Sarah Ashford is with us today sharing a foundation paper piecing tutorial designed just for beginners! If you’ve never foundation paper pieced before then you might like to give today’s tutorial a try! Foundation Paper Piecing is a quilting skill that I wanted to learn, so I asked Sarah to write a tutorial geared just for beginners. She has included with her tutorial a free pattern for a kite quilt block.
While I was in high school I was lucky enough to take a series of sewing classes. One of the class units covered quilting, and I made my first quilt while I was a senior in high school. After that, I didn’t make another quilt for YEARS. Other than that high school class, I am mostly a self-taught quilter. What Iknow I’ve learned from books, online tutorials and lots of trial and error. Recently I decided that I’d like to learn how to foundation paper piece.
What is Paper Piecing?
I knew that today’s contributor Sarah was a pro at paper piecing and asked her (quite selfishly) if she’d consider writing a beginner paper piecing tutorial for this months’ project. I was so excited when she agreed! If you’re not aware foundation paper piecing is a method that uses patterns printed on paper to piece quilt blocks. You actually sew on the paper and the fabric at the same time. Using this technique you can achieve more accurate and intricate quilt block patterns.
Beginners Guide to Foundation Paper Piecing
Sarah sent me the tutorial last week, and I spent the weekend trying it out. I have to admit that I was stumped at first, it took one or two tries to get it right, but soon it “clicked” and I was able to quickly stitch up 4 quilt blocks!
Here you can see my 4 blocks! I stitched them up using a bit of Derby Day fabric and plan to turn this into a mini quilt. Wouldn’t this kite quilt block also make an adorable baby quilt?
Like Sarah mentions in her tutorial, the technique is a little counter-intuitive. Just be patient with yourself and give it a try!
Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial
Hi! Sarah here. I’ve been busy designing lots of foundation paper pieced patterns recently and so I thought it would be fun to write a little tutorial on how to foundation paper piece. (FPP)
Tutorial for Paper Pieced Kite Quilt Block:
As with many things in life, there’s more than one way to do things, and with FPP there are different ways to piece your blocks. I wanted to share with you the way I do it, which is the way I learned several years ago and is the way that makes the most sense to me, as believe me, the technique can seem a little counter-intuitive and confusing to start with!
Basically, I trim each section of the block first before adding the next block and trimming again. Another way of doing it is by oversizing both blocks, then trimming them after you’ve sewn them together. Either way, the results are the same…perfect seams, matching points and a lovely crisp look to your patchwork! Once you get the hang of it, you’ll love it.
I’ve designed this super simple Kite block to show you step by step. You will need:
- Foundation pattern – click HERE to download the KITE PATTERN.
- Foundation paper (optional) or regular printer paper
- Fabric scraps larger than the sections of the block
- Coloured pens
- Rotary cutter
- Add a Quarter’ Ruler (optional) or regular acrylic ruler
- Sewline pen
- Embroidery scissors
- Sewing Machine
- Cutting Mat
- Other regular sewing supplies
Here are a few notes before we get started.
I really like to use foundation paper piecing paper, as it’s thinner, and makes it much easier to remove the papers when you’ve finished your block. But if you don’t have it, regular printer paper is fine.
When you stitch through the paper, use a short stitch length. This makes it easier to remove the papers later.
I also love my ‘Add a Quarter’ ruler which has a grove on it that sits beautifully against the paper and the fabric, allowing me to much more easily cut my 1/4” seam really accurately each time. But you can use a regular ruler. You just have to take care that it doesn’t slip as you will be placing it on top of the paper and the fabric.
A postcard or thick piece of paper is really handy for folding back the paper accurately. I learned this way and wouldn’t be without it!
I’ve recently discovered the marvel that is the Sewline Glue pen for starting off Foundation Paper Piecing. It’s such a good idea as it allows you to lightly stick the fabric to the paper without creating bulk by using pins. But this is optional, and you can use a pin to secure your first piece in place. If you do, try to avoid glass head pins, and use a pin with a small head so that everything lies a flat as possible. All will make sense in a minute!
Once you’ve printed off your pattern, cut out each section, making sure to keep the 1/4” seam all around. Start with the section labeled block A1, A2, A3 etc then move on to B1, B2, B3 etc. as this will be the order that you are going to piece the block.
I find it useful to lay out the block in the order that it’s going to appear and to roughly colour in each section according to what colour I want it to be. This makes it much easier when it comes to piecing as you can instantly select the right fabric for the right section.
Starting with section A1, take a piece of fabric that is larger than this section. Using the Sewline pen, place a small amount of glue on the REVERSE side of the pattern on section A1, and stick the fabric so that the right side is up. Your block is going to be created on the back of your pattern. (This is where it can get confusing at first, so please, take your time!)
Next you are going to trim the fabric to the size of the A1 section BUT with a ¼ inch seam all around. Take your postcard and fold back the first line and create a nice crisp seam.
Now, using your ruler, trim a quarter inch seam. Do this for all the sides of sections A1.
Section A1 is now the correct size with an accurate 1/4” seam all the way around. Clever huh!
Now moving on to section A2. This piece of fabric needs to be bigger than the size of the section. Always go quite a bit bigger as it’s very frustrating if you find it’s not big enough when you’ve sewn it as unpicking tiny stitches through paper is a pain. (Yes I speak from experience!) The best way to ensure this is to hold it up to the light to check the fabric covers the whole section and a 1/4” seam allowance all around.
Use a rotary cutter to create a straight line down one side and line it up with the A1 section, RIGHT sides together. (This is the bit where you can completely overlap the sections and trim afterward if you prefer.)
Turn the pattern right side up and stitch down the line between section A1 and A2, remembering to use a short stitch length.
Flip the paper over and iron section A2 into position.
Flip back to the pattern side and repeat, by using your postcard and Add a quarter ruler to cut out section A2.
That’s your first two sections accurately sewn together! Now repeat the same steps for A3.
Cut your section larger than necessary. Cut a straight line down one side. Place right sides together with section A2. Flip over and stitch on the line using a short stitch length. Flip and iron into position. Flip and trim your 1/4” seams.
Keep going till you have completed all of section A.
Look how perfect, accurate and crisp it is!
Repeat the same process for section B. In this Kite pattern sections C and D aren’t pieced, so that keeps things simple!
The next job is to join the blocks together, which is just the usual way you would sew blocks together, pinning right sides together and using a 1/4” seam. You can use a regular stitch length for this bit.
What I like to do is tear away a little bit of the paper where you’re going to stitch the blocks together so that you can match up the seams accurately. I leave the majority of the paper in at this stage as it helps maintain the stability of the blocks.
Stitch all the blocks together then you can carefully remove the papers by tearing them away. It should come away easily but if you have any bits that are tricky to get out you can use a pair of tweezers to get them out.
Look how perfectly pieced your block looks!
And even the back is perfect!
Now all I need to do for my kite block is add some ribbon tails with a bit of hand embroidery 🙂
Happy Foundation Paper Piecing! You may find it tricky at first but persevere to get the hang of it and you will have beautiful, accurate results every time!
About the Maker:
Sarah Ashford is a British Quilter and embroiderer and founder of the GreatBritishQuilter challenge on Instagram. Sarah regularly contributes projects to magazines and loves to spread the joy of quilting everywhere she goes. Follow her on Instagram at @sarahashfordstudio and be sure to check out her beautiful sewing room decals in her etsy shop www.etsy.com/shop/