I never wish for rain while I’m on vacation, and this trip isn’t any different. Sometimes, though, you get rain even if you don’t want it. We are on vacation on Hancock Point, Maine, for the week with my husband’s family. The rental house is right on the ocean and has an amazing view of Bar Harbor and Acadia, located directly across the bay.
Until today, we have had gorgeous weather and have spent much of our time swimming (or quickly dipping, in my case) in the ocean or walking along the beach looking for treasures. I don’t think I could ever tire of gazing at the beauty left by the tides.
Today, it is cold, dreary, and pouring. In trying to beat the rainy vacation day humdrums, I decided to pull out my sewing stuff. This morning I tried my hand at English Paper Piecing, starting with the fussy cut center for a Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses. I must say, handwork is quite fun!
I had to unstitch and retry one of the honeycomb pieces since the pattern didn’t even come close to lining up on one side. Admittedly, it wasn’t a whole lot closer after I redid it, but I decided to go with it.
Having never done any handwork before, I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants. How far apart should the stitches go when joining pieces? How exactly does one “whip stitch” the corners? I think I did two whip stitches, but it seems to have worked for the moment. I can see the stitches a bit, but my mother-in-law said that the slight peek of stitches is part of the charm of hand sewn creations. I’ll take her word for it.
I can certainly see why so many people travel with their English Paper Piecing projects. Progress is made in small bits, so it is easy to pick up and put down as needed. I finished sewing the center four honeycombs together at the breakfast table this morning, and once I figure out what color scheme to go with for the rest of it, I am looking forward to passing the rainy days with stitching.
I also brought my sewing machine with me on this trip. It’s the first time I’ve ever brought a sewing machine on vacation, and I debated for quite a while whether I should take it with me or not. Now, with the next two days forecasted as torrential rain and chilly cold, I’m so glad I did. Not to mention the fact that there is a singer treadle and table right next to my bed in our bedroom.
While this treadle is missing its belt and therefore doesn’t work, I am taking it as a clear sign that I was meant to bring my sewing machine on vacation with me. Perhaps this afternoon I’ll do a bit of machine sewing as well!
Foundation Paper Piecing is one of those things that when first encountered, may seem daunting enough to send you running for the hills. But once the general concept is grasped, paper piecing opens the door to a whole new world of quilting and fabric-play. Trust me, it’s worth giving it another go. As with anything, the best way to get more comfortable with foundation paper piecing is to practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. Today I thought I’d share my process with tips along the way, in the hopes that it helps clarify the foundation paper piecing process.
For me, once I wrapped my brain around the fact that I was sewing something backwards while looking through a mirror, it all clicked. I’m a very spatial person, so once I could visualize that the picture was being created on the BACK, I was fine. Yes, the lines along which you sew will be on the back, or wrong-side of your sewn design. Think about that for a minute, and then let’s begin. Take your time, and have FUN!
Basic Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial
First of all, why paper piecing? The ability to create life-like pictures with fabric is what first got me hooked on foundation paper piecing. Once I got the hang of it, I realized many more benefits to paper piecing:
No other method results in such precision and accuracy when sewing. You can make two blocks that are EXACTLY the same without too much muss or fuss about seams.
It is a great way to use up scraps.
My favorite perk of paper piecing is that it gives me a way to create gorgeous gifts for family and friends without the time invested in sewing an entire quilt. Paper piecing patterns are perfect for wall hangings, table runners, tea cozies, mug rugs, pillows, bags, and even as framed art.
Convinced? Let’s get started!
1. Choose a pattern. I am using my Buoy 1 pattern for this tutorial, since it’s fairly straightforward and consists of only one foundation piece. Summertime is calling my name, so this nautical pattern will soon become a pillow perfect for a beach house or someone’s nautical nursery. Buoy 1 used to be on Craftsy but is now no longer available, so you will need use another beginner pattern of your choosing. My available foundation paper piecing patterns are located on Payhip.
2. Assemble your tools. You will need:
– pattern & paper (I use regular printer paper. Some prefer velum or tracing paper)
– fabric & thread (I love Aurifil)
– rotary cutter and mat
– scissors (be sure to use non-fabric scissors to cut out your pattern. I suggest having fabric scissors, craft scissors, and small scissors for trimming threads)
– ruler (add a quarter rulers work well, but so do any quilting rulers with a 1/4″ measure)
– iron and pressing surface
– sewing machine
3. Print the pattern with your printer set on “Actual Size” and check the scale. ALWAYS check to make sure the pattern is printed to the correct scale before beginning to sew.
Cut out pattern using craft scissors. Many patterns have a dotted line showing a 1/4″ seam allowance on the pattern. Be sure to check that the seam allowance is included, and if it isn’t, add it on before you cut.
*Here, some people like to color their pattern with colored pencils to help with accurate fabric piecing. I only do this for complicated patterns or when I am using different fabric colors than indicated on the pattern, but you are welcome to get out the colored pencils and do some coloring here if you want!*
4. You’re ready to begin! Cut fabric pieces (or find scraps) to fit spaces 1 and 2 on the pattern. Be sure to include a 1/4″ seam allowance on all sides. Paper piecing is kind of like paint by number, but with sewing, and always in order. You start with piece 1, sew on piece 2, then piece 3, etc. *When cutting fabric for paper piecing, I am generous in my cutting. I cut pieces that are amply large enough to cover the space and seam allowance and then some–lots of wiggle room. Yes, it may waste a bit more fabric, but it makes the process a lot smoother. To me, smooth (no seam ripper required) sewing is worth more than a few tiny scraps of fabric. Also, when you trim your seam allowances, any large pieces of excess fabric can be used for other pieces of the pattern. Go big!*
5. Here’s where the spatial part comes in, so get ready. Remember, you are using the paper foundation to help you make the pattern on the back, as if you are looking through a mirror. Ready?
Place the fabric for piece 1 on the back of the paper, wrong side of the fabric facing you (against the paper). Hold it up to a window or a light-box to ensure the fabric fully covers the #1 space, plus seam allowances.
6. Holding fabric 1 in place, position the paper so that the printed side is away from you. Take the fabric scrap for space #2 and place it right side down, on top of fabric 1. Be sure the seam line between 1 and 2 is covered by both fabrics, holding up to the light if needed. The fabrics should now be right sides facing each other, and when you sew along the seam line and fold fabric 2 up, it should cover the #2 space plus seam allowances.
*Before you sew, shorten the stitch length on your sewing machine. I set mine to anywhere between 1.4 and 1.5. That way the paper is very easy to remove at the end.*
7. Holding both pieces of fabric in place, sew along the line between spaces 1 and 2, with the paper on top. Some people like to pin or even glue their pieces in place before sewing, since the fabric is underneath the paper. I personally just carefully hold them in place with my finger. I haven’t had a problem yet, and it’s one less step if that works for you.
Accuracy tip: Lower the needle by hand for the first stitch, ensuring that your sewing will be straight along the line. Back-stitch for one stitch at the end to secure your threads.
8. Trim thread ends. (If you want to make yourself a cute little thread catch, I have a free tutorial HERE!)
9. Fold the paper down along the seam you just sewed, and trim the fabric to 1/4″.
10. With the foundation paper flat and unfolded, press and set the seam with a hot iron (no steam). Finger press fabric 2 up to cover its space and press again.
When you hold the paper up to the light, you should see that fabric 1 covers the #1 space and fabric 2 covers the #2 space, with seam allowances.
11. Continue this method for the rest of the pattern pieces. Cut, line up, sew, fold & trim, press. Cut, line up, sew, fold & trim, press. Repeat.
If you’ve got the hang of it, you can skip the next few parts and just scroll down to the finishing steps. For those of you who run into tricky spots along the way, here are some additional tips to help smooth the process.
Tips for Lining Up Seams:
If you are truly generous in your fabric cutting, this tip is not as necessary since you’re bound to have enough fabric even if your seams end up being larger than 1/4″. However, if the frugal part of you just can’t cut those fabric bits ginormously, here’s a tip to get accurate 1/4″ seams to conserve fabric. Note that this works best for straight-forward seams, and not nearly as well for long, skinny, tricky angles (I’ll address those in a bit).
For this example, I have just sewn on piece 3, and I’m getting ready to sew piece 4.
First, fold the paper along the seam line between pieces 3 and 4.
With paper folded over, trim the excess of piece 3 to 1/4″ beyond the fold. This will give you an accurate edge with which to line up the edge of piece 4.
When lining up piece 4 (white) with the edge of piece 3 (black), if you match the edges, the seam will be exactly 1/4″. Note that the right side of fabric 4 is facing the right side of fabric 3. Hold in place, sew, and you’ve got as close to a perfect seam as you’re going to get!
Tips for Using Directional Fabrics:
Using fabrics without a directional flow is fairly straight-forward, but if you are using a fabric with a directional pattern that you’d like to keep consistent, it takes a bit more forethought when you cut. First, line up your pattern and your fabric to decide in what direction the fabric should go. To cut the fabric, position the pattern with the printed lines up, and the fabric wrong side facing up. This way, since you are creating your pattern on the back, the shape of the fabric piece will be accurate (note that the above photo shows the fabric right side up, before pieces were cut).
Once your piece is cut, proceed as usual, paying close attention to the direction of the fabric. Remember, right side of fabric piece is placed facing the right side of the emerging picture, on the wrong side of the foundation paper.
Until you get the hang of aligning the fabric correctly, it’s a good idea to check the direction of the fabric before sewing. Unpicking paper pieced (tiny stitches!) seams is less than desirable (trust me, I know!). To check the fabric direction, simply place the fabric wrong side down, hold along seam line, and fold back. Once you are sure the direction of the fabric is the way you want it, fold it back and sew.
Tips for Tricky Angles:
Many angles in basic paper piecing patterns are fairly straight forward. Sometimes, though, you have an angle that really makes you crunch your brain to properly line up the fabric before sewing so that it fully covers the necessary space with seam allowances. Rather than sew, unpick, sew, unpick, sew, unpick, here are some tips to help get it right the first try.
Here I’m trying to piece section 14. When cutting my fabric piece, I’ve been generous with size, and included the angle of the seam I’m about to sew. Note that the fabric is wrong side up, with my foundation paper right side up.
The fabric piece generously covers the space needed, with lots of wiggle room. The angle cut into the piece is key, since that will help align the seam correctly. If just eyeing the angle while cutting doesn’t work for you, you can put your pattern paper on top of your fabric, and using a Herra marker, deeply mark the seam line. Add 1/4-1/2″ to all sides and cut your fabric piece.
Holding it up to the light, I can see that my fabric piece covers the space, extends amply beyond the seam allowance, and that the general angle of the seam line is consistent with the angle of the fabric piece.
Here’s the tricky part. Placing your fabric right side facing the wrong side of the foundation paper, line your angled seam edge with the seam line on your block. It will look wonky, and may seem like it is headed in the wrong direction.
Fold along the seam line to ensure the fabric will cover the correct area. Once satisfied that it’s all lined up properly, fold back and sew the seam. With particularly wonky angles, I sometimes pin along the seam line, both to ensure I’m accurately checking the fold, and to hold the fabric in the proper place before sewing.
So now you’ve got the basics of foundation paper piecing! Once your entire block is pieced, square up the edges being mindful to keep the 1/4″ seam allowance around the block if you plan to sew it into a quilt, pillow, or just about anything else.
I often will leave the paper on if I plan to sew the block to another paper pieced block, since the 1/4″ seam allowance line helps me with accurate sewing. If you are already a pro at 1/4″ seams or are planning on using a single block for your project, now comes the fun part–removing the paper!
To remove the paper, gently tear away, holding the main block in place and pulling gently away and to the side, similar to how you would tear any perforated piece of paper. With your narrow stitch length, the paper should come away easily.
Once one side of the paper is off, the other side often will just pop out. Go slowly and tear gently to ensure your seams stay tight. If you end up with bits of paper stuck in the seams, carefully use blunt tweezers to remove the final bits. Alternately, I’ve heard that spraying the paper with water helps with removal. I haven’t had to try it yet, though, so can’t vouch for the method.
I just love the backs of paper pieced blocks. The precision and accuracy, all the little seams that are proof of my cut, line up, sew, fold & trim, press marathon… they make me happy. Take a good, long, admiring look at the back of your block, and then flip it over and admire your finished block. Gorgeous!
I hope this tutorial was helpful, and that you enjoy paper piecing as much as I do. Coming soon on my blog, I’ll talk about what’s next; now that you’ve made your paper pieced block, what can you do with it!?
Do you have any other tips for beginner paper piecers?
I had never seen lupine before traveling to Maine, but now that I live here they are among my favorite flowers. There is a depth and richness to their color that force me to get really close and admire their intricacy. They are very advantageous growers, almost invasive, and the sheer numbers of lupine seen along roadsides, in fields, and in happy gardens make the color incredibly apparent.
Early in my sewing days, I was trying to think of a gift to make for my mother-in-law. I immediately thought of lupine, since they are her favorite flower. (If you have children, do you know the book Miss Rumphius? aka the Lupine Lady? Well that’s my mother-in-law–okay, it’s not really, but it certainly could be!) I had recently found paper piecing and wanted to make her a paper pieced lupine pillow. The only problem was that all of my searches for paper pieced lupine patterns came up empty.
Flash forward a month or so, when I discovered that I could design paper piecing patterns. A lupine flower was one of the first sketches I did. Talk about complex! I really wanted to get the heart-shaped petals into the pattern, but I knew it had to be fairly simple to be able to be pieced. I drew out a few sketches, chose my favorite, and began to try to break it down into logical pieces. My brain instantly scrambled. I had to put the pattern aside, and work on a few different projects for a week or two.
After that much needed breather, I picked up the lupine again one evening and smoothly worked it into numbered paper piecing sections. After a month or so of fine tuning and testing, the pattern is ready!
Don’t you love it!? I wasn’t sure about my fabric choices at first, but now that the block is done, I think they were perfect! They blend together just enough to give the flower depth without detracting from the congruence of the bloom.
This is not a beginner paper piecing pattern in that there are many pieces and a few sharp angles. There are only simple joining seams, though; no y-seams! If you have a good sense of paper piecing, this block shouldn’t be too tricky. It took me about 4 hours to complete and measures 10″ square (10.5″ with seam allowance).
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve watched this lupine block’s progression. For those of you who don’t follow me yet, here’s a peek at the process from my Instagram feed (@nightquilter). Of course these are taken with my iPhone during my late night quilting foray, so pardon the blur!
The back is my favorite! Stragglers hanging on after I’ve removed most of the paper.
The pattern will be available in my Payhip Pattern Store by the end of today, so now if you need to make your mother-in-law (or mom, sister, brother, cousin, friend, or yourself!) a lupine pillow, wall hanging, table runner, bag, etc. you can get right to it!
This particular block will soon become a long-awaited Lupine Pillow for my mother-in-law. I’d say it was worth the wait.
This is my exciting Friday Finish, so I’m linking up!
Now that I’ve got my printer figured out, I’m back to testing my new Lupine Paper Piecing Pattern. It’s a 10″ block with lots of small bits, but no complicated joining points. I’m excited to test this out and finalize the pattern, since I really think it will be a beautiful block, truly representative of lupine. Lupine grows all over Maine, and during early June you can see it sprawling gorgeously alongside highways and roads, as well as in fields and gardens. I’m working on a Downeast Paper Piecing Series, and this lupine is an essential piece!
When designing paper piecing patterns, I always battle with the balance of visual accuracy and simplicity. I want the finished pattern to look unmistakably like lupine, but I also want it to be simple enough that people will want to create it. With the lupine design, I knew I definitely wanted to get the heart-like flower petals into the pattern.
The recognizable radiating leaves also had to make an appearance, albeit simplified.
I’m really happy with how my pattern turned out! I think it looks like lupine, leaves room for lots of color play in the flower, and is fairly simply pieced despite the many small bits. There are a few tricky angles, but using the printer paper foundation paper piecing method, I focus on being generous when cutting my fabric bits and haven’t had trouble yet.
I’m not overly wild about my fabric choices this time around; they seemed like they melded and contrasted well when I looked at the stacks of fabric, but once paper pieced, I’m not sure it’s enough contrast for my liking.
Mental note: when choosing fabrics for Lupine Paper Piecing Pattern, go bold!
I’ve only completed one small section of the Lupine so far, but I will be sure to post my progress as it comes along. I’m hoping to have this pattern posted in my Craftsy Pattern Store within the next couple of weeks, just in time for lupine season here in Maine.
This pattern came about when a search for a paper pieced lupine pattern turned up nothing. There are many paper pieced flower patterns, but I could not find lupine! The only solution was to design it myself.
What’s your favorite flower? Would you take the time to paper piece it into a pillow, table runner, etc.?
I recently had the opportunity to test a new pattern by a fellow designer. Shannon of ShannonMac Designs created a new beginner paper piecing pattern called “Oops… I Scrapped My Pants”. I’m not typically a big scrappy quilt fan, but I was drawn to her various layout suggestions and so I offered to test it out.
Note that her pattern includes an easy to follow tutorial for paper piecing using the freezer paper method. I tested the pattern before the tutorial was finished, so I used my favorite paper piecing method instead–printer paper piecing, where you stitch along the lines on the paper and then remove the paper after the block is pieced. I’m tempted to give the freezer paper method a try after reading Shannon’s tutorial, though!
With my test quilt, I knew I wanted to incorporate a rainbow gradient since I’ve been ALL about color these days. Perhaps it’s the stark white environment outside: snow, snow, and more snow! I debated creating a large quilt with color gradient pants, I toyed with shrinking down the pattern to make each block 2″ or 3″ instead of 6″ so that I could have a full color gradient in a smaller quilt, and then I finally settled on stitching together some wonky, scrappy rainbow fabric panels and using them to get the full gradient in four pairs of pants.
I’m also all about love, so it seemed only right that I make those rainbow pants into a nice big X and O. Hugs and kisses!
I’m finding myself drawn toward modern quilting more and more, so I went for a modern look with this mini quilt. I opted for some echo straight-line quilting to emphasize the X and O. My Clover Hera Marker was the perfect tool for marking out the quilting lines! Being new to quilting, I am still too nervous to use any kind of “disappearing” fabric pen or other marking tool to actually write on my quilt before quilting. A hera marker is great, since it simply indents the fabric, creating a clear yet mark-free line. You can see how clear the marks from the hera marker are, and they certainly helped me find those perfect intersection points!
I used the walking foot for my borrowed sewing machine for the first time while quilting this, and boy was it fun! I can see why quilters swear by them! I’m really looking forward to quilting a larger quilt with the walking foot to really see its even-feed skills in action.
I love how this quilt turned out! The pattern is a very basic, beginner-friendly paper piecing pattern, and is extremely versatile. What can’t you do with scrapped pants?!
The day after I finished stitching the binding to the back of this quilt, we got another massive snowstorm, which dropped another 18″ of snow–yes, in March! It provided the perfect backdrop for a rainbow quilt photo shoot.
Now this bright mini quilt lives happily on my craft loft pegboard, brightening up my sewing space.
I definitely would recommend this pattern, for both beginner and seasoned paper piecers. If you’ve been wanting to try paper piecing, this is your chance to learn the freezer paper method. Shannon is offering this pattern and tutorial for free in her Craftsy store, so hop on over and check it out!
FINISHED! Remember this? I finally finished piecing it!
For one of my first designed paper piecing patterns, I’m very happy with it! I love how the gulls are pinwheeling in to fight over the starfish, and as a friend pointed out, the starfish has seen the gulls and is reaching out to flyyyyyyy! Little does that poor little starfish know that he’s actually going to be lunch and not a flying companion. Then again, maybe it is the starfish’s turn to fly!
I’m excited that this pattern pretty much turned out how I had imagined it. I’m debating the next step for this 12×12″ block. Should I make it into a pillow? A quilted wall-hanging? Or perhaps tuck it away and aim to make 11+ more of the blocks using up blue, white and orange (or other colors?) scraps along the way. I do think this pattern would look awesome as a full quilt.
What would you do with this block?
This pattern is for sale in my Pattern Shop on Craftsy; go check it out!
I received the most exciting comment on my blog today–the gift chocolates have been received, AND the recipient has already made a gorgeous universe quilt using my pattern as an element… well, eight elements!
This gorgeous quilt was created in response to Project Quilting’s week four theme of “Across the Universe”. I think this quilt is a perfect depiction of that theme! You can visit the Quilted Delights blog to read more about Leah’s thought process and gradual creation of this quilt. I really enjoyed reading about how she combined various patterns and elements to create this well-balanced quilt.
Look at how cute that star looks next to the Tardis in flight! I’m so thrilled that my pattern is out there in the world… er, universe… and that it was used to create such an awesome quilt!
Tonight, finally, my family was healthy enough that I could sneak away for a bit of sewing! It feels like I haven’t sewn in weeks, but of course it probably wasonly a few days. I was eager to make a bit of progress on my Circling Gulls.
I jumped in a bit too eagerly, and in my excitement was a bit careless. Which brings me to a paper piecing tip:
When paper piecing using the fabric scrap method, be generous in your cutting to allow for ample coverage, especially when it comes to long narrow triangles.
When you are so excited to be sewing that you forget this tip, or perhaps think “oh, I don’t want to waste fabric; I think it should fit”, be warned: you may become good friends with your seam ripper. Especially with the super short stitch length used in paper piecing, ripping a seam is tedious and time-consuming work.
Despite my progress detour, I was able to finish the third square. Only one more to go before I get to see my block in entirety. I am really liking how this block is turning out, and the more I look at it and play with it in Inkscape, I think this block would look great as part of a larger quilt.
I’m more than a little excited! I’ve officially published my first paper piecing pattern! I decided that the little four-pointed star I designed as an element for my Delight in the Little Things art quilt would be a great spot to start in my attempts to learn the ways of Inkscape. You can find the pattern in my Craftsy Pattern Store. Since my original pattern is for a scant 4″ square, I included larger options in the pattern. Those two dollars and fifty cents not only will get you the 4″ paper piecing pattern template, it will also get you a 6″ and 12″ version. Sweet deal!
What’s even slightly more exciting is that I’ve already had one buyer! Little does that buyer know, but she will be receiving a little “Congratulations! You’re my first buyer” gift in the mail.
These are delicious chocolates made locally in the town of Belfast, Maine. I can vouch for their deliciousness! Yummm! Hopefully she enjoys the chocolates while creating some awesome starry project. I can’t wait to see what others create with my patterns!