Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial
What is Foundation Paper Piecing?
Foundation paper piecing is a technique where you stitch pieces of fabric to paper and once the block is completed the paper is then removed before quilting. There are several types of paper you can use to Foundation Paper Piece but using copier paper is the most common and is what I will explain here, copier paper is also the easiest method to begin with.
FPP is a great skill to have and enables you to create complex patterns very easily.
Tools You Will Need
- Sewing Machine
- Copier Paper to print the pattern
- A quilting ruler or Add a Quarter ruler
- An old store card/scrap piece of card/flat ruler for folding the pattern segments
- Seam ripper (we all have one of those don't we?!)
- Light box if you have one or you can use a window.
Tips for Foundation Paper Piecing
Here are some tips that I have found useful for foundation paper piecing:
Shorten your stitch length - having a shorter stitch length helps when ripping the paper out when the block is finished, I use a 1.4 stitch length when using regular copier paper.
To back stitch or not? - I have seen many tutorials that say you should back stitch at the beginning and end of your stitches however, I never back stitch, this will add bulk to your seams that you do not really want with FPP and by removing the paper as suggested below, backstitching is not necessary. This is however, a personal choice of mine and if you are a beginner you may feel more comfortable backstitching to begin with.
Open toe foot - this is not vital but it will allow you to see the stitch lines more clearly, if you don't have an open toe foot a regular foot will work just as well.
Stitch Speed - If your sewing machine allows, reduce the speed, it is very easy to veer off the stitch line so by reducing the speed it will help to achieve more accuracy.
Matching seams - when matching a tricky seam, basting is advisable, I usually set my stitch length to the standard 2.5 stitch length on my machine, basting allows you see whether your seams will line up as they should and if they don't it is much easier to rip out a larger stitch!
Pattern Sizes - pattern sizes are given and true when the pattern is incomplete however it is important to note that by adding fabric, thread and then joining sections together the pattern can indeed shrink, albeit slightly, so it is advisable to have excess fabric on the outer borders, this will ensure that, when you finish your block, you can trim it to the required size and not be left with a slightly smaller block than expected.
Removing the paper - always rip the paper slowly from the innermost part of the pattern segment towards the outer edges. This will prevent any stitches coming undone at the edges. If you do not intend using the block straight away, store it with the paper intact until you are ready to use it.
Lastly, pay attention - this seems so obvious, but it is very easy to jump from one segment to the next only to find you have done the wrong one (trust me, I have done this many time), with FPP it is important to follow the number of each segment to make sure they are done in the correct order.
Understanding Foundation Paper Piecing Patterns
The first thing to note about paper piecing patterns is that they are completed in reverse, essentially you work the pattern from the back which can take a bit of getting used to.
Paper piecing patterns are divided into sections and segments. Sections usually have letters A, B, C etc and segments have numbers, 1, 2, 3 and so on. So for example Section A would have segments A1, A2, A3, A4 etc. The numbers determine the order in which they are sewn. Each pattern will have instructions on how to assemble the finished sections together.
- When joining fabric to paper it is WRONG sides together and when joining fabric to fabric it is RIGHT sides together.
- Cut lines are usually identified by a broken line and stitch lines are usually solid.
Preparing to Sew
Firstly, print out all the pieces required at 100% or Actual Size to ensure you are getting the correct finished block size, if you need a different size than supplied, check out my resizing guide here.
All of Full Bobbin Designs patterns come with a colouring page, this can be useful when planning your fabric placement and will give you an idea of how it will look when completed.
Cut out all the section pieces. On occasion some sections need to be attached together as they are printed over 2 or more pages when they are too big to fit on 1 A4 piece of paper. Instructions are provided in all my patterns to help you with this.
Once all the pieces are cut out, go ahead and either colour the segments to match your design or write on the segments the names/colours of your fabric choices. It is quite easy to stitch the wrong fabric in the wrong place, this is another experience I have encountered too many times!
You can, if you wish to, cut out all the fabric for each segment before stitching but I have never found this approach to be any quicker.
With most FPP patterns it does not matter in what order you complete the sections as they wil be joined together once all the individual sections are complete.
How to Foundation Paper Piece
For this tutorial I am using this free Love Heart pattern which is great for beginners as it is completed from start to finish as one section with no seams to match. I will do another tutorial for joining sections together at a later date.
With your pattern cut out, coloured in and fabrics selected, let's get started:
1. With your pattern find segment A1
2. Cut a piece of fabric that completely covers and extends at least 1/4" passed the solid stitch line. You can check this by holding the paper up to a window, bright light or light box if you have one. ***Remember to place the wrong side of the fabric to the wrong side of the pattern.***
3. Once you have confirmed that the fabric fits you can pin it in place. I like to pin in the seam allowance as this will prevent seeing any unsighly pin marks. You could also use a water soluble glue.
4. Next identify where A2 is and take your piece of card and place it along the solid between A1 and A2 and fold back the paper to form a crease.
5. Next trim the seam allowance of A1 to 1/4" using your ruler or Add a Quarter ruler.
6. With the paper still folded back take your fabric for segment A2 and align it with the edge of A1. Again you use a light box or window to check the fabric covers the next segment. ***Remember to place right sides of fabric together.***
7. Open the paper up and stitch along the solid line, starting just before where the line begins and finishing just after it ends.
8. Next turn the pattern over, fabric side up.
9. Fold the fabric over so that the right side is facing up. You can finger press the seam or press with a dry iron.
10. Repeat steps 4 to 9 for the remaining segments A3, A4, A5 etc.
11. Now you have a completed block, press and trim to the correct size.
What will you make with yours?
If you have any questions please contact me.