March 22, 2012

Paper Piecing Tutorial

Paper piecing is so much fun! You can create amazing designs, or simply use one of the many blocks available. I LOVE Carol Doak's 300 Paper-Pieced Quilt Blocks (I found it here)! It has tons of wonderful blocks and the possibilities are infinite. The book comes with a CD so you can print the blocks you like when you are ready to start your project.

I print a few blocks, then cut and paste them onto a page so I can get as many blocks as possible (sometimes 2, sometimes 4, depending on block size) on one page, making sure I leave about 1/2" between blocks on all sides. Once that is done, I print the page onto foundation paper (vellum paper), and cut each one. Then, I choose fabrics, cut them per her cutting instructions (Carol Doak tells you the size for each piece - little fabric waste!), and put it together. This is another must-have book for your library.

Now, onto the tutorial.
Gather all your pieces of fabric, and the printed paper foundation blocks.  For the fabric pieces, I left the one that will be placed onto the spot marked #1 on the block with the right side up. All other pieces I flipped them upside down, so when I get them to place on top of the previously sewn fabric, they will already be on the right orientation, i.e., right sides will always be together and ready to be sewn.

Place first piece of fabric onto vellum paper block: right side of fabric is facing you, block is upside down so numbers are all backwards.

Hold paper and fabric up to a light source in order to make sure that the edges of the piece of fabric extend beyond the solid lines of part #1 by at least 1/4" (this will be your seam allowance). Now, place next piece of fabric, in this case a beige triangle, onto the first piece of fabric. Where? Well, you will be sewing on solid line between 1 and 2, so you will place the triangle over that edge of the first piece.

 Fold back this second piece of fabric to make sure it is placed correctly and that its edges extend over part #2.  You can see (I hope!) on the left side of this picture that the beige triangle extends beyond the solid lines of part #2.

You will be sewing on the solid line between parts #1 and #2, so make sure pin is not in the way. In short, you will always be placing the fabrics on the reverse side of the paper, flipping it, and sewing it on the right side of the paper.

Always start sewing a few stitches before the line and end a few stitches after the line. These extra stitches will be undone in another step.

Finger press seam.

Flip block so now right side of paper faces you, place a note card, post card or credit card against the line you will sew next, in this case the line between block parts #1 and #3.

Remember the extra stitches? Here is where you will smooth the seam allowance and undo them so the fabric lays flat.

Trim it by using your add-a-1/4" ruler. It will site nicely against the folded paper.

Next, place the following piece of fabric RST onto the pieces already sewn, on the side of the solid line between parts #1 and #3.

Again, make sure the piece extends beyond the solid lines of that part.

Flip the block and sew on the solid line.

Again, with the right side of the paper facing you, place a note card against the next line you will sew...

... fold paper back onto the card exposing the seam you will trim to ensure it measures 1/4".

Trim using the ruler and the rotary cutter.

Flip it and align next piece of fabric to that edge you have just trimmed, as it will be sewn on solid line between parts #3 and #4.

Make sure new piece of fabric, again, goes beyond the solid lines all around.

By now you got it. Repeat same steps until you have sewn all the pieces to form the block.

Finally, with right side of the paper facing you, trim the block, placing the 1/4" mark of your ruler onto the outer solid lines, trimming it all around.

You can now join all blocks together. Do not remove the paper until blocks are joined to the rest of your work, which will ensure the edges of the blocks are secure and won't distort. When removing paper next to seems, you may want to use tweezers.

Wouldn't it be nicer if this picture had not been rotated? Ai, ai, ai... But I think you can see how nicely the blocks join together...
Was this tutorial helpful? Let me know, and send me your questions!


  1. This was good! I'd still like to have you in my sewing room for the first time or two LOL!

  2. Thanks, Kathy! I am sure that after you do one block you will become a pro! Just go for it! On the other hand, I love quilting with friends - so I will finish this comment and go pack my stuff! :-)

  3. Is beautifool! congratulations!!!!

  4. I love your tutorial - I took a class this past spring and now have four more blocks to finish, but of course, I'd forgotten exactly how to get a block started - now I can refer to your steps - thank you! Mary Ann @ I'm you're newest follower :-) I found you via Totally Tutorials

  5. Thanks for the 'refresher course'! I'll begin working on a Double Wedding Ring pp quilt soon. Certain I will refer to this again.

  6. Hello,
    thank you for all the information and step by step photos.

  7. Great tutorial, thanks. I am thrilled that I found this great book at my local thrift store last week for $1.00!!! Now only if my machine wasn't in the shop I could start having some fun.

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