Foundation Paper Piecing Tips and Tricks
When I first saw this adorable zoo family portrait quilt kit I knew I HAD to jump in! I am obsessed with paper piecing and I love how detailed you can make quilts with this technique. This zoo pattern is intermediate to advance so if you are new to paper piecing, START HERE. Keep reading for all my tips and tricks, a full paper piecing tutorial, and all the details on this adorable zoo family portrait quilt.
Foundation Paper Piecing Tips and Tricks
What is foundation paper piecing in quilting? What is FPP in quilting?
Foundation Paper Piecing also written as FPP is the method of using paper to create detailed and intricate blocks. This technique is used when traditional piecing won’t achieve the right shapes or details. FPP is a way to piece a picture rather than using an applique.
FPP is often time consuming and requires a great attention to detail. HERE are some examples of FPP patterns and blocks.
You can create your own FPP designs, find them free, or purchase them. Interested in learning more, check out THIS paper piecing resource library for even more info.
What is the best paper to use for paper piecing?
There are several so many options for paper to use for FPP. I have two favorites.
THESE EZ Print Quilt Sheets are my favorite paper to use for FPP. I like these because you can see through them. When I use these print sheets I do piece backwards from traditional foundation paper piecing. You typically place the fabric on the wrong side of the paper and sew on the side with the pattern printed. With these I place the fabric on the printed side and sew on the wrong side since I can see the pattern clearly. This results in the block being formed backwards from the printed pattern. This is typically not an issue and the method is SO much easier for me that I don’t mind it being backwards. See an example HERE.
Another great option for paper piecing is simply printer paper. It is cheap, easy to find, and easy to print on. The methods I am going to describe below use a basic paper like this. The method for using standard paper is described below.
Lastly you can use freezer paper. Freezer paper is a good option because you can trace your templates onto the paper and save them for repeat use! See below for more about freezer paper.
Other Foundation Paper Piecing Supplies:
Light Source – I use my Cricut BrightPad to help me in this process. A window works for this but is limiting. You will be going to your light source over and over for each block so having a handy light source right on your work table is a great idea.
Straight Edge – A ruler or sturdy piece of card stock will suffice.
Pins – You know I love my clips but you really need pins for this process. Flat head pins are my preference for foundation paper piecing.
Add A Quarter Ruler – This is the ruler recommended by Cassandra Beaver in our fun chat about FPP.
How do you paper piece a quilt block?
For this tutorial I am using the Zoo Family Portrait Pattern from Dabble and Stitch by Cassandra Beaver. This is a monthly quilt along/block of the month. Get the kit HERE.
The first step is to print the pattern (unless your pattern came pre-printed as this zoo pattern did.)
Next cut your pattern pieces apart. The pieces will have a solid or dashed line around them. Cut around this line, it is the seam allowance for your piece (see below.)
Now take your straight edge and crease the lines in your pattern (as pictured below.) You will want to crease all the lines of your piece before adding fabric, it will be hard to fold after you have started to add fabric.
TIP: If your pattern includes a swatch sheet or fabric key, take the time to cut a small scrap of fabric and fill in the key. This will save you a headache later and is well worth the time.
How do you do foundation paper piecing?
How to cut fabric for paper piecing:
Figuring out how to cut the fabric is one of the trickiest parts of foundation paper piecing.
TIP: Cut the fabric one piece at a time. If you cut too much fabric it will be confusing and may cause you to waste fabric.
The easiest way I have found to cut the fabric is to place my pattern down on my light source. Then place the fabric over the pattern and cut a piece that fits generously it’s place in the pattern. I tend to err on the side of caution and cut about 1/2″ past the outline of the pattern.
Place the fabric on the back of the pattern piece (the side without the printed pattern.) You will go in numerical order. So the first piece that you place should be 1. Then place piece 2 right side down on piece 1. You will want it to line up so that after you have sewn the seam it will fold over and completely cover area 2. Pin in place. Then flip the piece over and sew on the printed line between 1 and 2.
Use a seam roller or an iron to press the seams between each step.
TIP: Be sure to trim the extra fabric between each step. Fold the pattern back and use a ruler to cut the 1/4″ seam allowance.
Repeat these steps adding 3, 4, and so on.
Continue in this manner until you have covered all of the pattern with the correct fabric. Your fabric should completely cover the pattern piece including the seam allowance.
Last use your ruler to trim the fabric to the pattern piece, still leaving the printed seam allowance.
Once you have finished all of your pieces you will attach them. Your pattern will give you the guidelines for how to attach your pieces together.
TIP: Use the seam allowance line as a guide for attaching your pieces together. Place a pin through the corners to make sure that the pieces are lined up.
Once you have attached all your pieces you will go back in and remove the paper. You can use a seam ripper to tear the paper easily. Tweezers are also a helpful tool to remove any small pieces of paper from the stitched area.
Can you sew through freezer paper?
You absolutely can sew through freezer paper! Freezer paper is a great option for paper piecing.
One of the best times to use freezer paper is when you have a block that you want to repeat multiple times, say for an entire quilt top.
Since the freezer paper is see through you can trace your block right onto the paper and create as many templates as you need!
This is also a good option if you want to save your original templates and patterns! I like THIS tutorial if you want to learn more.
Can you paper piece curves?
Yup. You can definitely use this method for curves. This rainbow pattern is a great example of a curved FPP pattern!
In fact paper piecing is a great way to dip your toes into curved piecing. The precise nature of a FPP pattern is helpful to make sure that everything is in the right place.
This VIDEO is a great walkthrough of a curved paper piecing pattern.