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Five Pointers for Novice Paper Piecers

Quilting is often what I consider precision artwork. Taking large pieces of fabric and cutting them into bits and pieces to develop a visually pleasing large piece with perfect points and sweet curves is a process that can make the heart sing. Until it doesn’t. When the curves are squiggly and the points are askew, you might find yourself thinking about foundation paper piecing–an old idea made new again.

I personally love all types of piecing, but when I want my points perfectly precise, cough, cough, wink, wink, I try to incorporate paper piecing in my process. So here I have a few tips for you if you are considering using paper patterns in your future projects.

1. Start this journey with bigger blocks that have bigger patches. The security of the printed papers we can find today makes us believe that we can make anything of any size right out of the gate. However, paper piecing requires us to think a little backward and to not waste our beautiful fabrics, do some careful cutting and trimming. So the first time you use them you may want some security.

2. Give yourself the luxury of time. This is a skill that takes time to learn, and it requires a few more steps than paperless piecing. Paper piecing can produce very intricate and pointy blocks that just make you ecstatic, but there are many little additional steps that help this happen, and those steps suck time. For example, it makes lining your fabric up for the seaming easier if you crease all the lines on the paper before you sew. Then you need to trim seams and press as you go. In the end, the paper has to be removed. TIME!

3. Decrease your stitch length. I use a 2.5 stitch length on my machine for almost everything quilty, but when I paper piece, I lower it to 1.5 You will be trimming and cutting across seams that you do not want to pop apart later. Also, you will be removing the papers once the blocks are made. Shorter stitches help with this process as well.

4. Use a paper foundation that is printed or can be printed on that is thin enough you can tear the paper away quickly when the block is complete. The unit papers that are produced by It's Sew Emma are lovely. They have several units and blocks in a variety of sizes and the directions for cutting and sewing are very clear. You can find videos on YouTube to help you as well.

5. And finally, press, press, press. Many people use seam rollers when paper piecing to save the need to move to the iron or set up a pressing station close by. However, in the beginning, you get much better results when you press as you go. Use a very hot iron and gently open the fabric out and carefully press the seam. Once the block is finished and the paper is removed, give the whole thing a good final press.

So there you have it. My first five tips for successful paper piecing. I hope they help you to be successful with the precision of paper piecing.

Do you have any tips to add? I look forward to reading them in the comments.


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Delores Woodhurst
Delores Woodhurst
Feb 08, 2022

These are great tips, Mary! It makes me want to go do some paper piecing!

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