6 Tips For Better Paper Piecing Results + Friendship Quilt Along: Block 2

June 08, 2018

Hello Quilters! It’s week 2 of the Friendship Quilt Along and I’m sharing my Trustworthy Block. If you missed week 1 or you aren’t familiar with the Friendship Quilt Along, check out my post from last week. If you’re all caught up, then keep reading!

I was so excited to see that this week’s block, Trustworthy, is a paper pieced block. I LOVE paper piecing! It is my favorite quilting technique. Here’s why…

  1. There’s not much measuring to do before you start sewing. I love a project that I can jump right in and sew! With paper piecing, I can skip the fussy measuring and worrying over how perfectly my pieces are cut.
  2. I don’t need a fancy ruler. The only function my ruler needs is to measure a 1/4″ seam allowance. Specialty rulers need not apply.
  3. I can create incredible blocks with lovely results in SO LITTLE TIME. Paper piecing goes so much faster for me than traditional piecing…and my results are always so much better.

Maybe you don’t feel the same way about paper piecing. Have you struggled with getting the results you want? Maybe you haven’t attempted paper piecing because you’re scared or you don’t understand how it works. I put together a list of my favorite tips for paper piecing that might give you better results or the confidence to try paper piecing for the first time.

6 Tips for Better Paper Piecing Results

1. Start with the Right Sized Pattern

    Check that your pattern printed at the right scale. Foundation paper piecing patterns (like the Trustworthy Block) have a printed 1” square and will instruct you to measure the square to verify that your pattern printed at 100%. Don’t skip this step! There’s nothing worse than completing a paper pieced block and realizing it’s the wrong size.

    2. Sew with a Tiny Stitch

      Set your stitch length to about 1.5 when sewing through the paper pattern. This helps to perforate the paper, making it easier to remove when you’re all done. Only remove the paper when the pattern tells you to—taking the paper foundation out early could give you poor results.

      3. Keep Your Fabric in Place

        Use a fabric glue stick to adhere your fabric to the back of your pattern. This will keep your fabric in the correct position while you sew on the opposite side of the paper. Some people do this for just the first section, but I prefer to glue every piece of fabric that I add. After trimming to ¼” seams, I press open my new section and glue it in place. I make sure to glue all the way to edge of the section but never beyond. That way my fabric will lay nicely as I add the next section.

        4. Use a Lightbox to Get the Right Size

          Cut your pieces larger than you think you need. The Trustworthy pattern tells you how big to cut your pieces (and they are plenty big) but other foundation paper piecing patterns often don’t give you measurements for each section. I use a lightbox to help me decide how large my pieces should be. Lay the pattern (printed side down) on the lightbox. Then lay your fabric (right side up) over the first section. If your fabric is a directional print be sure to keep in facing the way you want it to appear in the finished block. Then use a pair of scissors to hand cut AT LEAST ½” beyond the lines of the section. It doesn’t hurt to leave even an inch extra, because your fabric could shift as you turn your paper from back to front.

          5. Use a Lightbox to Get Your Pieces in the Perfect Spot

            Directional prints can be difficult to use in foundation paper piecing. I use a lightbox to help with this too. Start by laying your pattern (printed side up) on the lightbox. Put the piece of fabric that you’re about to add (right side down) on the pattern. Make sure it’s centered over the section that it’s supposed to cover and that it’s covering at least ¼” beyond the lines.

            Fold back one edge of the fabric to reveal the line you are about the sew along. Finger press your fabric to crease the edge at the same angle as the printed line. 

            Flip the paper pattern so the printed side is down. Line up your creased fabric along the line and use the lightbox to make sure your fabric is still covering the entire section.

            Hold the creased line in place and unfold the fabric away from the section you’re about to add– so the right side of the fabric is against the paper pattern.

            Hold the piece in place and flip the pattern over to sew along the line.

            6. Press your Seams, But Not with an Iron

              I’ve seen some people press their foundation paper piecing with an iron (without steam) but I don’t care for the results. I feel like it misshapes the paper even without steam. Instead I prefer to finger-press my seams open or use a seam roller. The light pressure is enough to keep the seam open because you’re breaking the fibers in the paper. Plus, I always add glue-stick under my fabric (see #2) after I press so that keeps things nice and flat too!

              I really hope these tips and tricks help you enjoy foundation paper piecing just as much as I do!

              Have you picked up any other foundation paper piecing tricks that I should know about? Tell me in the comments! And don’t forget to share your Trustworthy Block on Facebook or Instagram with #FriendshipQAL so others can follow along!


              P.S. Look what’s hanging on my new design wall!

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