How to Paper Piece: A Tutorial for Beginners

Today, I’d like to share a very basic introduction to foundation paper piecing for beginning quilters. After you learn how to paper piece a simple design, you might like to try quilting some of the intermediate and advanced blocks listed below!

Follow along with this tutorial to learn how to paper piece!

Quilting Supplies for Paper Piecing

We’ll first learn how to paper piece with a very basic Wonky Star block.

Paper piecing supplies:

  • Paper piecing quilt patterns
  • Fabric (I used Modern Lace by Amanda Murphy)
  • Thread
  • Sewing pins
  • Rotary cutter or scissors (you’ll be cutting both paper and fabric)
  • Glue stick (optional)

How to paper piece:

Step 1.

Print your pattern onto standard computer paper and cut more than enough fabric to cover each of the numbered sections. I cut three 6″ squares, 1″ larger than the entire block pattern.


Step 2.

Place the fabric for section 1 so the wrong side of the fabric is touching the wrong side of the printed pattern (back of paper). It should more than overlap the section 1 outlines. Pin or glue in place with a dab of glue stick.

Holding fabric up to light

Step 3.

Hold the paper up to a light source to make sure the fabric more than overlaps the outline for section 1.

Placing paper on top of fabric

Step 4.

Place the fabric for section 2 on top so that the right sides of both fabrics are facing (the wrong side of the second fabric is facing you). If you can peek back to your pattern on the other side of the paper, one straight edge of the new fabric should overlap the line that separates sections 1 and 2.

Stitching paper

Step 5.

Shorten your stitch length to 1.0 or 1.3, which will make it easier to pull away the paper from your block later. Next, stitch along this line between sections 1 and 2. After you do, you’ll want to make sure that the second fabric, when folded back over that line, will completely cover the area marked section 2. This may sound a little confusing, but it makes sense when you give it a try!

Trimming extra fabric

Step 6.

Turn the paper over and fold along the line you just stitched. Folding the paper away from the fabric, measure 1/4″ and trim off the excess fabric.

Placing fabric on top of block

Step 7.

Press your fabric from section 2 out of the way along the seam you just stitched. You may use a dab of glue to hold this in place.

Then, just like you did in Step 4, place your fabric for section 3 on top of your block so that the right sides of the fabrics are facing (and the wrong side of the new fabric is facing out at you).

Holding fabric up to light source

Step 8.

Hold the paper up to a light source and make sure that one straight edge of fabric 3 slightly overlaps the line on your pattern between sections 1 and 3.

Note: When you stitch along this line later and fold back fabric 3, it should more than cover section 3. Stitch along the lines between sections 1 and 3. As you did earlier, fold back the paper and trim off the excess fabric.

Pressing the block

Step 9.

Press the block. You may use a dab of glue to position the new fabric in place against the paper (so it doesn’t get in the way when you trim the block).

Rotary scissors to cut paper

Step 10.

Use a rotary cutter or scissors to cut off the paper and excess fabric along the seam allowance (outer square) on the pattern. Use a blade you don’t mind using to cut paper.

Tear paper from the block

Step 11.

Tear off the paper from the back of the block.

Paper-pieced block

Step 12.

You’ve just learned how to paper piece a basic quilt block! Now, make a few more of the same block to sharpen your skills.

New York Beauty paper pieced block

Photo via Lindsay Sews

For a greater challenge, try this New York Beauty paper pieced block. Follow along with the tutorial and you’ll get a better idea of how to paper piece a more complex design with smaller segments, plus a lesson on piecing curves!

If you are new to paper piecing, there’s no better way to learn than to dive right in! If you’d like to move beyond the basics, check out the course Paper-Pieced Stars with Carol Doak.

Which paper pieced blocks would you like to try?

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