you reach the seam allowance line.

A word of caution . . . Notice how much larger the scrap piece I am using is compared to the actual size on the template? I have learned to err on the side of caution when it comes to making sure the small scrap I am using will be enough to cover with plenty of seam allowance once it is flipped, pressed and trimmed.

Continue around your block, adding your fabrics.

One little puzzle block done and now I am on another one.

Here is where I show you where to trim: Can you see the seam where I have sewn? Fold back your paper
And this is where you would trim.

Once you have have all your little blocks sewn, it is time to get out the rotary cutter and mat

Trim them neatly with your spiffy rotary cutter on the outside seam line. I know your stitches don't reach that, but you will see why that matters in a minute

Now is the time it is a good idea to have your master block picture available for scrutiny. Almost like a jigsaw puzzle, right? Start matching your blocks and right sides together, sew them on the 1/4 inch seam. It may help to have a pin hold in place until you get started on the stitch.

Continue matching seams and soon you will have a gorgeous block with accurate points!

Bring back to your mat and finish cleaning those edges up. Voila!

Once you have completed the block, if you have used the type of paper I do and a really short stitch, the paper should peel off very easily. Please don't use regular printer paper. It is tough to remove and you may find your stitches undone!
A few things I would like to add here. First off, you may think you are going to have loads of wasted fabric. Once you get the hang of it, you really truly don't. I would suggest using dedicated scraps or really ugly fabric that you have stashed away to practice with. A really easy block to start with is:
The Economy Block
It is very helpful to press with a hot iron. I keep my iron at sitting level so I can swivel around and press those puppies.
I am certain I could have taken a real step by step of each step. But there was no one to take pictures while I sewed the paper, and pressed the blocks. Just me. However, just get in your mind the visual image of me swivelling. That should make you smile enough to want to try your hand at paper piecing. It really is easy, addictive and makes your work look like you really know what you are doing.


The Rogue Quilter said...

Hi! I love this little tutorial! I think i will love paper peicing as well!

Christine said...

Way to go, Blondie!!! I am not a good paper piecer, but you have a great tutuorial!

chee said...


The Rogue Quilter said...

Hi! I just wanted to send a quick note. Tonight I did my first paper piecing. I used your tutorial Nd with a few tips from my sister (she is a pro) and 6 hours I almost have a block done. I think i picked an advanced block but I like it. I was determine to learn on my own and you helped so much. I will blog about it soon. Thanks for the tutorial!


Blondie ~ Vintage Primitives said...

Hi Miriam
I am not the best teacher and am sure I should have done more pics along the way. Good thing you had your sister to help you out! Looking forward to seeing your block.
Wishing you many blessings

Patticakes said...

Thanks for the great tutorial Blondie! I haven't done any paper piecing but this makes me want to. Such a cute little block.
Love the new look of your blog!