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Paper Piecing Tips

A Few Tips to Help You Make Paper Pieced Quilts and Quilt Blocks

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Paper Piecing Tips

Some blocks can be paper pieced in sections. Segments are sewn together to complete the block.

© Janet Wickell
Paper piecing is the term typically used to describe a form of foundation piecing, where fabrics are sewn to a marked temporary or permanent template -- the foundation. Use our paper piecing tips to quick-start your paper pieced quilts, but if you're not familiar with the technique, be sure to read Paper Piecing Basics before you begin to sew.

Paper Pieced Seam Allowances

  • Trim back seam allowances to an even width after you sew each seam, or you'll end up with thick bunches of unruly fabric.

  • Don't worry if the raw edges of fabric don't match exactly when you're positioning patches to sew a seam--you'll trim them back after sewing.

  • If paper piecing is new to you, cut your patches a little larger than necessary. Add roughly 3/8" to each finished edge instead of 1/4". Once you're accustomed to the technique you can work with less of an estimated seam allowance.

Working with Mirror Image Shapes

  • The block image is drawn on the front of the template, but paper pieced patterns are sewn to the reverse side of the template, making each block a mirror image of the drawing. That doesn't matter if the block is symmetrical, but keep in mind that asymmetrical blocks will have a flip-flopped appearance. Compensate by creating a mirror image template when you want to reverse the block image.

Removing Bits of Fabric

  • Keep a pair of tweezers on hand for removing small bits of temporary foundations from your paper pieced blocks.

  • Use short stitches to help perforate papers and keep seams intact when papers are removed.

Segment Piecing

  • Sometimes it's not possible to paper piece a block as one unit, but many blocks can be divided and paper pieced in segments. The drawing on this page illustrates a block that can be pieced by completing three segments, then sewing segments together.

Change Needles Often

  • When you paper piece, your needle becomes dull as it passes through extra layers that often include paper. Change your needle before each new project, sooner if necessary.

Have fun with paper piecing and remember that patch sizes in most patterns are estimates. Go ahead an use slightly larger scraps, you'll remove the excess when you trim seams. For slightly smaller scraps, position the fabric with less of an overlap to create narrower seam allowances.

Still not sure about paper piecing? Tips will make more sense after you read paper piecing basics and practice the technique by paper piecing a log cabin block.

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