I’ve been working on a Paper Piecing Pattern and thought I would share some of the tips I use or have come across. These are a few paper pieced blocks that helped hone my skills.
First up – Paper!
I use copy paper. My first pieces came from a ream that was purchased for a teenager’s school project. He needed certain colors and a ream full of those colors is what I bought. He used about 5 sheets of paper and I had a full ream left in some really pretty colors that I would not ever use for anything. Instead of using my good copy paper, or buying foundation piecing paper, I decided to use this ream while learning this technique. It’s 24# so it is actually pretty thick.
I have also used 20# that I got during the Back to School sales that are happening right now and that is definitely a thinner stock and tears a bit easier that the 24#. You want the paper to tear pretty easily since it is attached to your stitches. The easier it tears the less your stitches get pulled during the removal of the paper. If you will be doing a lot of paper piecing and like to use copy paper then I would suggest stocking up during these Back to School sales on the cheaper copy paper that is thinner and tears easier.
Now you have to prep the paper for easy removal later. There are a number of ways to do this. You can score the lines by sewing with an empty needle on the paper itself, basically puncturing it to create the little holes prior to actual sewing. I hate to do the same thing twice so I just score my lines by folding it on the edge of one of my rulers and then pressing the line with my fingernail to secure the fold.
Second – attaching that first piece of fabric.
When I first learned paper piecing, I learned to pin that first piece to section 1 and that worked pretty well to keep that piece from sliding around. But, recently I came to possess a Sewline Glue Pen and I love it for paper piecing! Just a small streak on the paper and attach it to that first piece of fabric to keep it pretty secure.
Third – sewing – this is really where the precision comes into play.
If you get off of that sew line then it throws the precision off. I will admit, that even as a Virgo, I am not that precise in my assembly. This type of piecing helps me overcome the lack of skill I have sewing a straight line or keeping my points nice and pointy. Now, that only works if I can stay on that sewing line. Take piece 2 and lay it right sides together, with the seam allowances aligned, on piece 1. Flip the entire unit over to prepare for sewing on that line.
The stitch length should be smaller than what you would use for normal piecing. This helps later on when removing the paper from the fabric. Sew on the line per the numerical order written on the pattern. I backstitch at the beginning and end of the line to secure the stitches. This is especially important when attaching smaller segments.
Once the first piece is attached to the pattern, fold the paper on the line between piece 2 and 3 and trim with a ¼” seam allowance.
I trim with a rotary cutter that I use exclusively for paper piecing as I don’t want to take the chance on dulling all of my rotary cutting blades. Line up the 3rd piece of fabric with the seam allowance and then flip the unit over and sew on the line between 2 and 3 on the paper. Fold where piece 3 attaches and trim with a ¼” seam allowance and continue until all pieces in that section are attached.
Trim around the whole section using the ¼ inch seam allowance by lining up the ¼ inch marker of the ruler on the outer line of the block section.
I remove my paper prior to piecing all the sections together. I find it more difficult to remove them after the sections were joined to each other. When removing the paper be sure to also hold on to those first stitches so they don’t stretch or pull out. I make a small tear on the end, hold those first stitches, and remove that section.