Simple Paper Piecing Tutorial


PAPER PIECING ONLINE

If paper piecing scares you, this is the web page for you.  Print out the pattern (click the word “pattern” below), find a few scraps and test it out.  When complete this block (when I print it out it is an 8″ block.  Who knows what you’ll get!) is ideal for turning into a pot holder or trivet.  Make enough of them and you could end up with a quilt.  Hey – it could happen.

I’ve included pictures of just about every step except when I stop to scratch my nose or rethread my machine, so you ought to be able to follow what’s going on.  If you get lost, start over.  Simple.

Here’s what you need to get started:

scraps of flower petal colors
scraps of green

scraps of blue or other background (if you have a 10″ square of each of these you have way more than you’ll need.)

a paper piecing pattern on regular old typing paper (if you don’t have a printer, hold a piece of paper up to the screen, and trace the pattern with a pencil).  Try to make the lines reasonably straight, and pay attention to places where they intersect.

scissors

a good source of light
needle/thread or sewing machine
iron
seam ripper
cup of coffee or other refreshing beverage
fifteen minutes without interruptions
a nice massage – it won’t help with this block, but i know that you need one.

BEFORE WE BEGIN

Look at your pattern.  Look at my finished block.  Notice that you are in effect, looking at the back of your block-to-be when you look at the printed side of your pattern.  What you see right now is a mirror image of the finished block.  On our flower bud this makes very little difference, but on many blocks it can be very important.

OK LET’S SEW

Start by taking the color you’ve chosen for the center petal and eyeballing it against the size and shape of the area on the pattern marked ‘1’.  Cut a piece that’s at least 1/4″ larger on all sides than the actual area.

TEST FOR SIZE.  Remember to hold the fabric on the plain side of the paper with the print of the fabric (right side) out.  Hold it up to the light to verify that the fabric covers all lines.

Cut a piece of background fabric at least 1/4″ larger all around than the area marked ‘2’ on your pattern.

TEST FOR SIZE.  Remember again to hold the fabric on the plain side of the paper with the fabric print facing out.

Hold both pieces 1 and 2 in place against the pattern with fabric right side out on plain side of pattern.

Fold the pattern and fabric along the line between pieces 1 and 2.  don’t let the fabric move with respect to the pattern.

This is something you might have to do two or three times on the first several fabric placements to get the hang of it. If you need a crutch, use a tiny piece of double stick tape in the center of the pattern section, and stick the fabric to it so it stays easier.  This presents its own problems as you have to remember to remove the tape at some point, but you won’t need this expedient for long – you’ll turn pro and start thinking double stick tape is for babies!

Lay the pattern down on your table with the bulk of the printed side down.  Keep your fingers on the fabric so as to keep it from wiggling around.

Unfold the pattern so it lays flat.

Carefully unfold the background fabric from under itself and the petal fabric so that each is lying flat.  The petal fabric will be face up, the background will be face down.

If this isn’t what you have, just take a deep breath, and start over.  We’ll wait here.

Flip the pattern and fabric over so you can see the printed side of the pattern.  Slide it under your machine and stitch along the line between areas 1 and 2.  If you’re working by hand, just sew that line.  PLEASE NOTE:  I do not recommend using an infinitely tiny stitch length for paper piecing.  If your stitches are too close together your fabric will tear.  Use a normal to slightly short stitch length.  The paper will become more brittle the more it is pressed, and folding back and forth will be ample force to loosen up the paper.

Hold the pattern with printed side facing you.  Fold the corner you were sewing forward along the sewn line to expose the seam allowance.

Cut the excess fabric off leaving a 1/4″ seam.  Unfold the pattern.

Lay the pattern face down on your ironing board, open out the background.  Both the petal and background should be face up now.  Press.

Hold it up to the light again.

See?  You did it!  Both pieces completely cover their areas.

Cut a piece of background at least 1/4″ larger all the way around than area ‘3’.

TEST FOR SIZE.  Remember again to hold the fabric on the plain side of the paper with the fabric print facing out.

Hold piece 3 in place against the pattern with fabric right side out on plain side of pattern.  Make sure that pieces 1 and 2 are not wadded up under the line between pieces 2 and 3.

Fold the pattern and fabric along the line between pieces 2 and 3.  Don’t let the fabric move with respect to the pattern.

Lay the pattern down on your table with the bulk of the printed side down.  Keep your fingers on the fabric so as to keep it from wiggling around.

Unfold the pattern so it lays flat.

Carefully unfold piece 3 from under itself so that it is lying flat and face down.

If this isn’t what you have, just take a deep breath, and start over.  We’ll wait here again!

Flip the pattern and fabric over so you can see the printed side of the pattern.  Slide it under your machine and stitch along the line between areas 2 and 3.  If you’re working by hand, just sew that line.

Hold the pattern with printed side facing you.

Fold the corner you were sewing in forward along the sewn line.

Cut the excess fabric off leaving a 1/4″ seam.

Unfold the pattern.  Lay the pattern face down on your ironing board, open out piece 3 so it is face up.  Press.

Hold it up to the light again to verify that nothing wiggled during the folding and sewing.  Take a moment to congratulate yourself on that very pretty point you just made and move on to piece #4.

Just keep doing this until all 9 pieces have been placed.

Press once more for old times’ sake.  Wow!   Look what a sharp flower you just made!

Now flip the block over so you’re looking at all that paper.

Yuck.  Your next hurdle is to rip the paper off.  If you have a child at home between the ages of 7 and 12, hand the block to them and tell them that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE THEY TO TOUCH THAT PAPER!  Walk away for two minutes.  When you come back the paper will be completely gone.

If you don’t have a kid around, fold the pattern back and forth along the last seam you made.

When it starts looking weak, just pull it off.

Keep at it, going backwards through the numbers until you’ve removed all the paper.  If you’re very very fussy, you can get a straight pin or tweezers to pick out any tiny bits you might have left, but for the most part these wash away the first time the block gets wet in the washing machine.

After all the paper has been removed, press the block once more.

CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’RE A PAPER PIECER!

If you find that the paper was very difficult to remove, try sewing over all the printed lines once before adding any fabric at all.  Do this without thread in the needle so that you’re just perforating the paper.  Then build the block as per instructions.  You’ll find the paper tears more easily.  Resist the urge to use a very light weight paper.  These don’t hold their shape as well under the machine and are usually made of longer fibers anyway, so they aren’t any easier to tear.  Cheap copy paper (i.e., off brand papers) is usually the best combination of ease of removal and useability.

2 responses to “Simple Paper Piecing Tutorial

  1. Hello, I can read English, not write so I used a translator.
    I have read and tried many ways to do PP but I find your very clear and easy and it avoids the errors of size pieces to add. Thank you for clear and precise tutorial.

  2. thank you! that’s hilarious about the “do not touch” command!!!

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