Friday, June 16, 2017

tutorial: foundation paper piecing

I wanted to learn paper piecing.  So, I looked up some tutorials, and ended up confused. So, I played and came up with the easiest way to do it, at least for me, so I wanted to share.  I hope it helps some of my readers.

The first thing I do is copy my patterns. Then I trace them with a sharpie, so I can see through on the opposite side.  So, your pattern looks like this:

Now I flip the paper over and trace with a pencil.  Now I can see my lines on both sides of the paper.

One of the best things about a paper pieced block is it doesn't take a lot of fabric. These can be great stash busters. So, let's get started. 

You will notice on the pattern, that you can find here, that there are numbers. You piece in this order. Let's call this sewing by number, like we used to paint by number.   Take a piece of fabric and lay the wrong side of fabric against the wrong side of the paper, so that the right side of fabric is facing you. I also mark this side telling me it is the fabric side. Because it is mirror image, I put my numbers on this side as well. So, for this pattern, 1 is the center, then 2 will be where 3 is on the front, and 3 is where the 2 is. I don't worry about 4 - 7 as they are just in white and each corner has a triangle. 

   Lay against spot that has the number 1 and make sure it extends 1/4 inch. It can be a bit bigger, but no smaller. Now you will lay fabric number 2 on top of number 1, still matching your numbers, and having right sides together. At this point, I stick a pin in there, and fold over where the seam is, just to make sure I have it right.
Pieces for 1 and 2 laid on top of each other. 

Now, I turn the paper over, and stitch with the fabric against the feeddogs. So, just make sure you have your fabric very flat.  Yes, you can ask me how I know.  Stitch with a smaller stitch length than you normally would, as this will aid in tearing the paper away.
Stitching numbers 1 and 2

Now it is time for trimming that seam you just sewed. Fold the paper backing on the seam you just stitched and trim at a 1/4". I just use a small ruler for this. 

Now, you will repeat the same steps, going in numerical order.  When you are finished, your block should look like this: 

Now, go ahead and trim around the block. Your block should measure 6".  You are done. How easy was that?

Make a master showing what colors you want where. 

Make one complete block to make sure you know what the layout will be. Put it close to where you are working so you know where your colors are going to be. 

I like to do a good amount  first if I need several blocks before trimming. So, pin pieces already sewn, so they are out of the way. 

Some patterns will have more numbers than this, just go in  numerical order.  Some will also have "A1" "B1" etc. Start with "a" first and then continue on. 

I hope this tutorial has been helpful for you. Please let me know if you have tried it. I have to apologize for the pictures with spots on. I have dropped my phone a few times, and that is the only camera I have right now. 


  1. This is a good post, the only thing I might add to is that when your drawing on the other side, you mark it as the side to lay fabric on, so you don't confuse the two. The side with the key letters and number being the side you sew on is how I always know, but to get use to the routine of how paper piecing works a beginner might need to mark that side even tho it will eventually be covered by the fabric.

  2. Thank you Marian. I went ahead and did that.

  3. Hello Kathy. I love the batiks you have used in your block. Amanda

  4. Great pattern and tutorial!! Thank you.

  5. I follow you on instagram! Thank you.

  6. Love this tutorial! Things I find helpful when I first start my pattern is to 1) take a piercing fabric marker and score my paper along the lines. Even with a small stitch length and a 90/14 needle, I find scoring really helps when tearing paper off. Especially when the pieces are small. 2) I write the color of each fabric on the space the fabric will go (on the side you sew on). I used to get confused sometimes, but by doing this I can just motor right along without having to unsew as much.

    Can't wait to try your block you posted about today!!

    I also follow you on IG :)