Perfect Points: Using Foundation Paper Piecing

By Sherri McConnell

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foundation pieced block

Foundation paper piecing is a technique that can be used to achieve absolute perfection in your quilt designs. Because paper piecing sometimes requires you to look at things in a different way, many people find it difficult. However, by keeping a couple of things in mind and by using a few simple tools, paper piecing can be an exciting addition to your quilting repertoire!

foundation paper piecing tools

First of all let's take a look at the tools, as they're essential in order to succeed with paper piecing. You will need a simple glue stick, a hand pressing tool, and an "add an eighth" or "add a quarter" tool. I also like to have a small cutting mat, square ruler, and rotary cutter handy right next to my sewing machine to make cutting and trimming easier. I use the glue stick to just place the tiniest amount of "stickiness" on my paper to help keep the fabric from shifting. You won't want to use a heated iron in between each step of the paper piecing process, so a hand pressing tool is essential. It allows you to firmly and quickly press between steps. The "add an eighth" or "add a quarter" rulers allow you to trim, leaving minimal seam allowances so your project doesn't become too bulky. I prefer the "add an eighth" ruler because when I paper piece I'm usually using very small pieces, and this ruler leaves the least "bulk."

The paper you use for paper piecing can also be considered a tool. Many people print their paper piecing patterns on regular paper and this can work just fine; however, I have two other papers that I prefer and which make paper piecing a lot easier. Using light newsprint (I bought mine at a school supply store) makes it easier to sew through and it's also easier to remove when you're finished. But my number one choice for paper piecing paper is light-weight vellum. Not only is the vellum light and easy to sew, giving it the benefits of newsprint, but it is also easy to see through which really helps a lot in positioning your fabrics for sewing.

foundation papers
foundation pieced block

You'll definitely want to decrease your stitch length to about 12-18 stitches per inch for paper piecing. Doing this and using a larger needle (90/14) makes the perforations in the paper larger and thus makes it easier for you to remove the papers when you are finished.

The number one thing to remember is that your fabric will always be right side out on the back of your template paper (basically, the wrong sides together of your fabric and template). And you'll need to keep in mind that you should always leave 1/4'' extra fabric on the outside of the sewing lines for each piece of material.

Once you've collected your tools and are ready to learn this technique: I recommend this terrific step-by-step tutorial.

You might also be interested in taking the Craftsy online quilting class Quick Strip Paper Piecing.

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