Sunday, 11 January 2015

Foundation Paper Piecing - Tips From a Beginner to a Beginner

Foundation Paper Piecing Beginner Tips

For some time now I have wanted to try foundation paper piecing. There's something about being able to create all those cute little shapes and angles that are just too darn hard to do with standard machine piecing. As with most things on my never ending To Do list though, foundation piecing kept getting pushed further and further down the line. That is, until the other day when it was raised in discussion over at The Sew Quilty Workshop. I couldn't hold off any longer. I simply had to give it a bash.

Lucky for me, I'd already been reading into foundation piecing and had saved this fantastic tutorial by Amy Dickson at Stitchory Dickory Dock (Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial). If you're new to this style of piecing, I highly recommend giving Amy's tutorial a try. It was easy to follow and gave great results. I'm sure there are others out there, with a variety of different techniques, but this is a great starting point.

I decided to jump in head first and, instead of starting with a nice, simple, tradition block like any sane person would, I went straight for the one I've been eyeing off for months. The Lone Starburst available for free on Craftsy.

After a quick dig around my stash, I found some colourful scraps that were perfect for this pattern.
Halfway through the star
Halfway through my first piece
Looking pretty cool, right?

I actually found the technique quite simple, though a little fiddly. You have to think differently than standard piecing and it sometimes feels like you're working backwards. After the first few seams though, you quickly get the hang of it.
Completed Star
Completed Star
Here are some hints I followed that really helped the process:
  • Before sewing, I perforated the paper by machine sewing along every line with an unthreaded needle and shorter than normal stitch length. This made it really easy to fold along the seam lines. It also helped when removing the paper at the end.
  • Quadruple check fabric placement before sewing. On more than one occasion I found myself unpicking because I'd either sewn the wrong seam, or had the fabric positioned in a way that wouldn't cover the required area.
  • Keep the iron close the the sewing machine so you don't have to keep moving from one to the other. I'm sure finger pressing the seams would work too, but I love the nice, crisp lines that can only be achieved with a good hot pressing.
  • The paper pattern is actually a mirror image of the final piece. I didn't realise this so my star is actually mirrored to the image I had in my head. It's not really a problem in this particular case, but definitely worth remembering in the future.
  • The star isn't pieced all at once. As with standard piecing, you sew individual sections that are then sewn together to make the whole block. I didn't know you were supposed to keep the papers in so, for the first half, I removed the paper before sewing my sections together. For the second half, I kept the paper in until the very end. I'm not sure which method I prefer, to be honest. The first one seemed to make it easier to remove the paper, the second seemed to be slightly more accurate. I'm sure you're 'supposed' to leave the paper in but I'll keep trying both methods until I know which works best for me.
Anywho, that was my first experience with foundation piecing. I can honestly say it was a very enjoyable experience too. A little fiddly, but I wouldn't say difficult. Especially if you start on a slightly easier block than I did. I'm very much in love with this technique and can see it being used a lot in my future quilting.

What about you? Are you keen to try some foundation paper piecing?


  1. I tried it once on a couple of easy patterns and it's not for me! I hated itand found it too time consuming with all the back and forth and the fabric wastage-- yikes!! I do plan on doing it again for my Kitten mini swap mini though. Maybe I'll decide to like it this time around...

    1. There is definitely a fabric waste element to it. I'm not a fan of having to cut accurately though so this method really appeals hahaha. I think the best part about it is simply the wider variety of shapes and angles you can do. I couldn't really see the point in doing it for, say, a rail fence quilt block unless it was particularly teeny tiny. It did seem like an easier technique for extra small blocks. It'd drive me nuts to do it if there wasn't some advantage over normal piecing though, so I doubt I'll suddenly be FPP'ing everything LOL

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks so much :D I had a great time making it. Can't wait to try a few more patterns.

  3. Thanks for sharing Amy Dicksons tutorial - I tried it and it made a lot of sense. Just think of the possibilities - I'm going for some lettering next!

    1. It was a great tutorial, wasn't it? I think I'm going to try an animal next :D