Paper Piecing how to quilt

Paper Piecing

Paper Piecing is a technique used to quilt and sew patchwork blocks that involves using a paper foundation to which the fabric pieces are sewn on. It produces very accurate blocks, and it is useful when piecing blocks with sharp points or when piecing small blocks. Sewing is normally done with a sewing machine, though it is possible to paper piece by hand as well.

The first important consideration when paper piecing is the choice of foundation paper. Although regular paper can be used, it can be hard to remove when the block is completed. There are other paper choices, such as newsprint, tracing paper, freezer paper, vellum. Try any of these to determine whether or not they can be run through your printer or copy machine without jamming. Price can also be a consideration, vellum being the most expensive choice. The more translucent the paper, the easier it is to tear and also to position the fabric pieces. The paper piecing pattern can also be traced on the foundation paper by hand. If so, make sure you transfer the lines and the numbers on the pieces accurately, as the numbers help figure out the piecing sequence later.

Thread and fabric are the usual choices for patchwork, cotton thread and fabric. For small paper pieced projects, fat quarters, fat eights or scraps left from other projects are ideal. Set the stitch length to a short stitch, since the number of perforations created by the machine piercing the paper affects how easily the paper is removed when the block is finished. Set your machine to fifteen or less stitches per inch.

Once the pin printed onto paper, check the measurements, since sometimes copy machines distort dimensions somewhat. If the block measures the right size, cut the paper printed block (the block, not the pieces) leaving half an inch all around. It can be trimmed to size when it is pieced and pressed. Cut a piece of fabric large enough to cover the block’s piece on the paper labeled with the number one. Cut it larger than the shape on the paper. Pin it with a small pin or a flat head pin -flower pin- facing the back of the fabric against the wrong side of the paper block (the side with no lines printed). Center it over the number one piece and pin it in place. This first fabric patch is not sewn, but held in place by the pin until the next piece of fabric is sewn down.
Cut another piece of fabric large enough to cover the pattern piece labeled with the number two -cut the piece of fabric larger than needed, again, seam allowances can be trimmed later. It doesn’t need to be cut perfectly, but it does need to be cut larger than needed-. Hold the foundation paper to the light to place the second piece of fabric so that you can place it over the number one piece. Place it right side against the number one piece and make sure there is enough fabric to cover the number two piece plus a quarter inch all around. Pin it and take it to the sewing machine. Have the printed side of the paper face up and sew it in place on the line between pieces one and two. Start sewing a little before the seam starts and continue a few stitches past where the seam ends. Clip the thread and remove the block from the machine. Flip the second fabric piece over the number two piece on the paper, making sure there is enough fabric to cover the area and there is at least one quarter inch all around. If so, finger press it. At this point, you can trim the seam allowance between pieces one and two, to a quarter inch, or if the block is very small, to an eight of an inch. A rotary cutter and ruler can be used, or just trim with fabric scissors, being careful not to cut the paper pattern.

Continue adding fabric pieces in this manner, cutting the fabric, placing it on the non-printed size of the foundation block with the wrong side against the paper and sewing on the printed lines, trimming the seam allowances as you go and finger pressing the seams. When all the pieces on the foundation paper are covered with fabric, press the block with the qiultiron and trim it with the rotary cutter and ruler making sure there is one quarter inch seam allowance all around. It’s important to be accurate when cutting this last seam allowance, as the block will be joined with other blocks to make the quilt top. You can run a basting stitch (large stitches on the machine) all around the block, between the outer seam allowance and the cutting line, to make it easier to join the blocks together by keeping the fabric in place. Remove the basting stitch when the blocks are sewn together.

Do not remove the paper from the finished block at this point. Wait till all the blocks that are needed to complete the top are sewn together. Removing the paper can be a little tedious and somewhat messy. A pair of long tweezers is a handy tool to remove the bits of paper caught in seam allowances. If the paper is stiff and hard to rip, dampen it slightly with water.
Make sure all the bits of paper are removed before layering the quilt top with the batting and backing.

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