Fabric Scraps Obsession, Studio

Experimenting with Foundation Paper Piecing

A series of words I never thought I would write in a blog post: “Foundation Paper Piecing”.

If you are not a quilter, foundation piecing is using pre-printed paper/specialty papers to sew precise shapes using a sort of “flip and stitch” method. Foundation piecing allows you to work with tiny pieces of fabric to get precise shapes.

Yes that sounds kind of complicated and I have avoided it for years for this reason. Of course I never thought I would attempted English Paper Piecing (EPP) but as you can see from my series of posts – Adventures in English Paper Piecing – I am addicted to it.

I had one previous experience with foundation piecing and I keep it in a tiny frame in my studio.

My extremely talented quilter sister-in-law Sue attempted in the early 2000s to teach me to foundation piece while visiting us when we lived in Seattle, WA.

We made a little sailboat block:

Tiny little sailboat block in a tiny frame in my studio

She was a very patient teacher and I keep the framed block as a special memory of our time together working on a project. However it is now 2017 and I am returning (like 15 years later?!??!) to trying foundation paper piecing again!

As a crafter, you learn through experimentation (sometimes it feels everything I work on is an experiment, ha!) and if you don’t push yourself to take risks you will not grow as a crafter. So experiment I did and here is the story.

Foundation Paper Piecing Experimentation

A couple blog posts ago (Basket of Challenges) I wrote about my “challenge bags” – collections of coordinate scraps given to me by other crafters. Since taking them out of closed storage containers and putting them into a large basket in my studio, I am inspired to open them up and do another “challenge” (see what I can make with them).

My friend and quilting-sister Dana made me the lovely bag for my yarn/portable knitting:

Photo does not do it justice, it is lovely!

The picture does not do it justice. She reverse engineered a bag she saw on Pinterest (she is a crafting-goddess) to make this bag from a collection of shot cottons.

In addition to the bag, she also gave me her scraps from making the bag:

Fresh out of the challenge bag

I had them of course sitting in a “challenge bag” and decided they would be perfect for my experimentation with foundation paper piecing.

Looking through my archives of patterns of “projects-I-am-really-going-to-make-someday”, I found this pattern with pre-printed pattern paper (sort of the texture of tissue paper but stronger, like used for clothing patterns):

The copyright is 2001 on this pattern

You can tell how dated the pattern is  – how many of us read small paperback books anymore (you could convert this pattern into a cute kindle cover though)? I think I bought it in the very early 2000s. The pattern comes with enough tissue foundation paper to make twenty-four 3″ blocks.

I began with cutting a bunch of the little foundation papers from the pattern; and ironing the scraps:

There are 6 different patterns: Odd Fellow’s Star, Mosaic, Pinwheel, Starry Path, Square on Square, and Dutchman’s Puzzle
All nicely pressed and ready for experimentation!

The next step was to watch several foundation piecing videos I found on YouTube. My favorite, and the one that really made things click in my mind, was Paper Piecing Made Easy Tutorial by the CraftyGemini.

I decided to work on the “Square on Square” pattern, so it was time to start the experiment. I am happy to report it worked, though I struggled a little with removing the paper from the back of the piece when I was done foundation piecing:

I used tiny stitches as the videos instructed in order to perforated the template paper to make it easier to remove, but still it took a while to get all those tiny pieces off the back
The completed block – I added a little border to it as I was not too sure about the stability of the edges of the paper pieced block

You can see just how small this little block is in this photo, imagine trying to traditionally piece (via sewing very tiny little pieces together) this block:


I bordered it with more of the scrap shot cottons from the challenge bag:

With a 1.5″ border added

I plan to make a little pillow out of it, like the little pillows on this post – More Creating – More Art Pillows. I plan to hand quilt it and I am trying to decide between two quilting threads, but I am leaning towards the very light and thin DMC embroidery thread in brown:

Likely going with the DMC thread on the left instead of the Aurifil

Am I going to do another one (I do have 23 more blocks I can foundation piece with this pattern set)?

Not right now, I need to emotionally recover as honestly it was kind of stressful to make the tiny little block via foundation piecing. Also shot cotton might not have been the best fabric to work with for foundation piecing as it is thin and friable. I might make the rest of the blocks with batik scraps.

I think foundation piecing will be a great skill to have in my “quilting toolbelt” but for now I am happy to have made just one!

21 thoughts on “Experimenting with Foundation Paper Piecing”

  1. Funny that we both joined the FPP club this year. I doubt I will use it a lot, but I’ve already done more with it than anticipated, and have another big medallion center block lined up for when I have time. I’ll probably never go tiny, as you did here — how precious! And yes, good idea to stabilize the block sides with a straight-edged border. Nice work, Tierney.

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    1. Why thank you! I am wondering if I will ever finish the other 23 – maybe take them to a quilt retreat as I will be too distracted by ANYTHING ELSE (even searching for lint in the sofa cushions) if I try to work on them at home 🙂 We can be those FPP Club members that never show up for the monthly meetings but come for the annual picnic – ha!

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  2. FPP can give you amazingly accurate results; the down side is removing that pesky paper. I recommend you give this a try: I use a product called Do Sew (learned from Linda Fiedler and probably ordered from Nancy’s Notions). A similar product available at Hobby Lobby is called Bridal Aisle–which is actually used as a runner to put down for the bridal party to walk on.
    Cut the DS or BA into page-sized pieces and attach to printer paper by running a little glue stick or tape near the leading edge of the paper. Load this paper into your printer and copy your FPP patterns. Remove the DS or BA from the paper and sew on this INSTEAD of paper and you can leave it in your block. I love foundation piecing but will never use paper again. This is a breeze. Hope you will try this.

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    1. Wow Martha that sounds like a great idea – and being able to leave it on the block! It seems like removing paper from the back of FPP is a hobby within itself 🙂


  3. Yep; it is good to know how to do many things so that when the need comes we can. Doesn’t mean we can’t use alternatives as much as possible. 🙂 I traditional piece unless I want VERY narrow points.

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  4. Beautiful paper piecing! I have a love hate relationship with it myself. I love the extremely accurate and sharp results. I hat the amount of cutting and wasted fabric. It is definitely a skill we quilters need to know though. Happy days from Arizona to you!

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    1. Thank you Tracy, we are kindred spirits on paper piecing! There is a super gorgeous quilt pattern I have in my binder of “patterns-I-would-love-to-possibly-make-someday” and it is all paper piecing with those super sharp long points! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

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  5. Gorgeous gorgeous!!!! I like trying a variety of crafts. While I may not actively pursue them all on a regular basis they do add a touch of excitement and wonderment that make life interesting.

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