This is a compilation of QUILTNET postings about foundation paper piecing.
All comments are the OPINIONS of the person who posted the
Foundation Paper Piecing FAQ
... from Jean
This type of piecing us usually done on a foundation of fabric
or paper, then sewn on the machine. If using paper foundation,
it is torn away after sewing. You can also do it by hand if
using a muslin backing and then it would not be removed.
If the pattern you have is paper you need to lay the fabric of
your choice for piece #1 over the area it is to cover, and the
lines are on the back side so you can sew on the line between
number 1 &2. Then trim that seam to 1/4 in. Then take the
fabric for area #2 and sew it on the line between number 2 &3.
and so on and so on, trimming away the seams after each section
is sewn on. Needless to say this type is very hard to describe.
The back side of the fabric goes against the back side of the
marked paper, then sew on the marks.
But, there is a wonderful new book out called "Easy Machine
Paper Piecing" by 'That Patchwork Place", at $19.95. I saw
it my fabric store, but ordered mine from AQS at discount.
... from Melissa
You'll actually be building the block on the back/wrong side of the
paper. On the back of the paper, place a piece of fabric over shape #1,
wrong side DOWN, to completely cover the shape, plus seam allowances. It
helps if you hold it up to the light to see through the paper. Shape #1 is
the ONLY time you will place the fabric right side up. Now choose the
piece for shape #2, and place it right side down on top of #1 (right sides
together). Turn the whole thing over so that the fabric is under the paper,
and sew along the line on the paper between shapes 1 and 2, plus a stitch
or two at either end. Now flip piece #2 over and press or finger-press it
open. Trim the seam allowance along your seam to 3/8" or so. You can
actually use any size piece of fabric you want for these shapes because you
will trim each seam allowance as you go, so you needn't trim to fit before
Keep doing this with each shape until you are done. I then run a
basting line all around the block, just outside of the 1/4" seam allowance
line, to hold down the outer pieces, and trim off the excess outside the
1/4" line real carefully. When you go to put these babies together, the
matching of seams must be real precise or else you get messed up real
Now you can pull the paper off--or leave it in if you prefer. If
you use a larger than necessary needle size and a tiny stitch length, I'm
told the perforations are easier to tear, making it much easier to get the
paper out. I prefer to use the rubber stamps for these things, stamped on
muslin. You get a stiff block, but can trim seams down to 1/8", and don't
have to diddle with pulling out paper.
... from Tammy
I've done LOTS of paper piecing. This is something that really
clicks like a light bulb if you see it in person, demonstrated, but it IS
possible to get it by reading the instructions. Take the piece of paper,
hold it up to the light with the printed side towards you. Put your first piece
of fabric, WRONG side to the paper, on the PLAIN side. As you hold it up to
the light, you'll se the shadow of the fabric. Make sure the edge of the
fabric sticks up above the stitching line, approx. 1/4". Pin this in place.
Hold your piece up again, and take your second strip of fabric. With
RIGHT SIDES together, place this second strip over the first, with the edges
hanging over the seam line. Pin. Now, you are going to stick this sandwich
under your presser foot with the printed lines &pins up, facing you, but
the fabric will be underneath, on the bottom, against the feed dogs. You
stitch on the line. Take out the pins. Turn the paper over, and flip strip #2 to
be right side up. Press. You now have 2 pieces of your pattern sewn down. Add
strip #3 the same way: Hold the paper up to a light, paper towards you,
place the #3 strip of fabric RIGHT side DOWN AGAINST the previous strips. Make
sure at least 1/4" hangs over the next seam line. Pin on the paper side, then
sew on the next line.
The advantage to this is you CAN use big old hunks of fabric, then when
you're ready to flip them to the right side, you can trim up the seam
allowances underneath, etc. After you have all the lines sewn, you trim up
the edges of fabric even with the paper patch, then pull the paper off
along the stitching, which will act as perforation.
... from Carol
Best advice I ever got about paper piecing is to make very short stitches
when you sew. That way the paper backing practically becomes perforated
and is much, much easier to remove at the end. (Also, of course, if you
goof it is almost impossible to take the stitches out, but the blocks are
so small you don't feel awful about tossing one or two!)
After I sew two fabrics together I trim the seam to 1/8" or so and usually
just finger press it rather than using an iron.
... from Sylvia
Just a tip:
Do you find it hard to trace your blocks onto paper or muslin? You might
try a home-made light table. A glass or plastic cutting board propped up
by books works wonderfully. Use a small nightlight for illumination. A
new glass cutting board (12x15) will probably run under $7 at a
discount store. An old used one should work as well. You just need to
make sure the board has at least one smooth side.
... from Jane
I second the comments on the FUN of foundation paper piecing. When
else could you piece a fan block (for example) in five minutes?
And folks look at the finished product and think that you have
taken hours with those little bitty pieces. If they only knew...
... from Barbara
Just some advice to those of you who do foundations with muslin or some of
the other stuff that's out there ---- freezer paper, etc.
The best paper to use for copying your foundations is tracing paper, which
you can buy at any art supply store. It's translucent, so you can see
through it to see the alignment of the pieces as you sew them. It's thin
enough that it comes right off when you go to tear it after completion.
Muslin creates another layer of fabric ---- another layer you must quilt
through, etc. Foundation piecing is meant to make your life easier and
simpler -- tracing paper works really well. Get Carol Doak's book "Easy
Machine Paper Piecing", and you'll see how this can work.
It's a great method once you get the hang of it.
... from Sylia
Anybody had a similar experience?
I've been piecing 3-inch pineapple blocks using both tracing paper and a
fine, 200-count cotton. I thought I'd try the fabric foundation because I
didn't want the extra job of tearing out the paper. Well, lo and
behold...the fabric foundation distorted whereas the paper remained true!
Does muslin hold its form better.
... from Linda
From my viewpoint, the muslin foundations are wonderful FOR HAND
PIECING. The paper foundations are not good for hand piecing
because your stitches will not cut the paper such that it will be "easy"
to remove. I love using paper foundations for sewing machine
piecing. I just finished a small wallhanging for a silent auction using a
3" Virginia Reel (aka snails trail) pattern and paper piecing. It went
together beautifully, and the time it took to remove the paper in no
way added up to the frustration and time it would have taken to try to
do this block without it; the accuracy was perfect.
... from Melissa
I have had fine luck with muslin and also with a thinner polyester
(my DH's thin old dress shirt) as foundation.
I tried stitch &tear interfacing. It didn't.
I tried dissolve-in-water interfacing. It didn't.
Recently, I tried tracing paper (a la Carol Doak) and really liked
it. But I may not use paper for 3" blocks due to the nuisamce factor
pulling all those little pieces off.
... from Jan
Another paper source for maching paper piecing is kitchen parchment -
the paper you can use to line cookie sheets with. I'm just beginning with
this kind of piecing so I'v stiched several small blocks on several
different types of paper, but haven't gotten to the point of tearing it
away yet. The parchment seems as though it would tear away quite easily.
On the other hand, I like the convenience and accuracy of photo copying.
Anybody found a lightweight paper that can be used in a copier and that
won't jam up? Soon I hope simply to scan the templates into my system and
simply print them on my laser printer. Again, what's the lightest weight
paper that can be used in a laser printer without problems?
... from Jean
Run, run, run to your nearest quilt shop and get Carol Doak's
Easy Machine Paper Piecing book, by the Patchwork Place. Or you can use
muslin if doing it by hand. Or you can buy rubber stamps for $18 each if
you just have to have a very special pattern. Or you can make them on your
computer and print them out by the dozens. Or you can take a master block
stack it up on several other papers and unthread your machine and sew on the
lines thru the whole stack. Great fun and it's a wonferful book. :-)
... from Marylou
I learned all I know, (precious little) about foundation piecing from a
wonderful book called *Sewing on the Line* published by that Patchwork
Place. I have found it to be helpful to me.
... from Anne
When I paper piece, I reduce my stitch length (from 2.5 to 1.5, usually).
This makes it really easy to take the paper off when I'm done. It makes it
really hard to "unstitch" but since I never make a mistake...
I just xerox as many as I need of the pattern and sew right on the xerox
paper. It works fine. Dulls the needle, though.
... from Jennifer
Janeen said she likes the accuracy of photocopying the patterns for
paper piecing. It is not always accurate. I tested 3 copiers at school with
the same pattern and only one came out accurate. You need to be careful
when copying. Don't make a lot of them on one machine until you have
checked the size. One of the copiers I used made the copy exact across the
8 1/2 way of the paper but made it longer the 11 way. The other one
reduced the whole pattern slightly. If you can find a copier that
reproduces accurately, it is a great way to go.
... from Diane
I want to add another suggestion for an excellent paper for Foundation
Piecing : Examining Table paper, like they use at the gyno's office! It's
just the right weight, tears easily and works great!
You don't need to save pieces every time you go for a check up ;) you can
buy a big roll at a medical supply store for next to nothing!!
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